How To Get Started With X-Plane 11 (For Those Coming From P3D Or FSX)

How To Get Started With X-Plane 11 (For Those Coming From P3D Or FSX)

Now that I’m spending so much time with X-Plane people have been asking if the switch is permanent. I don’t think anything in the world of computer software is forever, and we will see how much of a coding re-write the forthcoming P3D 64 bit release will bring, but for now at least, yes I have made the switch and I am no longer using Prepar3D. I’m also not missing it, and am far more satisfied with X-Plane than I was with P3D 90% of the time (and I’ll explain the other 10% below).

The other question I’m getting is “What advice do you have for others making the switch?” So I’m writing this little how-to in hopes it will help other P3D and FSX users at least get the most out of the X-Plane beta, if not make the switch completely. So here goes. This list of steps is a version of my own experience with the switch. There are likely dozens of other possible ways to get started, but based on my experience in P3D and X-Plane, this is what I would do if I were to do it again:

  1. Download the X-Plane 11 beta. I have found it very stable, and see no reason not to start with 11 rather than 10. It is taxing on the system, at least as much as P3D, although I find it much smoother at low frame rates. But realize it’s cutting edge, and you may need to back off sliders a bit (but I’ve done fine, personally, and as the beta moves to final the frames will only improve).
  2. Download and install alpilot’s HD Mesh Scenery V3. This is sort of the equivalent of ORBX Vector. It will increase the resolution of your terrain and will make roads, forest boundaries, towns, power lines, etc. all much more accurate in the sim. It is excellent, you can download only the areas you want, and it is donationware. (While alpilot does not have the entire world, the X-Plane 11 underlying mesh is also very good as it is, and while not as detailed, is more current.)
  3. Download and install the W2XP models and W2XP sceneries for the parts of the world in which you want to fly. W2XP is shorthand for “World To X-Plane,” and if HD Mesh Scenery V3 is ORBX Vector then the W2XP sceneries are the equivalent or ORBX regional landclasses, with improved textures, autogen, etc. You will download at least two files: the W2XP World Models, and any regional sceneries you want. I downloaded the models, America, and Europe. Don’t worry about the “Net” and “Aerials” versions – you only likely need the main scenery files and the models file. These files, too, are donationware. (UPDATE: If you’re going to use World2XP America, be sure you have these four libraries installed – OpenSceneryX, World Models, R2 Library, and FF Library.)
  4. Download MisterX’s Airport Environment HD textures. These are replacement textures for much of the default runways, tarmac, taxi lines, etc. in X-Plane. It’s a bit like REX Direct. But it’s free.
  5. Get some weather. There are several options:
    • Use the default X-Plane clouds and weather, and XP will download real-world weather data if you enable it to do so. (Note though that I, and many others, find the default XP clouds very unattractive.)
    • Further improve the weather injection with the free NOAA plugin, which has very accurate METAR and winds aloft data.
    • Get SkyMaxx Pro v4, which is payware and $40 US. It’s sort of an Active Sky for X-Plane, although many have found the clouds unrealistic. It also needs an injector, so you could use the NOAA plugin with it if you wanted very accurate weather data.
