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Help for Newbies - Organizing the Interface
Microsoft Flight Simulator X (FSX)
Help for Newbies -- Organizing the Interface



Six Main Views (S)
     Cockpit (A)
     Outside (A)
     Tower (A)
     Aircraft (A)
     Runway (A)
     Air traffic (A)
Four View Keys (F9-F12)
2-D Cockpit Panel Views (W)
Zoom (+ or -)
Mouse-Look (space+mouse)
Pop-Up Panel Elements (Sh+1-9)
Transparency of Panels (^+Sh+T)
Comparing 2-D and 3-D Cockpits

FSX File Types (extensions)
Saving and Loading Flights
Documents for Warrior II


My hope is that you will find this page so useful that you'll want to use it as I do, as an all-in-one source of vital information you need while flying FSX.  You may download it, for free of course, by using the View | Source or Page Source feature of your browser if you know how to do that.  If you want a copy of the most recent version along with all the associated files in ZIP format,

Feel free to copy and edit the HTM file (and even the CSS file if you know how to do that) so it works best for you, but please remember to include my copyright notice.

The information below is not guaranteed to work for you, but I think most of it will.  I have the deluxe edition of FSX, and I have not yet upgraded to either Service Pack (SP1 and SP2), nor have I installed Acceleration.  In some cases, some of which are noted, exactly how the interface works depends on the aircraft you have chosen.  FWIW, I use Windows XP Pro SP2 and the Microsoft SideWinder Precision 2 joystick.

Anyway, the below works for pretty much any plane in FSX, whether as part of the program or as an after-marktet add-on.  Also, passages below that are in double quotes are verbatim or nearly verbatim quotes from the help found in SFX.


For more information, in SFX pull down Help, then Learning Center, then the letter "V," then Views, which leads to the article "Using Views and Windows."

There are SIX MAIN VIEWS (S).  Each has a subset reachable by pressing A.

You can see all of them by pulling down the Views menu and choosing View Mode.  You can open any of them in a new window by pulling down that Views menu and choosing New View.

To use the keyboard press S to cycle through the SIX MAIN VIEW MODES below.  It seems some views that do appear using the mouse do not appear using S and A.

Window Titles.  Keeping track of (and presumably eventually memorizing) all the various views is made easier by displaying each window's title at the top.  Set this by pulling down the Views menu and checking Window Titles.

Six Main
What You See (cycle with S)


Cockpit Pilot's view from the 2-D (F10) or 3-D virtual cockpit (F9)
Outside Your aircraft from a settable external viewpoint
Tower Your aircraft from a control tower
Aircraft Your aircraft from an external camera on or near it
Runway A runway from cockpit viewpoint, for finding runway on approach.
Air traffic Other aircraft in the sky and on the ground

What You See (cycle with A)


Cockpit Same as F10, aka 2-D cockpit (and see here)
Virtual Cockpit Same as F9, aka 3-D cockpit
Right Seat View out the front from the right seat
Engine Controls Throttle, Mixture, Carb Heat, etc.
Centre Console Flaps and Elevator trim controls
Avionics Radios
Main Instruments Six main flying instruments occupy entire screen.
The particular views that are available depend on which plane you're flying.  The ones above are for the Piper Warrior II.
What You See (cycle with A)


Spot* "Your aircraft as viewed from a chase plane (fluid transition)"

This is more realistic than I first realized.  When you switch to Spot (as opposed to Locked Spot) view, the chase plane eventually settles on the spot you chose (using Mouse-Look) from which to point its camera.  But if you veer off or dive quickly, it takes the chase plane awhile to catch up and resume its assigned position.

Locked Spot*
"Your aircraft as viewed from a chase plane (direct transition)"

This is less realistic than the Spot view above, but maybe more useful.  The chase plane flies by magic directly to the camera location and distance you chose and stays there, also by magic.

Here are three ways to use this F11 key.  For taxiing, set a view that shows the runways.  For finding a runway from the air, set a view that shows what's to the left of the aircraft.  For landing, set a view that shows how the wheels touch down.

Fly-By "Your aircraft as it flies past a fixed point"

Does the Mouse-Look have any effect on the Fly-By view?



ZOOM with PLUS or MINUS key

"Your aircraft viewed top-down."  Your aircraft is always centered on the screen on a line that runs from the center of the Earth through your, as the pilot, head.  At most zoom levels it is a cross in the center of the screen, but at just the right zoom levels you can see your aircraft and which way it's pointing.

