Editing your first Panel
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As an example of editing a Panel, let's open and modify the default FS2002 C182 Panel. We'll remove the default Heading Indicator, and replace it with something more sophisticated, like an HSI (Horizontal Situation Indicator).
Step 1 - Setup Directories
Before starting, you must ensure that you tell FS Panel Studio where your copy of Flight Simulator is located. This is because the location of all Aircraft and Gauges is relative to this installation directory. FS Panel Studio will also ensure that you only use Gauges that are available when Flight Simulator is run, so you can not create a Panel which will not display properly.
The first time you ran the program, you were presented with a dialog to enter this data. You can also call this up at any time with the Options: FS Mode and Root Directory... menu pick:
On our example system, we've installed FS2002 in C:\FS2002. This is the root directory of the Flight Simulator 2002 install, where the fs2002.exe file resides. (The default directory is C:\Program Files\Microsoft Games\Flight Simulator 2002.) Select the FS2002 check box and enter the proper directory either by simply typing it in, or click the Browse.. button to bring up a file browser. Click OK.
Step 2 - Select a Panel
At the FS Panel Studio main window, select File: Open Panel.cfg by Aircraft. You'll see a dialog like this:
This dialog allows you to select the aircraft identically to the method used in FS2004. Select your desired Aircraft Manufacturer, Aircraft Model and Variation, the click on OK to open the aircraft.
If you are in a mode earlier than FS2000, or if you select the Use Old Style Open, you will see a menu like this:
The installed Aircraft are presented in the left hand list. Selecting an Aircraft results in a list of Panels for the plane. At the top, you can see the current mode, and the directory in which FS Panel Studio is searching for valid Aircraft. This directory is relative to the one we specified in Step 1, and an example of why Step 1 is so important. If you don't see any Aircraft in this dialog, you probably need to revisit Step 1.
To help us determine which Panel is which, FS Panel Studio also display the Title and UI Variation for the plane. (This is extracted from the aircraft.cfg file). You'll see the UI Variation in FS2002/4 when you're selecting Aircraft to fly in Flight Simulator.
Note that there are multiple Panels listed with the name Panel. In reality, they are all the same Panel, but differ slightly in things like ATC ID and external appearance. Sharing Panels is a feature of Flight Simulator, but be aware that editing one will result in all of these Aircraft seeing the editing Panel.
We'd like to edit the default Panel, not the IFR Panel, so select C182 on the left, and Panel on the right. Click OK.
Step 3 - Select a Window
We've now specified an Aircraft to Edit, and a Panel, but each Panel is made up of one or more Windows, so we'll need to be specific about which one to open. We can only edit one at a time. FS Panel Studio will display a list of Windows for the C182 and allow us to select one:
Again we see the Title and UI Variation, and also the File Name of the panel.cfg file which describes this panel. The Windows in this Panel are listed on the left. In the Microsoft C182, we have 5 Windows.
To help you select the correct Window, FS Panel Studio displays the background bitmap of the selected Window (if it has one). Also listed are some of the bitmap properties. Let's edit the Main Panel. Select it by left clicking with the mouse, and then click on OK.
Step 4 - Delete a Gauge
FS Panel Studio now takes a few seconds to load the Panel and its associated Gauges, before displaying the Window.
Let's now delete the Heading Indicator Gauge. Locate it on the Panel (about the middle, below the Artificial Horizon), and use the mouse to left click on it. This will select it, and FS Panel Studio will outline it in yellow.
Notice on the status bar at the bottom of the window you'll see the name of the selected Gauge, in our case Gauge 9, Cessna!Heading_Indicator. At this point we could use the mouse to drag any of the corners or sides of the Gauge to resize it, or if we moved the mouse to the center of the Gauge, then held down the left mouse button, we could drag it to a new position on the Window.
However, we want to delete it. There are a number of ways to do so. We could press the keyboard Delete key. Or the red X toolbar button. You could use the Edit: Delete menu pick. Or right click with the mouse, and select the Delete menu item. Let's just use the keyboard Delete key.
If you change your mind, you can undo most actions associated with a Gauge. Simply type <Cntrl Z>, use the toolbar left facing arrow, or the Edit: Undo menu pick to reverse the deletion.
Step 5 - Add a new Gauge
Now that we've gotten rid of the Heading Indicator, we need to find a better instrument to replace it with. Begin by selecting the Gauge: Add Gauge menu pick, or the New Gauge toolbar button. You should see the Add Gauge dialog:
This is where we specify the Gauge to add. All of the Gauges available to FS2002 are listed on the left, in this case there are 215. Note that the Gauge Directory is C:\FS2002\gauges. This is again relative to the Flight Sim install directory we entered in Step 1.
