GMU FPGA CAD Tools at School and Home

(Last updated: 02/02/11. Report bugs to Ambarish Vyas (avyas2@gmu.edu))

 

CAD tools at school

In GMU FPGA-related courses you have the option of using either of two design environments: The Aldec Active-HDL Environment or The Xilinx ISE Environment. Both environments can be used to invoke all necessary FPGA tools: a simulator, synthesis tool, and implementation tool. The synthesis tool available on the machines at school is Xilinx XST, the implementation tool is Xilinx ISE. 

The following is a list of the two aforementioned environments available at school in the Engineering Building rooms
3204 and 3208. Note that the machines in these rooms have several versions of tools installed on them. Please use versions of tools specified below unless your instructor recommends otherwise.

Option 1: Aldec Environment (School)

GUI/Environment: Aldec Active-HDL 8.3 SP1
VHDL Simulator: Aldec Active-HDL 8.3 SP1
Synthesis: Xilinx XST 12.2
Implementation: Xilinx ISE 12.2

How to set up Aldec Environment (School)

  1. When you open Aldec Active-HDL for the first time in the lab, initialize the environment to point to the correct tools (these settings may have been set already by default).

    1. Go to: Tools...Preferences. In the window that appears, go to Environment-->Flows-->Integrated Tools.

    2. For HDL Synthesis, push "Select" and choose Xilinx ISE/Webpack 12.2 XST.

    3. For Implementation, push "Select" and choose Xilinx ISE/Webpack 12.2 .

    4. For Family, choose the family used in a given project. For example, selecting "Xilinx 11x Virtex5" sets the default family as Virtex5. Selecting "Xilinx 11x Spartan3" sets the default family as Spartan3.

    5. Push "OK" to save changes.

Option 2: Xilinx Environment (School)

GUI/Environment: Xilinx ISE 12.4
VHDL Simulator: ModelSim SE 6.3 a
Synthesis: Xilinx XST 12.4
Implementation: Xilinx ISE 12.4

How to set up Xilinx Environment (School)

  1. When you open a new project in Xilinx ISE Foundation for the first time, initialize the environment to point to the correct tools.

    1. Go to File...New Project. Set a project name and push "Next."

    2. For Product Category, choose "All."

    3. For Family, choose the family. For example, "Virtex5" or "Spartan3."

    4. For Synthesis tool, choose "XST (VHDL/Verilog)."

    5. For Simulator, choose "ModelSim-SE VHDL."

    6. For Preferred Language, choose "VHDL."

    7. Push "Next" and choose the rest of your options (by default, continue to push "Next" without making changes) until you push "Finish."

CAD tools at home

Majority of students like the flexibility of working from home. Aldec and Xilinx provide free tools to students as described below. However be forewarned: these tools often carry feature limitations and simulations run much slower than the full versions installed at school. Please investigate the vendor websites to understand the limitations in further detail.

Since the tools are not exactly the same at school and at home, you may run into some discrepancies or incompatibilities. If you are working from home and from school, be sure to save a copy of your source files NOT the project folder before trying to transfer from the home environment to the school environment or vice-versa, especially if you are Aldec user. This would eliminate the incompatibility issues that may arise from different version of tools and computer. Note that you may need to create a new project for each transfer of data.

If you work from home, for compatibility reasons, here are the configurations you should use. Details on how to download and install software to attain these configurations are given below. Again, as with the school computers, you can choose either the Aldec Environment or Xilinx Environment. 

All tools run on Windows XP, Windows Vista and Windows 7 operating systems.

If you have problems with the software running on your personal computers, the best solution is to use the computers in the lab at school.


Option 1: Aldec Environment (Home)

GUI Environment: Aldec Active-HDL Student Edition 7.2
VHDL Simulator: Aldec Active-HDL Student Edition 7.2
Synthesis: Xilinx ISE/Webpack XST 9.1 SP3
Implementation: Xilinx ISE/Webpack 9.1 SP3

1. Download and install Aldec Student Edition [release: 4/2/2008] 

    1. Go to the Aldec Student Webpage and click "Download." The student edition is a feature-limited edition of Aldec Active-HDL.

    2. Register and follow the instructions to download and install Aldec Student Edition. This should give you a 365-day trial.

    3. Install the following libraries for Aldec Student Edition

    2. Download and install Xilinx Webpack 9.1 SP3. Follow the steps below.

    1. Go to   Xilinx ISE Classics
    2. Download and install "WebPACK_9.1i_SFD." ISE Webpack is a feature-limited version of ISE Foundation (i.e. the largest FPGA device in a family is not supported) 
    3. Note: If you have Windows 7 Operating System go to the folder bin/nt and run setup.exe located in this folder to install ISE Webpack.
    4. Go to Xilinx ISE Download, click on Archive, and choose 9.1 SP3 and download the service pack for Windows.

3. When you open Aldec Active-HDL Student Edition for the first time, initialize the environment to point to the correct tools.

  1. Go to: Tools-->Preferences. In the window that appears, go to Environment-->Flows-->Integrated Tools.

  2. For HDL Synthesis, push "Select" and choose Xilinx Webpack XST 9.1.

  3. For Implementation, push "Select" and choose Xilinx Webpack 9.1.

  4. For Family, choose the family. For example, selecting "Xilinx 9x Virtex5" sets the default family as Virtex5. Selecting "Xilinx 9x Spartan3" sets the default family as Spartan3.

  5. Push "OK" to save changes.

Option 2: Xilinx Environment (Home)

GUI Environment: Xilinx ISE Webpack 12.4
VHDL Simulator: Modelsim PE Student Edition 10.0
Synthesis: Xilinx ISE Webpack XST 12.4
Implementation: Xilinx ISE Webpack 12.4

How to set up Xilinx Environment (Home)

This may take a few hours depending on your internet connection speed.

  1. Download and install Xilinx Webpack 12.4

    1. Go to the Xilinx Webpack and select 32/64bit windows.

    2. Create an account with Xilinx, then log back in.

    3. Proceed forward and select "ISE Webpack" and click the arrow button in the "Download" column in the box to the right.

    4. Once installed, you will need to follow Xilinx's guideline on obtaining license.

  2. Download and install ModelSim Student PE 10.0 

    1. Go to the ModelSim Student PE Edition 10.0

    2.  You will have to fill in the details and follow the instructions to download the file.

    3. Install the .exe file and after installing you will be directed to a form again. Fill in the form VERY carefully. Your license key will be emailed to you.

  3. When you open a new project in Xilinx ISE Webpack for the first time, initialize the environment to point to the correct tools.

    1. Go to File-->New Project. Create a project name and push "Next."

    2. For Product Category, choose "All."

    3. For Family, choose the family. For example, "Virtex5" or "Spartan3."

    4. For Synthesis tool, choose "XST (VHDL/Verilog)."

    5. For Simulator, choose "Modelsim-PE VHDL."

    6. For Preferred Language, choose "VHDL."

    7. Push "Next" and choose the rest of your options (by default, continue to push "Next" without making changes) until you push "Finish."