Circuit Diagram Maker: Your Guide to Building with Altium Designer

Zachariah Peterson
|  Created: May 20, 2020

Some PCB design software packages make you feel like you’ve been bamboozled. On one hand, you’re told that you’ll have access to tools that will let you move through the entire design process. Then all of a sudden, you can’t finish your design without purchasing critical features as add-ons. Only Altium Designer integrates all the best circuit design tools in a single program. You can get access to free versions that includes critical design tools to help you move from design to production.


The best PCB design software package for turning circuit diagrams into a finished device.

Designing a great PCB all starts with wiring your circuit diagram. Forget about using pen and paper; a great PCB design software package should include all the tools you need to design your circuit diagrams. Your schematic diagram should be able to quickly access your component information in order to accurately show how components are connected on your next device. Your schematic needs to be an accurate reflection of your finished device.

Moving successfully from your schematic to a complete layout takes tools that synchronize with each other. Other software packages claim to give you these capabilities in a single software package, until you’re told you need to purchase a basic feature as an addon. Once you capture your schematic on a new board as an initial layout, you shouldn’t have to pay extra just to automatically route and validate your device.

Building Your PCB Wiring Diagram Schematic

Your electronic schematic is like the blueprints to your new home. It shows the basics of how your circuit elements are connected to power, ground, and each other. Wires, resistors, a power supply and copper will all be shown in their designed places so as to give your design visual life before production.

An electronic circuit doesn’t just come out of nowhere, though. Building a great PCB all starts with building a great schematic, and you’ll need a powerful schematic editor. Your editor should seamlessly interface with your component libraries and rules checking features, ensuring that your PCB will work correctly.

Choosing the Schematic Editing Software

The best circuit diagram maker and schematic editors synchronize directly with your PCB layout in a single software program. There is no reason your schematic editor should be separated from your layout editor, and your schematic should easily synchronize with your component management, simulation, and rules checking tools. Your schematic editing software should also make it easy to synchronize changes between schematic and layout, ensuring that everyone on your team is capable of tracking any design changes.

Screenshot of schematic design in Altium Designer

Schematic design in Altium Designer

Advanced Schematic Synchronization Features

Moving from schematic design to layout and beyond requires more advanced features that synchronize your PCB layout with your schematic. They should be able to organize your symbols and your drawing so that you can easily reference any design you’ve made.

Your schematic design and PCB layout tools should also synchronize with other features, such as your bill of materials generation tools, simulation and analysis tools, routing, and design rules checking. When all of these features work together, you’ll have the power to design advanced PCBs within a single design environment.

Advanced PCBs Need Advanced Design Tools

Designers working with advanced PCB applications need design tools that beautifully integrate changes in your layout, schematic, and component library updates. Moving from your circuit diagram to a layout requires a schematic capture tool and excellent routing tools. You can save a huge amount of time when your routing is automated. If you make changes to components in your layout, you need back annotation features that propagate your changes back to your schematic. This helps you keep your design organized.

Screenshot of automated schematic back annotation in Altium Designer

Automated schematic back annotation

Building Circuits in Altium Designer’s Unified Environment

Let’s face it: most PCB design software programs don’t have the best reputation. You’re only given a sample of the tools you need to actually build a functioning electronic device, and most of the tools are incomplete and inaccessible. Often times, you are forced to use multiple tools from multiple sources just to get through the design process. You’re left hoping that your design data will move between programs without problems.

Altium Designer Has the Best Design Features

This is where Altium’s unified design environment has changed the game. As odd as it may sound, Altium actually wants you to have access to all the basic tools you need to take your PCB designs from start to finish, and all in a single design package. Forget about using programs that tease you with high-end design features, you need a design program that actually gives you the capabilities to take you through the entire design and production process.

Working in a unified design environment means that your schematic and layout features work together to guide you through the entire design process. Altium Designer integrates your schematic design, layout, and component management tools in a single interface. This gives you the flexibility to design your circuits and layout for any application, and you’ll have the tools you need to move from design to production.

If you’re tired of other PCB design software companies teasing you with programs that aren’t even a complete package, then you need to try Altium Designer. The built-in CAD editing tools give you the power to build any circuit diagram, and your schematics easily synchronize to your layout. You’ll also have access to the best component management, rules checking, and simulation tools, and all within a single design environment.

About Author

About Author

Zachariah Peterson has an extensive technical background in academia and industry. He currently provides research, design, and marketing services to companies in the electronics industry. Prior to working in the PCB industry, he taught at Portland State University and conducted research on random laser theory, materials, and stability. His background in scientific research spans topics in nanoparticle lasers, electronic and optoelectronic semiconductor devices, environmental sensors, and stochastics. His work has been published in over a dozen peer-reviewed journals and conference proceedings, and he has written 1000+ technical blogs on PCB design for a number of companies. He is a member of IEEE Photonics Society, IEEE Electronics Packaging Society, and the American Physical Society, and he currently serves on the INCITS Quantum Computing Technical Advisory Committee.

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