Get email delivery of the Cadence blog featured here
It’s here! Less than two weeks ago, on October 18, 2019, Cadence released the 17.4-2019 version of the Allegro® product line. This means exciting new features, enhancements, bug fixes, and performance improvements to the tools you depend on to design the next generation of electronic devices.
But, what does that really mean for you? What will you see when you download and install the new tool? Will any of your scripts need to be updated? Are there new SKILL APIs which can reduce the amount of code you write?
Answers to all these questions will be coming here over the coming weeks. Today, we will start with first impressions: what does the new tool LOOK like? Because there are some major changes, as you’ll see. This is an exciting release for the tools, and we look forward to showing you why.
Whether you’re an Allegro PCB, APD, or SiP user, the changes you see in this week’s post will apply universally. While their features sets are different, the tools share a common canvas with consistent visibility controls, toolbar icons, and menu entries (for commands that they share).
Launching the tool for the first time, you might notice that the icon has changed. While minor in detail, you’ll see this image in many places. From the title bar and Windows® task bar to the start menu launchers, the icon is redesigned to be simple and fast to recognize. The quicker you can find it, the faster you can gain access to your layouts.
Similarly, the introductory screen as the tool launches has seen graphical update to better represent its status as your premier, package layout tool. Gone is the simple white background; in its place, you’ll see graphics that remind you of your final product: an IC package.
Once inside the tool, you will notice the redesigned toolbar icons. These have been updated for simplicity to speed recognition, while also allowing for better contrast in the future for users who wish to leverage new design themes like “dark mode” in today’s modern browsers.
By going with a less color-dependent palette, the new icons can be better transformed for supporting those users working in high contrast or inverted color scheme.
No icons have been removed that were available to you in past releases. For those of you who will be gradually transitioning from 17.2 to 17.4, remembering the two sets of icons may seem a bit tricky. However, there are ways that you can greatly reduce this.
First, go into your 17.2 tool, where you have your customized toolbars set the way that you like them. Here, do a View – UI Settings – Save Settings, and provide a name (Might I recommend “17.2”?). Then, from the View – UI Settings – Manage Settings interface, select your newly-defined view and do an export. Save the file to a location you will remember.
Second, launch 17.4. Go again into the View – UI Settings – Manage Settings interface. But, this time, click the + button in the list. This will open a browser. Select the file you exported from 17.2. It will be added to your list. Highlight it and click Apply. You now have the exact same toolbar and icon ordering in both releases. You can set them side by side to compare, knowing that the icon in the same place is the new icon to familiarize yourself with.
In addition to this, the 17.4 release supports multiple levels of saved UI settings. Should your team have a set of configurations that are used by everyone for different design stages (planning, routing, design review, …), these can now be placed into a site-level directory. They will then show up, automatically, in the UI Settings menu.
That menu has three sections for custom settings – personal (at the top), site (in the middle), and Cadence provided (at the bottom), as shown below:
To add a configuration for the site level, take the ini file exported with the save settings command, and copy or move it to a shared directory referenced by all your team members in their MENUPATH variable. Make the extension *.algui to differentiate it from all other config files in these paths, and restart the tool.
Forms are the final area where you will see the largest (graphical) update in 17.4. With an all-new rendering package, forms have never looked more modern. To see this, take the side-by-side comparison of the wire bond reports form, below:
The 17.2 form is on the left, with the new 17.4 form on the right. We hope you’ll agree that space is better used in the form in general and the grids, most notably, have a more refined, modern appearance to them. That’s without mentioning the lighter gray grid row separators making for a more pleasing contrast of text to cell outlines.
I’m willing to bet, however, that you didn’t notice the icon in the top-left corner of the form. This now matches the icon from the parent tool, giving a direct link between the tool and the owning canvas, particularly for those of you out there who make use of different Cadence layout products. Never again will you wonder whether the form you’re looking at belongs to APD, SiP, or Allegro PCB. The icon knows!
Important note: Since the rendering and display of forms is updated in this release, there is the possibility that custom-designed forms for SKILL tools you’ve written yourselves may look different. The migration guide shipped with the installation provides you with helpful hints for all known situations you might encounter. Should you happen to run into an issue not covered by the migration guide, contact customer support; we will be quick to help you update your form to maximize its usability potential.
Still not 100% sure you’re ready to make the leap and want to be able to return to 17.2 if there is a need? With the 17.4 release, this marks the first time you can do so without needing to downrev your database back to the old format.
In the user preferences, you’ll find the database_compatibility_mode variable. Setting this to 17.2 will (as you can read in the description included in the screenshot below) maintain the database on disk in a format compatible with the 17.2 release.
Note that this will prevent you from leveraging some of the newest features and design flows, if those require elements in the database that are not compatible with the 17.2 data model. It does NOT prevent you from making use of your favorite commands and tools, with all the latest improvements, bug fixes, and performance gains! We'll talk about the compatibility mode more in an upcoming post since it warrants more attention than a few statements here. Stay tuned!
Join us in the weeks to come, as we unwrap more of the exciting new capabilities you can expect when updating to the new 17.4 release. We’re excited about the tool and, as the users we strive to make successful, we hope you are, too!