Use the PLUS key to zoom in and MINUS to zoom out.

While flying right-click anywhere to choose Top-down Orientation, then choose Aircraft Oriented, North Oriented, or North at High Altitude.

In Aircraft-Oriented your aircraft is always aimed at the center of the top of your screen, and the Earth rotates beneath you as you turn.  This is like flying with your head on an extensible mast while always looking straight ahead.  If you're flying southeast, then southeast on the Earth will be at the center of the top of your screen.

In North-Oriented, the Earth beneath you is always oriented with north at the center of the top of the screen.  The aircraft aims in whatever direction you're flying.  If you're flying southeast, your aircraft points southeast and the Earth beneath you moves northwest.

How does North at High Altitude differ from North Oriented?

You wouldn't normally fly using either the Aircraft-Oriented or North-Oriented views, but rather you'd orient yourself so you can go back to the cockpit and fly where you want to go.  The top-down view can be used to locate large, nearby objects such as airports.

*Use Mouse-Look to set the location of the chase plane for the two spot views.  Then use Ctrl+ and Ctrl- to change its distance.

Notice that both F11 and F12 go straight to one of the four Outside Views, whence you can cycle to the other three with A in the usual way.

What You See (cycle with A)


Nearest tower Your aircraft from the viewpoint of the nearest tower
Many others Presumably views of your aircraft from other towers
I'm not sure why so many towers are on the list, but most seem useless.  Also, I don't know how to decide which one to select or what to do with it then.
What You See (cycle with A)


Right wing Your aircraft from just behind the right wing
Left wing Your aircraft from just behind the left wing
Tail Your aircraft from just above and behind the tail
Gear Your aircraft's gear from right rear
Nose Straight ahead from over the nose
Reverse Nose Your aircraft from just ahead of the nose on the right side
Although the angle of the camera relative to the aircraft for each of the six views can't be changed, the direction it points can be changed using Mouse-Look, and to some extent its distance can be changed using the PLUS or MINUS keys.  Reset to the default direction with Ctrl+spacebar; reset to the default zoom distance with Backspace.

Which views are available depends on the particular aircraft.  To see a list of all the available views, mouse to Views | View Mode | Aircraft.

What You See (cycle with A)


Many runway
"When you select a Runway view, the view shifts toward the runway selected in the Runway View submenu as seen from your cockpit.  This view is very useful if you're close to your destination airport but you're having difficulty seeing the runway."
If the Runway view doesn't appear when cycling with S, pull down Views | Runway.  How does one decide which runway to choose?
Air Traffic
What You See (cycle with A)


Other aircraft "Air Traffic view shifts your viewpoint to other aircraft in the sky and on the ground.

"You must have air traffic turned on or the Air Traffic view mode will not appear in the Views menu.  To learn more about air traffic settings, see Changing Traffic Settings."

I don't know what to do with this view except watch the Artificial Intelligence (AI) vehicles move about.  Can I crash into them?
Four View Keys (F9, F10, F11, and F12)
View Key Use for
3-D Virtual
F9 ● Allows smooth panning using hat switch.
Ctlr-spacebar resets virtual cockpit to what, exactly?
● Can change Eyepoint in every direction.
● Pressing W in 3-D Virtual Cockpit does not change the 2-D Panel Views.
● This view does not offer special clickable icons (above the auto-pilot in Warrior II) such as an enlarged radio window and GPS.
Normal 2-D
F10 ● No smooth hat-panning but rather discrete (quick or snap) 45-degree arcs
● Is there a universal reset command? (Ctrl+spacebar then Backspace?)
● Can change Eyepoint, but only moving and tilting up and down.
● Pressing W in 2-D cockpit does change the 2-D Panel Views.
● This view does offer special clickable icons (above the auto-pilot in Warrior II) such as an enlarged radio window and GPS.
Locked Spot F11 See the plane from a chosen spot outside the plane.  See Outside and Mouse-Look views.
Top-Down F12 See the plane from directly above, then zoom using PLUS and MINUS keys or Spacebar+mouse wheel.  See Outside view.
2-D Cockpit Panel Views (cycle with W)
Panel Changes how much of the panel is visible.
Works only in 2-D cockpit (F10) view.
IFR Larger 2-D panel for flying only by reference to instruments
VFR (Approach) Smaller 2-D panel with greater visibility over the top of the panel
Miniature Only the primary instruments displayed at the bottom, with no panel
None No panel or instruments
This is the only use of the W key.
Zoom in Press PLUS key ( + )
Hold spacebar, then mouse wheel forward
Zoom out Press MINUS key ( - )
Hold spacebar, then mouse wheel backward
Reset Zoom level     Backspace key
All work in both 3-D Virtual (F9) and 2-D (F10) cockpits.
To move the eyepoint this way . . . . . . type this
Tilt down* CTRL + Q
Tilt up* CTRL + SHIFT + Q
Periscope up SHIFT + ENTER
Periscope down SHIFT + BACKSPACE
Zoom backward CTRL + ENTER
Zoom forward CTRL + BACKSPACE
Dolly right CTRL + SHIFT + ENTER
In terms of motion-picture camera movements, tilting means aiming the camera up or down without changing its position in space (and panning means aiming the camera left or right without changing its position in space, but FSX does not offer that eyepoint adjustment).  Dollying means moving the entire camera left or right.  Zooming here means to get closer to or farther away from the center of the screen.  I don't know the proper term for moving the entire camera up and down, so I've used "periscope."

