View Full Version : Any Altium users?

Jay Kickliter
02-10-2012, 09:30 PM
I've been using Altium Designer for a few weeks now. I decided to give myself at least two weeks to learn it before asking questions online. So here I am, with several unresolved questions. Any users here?

I've read most of the wiki, watched lots of videos. But I still can't figure out simple things like:

1. Proper page formatting when printing out a schematic, or exporting PDF jobs;
2. Having different routing rules for different next classes.
3. Good 'best practice's for board layers. Such as having the board outline on a mechanical layer vs. the keep out layer.
4. special strings for designator vs parameters. especially since when importing supplier data into a library component Altium keeps multi-word parameter names, but the special strings only seem to link parameter names without whitespace.

Thanks in advance.

02-10-2012, 09:53 PM
What's wrong with Altium support?

02-11-2012, 04:52 AM
Been a user for almost 2 years now. You will get better response at Altium Forum.

Jay Kickliter
02-11-2012, 11:15 AM
I've been using a trial. Still waiting for my lincense, otherwise I would ask over there.

Erik Friesen
02-11-2012, 12:15 PM
Just curious, why did you pick Altium? Are you paying for it?

02-11-2012, 12:21 PM
I was surprised to see that Altium only has about 18,000 licensees, according to a recent company report. They don't seem to have ever made a profit - I can't see how they have managed to keep going.

Jay Kickliter
02-11-2012, 02:03 PM
I picked Altium because I absolutely hate Eagle, which I have been using, plus the integrated 3D support. Also when I graduate and start applying for jobs I'd like to be able to list it as a skill. I'm getting a student license, which doesn't cost very much.

Leon, I thought Altium has been around a long time; Protel and Pcad? Also, while searching the Internet I kept running into posts by you pushing Pulsonix, which I also downloaded. Do you have any idea how that company is doing? I haven't found much information on them. It looks good, and might switch to that if Altium is really a sinking ship, which their restructuring implies.

02-11-2012, 02:12 PM
Altium has been around a long time, as Protel, originally. They acquired PCad, and then discontinued it.

I know the people at Pulsonix, they are making a healthy profit and recently moved into a new building. It's a tiny company compared to Altium, with about 12 people (Altium has about 270), and is owned by the staff. They paid off the venture capital used to start the company some years ago. Everyone there used to work for another large PCB software company and left en masse. They bought Number One Systems (Easy-PC) when the company went bust, and made it profitable, whilst developing Pulsonix.

02-11-2012, 03:17 PM
I was surprised to see that Altium only has about 18,000 licensees, according to a recent company report. They don't seem to have ever made a profit - I can't see how they have managed to keep going.

Really? If they have 18k licensees & assuming all are paying annual support fees (excluding any new sales), then their yearly revenue ought to be $27m. Kinda of hard to think their not making any profit when they are just a software company ... anyway, I might be wrong.

As a designer, professional CAD like AD10 and Mentor Graphics will see you a very long way in your career. I choose Altium because of its integrated features. Once you get a hang of it, you wouldn't want to use any others ;) Again, that's just me.

02-11-2012, 03:48 PM
Look at their results:


They are abysmal, and have been like that for years.

275 staff earning, say, $50,000 per annum (it's probably a lot more), comes to about $40 million, with overheads. No wonder they are making a loss.

Phil Pilgrim (PhiPi)
02-11-2012, 04:24 PM

Give CADINT (www.cadint.com) a try. I think you'll like it. The UI is very natural, and you can be productive with it. I've tried Eagle, PADS, PCAD, Protel, etc., and they all suffer from horrible user interfaces, which make productivity very difficult. I've used CADINT for years and its DOS precursor, EEDesigner, before that and cannot recommend it highly enough.


Erik Friesen
02-11-2012, 04:40 PM
It seems every person has their own likes and dislikes when it comes to pcb cad, I downloaded cadint and gave it about 5 min, which probably wasn't enough. (sorry phil)

To me, the interface is only about half of the issue. Professional grade routing options and integration with bom is quite important. Easy-PC has a professional grade router for a pretty reasonable price. I currently use diptrace, and am to the point of desiring something else, just hasn't crystallized yet. One advantage I see to Easy-PC is that if you needed to upgrade to Pulsonix, it would be pretty easy.

Diptrace is ok, but there are some serious issues with the way files and libraries are handled, and the auto-router isn't really usable. Also, you can't specify more than one trace width per net in the schematic, which is annoying. The libraries quickly degenerate into my own, and diptrace's, and a myriad of old stuff in my schematics that have orphaned pads, existing somewhere unreachable. Exploring between my libraries in my documents, and the diptrace libraries in program files....

I am curious about mentor graphics stuff, but for me, if they don't list a price on the web, I know I can't afford it anyway.

Phil Pilgrim (PhiPi)
02-11-2012, 04:54 PM
I don't do autorouting (seeing PCB layout as more of an artform than running traces between points however they'll fit), so I can't speak to the efficacy of CADINT's autorouter. Its manual routing function is superb, though, along with its symbol-creation tools.


Jay Kickliter
02-11-2012, 05:02 PM
Thanks Phil, I'll check it out.

WBA Consulting
02-12-2012, 07:07 AM
I work for an EMS provider (Electronics Manufacturing Services), and I can say that moving from Eagle to Altium to make yourself more desirable for an employer is a smart move. Altium is used by several of our customers and we see some very complex designs that you rarely if ever see with Eagle, DipTrace (actually my current software), or any of the free applications. When you are dealing with multilayer boards that have impedance requirements and complex component arrangements, Altium is one of the key solutions my customers use. Also common is P-CAD (aka legacy Altium) and Mentor Graphics PADS. Don't get me wrong, we do have several customers that use Eagle, however the most layers I have seen in an Eagle design is 4 and two of them are just planes. You just don't see Eagle with 6, 8, 12, or 16 layer boards.

Phil Pilgrim (PhiPi)
02-12-2012, 08:27 AM
I turned a friend, who was working as a consultant, onto CADINT a couple years ago. Since then, he's taken full employment at a place that uses PADS. In his words, PADS is "brutal", and he says everybody there complains about it. As much as he'd like to convert them to CADINT, however, he said the chances of turning that ship are slim to none. What I take from it is this: if you want to be productive working for yourself, it's hard to beat CADINT; but knowing it may not make you as valuable to an employer as proficiency in PADS, pCAD, Protel, etc., if that's what they're already using.

As a self-employed person, I can afford to choose what works for me and makes me the most productive. But when you enter the employment world, you enter the food chain, and you do what you have to to survive. If that means drinking someone else's Kool Aid, it's bottoms up.


02-12-2012, 08:35 AM
I see this mapping out in ways very similar to mechanical CAD. Given that's true, then the number one best approach is to diversify skills. Master one, then get competence in a few others, looking for core differences in workflow and feature use. From there, it won't matter too much what they have as you will have seen "the lay of the land", able to plug in and deal as needed.

Jay Kickliter
02-12-2012, 10:33 PM
There's one thing missing from all the these packages that Eagle has, a command line. I hate having to touch the mouse for any reason other than moving a component or routing. Altium has shortcuts for everything, but they're not very consistent. Also, Eagle runs on OS X natively. But, after giving Altium a try I'd gladly give up those features to get away from the horror-show that Eagle is.