    • Get xEnviro, which is payware at $70 and the new guy on the block for sky textures, clouds, and weather injection. This is what I use, and I think it is very good. Downsides are that it does not let you set your own weather, so if you want to set a particular situation you are left with X-Plane default clouds (although it does have a “make it clear” setting if you need things to be clear for a while.) But they are iterating very fast (it’s already at 1.6 and I got it at 1.1 just a few weeks ago) and it improves with each release. The clouds are not 3D volumetric, but volumetric clouds are on the roadmap, and it does not hit my frame rates at all. I’m very happy with it, and think it’s every bit as good as Active Sky Next if not quite AS16/ASCA. If you like overcast, you’re going to love this.
    • There is another, more geeky option, which is the Real Terra Haze plugin script for FlyWithLua (and note you will need to download FlyWithLua as well). This is a free option, and sort of the equal to PTA for Prepar3D. It seems to be solid for weather and texture replacement when combined with something like NOAA, and lets you tweak a lot of things. If you want to be really geeky, and want to save some pennies, you might check this out.
  6. Get some scenery. One place where P3D and FSX users will be surprised is the relative lack of localized scenery in X-Plane (and this is part of the 10% I noted above). While it has about every airport in the world, many are just 2D with no buildings, and many cities also lack much of the custom building models that come with FSX and P3D (like Las Vegas, for example). The good news is that there is a MASSIVE online community that has designed scenery with which to fill the world, and most of it is free. Here’s my advice:
    • Download the free Prefab airports package. It will fill up 25,000 (yes, 25,000) airports with basic terminals, aircraft, etc. from one of over 30 layouts and make the world far less barren.
    • Do a Google search for any airport you might want appended with “X-Plane” (for example, “KMQS X-Plane“), and it will pull up options for you. You can also search the scenery library at X-Plane.org. Pay particular attention to anything by MisterX, as his airports are excellent (like KSAN … again, free).
    • For even more quality stuff, get some payware.
    • Make your own! The free WorldEditor (WED to X-Plane folks) program is easy to learn and it’s fun to make your own airport scenery. There are plenty of how-tos on the Web to get you started.
  7. Read this primer on scenery ordering so things layer in the correct sequence in your sim after you’ve added your new goodies.
  8. Get some airplanes. The big makers (like Carenado) make airplanes for X-Plane, but be careful as most haven’t been given the green light for 11 as yet. The good news is that x-Plane 11 ships with several great default aircraft, including jets, gliders, a C 172 and two twins. They all fly great, and I’ve been very happy with the default Cessna (there’s even a version with floats). The community has also made hundreds of others which you can find at X-Plane.org, and about everyone I’ve asked says the Airfoil Labs C172 SP is the most accurate GA airplane available for flight sim, anywhere, on any platform (including A2A’s 172). It’s not XP-11 ready yet so I’ve not gotten it, but I will.
  9. AI aircraft. Part of my 10%. Sorry, no great options for you compared to P3D and FSX, at least not yet. For AI aircraft, you can turn on up to about a dozen AI aircraft for wherever you’re flying, but the ability to have MyTraffic inject real world schedules for you just doesn’t exist with XP. X-Life is getting good reviews, but is only available for certain airports (although that list is growing). I live without it, or turn on the default dozen planes and make do.
  10. ATC. Also, no great options compared to P3D and FSX. XP has stock ATC, but it’s not sophisticated and only has two voices. When I want ATC I fly on PilotEdge, which is wonderful as it is real-world quality. And with the new Western Expansion, it’s better than ever.
  11. Spend time at X-Plane.org. It’s a great resource, and the X-Plane community is extremely welcoming, friendly, and charitable. It’s a great group and a great way to learn.