*These are the only three that work in 2-D cockpit view.

Mouse-Look Mode (mouse cursor becomes a crosshair)
Works only in 3-D virtual (F9) cockpit and spot plane (F11) views.
Hold down spacebar,
then move mouse
The camera (your viewpoint) turns smoothly in the direction the mouse crosshair moves.
Toggle Shift+O In this mode you don't need to hold down the spacebar to look around with the mouse.
Rotate mouse wheel Zoom view in and out.  Reset with Backspace.
Ctrl+spacebar Returns view to the original one, before the mouse-look.
Spacebar Returns view to the last mouse-look.
F11, mouse-look from rear F11 is spot view.
One way to use Mouse-Look is to set a view with it, say, out a rear window to scan for a runway, then switch back and forth from that to a front view.  Toggle using a quick tap of the spacebar (last mouse view), then Ctrl+spacebar to look straight ahead again.  (Having no better use for it, the Trigger on my joystick is programmed to Ctrl-Spacebar.)

Also, use either of the two Outside spot plane views with Mouse-Look to set a new view such as from the rear for landing, then toggle using F11 and F9.

When the crosshair gets within a certain small radius of the original view, it stops moving.  This pertains whether the crosshair is being moved by repeated taps of the spacebar or by just moving the mouse in the normal way.  When the crosshair stops moving the view, that tells you you've returned to the original view.
Pop-Up Panel Elements (Shift+1 through Shift+9)
These are the pop-up cockpit panel elements, for two sample aircraft, that toggle on and off, such as the radio.  Typically they obscure some part of the screen.  These work in both 2-D and 3-D views.
  Boeing 737-800 (ships with FSX) Warrior II (after-market payware)
Shift+1 Main Panel toggle Do not use.
Shift+2 Radio Stack Radio
Shift+3 GPS (Garmin 500) GPS (Garmin MAP 295)
Shift+4 Throttle panel (quadrant) Weight Loading, pilot hat, etc.
Shift+5 Overhead panel Right wing falls off.
Shift+6 Trim panel OAT Sensor/Readout?
Shift+7 PFD Primary Flight Display Fuel Tank Selector
Shift+8 MFD Multi-Function Display ADF (Automatic Direction Finder)
Shift+9 EICAS Engine Instrument/Crew Alert System Do not use.
The exact panels that appear vary with the aircraft.  You should learn which panels for each particular aircraft you have a use for.  Check which pop-up cockpit panels are available by pulling down the Views menu and choosing Instrument Panel.
Transparency of Panels (only in 2-D (F10) cockpit view)
Ctrl+Shift+T, then ... Turns on the transparency feature
... PLUS key Decreases transparency of panels
... or MINUS key Increases transparency of panels
Use of this feature reduces the realism of the experience considerably.
How can I be sure transparency is set to total on or off without hitting Ctr+Shift+T?  I need to know whether transparency is ON at all, so I should never set Transparency to 100%, i.e., I should never press and hold the MINUS key all the way.
How do you turn this feature off so the PLUS and MINUS keys return to other functions?  Aren't there better ways to get the same effect, which is to see a lot of the world outside the plane while still seeing the control panel?
"On the Options menu, point to Settings, then click Display.  Click the Aircraft tab.  Move the 2-D panel transparency slider right or left to increase or decrease transparency.  Click OK."
Comparing Cockpits
Can look around smoothly with hat switch 3-D F9  
Can look around smoothly with Mouse-Look 3-D F9  
