Navigating a PCB Layout

Any PCB layout you look at on your computer screen can be rather complicated. You have components, electrical connections, planes and polygons, and mechanical elements to place and navigate in a PCB layout, and it can get confusing. Your CAD tools can help ease the process of moving around a PCB layout and tracking connections throughout the board. 

In this section, we want to look at some strategies for navigating a complex board, and some of the basic features you can use in Altium Designer to help you use the PCB Editor effectively. When you have your PCB layout open, some simple strategies for viewing and selecting layers and components will help you work faster on complex layouts, and it will be easier to track signals around the board.

Navigating a PCB Layout

To show some examples of how to navigate your PCB layout, we’ll look at the MiniPC board as an example. As you’re likely aware, this board is rather complex, with multiple signal, power, and ground layers.

Once you open the board in the PCB editor, moving around the board might seem difficult. To help you get started, there are two basic tools you’ll use to navigate the layout:

  • Dragging: Hold down the right-click mouse button and drag the cursor around the screen. This will move the layout view in the PCB Editor window.
  • Zoom: If you have a mouse with a scroll wheel, you can scroll up or down to zoom in or out in the PCB layout. You could also use the PgUp or PgDn keys on your keyboard. If you’re working on a laptop and you have a touch pad, you can use the squeeze motion on the touchpad to zoom.

Try playing with these features so that you get comfortable moving around the PCB layout. Once you’re confident in your ability to zoom into specific features in the layout, we can look at some of the simple viewing features that will help you navigate the board.

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