This tutorial by Club member Dragoljub Blagojavic is designed to help newcomers make X-Plane look amazing almost for free by including some mostly freeware addons.
You should get used to the basics of X-Plane really before attempting to add these addons, so although I mention "newcomers" above, my target audience is really those who have been flying basic X-Plane for a few weeks or perhaps month or two. I am sure that if you put some effort into X-Plane you will start to love it as much as I do - even if you've been flightsimming on ESP platforms for many years (ESP is the software platform from which FSX, FSX-Steam and Prepar3D are all built). So in this tutorial I will cover a couple of basic topics and hopefully it will help you understand and appreciate the way X-Plane is built.
Things You Need To Know
Coming from FSX/P3D
One thing which is of utmost importance when starting flying on the X-Plane platform is to not compare it to ESP platforms or to former sims. If you do, you WILL get a headache. Take X-Plane for what it is and try to enjoy learning its "bits and bobs" as fellow CIX VFR Club member Ken Greer would put it. The reason why many of "converts" quit after some time is simply due to this factor alone.
Keep your installation of FSX/P3D!
There is no reason to fully convert to X-plane especially since lquite a number of addons that exist on ESP have no equivalent in X-Plane! Use both sims according to how you want to fly! This will of course. make it easier for you if you face any difficulties with X-Plane and just simply want to fly around instead of "tweaking the sim".
Folder structure of X-plane.
You might have noticed that X-Plane is a self-contained simulator. What that means is that it is installed on one location only and isn't spread around different folders like e.g FSX, nor does it put files in obscure Windows locations where you can't find them. If you want to move your X-Plane installation to another location, such as a new hard drive, its a simple cut (or copy) and paste process.
The default installation directory is on your C drive. If are low on space you can install it without any scenery files with only the necessary components. Then you can move it (the whole X-plane 11 folder) to a different drive by the usual Windows cut and paste or click and drag process. Then simply run the X-Plane update installer located in XPlane's root folder and install the default scenery to the new drive.
Default and custom folders
X-Plane has dedicated folders into which most addons are installed. For instance, installing an updated version of AIRAC is done in the Custom Data folder. Addon scenery files are installed in, yes you guesed it, the Custom Scenery folder. There is none of the obscure (and irrational) spreading around your PC of vital files which is the norm for Microsoft Flight Simulator and it 's derivatives.
X-plane's operating parameters are contained in simple text files which can be modified with a text editor. For exanple, its model files (called Objects, with the file extension .obj) are in a simple text format. If you are very good with coding in that format you could actually make a building by manually typing the code instead of using a 3D Editor! Cool, right!? The text editor I use is Notepad++. It's free, very user friendly with colour coding to assist programmers and it can read a variety of text formats!
Understanding the Scenery structure
This is not that important for those who don't intend to convert sceneries from FSX, create their own sceneries or modify the default ones, but it is useful to know that XPlane scenery is divided into two formats, namely apt.dat & .dsf files. Apt.dat files contain everything related to an airport itself, such as taxiway outlines, ground polygons, runways etc. - basically the two-dimensional surface data, plus the airport radio frequencies. DSF files are overlay files containing the three-dimensional data - the buildings, static aircraft, trees, fences etc. 3D models. In order to modify these files you will need an X-Plane editor. More about this later.
Installing Addon Scenery
Installing scenery is a simple drag and drop process.
- Place the new scenery folder from the download into your Custom Scenery folder located in X-Plane 11 root folder.
- Run X-Plane once.
- If you install scenery which is not airport scenery, you will now need to edit your scenery_packs.ini file - X-Plane's equivalent to FSX's Scenery Library. This file is located at the bottom of the Custom Scenery folder. When a new addon-scenery is added to the Custom Scenery folder, X-Plane will notice this change on launch and add a path entry. Entries at the top of the file will have priority over items at the bottom - changing the order changes the priority.
