Parent page: PCB Objects

Placed String objects.


A string is a primitive design object. It places text on the selected layer in a variety of display styles. As well as user-defined text, a special type of string, referred to as a special string, can be used to display board or system information, or the value of user-parameters, on the board.


Strings are available for placement in both PCB and PCB Library Editors, by clicking Home | Place |  from the main menus.


After launching the command, the cursor will change to a cross-hair and you will enter string placement mode. A string will appear "floating" on the cursor:

  1. Position the cursor and click or press Enter to place a string.
  2. Continue placing further strings, or right-click or press Esc to exit placement mode.

Additional actions that can be performed during placement are:

  • Press the Spacebar to rotate the string anti-clockwise or Shift+Spacebar for clockwise rotation. Rotation is in accordance with the value for the Rotation Step, defined on the PCB Editor – General page of the Preferences dialog.
  • Press the X or Y keys to mirror the string along the X-axis or Y-axis respectively.
  • Press the L key to flip the string to the other side of the board.
  • Press the + and - keys (on the numeric keypad) to cycle forward and backward through all visible layers in the design respectively – to change placement layer quickly.
  • Press the Tab key to access an associated properties dialog, from where properties for the string can be changed on-the-fly.
While attributes can be modified during placement (Tab to bring up associated properties dialog), bear in mind that these will become the default settings for further placement.

Graphical Editing

This method of editing allows you to select a placed string object directly in the workspace and change its location, rotation, orientation or, in the case of inverted strings, size.

When a non-inverted string object is selected, the following editing handle is available:

A selected String (non-inverted).

  • Click and drag B to rotate the string about point A.
  • Click anywhere on the string – away from any editing handles – and drag to reposition it. The string will be held by point A and can be rotated (Spacebar/Shift+Spacebar) or mirrored (X or Y keys to mirror along the X-axis or Y-axis respectively).

When an inverted string object with an editable bounding rectangle (inverted rectangle) is selected, the following editing handles are available:

A selected String (inverted, and using an inverted rectangle).

  • Click and drag B to rotate the string about point A.
  • Click and drag C to resize the rectangle in the vertical and horizontal directions simultaneously.
  • Click and drag D to resize the rectangle in the vertical and horizontal directions separately.
  • Click anywhere on the string – away from any editing handles – and drag to reposition it. The string will be held by point A and can be rotated (Spacebar/Shift+Spacebar) or mirrored (X or Y keys to mirror along the X-axis or Y-axis respectively).

An object that has its Locked property enabled cannot be selected or graphically edited. Double click on the locked object directly and disable the Locked property, to graphically edit the object.

Non-Graphical Editing

The following methods of non-graphical editing are available:

Editing via an Associated Properties Dialog

Dialog page: String

This method of editing uses the following dialog to modify the properties of a string object.

The String dialog.

The String dialog can be accessed during placement by pressing the Tab key.

After placement, the dialog can be accessed in one of the following ways:

  • Double-clicking on the placed string object.
  • Placing the cursor over the string object, right-clicking and choosing Properties from the context menu.

Quickly change the units of measurement currently used in the dialog between metric (mm) and imperial (mil) using the Ctrl+Q shortcut. This affects the dialog only and does not change the actual measurement unit employed for the board, as determined by the  and  buttons in the Home | Grids and Units area of the main menus.

Editing via an Inspector Panel

Panel pages: PCB Inspector, PCBLIB Inspector

An Inspector panel enables the designer to interrogate and edit the properties of one or more design objects in the active document. Used in conjunction with appropriate filtering, the panel can be used to make changes to multiple objects of the same kind, from one convenient location.

Special Strings

While string objects can be used to place user-defined text on the current PCB layer, it's not just user-defined text that can be placed. To assist in producing documentation, the concept of "special strings" is used. These act as placeholders for design, system or user information that is to be displayed on the PCB at the time of output generation.

A special string is denoted by the string starting with a . (dot) character (e.g. .Layer_Name, .Net_Count, etc). This syntax is also used when referencing a user-parameter, the parameter name is preceeded by the . (dot) character.

Examples of design, system and design parameter special strings, shown as source strings on the left, and converted on the right.