Can return to "normal" view using Ctrl+spacebar 3-D F9  
Propeller is visible 3-D F9  
Special Icons* such as GPS window   2-D F10
Can use specialized 2-D panel views   2-D F10
Can adjust panel Transparency   2-D F10
Reset Eyepoint with Ctrl+spacebar 3-D F9 2-D F10
Reset Zoom level with Backspace 3-D F9 2-D F10
Unlimited Eyepoint / Limited Eyepoint 3-D F9 2-D F10
Default tail "HB-PFZ" appears / "WTF" appears 3-D F9 2-D F10
Can use cockpit Pop-Up Panel Elements 3-D F9 2-D F10
*Special Icons appear (in 2-D F10 View only) in various places on the panel depending on the aircraft.  For the 737-800 they're above the MFD.  For the Piper J-3 Cub they're below the tachometer.  Hover the mouse cursor to see what each one does.
To do this . . .  . . . do this
Toggle to and from full-screen Alt-Enter
Toggle menu bar at top Alt
Switch to another PC window Alt-Tab
End flight Esc
Reset flight (to last Save?) Ctrl + ;
Reset Zoom to 1 Backspace
Reset 2-D Eyepoint Ctrl + spacebar
Change chase distance Ctrl + or Ctrl -
Display axis indicator Right-click.  The axis indicator is always centered orthogonally on the screen.
Display Window Titles Views | Window Titles
Return to previous view Ctrl+S
Kneeboard Shift + F10
Map World menu | Map...
Visual Flight Path Indicator Choose with aircraft
ATC (Air Traffic Control) toggle Reverse apostrophe (lower case tilde) = `
Save a FLighT semi-colon key = ;
??? ???


To do this . . .  . . . do this
Toggle all lights L
Autopilot toggle Z (Ctrl-Z, Ctrl-Shift-Z + or -, Ctrl-H, Ctrl-Shift-H + or -)
Pushback toggle Shift + P (or Shift + P, then 1 to head 90 degrees right or 2 to head 90 degrees left)
??? ???
FSX File Types (Extensions)
This table purports to list, locate and describe certain file types you can expect to find on your hard drive after you install FSX to a Windows XP computer (on drive C:) and play around with it for a while.  This also assumes you chose to install FSX and any ancillary files and folders to C:\FSX and not some other folder.The two main folders where you can expect to find files related to FSX are the following:
●  C:\FSX and
●  C:\Documents and Settings\YOURNAME\My Documents\Flight Simulator X Files
(Windows XP) or
●  C:\Documents and Settings\YOURNAME\My Documents\Flight Simulator X Files (Windows Vista). Also of significant interest is the folder on my hard drive at C:\Documents and Settings\YOURNAME\Application Data\Microsoft\FSX.  It appears to keep track of the most current state of affairs such as how many hours have been flown in a particular aircraft and the exact camera settings for the Six Main Views. The My Documents folder typically appears on desktops and Explorer lists labeled as such.  I've created shortcuts on my desktop to the Windows Explorer directory of each of the two folders above.
Editable column: If Yes, this means you can successfully edit and save this file type using an ASCII-only editor such as Notepad.  If No, you probably shouldn't try to edit and save it.
Where column: 1=My Documents  2=C:\FSX\Missions  3=C:\FSX\Lessons  4=C:\FSX\SimObjects\Airplanes and C:\FSX\SimObjects\Rotorcraft  5=elsewhere under C:\FSX
Extension Purpose Notes Edit-
FLT Information about a particular saved flight, a particular moment in time and space in particular circumstances.  Referred to as a "saved situation." FLT files that are saved to My Documents are flyable by choosing the Flights pull-down menu, then Load. Some FLT files come with FSX or can be downloaded.  Others you create yourself.  See Saving and Loading FLighTs below.

