Altium Designer is one of the most widely used printed circuit board (PCB) design software tools amongst engineers and hobbyists. However, the full licensed version carries a high price tag putting it out of reach for many casual users who simply need to view or open Altium PCB file formats.
Thankfully, Altium offers a functional free viewer that supports reading common file types generated from the Altium toolset. This allows broader access for sharing and reviewing board designs without requiring an expensive active license.
This article provides guidance on obtaining, installing and leveraging Altium’s zero-cost viewer alternative to enable PCB project visualization capabilities without financial burden.
Overview of Altium Design Software
Altium Designer represents complete, professional-grade electronics development software supporting every step of the PCB design process from schematic capture and simulation to board layout/routing all the way through to manufacturing output generations.
As a full lifecycle tool, Altium allows rapid translation of circuit concepts into physical boards ready for fabrication and component population. It streamlines development timelines through data-driven automation and integration. The unified environment reduces need to switch between disparate tools.
However, Altium requires paid license subscription on yearly basis to unlock the suite’s capabilities which presents cost barrier for many smaller organizations, students, and hobbyists. This is where the free viewer alternative steps in.
|Schematic capture & editing, HDL code development platform
|Mixed signal circuit simulation, analysis features
|Multi-layer routing/clearances, 3D viewing, MCAD collaboration
|Gerber & NC drill file generations, supply chain integrations
Table: Overview of Altium toolset categories and functionality
Altium Viewer Details
The Altium Viewer represents a freely distributed, installation-based application focused exclusively on allowing users to open, visualize, inspect, measure and navigate files generated from Altium Designer tools without ability execute edits.
It provides complete viewing access including:
- Multi-layer 2D and 3D PCB viewing
- Interactive board measurement
- Drill-down from schematics to PCB layout layers
- Flexible zooming/panning
- DFM validation checking overlays
- Component clearance checking
- Linked navigation between schematic and PCB
The tool does not require licensing or activations once installed. However, saving data, exporting, or modifications are restricted. It suits teams needing to share, discuss, and critiques complete designs released from Altium Designer versus abstract representations. It also aids repair technicians tracing component placements.
For most visualization requirements, the Altium Viewer contains ample functionality at no cost burden.
Accessing the Free Viewer
Several options exist to obtain the free Altium Viewer installation package:
The viewer software can downloaded directly from Altium’s website via this link. Simply complete the brief registration form with email and company name to access the download page.
For those lacking reliable broadband internet connectivity, Altium can also mail a physical DVD with the Viewer upon request by contacting their regional customer service centers. However, this incurs greater delays.
Partner Hardware Extras
Selected hardware vendors distributing authorized partner versions of Altium sometimes bundle the Viewer into extras/accessories folders on installation disk images or as downloads incenting use of Altium file formats.
Regardless of specific access method, the viewer package itself remains standardized from Altium maintained at latest release.
|Direct digital download
|No internet req’d
|Hardware Partner Extras
|Potentially no separate download
|Lacks standard packaging
Table: Overview of options to obtain the Altium Viewer installer
Once the Altium Viewer package has been acquired through one of the above methods, installing it follows common Windows application software flow:
Download or Access Package Executable
After transfer to the compatible computer, locate the
InstallAltiumViewer.exe package to initiate installation process.
Windows systems may initially block unknown scripts from running. If prompts appear, enable permissions so the view installer can commence.
Step Through Setup Wizard
The guided wizard will request acceptance of license terms, destination folder location, and configuration before proceeding with file copy operations and registry integrations finishing with confirmation display.
Launch from Start Menu
The standard Windows application menu structure will now contain program shortcut that loads the Altium Viewer ready for native files viewing without needing licenses or activation.
The tool otherwise functions akin to standard desktop programs with file I/O capabilities, window and panel adjustments. It integrates cleanly within the host operating environment.
|1. Acquire Package
|Download directly or physically via DVD/extras
|2. Allow Execution
|Enable untrusted scripts to run
|3. Setup Wizard
|Accept terms, set install path, pre-check configuration
|4. Complete Install
|Executable copies program files, makes Start Menu/Registry entries
Table: Required steps for installing Altium Viewer application
With the Viewer application successfully installed, designers can fully interrogate native Altium files encompassing various design stages without edit rights or commercial limitation:
PCB Design Files
Multi-layer board layouts are rendered interactively in 2D and 3D complete with layer toggles, measurements, clearance overlays and links back to source schematics tracing connectivity.
Complete circuit schematics integrate seamlessly supporting drill down to associated PCB layout blocks and signaling with preview toggling between hierarchical blocks if available.
PCB prints, NC Drill tables, and other fabrication/assembly outputs included in releases can viewed crossed referenced between layers and schematics.
Any embedded design rule checks or error reporting associated with ECO scrub prior to release tap document flow and constraints to help inspectors understand risk assessments.
While view-only access excludes manipulating data, the functional visibility empowers collaborative analysis without software barriers ultimately speeding stakeholder alignment critical in complex electronics projects prior to manufacturing commitments.
|Linked 2D/3D viewing, measurements with schematic drill down
|Sheet navigation with linked PCB drill down
|View fabrication prints, NC Drill tables, assembly drawings
|Access constraint reports from DRC, ERC checks
Table: Overview of accessible file types and viewing capabilities
Additional Licensing Considerations
While the Altium Viewer carries no explicit cost itself, for commercial organizations leveraging Altium’s tools in their product development workflows, viewer usage still warrants consideration of licensing scope to avoid non-compliance issues:
If confidentiality required on bleeding edge features, ensure employees don’t leak pre-release builds outside covered viewers. Enforce upgrades once publicly available.
Carefully vet viewer availability doesn’t enable uncontrolled transfers of proprietary data assets beyond licensed users. Watch exported non-natives like PDFs.
If engaging externals like CM partners ensure your licenses enable sharing not just within organizations but also with approved supply chain extensions under MSA NDAs否则支付附加费用。
When working with sensitive IP like protected schematics or layouts subject to data rights or confidentiality terms, development teams should clarify with company legal/compliance staff whether sharing files internally via freely installed Viewer conflicts process policies or dissemination agreements prior to assuming so for convenience.
While unlocking visualization, viewer distribution itself cannot supersede or override existing contractual protections on licensed deliverables and their derivative forms. Technical controls may still be required during transfers to enforce protections beyond native file policies.
What are the key limitations of the free Altium Viewer tool?
The Altium Viewer lacks abilities to modify, export, or save files. It is view-only access focused on allowing interrogation of design files originating from paid Altium licenses rather than as a full editor replacement. Additional restrictions prohibit scripting automation.
Does the Viewer require license keys or activation codes?
No licensing or special activations are needed to run the Altium Viewer since it is meant specifically as a free supplement targeted for worldwide access. Simply downloading and installing the package off Altium’s website delivers functionality.
What PCB design data can be inspected with the Viewer tool?
The Viewer enables linking between complete multi-layer board layouts and corresponding schematic sheets with 2D and 3D viewing including key overlays like clearance violations and measurements. It also allows inspecting various manufacturing outputs like assembly drawings.
Can Gerber or DXF files be imported into the Altium Viewer?
No, the Viewer supports only native Altium file types like .PCBDoc or .SchDoc files. It does not allow import or conversion of third-party files like Gerbers or AutoCAD DXFs since its scope is for inspection of Altium data specifically.
Does use of the free Viewer impact commercial licensing requirements?
If using as supplementary viewer for existing licensed seats without changing dissemination scope, then likely not problematic. But for external entity access or files containing protected IP, teams should vet with legal and process owners that levels shared within intended viewership permissions to avoid compliance issues.