There is a default set of predefined special strings provided for use with new PCB documents. The designer can also add their own custom special strings, by defining additional parameters at the project-level, these parameters are defined in the Parameters Tab of the Options for Project dialog.

Placing a Special String

To use a special string on a PCB, simply place a string object and select one of the special string names from the drop-down.

Accessing special strings for a placed string object.

Revealing Special Strings in the Workspace

The values of some special strings can only be viewed when the relevant output is generated. Most special strings can be viewed directly on-screen however, by enabling the Convert Special Strings option, on the View Options page of the View Configurations dialog, when viewing the board in 2D (press the L shortcut to open the dialog).

Enabling the Convert Special Strings option allows the data for most of the special strings to be viewed in the workspace,
prior to output generation.

PCB Predefined Special Strings

The following are the predefined, system-based special strings available for use on a PCB document:

  • .Application_BuildNumber – the version of the software that the PCB is currently loaded in. When generating Gerber output, use this string to record the software build that the design was created on.
  • .Arc_Count – the number of arcs on the PCB.
  • .Comment – the comment string for a component (placed on any layer in the library editor as part of the component footprint).
  • .Component_Count – the number of components on the PCB.
  • .ComputerName – the name of the computer on which the software is installed and running.
  • .Designator – the designator string for a component (placed on any layer in the library editor as part of the component footprint).
  • .Fill_Count – the number of fills on the PCB.
  • .Hole_Count – the number of drill holes on the PCB.
  • .Layer_Name – the name of the layer the string is placed on.
  • .Legend – a symbol legend for mechanical drill plots. This string is only valid when placed on the Drill Drawing layer. Note: this is a legacy feature, place a Drill Table object for more detailed drill information.
  • .Net_Count – the total number of different nets on the PCB.
  • .Net_Names_On_Layer – the names of all nets on the specific layer. This string is only valid when placed on an internal plane layer.
  • .Pad_Count – the number of pads on the PCB.
  • .Pattern – the names of the component footprints used on the PCB.
  • .Pcb_File_Name – the path and file name of the PCB document.
  • .Pcb_File_Name_No_Path – the file name of the PCB document.
  • .Plot_File_Name – for generated Gerber output, this string identifies the file name of the Gerber plot file. For printed output, it identifies the layer depicted within the output. For ODB++ output, it identifies the name of the parent folder in which the files are stored.
  • .Poly_Count – the number of polygons on the PCB (consisting of polygon pours, internal planes and split planes).
  • .Print_Date – the date of printing/plotting.
  • .Print_Scale – the printing/plot scale factor.
  • .Print_Time – the time of printing/plotting.
  • .Printout_Name – the name of the printout.
  • .SlotHole_Count – the number of slotted holes on the PCB.
  • .SquareHole_Count – the number of square holes on the PCB.
  • .String_Count – the number of strings on the PCB.
  • .Track_Count – the number of tracks on the PCB.
  • .VariantName - the variant of the design from which the output has been created.
  • .Via_Count – the number of vias on the PCB.

Remember that the full list of special strings available in the String dialog will also include any derived from user-defined project-level parameters.

TrueType Fonts

When using TrueType fonts, TrueType and OpenType (a superset of TrueType) fonts found in the \Windows\Fonts folder will be available for use. The feature also offers full Unicode support.

Note that only detected (and uniquely named) root fonts will be available for use. For example, Arial and Arial Black would be available but Arial Bold, Arial Bold Italic, would not.

To use a TrueType font, simply choose a font type from the drop-down field in the Select TrueType Font region. Use the Bold and/or Italic options to add emphasis to the text as required.

The appearance of various example TrueType fonts in the workspace.

Additional options for TrueType fonts are available. Enable the Inverted option to display the text as inverted, with control over the size of the border around the text.

An example of inverted TrueType text.

The Use Inverted Rectangle option extends the control over the bounding rectangle of the inverted text, including: rectangle size, text justification within the rectangle, and an offset for the text in relation to the rectangle's edge.

Fine-tune the appearance of inverted text with control over the bounding rectangle, and the location of the string within it.

As a value is entered into the Width and Height fields for the bounding rectangle, pop-up hint text will advise the minimum values that can be entered, based on the actual width and height of the text string itself.