I decided to switch from Eagle to Altium for the next PCB I am designing for my PhD. While Altium is definitely a more professional tool, I found the startup time for my first design to be a bit longer than I would have liked. Below is a list of a few little things that seem simple in theory, but were non-intuitive for me to figure out the first time around (even with the help of google and the tutorial pdfs and videos).

  • Where are all the components??? - in the vault! Which is found in View > Workspace Panels > System > Vaults
  • Displaying Resistor/Capacitor values - not sure how to do it by default, but you can double click on a component after you’ve placed it to turn the “value” parameter on
  • Place a wire in schematic (shortcut!) - the ‘p’ button brings up the place menu and the ‘w’ button places a wire
  • Why are there “?” everywhere???  - you have to set up the designators! Find it under Tools > Annotate schematics
  • Why does Altium complain about floating sources, mismatched I/O pins, etc.?  - The default connection matrix is a bit unintuitive, and won’t always recognize capacitively coupled connections. You can adjust it in Project > Project Options > Connection Matrix
  • I am placing a multi-part component but only see the first part. Help!  - When you place the part, right click first and then select the first part, then after placement it will allow you to place the remaining parts.
  • OK, I’m ready to layout my PCB. Now what?  - Be sure you annotate your schematics so there are no components with “?”. Create a new PCB file in your project. Then, from a schematic view, hit Design > Update PCB Document. Your components should be imported into your new PCB file.
  • How do I start routing interactively?  - ‘p’ for place, then ’t’ to start routing interactively.
  • How do I update my design rules? - right click in PCB document > Design > Design Rules
  • Help my ground plane is obstructing my view of everything! - Change the transparency! Right click on the layers below, select layer transparency > signal layers and adjust the polygon transparency.

I haven’t actually exported my gerbers yet, but I’ll add a section for that when I do.

Other helpful stuff: This article was really helpful for finding shortcuts quickly. This PDF was helpful for creating my first library component. These libraries are useful for extra connectors and miscellaneous things not found in the Vault.