Understanding scenery order
There is a really good tutorial written on Avsim by Tony W. which explains scenery order quite nicely! The original post can be found at https://www.avsim.com/forums/topic/442579-understanding-scenery-order/. Reading Tony's article is highly recommended.
This is an addon which organizes your addon scenery files according to their types. It should be noted that X-Organizer sometimes makes mistakes, so after running it, make sure you manually check the sorted files in your scenery_packs.ini file and rearrange any scenery which has been misplaced! You can find X-Organiser at https://forums.x-plane.org/index.php?/files/file/31085-xorganizer-windows/.
I won't go into detail as to what these paticular addons/aircraft do - you can read about them on their install pages. What qualifies as a "Must Have" is of course a very subjective topic, but I have tried to cover it as objectively as I can. I've personally spent quite a lot of money on X-Plane payware aircraft.. However, everything related to scenery or the environment, including shaders is free! If you install all of the addons below, I promise you your simulator will look awesome!
These applications are "Plugins". There are simply copied and pasted from the download into the X-Plane folder X-Plane 11\Resources\plugins
- Airport Environment HD
- FS Enhancer
- FlyWithLua (Reading the installation manual is mandatory or else you will have problems!
The following can be installed, but are not needed if you install FS Enhancer
- Eddies Skypack
- Enhanced Europe
- Enhanced Street Lights
The Master list of Libraries (I recommend installing everything)
The aircraft in the list bellow are all freeware but of payware quality. Make sure to send donations to those you deem worthy of it.
- Helicopter Bell 429
- Bell 429 with wheels
- Reality XP Bell 429 compatibility
- Robin by Aerobask P-180
- Avanti by Icarus Simulations
- Lancair Legacy
- Lisa Akoya by Aerobask
- Dornier (make sure to download the larger file of the two when downloading. The authors are trying to remove the old one ASAP.
- Let 410
- BE58 Dubble Trubble
- Zibo Boeing 737-800 Mod (the quality and realism of this aircraft is very close to FSX's PMDG standard but it's FMC has better sounds, visuals and effects! If you want to try commercial airliners, this is where you should start. Install process can be somewhat tricky. In that case make sure to contact Drago Blagojavic via the CIX VFR Club Forum PM system and he will help.
Weather Engines - Freeware
- FSrealWX. It is worth tmentioning that I only use FSrealWX,
but there are payware weather Engines available too (see below).
For FSrealWX you need the application
which is designed to work with both X-Plane and FSX/P3D,
and you need a plug-in for X-Plane. The plugin starts a server
(which is your computer) and the application injects the real
world weather data over the server and into the sim. Post on
the Club forum if you have troubles starting it - it can be
troublesome at first..
Get the application at https://www.fsrealwx.net/index.php/downloads/fsrealwx-downloads
Get the PLUGIN at https://www.fsrealwx.net/index.php/downloads/xprealwx
Weather Engines - Payware
- X-Enviro: - Get it on http://xenviro.net.
- SkyMaxx Pro: Get it on http://www.xaviation.com/catalog/product_info.php/skymaxX-Pro-p-1382
XP Realistic Pro. What EZdok is for FSX, XP Realistic Pro
is for X-plane. A must have addon!
What both EXdok and XP Realistic Pro do is to change the movement of the visual image on your screen according to flight conditions - turbulence, vibration, bumps and bangs from gear and flap extension etc. In other words they add realism detail and improve the immersive experience. You can find it at http://www.xprealistic.com.
Aircraft Visual Models When Flying Online
When you install xsquawkbox and x-ivap they will include something called CSL models. It is those models that you see when flying online. There is a freeware upgrade package for those which you can acquire from https://forums.x-plane.org/index.php?/files/file/37041-bluebell-obj8-csl-packages. There are more CSL models at https://forums.x-plane.org/index.php?/files/category/12-xsb-csl-kits.
Once you have installed the freeware and any optional payware addons mentioned in this document, you will have a greatly enhanced version of X-Plane, and (in my opinion) a simulator which is much more realistic and satisfying than the competition.