GMU FPGA CAD Tools at School and Home

(Last updated: 8/20/09. Report bugs to Ekawat "Ice" Homsirikamol: ehomsiri@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. The recommended environment is the Aldec environment. This is what we will focus on in classes and hands-on sessions. However you are free to use either the Aldec or Xilinx environments as you prefer.

There are two synthesis tools available on the machines at school: Synplicity Synplify Pro or Xilinx XST. Both of these tools can be invoked by the Aldec Environment or Xilinx Environment. All tools run on the Windows XP operating system; they have not been tested on Microsoft Vista.

The following is a list of these two environments available at school in Engineering Building rooms 3204 and 3208. Note that the machines in these rooms have several versions of tools in them. Please refer to your instructor for a recommended version of toolset.

Option 1: Aldec Environment (School)

GUI/Environment: Aldec Active-HDL (7.2 SP2) or Aldec Active-HDL 8.2
VHDL Simulator: Aldec Active-HDL (7.2 SP2) or Aldec Active-HDL 8.2
Synthesis: Synplicity Synplify Pro (8.8), Xilinx ISE Foundation XST (ISE 9.1 SP3) or Xilinx ISE Foundation XST (ISE 11.1)
Implementation: Xilinx ISE Foundation (ISE 9.1 SP3) Xilinx ISE Foundation XST (ISE 11.1)

Note : If you're using Aldec Active-HDL 8.2, you can choose XST 9.1 SP3 or XST 11.1 as your synthesis and implementation tools.
           However, if you're using Aldec Active-HDL 7.2 or 7.3, you can only select XST 9.1 SP3 as your synthesis and implementation tool.

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 Synplicity Synplify Pro 8.8 or Xilinx ISE/Webpack XST.
    3. For Implementation, push "Select" and choose Xilinx ISE/Webpack.
    4. For Family, choose the family. For example, selecting "Xilinx 9x Virtex4" sets the default family as Virtex4. Selecting "Xilinx 9x Spartan3" sets the default family as Spartan3.
    5. Push "Okay" to save changes.
Option 2: Xilinx Environment (School)

GUI/Environment: Xilinx ISE Foundation (9.1 SP3)
VHDL Simulator: Modelsim Special Edition (SE 6.3a)
Synthesis: Synplicity Synplify Pro (8.6.2) or Xilinx ISE Foundation XST (ISE 9.1 SP3)
Implementation: Xilinx ISE Foundation (ISE 9.1 SP3)

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. Create a project name and push "Next."
    2. For Product Category, choose "All."
    3. For Family, choose the family. For example, "Virtex4" or "Spartan3."
    4. For Synthesis tool, choose "Synplify Pro (VHDL/Verilog)" or "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

Some 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. 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)
VHDL Simulator: Aldec Active-HDL (Student Edition)
Synthesis: Xilinx ISE Webpack XST (Webpack 9.1 SP3)
Implementation: Xilinx ISE Webpack (Webpack 9.1 SP3)

How to set up Aldec Environment (Home)

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

  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.
  2. Install patches and updates for Aldec Student Edition
    1. Download and install Xilinx VHDL Libraries ISE 9.1 SP3 with IP Update 2 for Active-HDL 7.2 Student Edition
    2. Download and install Xilinx Schematic Libraries ISE 8.2 SP3 for Active-HDL 7.2 Student Edition
  3. Download and install Xilinx Webpack 9.1 SP3
    Note: For compatibility with the school tools, do not install Xilinx Webpack 10.1 or 9.2. Instead install a "classic" version, Xilinx Webpack 9.1, per the instructions below.
    1. Go to the Xilinx ISE Classics and click "Register ISE Classics" on the right.
    2. Create an account with Xilinx.
    3. Once you have created an account you can return to Xilinx ISE Classics and click "Download ISE Classics" on the right.
    4. Click on the "ISE WebPACK v. 3.3 - v. 9.2" icon on the bottom right of the page to get to the "Free ISE WebPACK-Earlier Software Releases" download page.
    5. On the "Free ISE WebPACK-Earlier Software Releases" page, 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).
    6. On the "Free ISE WebPACK-Earlier Software Releases" page, download and install "Service Pack 3."
  4. 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 Virtex4" sets the default family as Virtex4. Selecting "Xilinx 9x Spartan3" sets the default family as Spartan3.
    5. Push "Okay" to save changes.
Option 2: Xilinx Environment (Home)

GUI Environment: Xilinx ISE Webpack (Webpack 11.1)
VHDL Simulator: Modelsim Xilinx Edition (MXE 6.4b)
Synthesis: Xilinx ISE Webpack XST (Webpack 11.1)
Implementation: Xilinx ISE Webpack (Webpack 11.1)

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 11.1
    1. Go to the Xilinx Webpack and click "ISE WebPack" on the right, under "Logic Design Tools".
    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 in obtaining license.
  2. Download and install Modelsim Xilinx Edition 6.4b
    1. Go to the ModelSim Xilinx Edition III Download and click "Version 6.4b"
    2. You will also have to register for a license for MXE 6.4b.
  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, "Virtex4" or "Spartan3."
    4. For Synthesis tool, choose "XST (VHDL/Verilog)."
    5. For Simulator, choose "Modelsim-XE 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."