If you know the name of the Gauge you want to add, you can just type it into the Gauge to Install box, and click Open. Most likely you'll need to search for a suitable Gauge. FS Panel Studio helps you with this in a couple of ways.
To begin, you can narrow down the Gauges listed by restricting the list to only certain types of Gauges. If you click on the Gauges of Type box, you'll see your options. You can quickly narrow your search to FS2002 XML Gauges, for example. These are our options:
You can also just scroll through the list of Gauges. Any Gauge you select will be previewed for you in the Preview box, and specifics of the Gauge listed in the Properties box.
NOTE: All Gauges in the common simulator Gauges folder will be displayed. Starting with FS2004, Gauges can now be located in the Aircraft's Panel folder. If you wish to use these in other aircraft you must first copy the Gauges to the common Flight Simulator Gauges folder!
FS Panel Studio also has a built in search feature. You can type in a string (including wildcards) in the Gauge to Install box, and FS Panel Studio will match this string to Gauge names on disk. We're looking for an HSI, so type in *HSI*, and press <return>. You should see the following result:
There are two files which contain HSI in the Gauge directory. The 737 HSI probably won't do, but the Bendix King HSI might. Clicking on the bendix_king.hsi.gau in the Gauge Files pane shows a preview of a Gauge that would look very nice on our Panel. Click Open to install it.
Note that there are other HSIs which exist as Gauges within "Cluster Gauges", for example the Horizontal Situation Indicator in the beech_baron.cab Gauge file. These you'll need to find by selecting the containing Gauge file in the left hand Gauge File list, then searching through the right hand list gauge list.
Step 6 - Position the Gauge
FS Panel Studio inserts the new Gauge onto our Panel in a default position, and at a default size. We'll need to modify both. Notice the Gauge is selected automatically when inserted.
To move the Gauge, move the mouse over the center of the Gauge until the cursor changes to the NS/EW arrow (arrows point in all directions). Hold the left button of the mouse down, and drag the Gauge to its new location, which is the position of the old Gauge. Line up the top left corner with the top edge of the Turn Coordinator, and the left edge of the Attitude Indicator, the release the button. We could have also accomplished this using the arrow keys. The left/right/up/down arrow keys will move the Gauge 1 MM with each key press. This is slower but more exact if you're only trying to move a small or precise distance.
Notice that while you're dragging the Gauge, the top left corner of the Gauge outline is drawn in magenta, and the X,Y position of this corner (or the Gauges' origin) is shown on the status line. This helps if you want to drag the Gauge to a specific X,Y location.
The new Gauge is a bit too small, so move the mouse to the bottom right corner of the Gauge, until the cursor changes to an arrow pointing NW/SE. Hold down the left button and stretch the Gauge until it's the proper size. If you want to maintain the aspect ratio, or proportions of the Gauge, hold down the <Shift> key while stretching. We can also size a Gauge in 1 MM increments using the + and - keyboard keys. This allows more precise sizing.
Notice that while you're stretching, the size of the Gauge is continuously updated on the status line. This helps if you want to set the Gauge to a specific size.
Step 7 - Line up the Gauges
FS Panel Studio has a rich set of tools for lining up Gauges to one another. You can line up Gauges vertically or horizontally, stack them (like a stack of radios or a row of switches) or snap them to a user set Grid spacing. You can also select multiple Gauges at a time and set them all to the same size, or move them, size them or delete them as a group.
Let's try something simple. We'll make sure the new HSI lines up with the Turn Coordinator and VSI, and is the same size. Start by selecting all three Gauges. You can do this by holding down the left button outside the Gauges, and drawing a box that totally encloses them, or by clicking on all three. Let's try the later. Pick the Turn Coordinator using the normal left click with the mouse. Add the two other Gauges by left clicking while holding down the <cntrl> keyboard key. This is the normal Windows way of performing a multiple selection. If you select the wrong Gauge, you can <cntrl> click on it again to unselect it. To unselect all Gauges, simply left click outside of any Gauges on the Window.
All three Gauges should now be outlined in yellow.
To line them up, right click with the mouse to bring up the context menu. Select the Set Same Size (largest) menu item. All three Gauges will be set to the size of the largest of the three. Now select the Line Up Horizontally menu item. The tops of the Gauges will now match up.
Step 8 - Save and check your work
Select the File: Save menu pick to save your work. Start FS2002, and use the Aircraft menu pick to make sure the C182 is loaded (It's listed as C182S Skylane). You should see the following:
Our stock C182 now has a fancy new HSI!