I think a flight can be saved with any of the following other files with the same first name: FSSAVE, WX, and SPB.  What about PLN, HTM and ABL?  What is the minimum necessary?
Yes 1
FSSAVE Presumably more information about a particular saved situation in FSX. When you save a flight a FSSAVE file is created in My Documents (along with a FLT and a WX of the same first name). No 1
WX Weather information about a particular saved situation in FSX. WX files are found in many folders such as Lessons and Missions.  A WX file also accompanies FLT files of the same first name.  Everywhere a FSSAVE file is found, so are a FLT and WX file of the same name.  Does a FLT file require a FSSAVE file? No 1
FSR Movie, aka Video and Clip (FSRecording?)

FSX does not ship with any FSR files as far as I can tell.  They are generated when you record a movie clip and save it to My Documents.
Record a movie using Options menu, Flight Video...   Record New Clip. FSR files located in My Documents are available to play as movies.  Yes
PLN Flight PLaN How are existing flight plans used?  It appears that some but not all Missions use PLN files. Yes 2
SPB What is the purpose of this type of file?  Does it matter? Generated by a compiler from human-readable XML files, SimPropBinary files are used in missions, dialogs and autogen configuration.A  There are 118 in C:\FSX\Dialogs and the rest are in Missions. No 1
AIR Information about a particular aircraft Unknown yet what is in these files.  It appears there is exactly one AIR file per aircraft and vice versa. No 4
CFG Information about particular aircraft and information about lots of other factors.  Is there a CFG file for every object in FSX? Each aircraft uses a number of CFG files to inform SFX about many dozens of facts about that aircraft.  Examples are the aircraft title, the lights, and the elevator trim limit.

CFG files, which are and must be saved in ASCII format, are used extensively in FSX, and they may all be edited at will.  Almost all are located in C:\FSX\SimObjects.

Yes 4
Extension Purpose Notes Edit-
Editable column: If Yes, this means you can successfully edit and save this file type using an ASCII-only editor such as Notepad.  If No, you probably shouldn't try to edit and save it.
Where column: 1=My Documents  2=C:\FSX\Missions  3=C:\FSX\Lessons  4=C:\FSX\SimObjects\Airplanes and C:\FSX\SimObjects\Rotorcraft  5=elsewhere under C:\FSX
Saving and Loading FLighTs
There are two ways to save a FLighT.  The resulting SAVE FLIGHT screen prompts you for "Flight title," which will be the first name of a filename whose extension will be FLT and another whose extension will be FSSAVE.  There might also be a WX file.  This cluster of files with the same first name will be saved to My Documents.

There are three ways to load a FLighT file.
Saving a FLighT
Flights pull-down menu Save any moment while flying by hitting the semi-colon key (or pulling down the Flights menu and choosing Save...).

Free Flight If you end a flight in progress (use Esc key) you'll be at the FSX interface that shows Home, Free Flight, Missions, etc. in a column at the left.  From this screen choose Free Flight, then Save....  This doesn't save the flight you just ended, it allows you to create scenarios in which you choose the aircraft, the location, the weather, and so on.  When you've got it set the way you want, use the Flight description text box to record any information you like, such as your location, airspeed, and altitude.  Then Save to a new filename.

Practice.  This is how to set up a situation you can start over from as many times as you want.  If you want to practice your landing in a particular plane trimmed out in a certain way, lined up with a particular runway, and so on, first fly yourself into that exact set of circumstances, then hit Esc, end the flight, and save.  Then, after you crash-land you can Load that same start-up situation and try again.

Loading a FLighT Windows Explorer Whether FSX is running or not, play a FLT file by finding it in Windows Explorer and right-clicking, then Open With Microsoft Flight Simulator.  I'm not 100% sure this will always work for you.
Free Flight If you end a flight in progress (use Esc key) you'll be at the FSX interface that shows Home, Free Flight, Missions, etc. in a column at the left.  From this screen choose Free Flight, then Load....  You'll see the LOAD FLIGHT menu, and as far as I can tell this lists only some of the flights found in the My Documents folder.  See Saving a FLighT using Free Flight above.
Flights pull-down menu If you're still flying as opposed to being at the SFX interface, pull down the Flights menu and choose Load....

This LOAD FLIGHT screen gives you options not available if you use the Free Flight LOAD FLIGHT screen above.  Note the Category pull-down menu at the top left and choose wisely.  Note also the indentations and different colors.

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