So that’s the long version. The short version is:

  1. Download the beta.
  2. Download HD Mesh V3 for the parts of the world you want.
  3. Download W2XP models and sceneries for the regions of the world you want.
  4. Download Airport Environment HD.
  5. Read the primer on scenery ordering.
  6. Get xEnviro.
  7. Get the Prefab airports package and MisterX airports (and any other airports you might want).
  8. Stick with the default airplanes for now.
  9. Have fun, and quickly forget what it was like to play with .CFG files.

A final few words on scenery. First, I know that coming from P3D and FSX some of this seems like a foreign language. This primer on scenery at AVSIM is very informative and will help you learn how things work in X-Plane.  Second, it’s relatively easy (if time consuming) to make your own photorealistic scenery for X-Plane. Do a Google search on “X-Plane ortho scenery” and “X-Plane photo scenery” and you’ll learn plenty. I was lucky that a viewer gifted me a bunch of photorealistic scenery (no, I can’t share it) so I’ve not had to make my own, otherwise I would. But unlike FSX and P3D the autogen buldings and trees will populate on top of the photorealistic scenery, which makes for excellent effects, so photoreal is worth looking into if you have the time and storage space.

So I hope this helps. I’ve loved X-Plane, and the one time I loaded P3D since I downloaded the XP-11 beta I was left thinking, “Boy, I don’t miss this.” I don’t know if X-Plane 11 is for ever P3D and FSX user (in fact, I’m certain it’s not), but it is for me. It’s fast, stable, looks great, has very realistic flight modeling, and is supported by a massive community of people working together to improve it. I’m sold, and if you decide to try it out, I hope you enjoy it, too.

18 thoughts on “How To Get Started With X-Plane 11 (For Those Coming From P3D Or FSX)

  1. Thank you for this wonderful article. It really is a big help.
    I agree 100% with you. I too have not looked back to P3D since buying and installing XPlane 11. I have been a Flight Simmer since FS 2 in 1984, but XPlane11 really makes it feel real. For now, I am a convert!

  2. A, i’m not sure whether I read it in this article which incidentally is wonderfully well done and terrifically informative and got me started on the road to explain familiarity….I refer to the comment I seem to recall you made about P3D not allowing autogen objects to reside on top of photoscenery.

    Perhaps I am confusing the notion of handmade scenery objects residing on top of photoscenery as opposed to “autogen” objects appearing on top of photoscenery.

    Could you clear that up for me please because I’m trying to convert the 3-d GMAX scenery I created from my “Ride to stinking Creek series” https://youtu.be/YP3fxFqkBXg

    In closing, I have got to say that you have very quickly become a huge contributor to my knowledge and enjoyment of flightsimming.

    Happy New Year to you and yours and your readers!

  3. ..tnx it help a lot an X-Plane novice that the 11 version is his first encounter with XP, however, and with all the cretinism I have toward FSX-SE, I have to say I do look back missing some old good stuff that FSX is offering despite its age, after a week spending quite some times with XP11, lot of things really doesn’t make much sense., & the list of those things are don’t that long but it had to be way sorter ….

    Cheers

    Yair
    SoCal
    KSNA

  4. I can only echo the comments above. Your YouTube channel and the blog is the goto place for simmers. The quality of your videos and writing is second to none. I have always been an XP user and your conversion encouraged me to move to 11. Yesterday I deleted my xp10 installation as I love 11. I am also working through my photoscenery for the UK. I am using the excellent Ortho4XP tool on zoom level 17. I wish there was a way for people to share tiles but understand the copyright implications.

    Thanks again and keep up the great work you are doing !

  5. Happy New Year! And thank you for everything you do for our hobby.

    Thanks to you, I am converting my system over to XP11 today. I’ve tried to make it work on my FSX/P3D system, but the GTN does not play well with others.

    Thanks again,
    Tommy

  6. Thanks alot for this article. I’m just getting started with XP11 myself and this was a great help. Love your site too so keep up the great work.

    Best wishes,
    Tony

  7. Good morning sir! I apologize ahead of time, I am not very computer savvy. Having said that, I am having difficulty understanding the placement of items in the scenery_packs.ini folder. I have read the primer link you have a link for, but again I am having a hard time following it. Would you been willing to post an shot of your scenery packs folder? Here is mine, if you have time maybe you can make sense of it. .

    Thanks so much for all the great info you share. Us newbies truly appreciate it!!!

