I am having a terrible time trying to learn how to use Altium - compared to RS DesignSpark PCB. Everything seems to be all over the place (especially regarding libraries).

In DesignSpark, we right click on a component in the schematic, "Edit component" and in this view we can modify everything about the component from pin mapping to schematic symbol, and PCB footprint - regardless of where the library is.

In Altium, I know how to get the pin mapping and the full paths of the libraries used - but I don't want to have to then look for matching files in the tree or Windows's explorer. That's too slow - especially given that I can't even copy the full paths.

Possible reasons to have to do that:

  • Correct a mistake has been made in the footprint of a component while editing the PCB
  • Create another footprint for a component in the same library where its current footprint is defined
  • Correct a mistake has been made in the symbol of a component while editing the schematic, or just to adjust the pin spacing for convenient/readability in the schematic
  • Add a component in the same library as another component
  • Check the footprint of a component

How do you do you navigate between schematic, symbols, and footprints in Altium?

  • \$\begingroup\$ I’m not an expert so I’ll leave it to another contributor to provide an answer. What I can tell you is that Altium has separate libraries for schematic and PCB. The reason, as I understand it, is that you can tailor a SOT-23 (for example) that suits your board density and fab process, and use it for all your SOT-23 parts. Yes it’s an extra step but a useful one IMO. \$\endgroup\$
    – Frog
    Commented Aug 26, 2021 at 20:01
  • \$\begingroup\$ @Frog: DesignSpark also does that, and yet there is a single view to link all components to their respective symbols and footprints. That would be a no-brainer if I had to design a PCB package from scratch \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 26, 2021 at 20:27

2 Answers 2


Only pins can be edited on the schematic, I think (with difficulty). The easiest way is to simply copy the Parts from schematic into a new library (new in the sense of, not where they're originally from, else you'd just change them there, right?), and edit them there. You don't even need to create a file to do this; simply opening a 'New' SchLib and doing the operations will suffice. (Unless maybe, say, on hitting 'Place', it prompts to save, I haven't tried?) But in any case even if a save is needed, it can just be a temporary or local project file.

This is different from PCB components, which can be edited (with some difficulty) on the PCB level via Unlock Primitives.

As for normal workflow, keeping a collection of parts in a master library, or several, or per project (copy and paste from master or diverse sources), or in a database, is the usual way. A related question is whether SCH symbols should have parameters entered per part type (e.g., 1k 1% resistor, 1k 5% resistor, 1.5k 1% resistor, ...), or generic (a resistor; enter parameters for each instance on SCH). Either way gets you where you need to go.


The only way I'm aware of is the cross probe tool which allows you to select the tool and click on a component (in either schematic or pcb view) and it will select the same component in the other view.

Most designers place the parts and footprints in a few libraries. Once the libraries are integrated into the PCB project (or there are ways to add footprint and part libraries to a global search folder) they can be searched and the parts added to the schematic. Once the parts are added to the schematic, you update the PCB (and altium will try and reconcile any differences between the schematic and pcb files, through component links.)

  • \$\begingroup\$ The cross probe tool brings me to the PCB view, not the corresponding libraries. Or is there something I missed? \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 26, 2021 at 20:29
  • \$\begingroup\$ The question you asked is three way. The way to get into the libraries is to open them and then do a search on the parts. In a normal workflow you create a part footprint then tie it to a symbol or create a new symbol. After that you create the schematic then layout the board. Rarely if ever do you need to tweak a footprint or symbol because they are the first to be designed. \$\endgroup\$
    – Voltage Spike
    Commented Aug 26, 2021 at 20:36
  • 2
    \$\begingroup\$ In altium, you can also explode footprints on the PCB and make custom tweaks to a specific part which makes it easy to make custom mechanical changes. It's unclear to me why you would need to be switching back and forth between the footprint library or the schematic symbol library constantly (especially since the footprint library has pretty much the same display as the pcb view) \$\endgroup\$
    – Voltage Spike
    Commented Aug 26, 2021 at 20:38
  • \$\begingroup\$ Alitum is pretty simple when compared to other PCB design software packages, some of which make you open completely different programs, just to edit a pad or a footprint. \$\endgroup\$
    – Voltage Spike
    Commented Aug 26, 2021 at 20:39
  • \$\begingroup\$ I don't know about the other CAD packages, but DesignSpark is by far, the simplest of the two. It's less powerful, true, and has quirks, but I would never use the word 'simple' for a software that either requires knowing all keyboard shortcuts or makes us look for what we want in the window menus. Right click should definitely have more options, here. Anyway, we should get access easily to components after they're made to a) check everything is in order and b) make changes if there were mistakes. I don't want to spend 10min finding a footprint or a symbol before making a 10s change. \$\endgroup\$ Commented Aug 26, 2021 at 20:48

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