Incremental PCB design / Component grouping

I got an idea for making it more easy to design the PCB from the schematic. I don’t know if other tools allow this, but it would make it easier.

When going from the schematic to the PCB design you get a rats nest. But it would be faster if you could make a selection of components in the schematic, and don’t have to place and route everything in one step.

If you only get the selected components to place and route at the PCB level, you can take care of the most important components first.

If I make a board, I place and route groups of components. But if you first make the whole schematic, you’ll get a headache of finding och grouping together component that you want next to each other.

So it would be great to mark the components in the schematic that you want to place and route. Then you could make the basic layout of everything in steps, and not all at once. Then you would not need to make the schematic in steps and place and route in in your PCB design, to get this incremental work flow.

In altium designer it is implemented using rooms. Typically there is one room per sheet but I think you can add components that are not on the sheet as well. On the PCB layout the room is drawn as a colored rectangle around the component of the sheet. You can automatically place components of a room into a grid of x columns and y rows to pick them more easily.
If you move the rectangle it moves all the components of the room and optionnally the tracks and polygons that are within its borders. I believe you can also have design rules that only applies to specific rooms.
The best part of this feature is when you use a multi channel design, where one subcircuit is used multiple times, the componnent and track placement inside the room can be copied from one instance of the room to the other, so you only need to route one channel.
Rooms in altium are not perfect though, but I personnaly find it useful and the feature can be disabled individually for each schematic sheet.
The naming scheme is also quite good, you can change the start index per sheet as well so your designators start at 100 for one sheet, 200 for another, etc. This also simplifies finding the components as all components of the sheet have the same prefix.

One way to implement this kind of feature would be the addition of automatic and custom attributes to components and allow grouping/filtering by these attributes. The sheet of the component would be an automatic attribute, but the user could add personnalized attributes at will.

Organizing schematic elements into groups sounds like a nice idea.

@dan you’re aware that you don’t have to place all components on the PCB at the same time, right? (You won’t get airwires for unplaced components, just a warning.)