Here we go, the new version of Altium 18 is out since December 2017.
You are still hesitating to make the step and go to the 18th version ?Read my article to know everything you need before switching to the new version.
The new interface
The company decided to completely remodel the new version with a new interface which looks modern and fresh with the grey/black background. All (or almost ) functions that were in earlier versions are there, however they made the decision to move the position of some tools from left to right. Why did you do that guys?!
For example, the system preferences and the profile/licence management were always on the top left of the windows, now it’s on the right.
The first times you will use the software it create confusion or annoyance. You will not be able to find what you are looking for just as in earlier versions. The hardest part is to forget about your habits that you used for decades from Protel to Altium designer 17.
A good new feature is that all the properties are now displayed as a non-modal window, this means that you are no longer forced to right click on a component to change his property (this will save you a lot of time when you want to move coordinate ‘s component, write text, change layers…). The non-modal window from the tab panel show directly all the information of the component:
Other than the new interface they finally allowed designers to do assembly multi-board. The first step is to create a workspace that contains several projects. After that you will have to create a new schematic containing the pin out of the connection between boards.
This is definitely an improvement, who never made mistakes and got two boards that could not fit together or with a wrong pin out connector?! With this new feature you will be able to generate a report and make sure you two boards are synchronous. With the 3D assembly you will be able to see any design mistakes like the height of a component that touch the other board, two screw holes that are not well aligned and more…
In terms of performance, Altium did a big advance compared to version 17. The transition from 2D to 3D is so smooth particularly thanks to the multi-threaded tasks and the fresh 64 bit architecture. The software will take all the resources needed to run smoothly and fluently.
Altium wants to save your time while designing your board with this new feature called Active Route where the software handles the design constraints, such as the clearances, widths, vias … This will reduce one of the most time consuming phases of your layout. You are going to wonder what is the difference with the autoroute? Well this feature is definitely more efficient as it just apply for your specific nets or component and not to all the board as an auto router would do. More over you can very easily define a path where the traces will flow.
Power delivery network (PDN) Analyzer is an extension not powered by Altium but by CST® . This extension was available for Altium 17 but it looks like they really want to promote PDN Analyzer with the new version of Altium 18. PDN is a simulation tool, which analyzes a board design’s DC performance based on its electrical and physical properties. I wouldn’t go any further about PDN Analyzer on this article. I thing this tool needs his own post, stay tuned!
In conclusion, the update to version 18 will depends of your needs. If like me you were frustrated not to be able to assembly two board together you should go for Altium 18. All the new improvements make the design easier and time-saving, however it will take a little period of adaptation to fully take advantage of the new interface. And finally, as always when new released are out, lots of bugs are found and corrected so make sure to check frequently for new corrected/fix update.