Developing an electronic product in an environment like Altium Designer results in a large number of electronic files. These files are valuable, they are your company's IP (Intellectual Property), and must be stored and maintained in an appropriate way. Altium Designer includes a number of features to ensure that your files remain safe, are backed up, and older versions can be retrieved if necessary.
Apart from the actual files themselves, Altium Designer includes the following file storage/management capabilities:
- Timed auto save backups - automatically save multiple versions of all open files, at the specified time interval.
- Local History - take a historical snapshot each time a file is manually saved, keeping the snapshots for the specified number of days.
- Version Control - interface directly to a 3rd party Version Control System (VCS), from within Altium Designer.
You can configure Altium Designer to use all 3 techniques, including configuring the Local History feature to add the Auto Save files into the Local History folder.
Auto Save Backups
Configured in the System - Backup page of the Preferences dialog (DXP»Preferences), the Auto Save feature saves a copy of all currently open files that have been modified (indicated by the asterisk after the filename), into the specified location, at the specified time interval. Up to 10 versions of each file can be saved. This feature is intended for disaster recovery, for example if the power fails and your PC shuts down unexpectedly. AutoSave files are identified by the addition of .~(X) into their filename, for example the file MySchematic.SchDoc is auto saved as MySchematic.~(1).SchDoc, then MySchematic.~(2).SchDoc, and so on. Note that once the specified number of versions has been saved, the filenames are re-used. That means you must use the file's timestamp to identify the latest file, not the number in the brackets in the filename.
Configure the Auto Save settings in the Preferences dialog.
Main article: Storage Manager Panel
Accessed through the Storage Manager panel, Altium Designer's internal history management system allows you to maintain history and track document changes without the use of an external version control system. Document history management includes the ability to view differences - both physical and logical - as well as revert to previously saved versions of the document. Local document history management also works in harmony with an installed Version Control System. Individual designers can manage their own changes using the local history system, with the VCS providing a complete team-oriented document management system.
The approach of the local history management system is to take a copy of a file each time you perform a save, keeping all the copies in a project History folder (the copy is the file prior to the save event). The project History folder is created in the same folder as the project file. If your project includes documents stored in sub-folders, then this sub-folder structure will be repeated within the History folder. Alternatively, you can specify a global storage location for the history of all projects.
Local History is configured in the Version Control - Local History page of the Preferences dialog. The number of days of file history is also configured here too. A history of file save events will continue to be maintained for this many days. Local History files are saved in the compressed ZIP format, which can be opened with any application that can read the ZIP file format.
Options for the Local History feature.
The lower region of the Storage Manager Panel shows the local history for the selected file, with each history file being labeled Version x, where x increments with each save. Right-click on a saved version to Apply a Label; this allows you to tag a particular version for later reference. Right-click on a file in the history list to Open it, or to Revert to that version. CTRL + Left-click to select two files, then right-click to Compare them.
Comparing two versions of a document.
External Version Control
Version control is becoming the preferred method of electronic document management within many companies. Not only do version control systems provide safe and controlled storage and retrieval of a company's valuable documents, they also support easy retrieval of an older version of a document, and with suitable comparison tools, the ability to detect and examine document changes.
Use the options available on the Version Control - General page of the Preferences dialog to select either an SCCI compliant VCS, or to interface directly to either the CVS or SVN version control system.
If your project files are already stored in your version control system and checked out into a suitable working folder (or sandbox), you must also establish an initial connection between Altium Designer and the VCS-controlled project. To establish this connection, right click on the project file in the Storage Manager Panel and select Add Project To Version Control. This will not create another copy of the project in the VCS, it will simply allow the appropriate VCS files and settings to be configured correctly, so that whenever you work on this project in the future, Altium Designer will recognize that it is under source control and correctly reflect the status of the documents. If the project was not already under version control, then use this process to add the project files (in the current folder) to the storage repository.
Once this step has been performed, you can then modify and Check In (or Commit) changes back to the repository directly from the Storage Manager panel. If you are working with CVS or SVN directly, the VCS Revisions section of the Storage Manager panel will list the revision information for the active file.
Accessing revision information in the Storage Manager panel.