Getting And Using Files
Posted by jackfolla on March 24 2007 23:30:20
There are lots of add-on files you can use with popular flightsims, and best of all most of them are free. But it does take some skill to use these files, more than a store bought add-on which most likely will install itself automatically. Here's some basics you need to know.
ZIP Files
Most files that you download come as zip files. If you look at the complete file name (you may have to adjust your Windows settings to do this, so you're not seeing icons instead of the full text name) these files are readily identified because they always end with the letters .zip. There are a number of reason why zip files are used, the most important being that it puts everything together in a single file so you don't miss anything while at the same time making the file size smaller (and thus your download time faster).

To use zip files you need a zip file utility. Windows XP has one built in that you may find to be sufficient. Otherwise, the most popular ones are WinZip and PKzip. These utilities, and many of the other files that you will have to have, can be found on our Must Have Files page, which you can reach from our Main Menu.

Exactly how you use zip files depends on what zip file utility you choose. It's not hard to unzip the files you download but you will need to read the instructions for the zip file utility to get started.

EXE Files
A few files you download will be exe files instead of zip files. You can recognize these because their complete file name ends with the letters .exe. Any file whose name ends with these letter is a complete program; to use it all you need to do is run it. "Run" is a feature you can find by clicking on the Windows "Start" button.

To download files all you need is a standard Web browser. Here are the steps involved in downloading a file:

1) Click on the word "download"

Pretty tough, huh? First you need to find the file you want though. That's covered in the next section but first a few tips on downloading. Some browser add-ons (also known as "plug-ins") seem to cause problems with downloading files. This even includes add-ons that are supposed to make downloading easier! At least one add-on thats purpose is to hide banner ads is also known to foul up downloading. If you have problems downloading try removing these add-ons from your browser.

Security software, such as firewalls, can also prevent you from downloading. Depending on how you have your security set, a download may be deemed a security hazard and won't be allowed. If your downloads just won't start this is the first place to look.

One other common problem is that your browser may rename the file. If you end up with a file on your computer different from the one you thought you were downloading usually you can fix the problem simply by changing the name to the correct one. This seems to happen more often with exe files than with zip files.

Also, when downloading files your browser may give you the option to "open" or "save" the file; you want to choose "save" in order to download and store the file on your computer.

Finding Files
We offer many ways of finding the files you want, from simple lists of files to a powerful search engine. Many people start their daily visit to Simnetwork.Com with the New Files list. This list has the latest files from the past few days. The list on the Main Menu has all new files included. Several of our forums have separate lists with only new files appropriate to that forum. See the FSX Forum or FS2004 Forum for an example.

The most powerful tool for finding files is our Search Engine. This tool lets you find files by file name or by description. If you know all or part of the file name of the add-on you want you simply fill in the file name box and start the search. For most cases, though, you will use the text string search which allows you to search on a single word, several words or a phrase or any of these ANDed or ORed together. For complete details on searching use the Help link on the search page.

Please note: the Google search form offered several places on the site is NOT suitable for finding files; use that search for finding feature articles, reviews, how to tips, etc.

There are also a number of less often used tools for finding files, including lists of popular files, a map based system for finding scenery and a list of aircraft files organized by country and airline. All of these can be found on the Main Menu.

Using Files
You've got a file downloaded onto your computer and you have your zip utility installed and know how to use it, now how do you use the file you've downloaded? To start, read the docs!. Reading the instructions is something people are resistant to do, no matter what new thing has been acquired, but it's still the best way to get things working smoothly. This is just as true with files you download as with something you buy in a store. Use your zip utility to see what's in the file. You should see a file or files with names that end with .doc or .txt or with names something like readme. There's no standard, but usually it's not hard to figure out which files to look at. Unzip those files and read them. If they are .doc files you'll need Microsoft Word or something compatible. For other files you should be able to use Word or any word processor, text editor or text viewer.

If the docs are incomplete or missing there are places you can turn for general help. SimNetwork.Com has a "FAQ" ("frequently asked questions") area for several of the most popular sims. You can find all available FAQs on the Main Menu. There are also forums available for all popular sims (again, reached from the Main Menu) which have message areas; there you can write messages to other flightsimmers asking their help. Generally, there are knowledgeable people available who can answer most questions. Finally, you can ask the person who created the file. Most designers include their email address in the docs.