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Project Navigation

Modified by on 6-Nov-2013

Working between the schematic and the PCB is an essential part of the board design process. Altium
Designer includes dedicated features and tools to help with the navigation process, including:

Cross Probe - click on a component / pin / net in one editor, jump to that component / pin / net in
the other editor.
Cross Selection - select one or more components in one editor, Altium Designer will select them in
the other editor. Use this in conjunction with the Reposition Selected Components command to
then place each selected components in the order they were selected.
The Navigator Panel - browse across the entire design, clicking to examine a component / pin /
net regardless of which schematic it is located on.

Compile the Design

The navigation features in Altium Designer require that the project is first compiled. When an Altium
Designer project is compiled, a Unified Data Model (UDM) is created in the computers memory. The
UDM models every aspect of the design, including the components, the connectivity, the component
footprints, the relationships between the PCB project and a connected FPGA project, and so on. It is
this Unified Data Model that enables the cross-probing and Navigator panel functionality between
different design domains. Many of the cross-probing features use auto-compilation, ensuring the very
latest model of the data is being used. Compilation can also be performed at any time, manually,
using the Project Compile PCB Project command.

Controlling the Navigation Behavior

Highlighting settings are applied to both source schematic and target PCB document, in accordance
with settings specified on the System Navigation page of the Preferences dialog. For example, in
the image below the Highlight Methods include Zooming and Masking - with these options
enabled the target object will be zoomed in on, and all other objects in the workspace will be faded
(masked). The zoom level is controlled by the Zoom Precision setting.

Configure the navigation behavior in the Preferences dialog.

Cross Probe
Cross-probing is a powerful searching tool to help locate objects in other editors, by choosing the
object in the current editor. Full cross-probing support is provided for documents, components, buses,
nets and pins/pads. The cross-probing feature is accessed, from either Schematic or PCB Editors,
using the Tools Cross Probe command, or by clicking the

button from the editor's Standard

There are two cross-probing modes available:

Continuous Mode in this mode you remain in the source document, while cross-probing to
different objects on the target document. Simply position the cursor over the required object and
click or press Enter. The corresponding object will be highlighted on the target document. Continue
cross-probing further objects, or right-click or press Esc to exit.
Jump To Mode this mode allows cross-probing to a single object (think of it as 'single-shot
cross-probing'), making the target document the active document. Simply position the cursor over
the required object and Ctrl+click or press Ctrl+Enter. The corresponding object will be
highlighted on the target document, with that document becoming the active document.

For the Continuous mode it is more efficient to have the schematic and PCB documents open
side-by-side in the main design window, or open on separate monitors.

Click on the object on the schematic to zoom to and highlight the same object on the PCB.

Cross Selection
Cross Selection is the ability to select an object(s) in one editor, and have Altium Designer select that
same object(s) in the other editor. Enable cross selection mode for each editor in the Tools menu, the
image below shows how the icon in the menu is highlighted when the option is enabled.

Enable Cross Select Mode for each editor in the Tools menu.

When Cross Select Mode is enabled any time a component is selected in one editor, it is
automatically selected in the other editor, as shown in the image below. This also includes selecting
multiple components in a single action, or building up a selection by holding the Shift key and
repeatedly clicking to select.
There are many uses for Cross Selecting from the schematic to build up a selection of PCB
components, three of which include:

Create a PCB Component Class (Design Classes, there is a button to take over selected
components when defining a component class)
Cluster selected components into a user-defined rectangle using the Tools Component
Placement Arrange Within Rectangle command, ideal for pulling a set of components out
when the design is first transferred from schematic to PCB.
Select the schematic components in a specific order, then switch to the PCB editor and run the
Reposition Selected Components command, each PCB component can then be placed
one-by-one, in the same order they were selected on the schematic.

Once Cross Select Mode is enabled, each time a component is selected in one editor, it is also selected in the other editor.

Cross Select Mode does not use the Highlight Methods options, its behavior is controlled
by the Zoom Precision and the Cross Select Zoom Options in the System Navigation page of the Preferences dialog. Note that Cross Select Zoom Options were
added to Altium Designer in Update 21.

The Navigator Panel

Main article: Navigator
When the project is compiled, the Navigator panel gives a structural view of the entire project,
regardless of how many schematic sheets it is spread over. Use the Navigator panel to browse nets,
components, or pins across the entire design, hold the Alt key as you click on an entry in the panel to
also highlight that object in the PCB.

Alt+click on an entry in the Navigator panel to probe to that object on both source schematic and PCB.

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