Navigation Panel

Protel Autotrax
What is Autotrax?
What is the Purpose of this Site?
Installation - Tasks 1 and 2
Installation - Tasks 3 and 4
Installation - Task 5
Installation - Task 6
How it Works
The Resizing Problem

Let's Design a Circuit
Now Draw It
Place Components
Adding the Tracks

Aston Home

What is Autotrax?

Autotrax is a DOS program dating from the late 1980's that was developed by an
Australian company called Protel International Pty. Ltd.  Originally, it shipped with a dongle that lived on the printer port.  Later the dongle was ditched and finally the program became freeware when Protel became Altium and Altium thought that nobody would be daft enough to keep using the DOS stuff.  Also in the stable was a kid brother called Easytrax that didn't have the autorouter and had limited track sizes.  The files for the two programs were nearly compatible.  The first line of the file had a different number.  Change that and ta-da!

"Autorouter?" did I hear you gasp?  Well, if you had a board with maybe three tracks on it, it might be able to have a go at it but generally it makes such a mess of things that you are better off doing it by hand.

One nice thing about Autotrax is that the library editor is so convenient.  You draw the component on the screen, draw a box round it and save it to your current library.  It really is the work of an instant.  Also, you can 'explode' a component, tweak it and then save it as a variant.  

On the not-so-hot side, it can only zoom to a limit.  It's a bit of a nuisance when placing SMD chips with a zillion miniscule pads but I can use it OK and I'm old, short-sighted and pretty dumb.  So you can too.  

Arcs can only span a minimum quarter-circle.  i.e. 12 o'clock to 3 o'clock, 3 to 6, 6 to 9, 9 to 12 and combinations.  You cannot place a 30 degree arc.  Les Hildenbrandt has written an arc creator that makes an arc from segments.  I've not tried it yet.

The Autotrax file format is ASCII-based and easy to decode.  This is why it is a breeze to write applications to manipulate the file directly.  You can use, say, Programmer's Notepad http://www.pnotepad.org/ to edit the file.  Say you want to delete a pad or two from a chip.  Save the file, open it in PN, search for the reference, identify the unwanted pads, delete the lines, save and re-load in Autotrax.  Voila, pads gone.

There are six 'primitives'.  These are the basic building blocks which can be combined to make components or used to connect them together.  They are: tracks, fills, arcs, pads, vias and strings.  Strings are length-limited and these are truncated further if the string is used in a library component.  There is only one font as the strings are composed of tracks following a simple outline.