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We recently got licenses for Altium for the teachers and students alike. One question that was raised is the management of the part library. Two options are currently considered. We only have the basic entry license with no add on.

1) Each teacher or group of teacher maintain a library that is specific for a given class

2) There is only one official part library for the department and it would be maintained by one or two teacher to keep it consistent and really useful.

The last time I used Altium was in 2008 so I'm outdated on it. Is there a preferable approach? Do any of you have tips or tricks about it or perhaps some pitfall to avoid at all cost?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ Personally, I would suggest option 2 while using the Altium Vault. Have you looked into it? \$\endgroup\$ – thomashw Sep 13 '18 at 20:30
  • \$\begingroup\$ I played mostly with getting schematic entry so far because of the time constraint to actually teach unfortunately. Is the Vault free to use along with a basic license? \$\endgroup\$ – Simon Marcoux Sep 13 '18 at 20:39
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There are a lot of ways to manage libraries in Altium. These include - at least! - integrated component libraries, database libraries and the vault.

The integrated component libraries are basically files on everyone's computer. You can do that sort of thing, and maybe manage it using a shared sync'd folder like Dropbox. Every part is its own separate entity, so if you want to change something on every part in your library, or a group of parts, it's really hard.

Altium's database libraries use a database backend like MySQL or Access or whatever you like to tie things together. There are regular database libraries and SVN database libraries. The latter sound fantastic in that the parts are all version controlled. It seems though that the local parts cache corrupts really easily and you have to delete it occasionally to fix problems. The regular database library can be used along with git or svn to add detailed information to each part.

Only those people with access to write to the database can create or modify parts. So you could pretty easily have a base set of parts in a read-only shared directory, and each teacher could have their own database table linking those parts and adding whatever custom features they like.

For example, in my database, each part has a Mfr PN, a Supplier PN, and a link to the datasheet. As a result, Altium can display an image of the part and links directly to information about the part on Digikey or whatever, like the price or availability. By right-clicking on the part in Altium, I can easily access the datasheet, which is a really nice feature.

I don't know much about the vault. Altium wanted more money for us to have a private server version of it, and its early versions were clunky and not obvious how to use. It's probably better now.

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Before My company started using the Vault/Nexus system we used SVN Repositories for different component types. We found it to be very easy and useful, truth be told it is actually faster than the Vault system and if you are not in an environment that requires a regimented release process I would tend to prefer the SVN approach. All you need to do is create a symbol and footprint library for each component type, and a database of some sort containing the component parameters (we used microsoft access for this). It may make most sense to have a few common version controlled libraries of passives and various silicon components to share between the classrooms. Things I would avoid at all costs are Integrated Libraries and the CmpLib paradigm. I would stick to the DBLib or SvnDBLib approach, they just seemed faster and lower maintenance to me in practice.

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