    I
    1000 Version
    SCENERY

    SCENERY_PACK Custom Scenery/Global Airports/
    SCENERY_PACK Custom Scenery/Aerosoft – EBBR Brussels/
    SCENERY_PACK Custom Scenery/Aerosoft – EDDF Frankfurt/
    SCENERY_PACK Custom Scenery/Aerosoft – EDLP Paderborn-Lippstadt/
    SCENERY_PACK Custom Scenery/Aerosoft – EGBB Birmingham/
    SCENERY_PACK Custom Scenery/Aerosoft – EGKK London-Gatwick/
    SCENERY_PACK Custom Scenery/Aerosoft – EGLL Heathrow/
    SCENERY_PACK Custom Scenery/Aerosoft – EGPF Glasgow/
    SCENERY_PACK Custom Scenery/Aerosoft – EGSS London-Stansted/
    SCENERY_PACK Custom Scenery/Aerosoft – LEBL Barcelona/
    SCENERY_PACK Custom Scenery/Aerosoft – LEMD Madrid/
    SCENERY_PACK Custom Scenery/Aerosoft – LFMN Nice Cote d Azur X/
    SCENERY_PACK Custom Scenery/Aerosoft – LFPG Paris CDG/
    SCENERY_PACK Custom Scenery/Aerosoft – LFPO Paris Orly/
    SCENERY_PACK Custom Scenery/Aerosoft – LPFR Faro/
    SCENERY_PACK Custom Scenery/Aerosoft – LSGG Genf/
    SCENERY_PACK Custom Scenery/w2xp_America/
    SCENERY_PACK Custom Scenery/world-models/
    SCENERY_PACK Custom Scenery/OpenSceneryX/
    SCENERY_PACK Custom Scenery/3D_people_library/
    SCENERY_PACK Custom Scenery/x_Prefab_Airports_1/
    SCENERY_PACK Custom Scenery/x_Prefab_Library/
    SCENERY_PACK Custom Scenery/KLAS-GLITTER_GULCH 1.5/
    SCENERY_PACK Custom Scenery/AEHD_Ramps/
    SCENERY_PACK Custom Scenery/AEHD_Taxilines/
    SCENERY_PACK Custom Scenery/KSEA Demo Area/
    SCENERY_PACK Custom Scenery/LOWI Demo Area/
    SCENERY_PACK Custom Scenery/XP10_HD_Mesh_V3_+30-120-North_America/
    SCENERY_PACK Custom Scenery/zzz_hd_global_scenery3/

  8. This is very interesting and has a lot of worth for people like me who are making the move. There is one issue that I thought I’d bring up. I’ve always hated the online activation methods of some developers. I’ve lost add-ons because of failed businesses. I’ve decided that this would be a good opportunity to get add-ons that are not bound to internet based activation and to let developers know why I won’t get their product due to this very issue. (Although X-Plane does require online activation if you don’t get the DVD’s) This isn’t an argument about piracy, nor an argument about what I’ll lose out on, but rather an argument for end users like myself that don’t have to put up with it.

  9. x-plane have many high quality aircrafts.
    CRJ 200 V2 ( coming soon)
    E-Jets by x-craft and SSG
    737 classic by IXEG
    Saab 340A
    etc….
    Go to X-aviation or x-plane.store

  10. I strongly recommend not to invest in X-Life, at least not at this point. I did, and quickly regretted. It’s simply not ready for normal use. The main X-Life webstite looks nice etc., but at this point is full of marketing talk which doesn’t match reality. There is a slowly growing list of airports that are supposed to be supported, but 1) that list is reportedly not kept up-to-date, some airports should probably be removed as not working anymore; 2) you may need to have extra sceneries for some of them (in some case it’s payware – go the map of supported ones and check the details of select airport); 3) x-life may refuse to work with given airport anyway, giving a meaningless error such as “Departure airport error” (without any details about what’s wrong); 4) x-life is also very picky about flightplans you enter and again, gives unhelpful errors, removes your flightplan and makes you start over; 5) alternate airport in your flightplan needs to be supported too by x-life in order for it to work; chances of finding nearest alternate airport supported (given the relatively low number of supported airports in general) are very slim – sure you can “cheat” and make alternate the same as destination airport, but, well….
    If in doubt, see x-life forums and the problems reported there. Or play with the free version of X-Life. Just don’t bother with the paid “Deluxe” version, it’s not worth it yet.

  11. What a great article and just what a beginning X-Plane user needs to get started. I’ve had all MSFT Flight Sims and tried X-plane 8/9 a while back. It was not convincing enough for me then but Now that I have version 11, I’m flying X-Plane much more than FSX. It really is on a whole different level. I am still toying with the idea of buying P3D V4 because of the new 64bit environment but wonder if that would really be wise.

    I’m only thinking of adding P3D because I believe there will be lots of aircraft development moving that way as well. One of my favorite new add-ons, FSLabs excellent A320, will be available soon in P3D V4. That is interesting enough for me to consider adding it to my stable. I would most likely move over what can from into the new V4 and sunset FSX altogether. P3D v4 and XP-11 would then be my main sims.

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