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)

Note: I’ll be updating this as I make changes to my system and as the X-Plane ecosystem evolves. Updated 20 Nov. 2018.

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As a former P3D user I am often asked “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 X-Plane, 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 X-Plane, either the full package or the free beta. 11.2 is the most recent stable release, although many users (including myself) are using the 11.3 beta. While X-Plane betas are often quite stable, unless you like finding out that things may not work the way they should, stick with the current stable release. Note that X-Plane 11 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.
  2. Download and install alpilot’s HD or UHD Mesh Scenery V4. 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.) UHD is more detailed but harder on the system, HD less so. Both are great.
  3. Download and install the Simeaven W2XP models and W2XP sceneries for the parts of the world in which you want to fly (note that Europe is in the X-Plane 11 section of their site, and the rest of the world in X-Plane 10 — although they work in X-Plane 11 just fine). 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. Download MisterX’s HD Forests package. These are replacements for the default X-Plane trees, and they are more varied and look better. They are also free.
  6. 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. While X-Plane’s default weather system used to leave very much to be desired, candidly I now find it quite good and this what I use. That said, if you wish to consider options …
    • Consider 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.
    • Consider xEnviro, which is payware at $70 and the new guy on the block for sky textures, clouds, and weather injection. I used this for long time and was very happy with it, but the most recent version does not yet work in VR so I am using default weather. I thought it was a very good package. 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 it is under ongoing development, and it improves with each release. I though it was every bit as good as Active Sky Next if not quite AS16/ASCA.
    • Consider Ultra Weather XP. A lot of users consider this the best package going for X-Plane at the moment, although I’ve not used it. It looks great, though.
    • Consider adding different cloud textures and sky textures from the many free alternatives available at X-Plane.org. Just use the search function there and you’ll find lots of free options. Adding them is as easy as dragging the new files into the appropriate X-Plane folder (but backup your originals first by renaming them).
  7. 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), although the X-Plane scenery ecosystem is growing so quickly I no longer find myself wanting for scenery. While X-Plane has about every airport in the world, some are just 2D with no buildings, and many cities also lack much of the custom building models that come with FSX and P3D (although Laminar is now including pretty awesome scenery for Las Vegas, Chicago, London, Sydney, and Dubai and others are on the roadmap). 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.
    • ORBX is now developing for X-Plane, and their stuff is predictably great. While their airport library is just getting started, they have released True Earth for Great Britain South, and it is simply spectacular with more regions to come.
    • Make your own airports! 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.
    • Try some orthographic scenery. If you want to fly in the US, the ongoing US Orthophotos Scenery Project is a great place to start. The download process can take a while, but the result is high quality, color-corrected, photorealistic scenery with very high resolution terrain mesh underneath. This is a labor of love for a member of the X-Plane community, and it’s free (although please consider making a donation should you use it.
    • Make your own orthographic scenery. This may be one of the best things about X-Plane. With Ortho4XP you can make your own orthographic scenery for X-Plane, for any area in the world, for free. There are many “how to” videos online for how to do this at YouTube, and honestly, the first time you make it and use it you are left shaking your head, in part because (unlike FSX and P3D), X-Plane places autogen objects, roads, etc. on top of orthographic scenery. The visual result is stunning and you never have to fly over default scenery textures again. Highly recommended.
  8. Read this primer on scenery ordering so things layer in the correct sequence in your sim after you’ve added your new goodies.
  9. Get some airplanes. The big makers (like Carenado) make airplanes for X-Plane, and they look and work great. The good news is that X-Plane 11 ships with several great default aircraft, including jets, gliders, a C-172 (which is excellent) and two twins. 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). Another option for study-level GA aircraft are the SimCoder’s Reality Expansion Packs, which I’ve found worth every penny, and the Zibo 737, which is free.
  10. AI aircraft. Part of my 10%. Default AI aircraft in X-Plane is limited and not nearly as good as in FSX or P3d. But World Traffic does a great job, and will fill your skies with GA and commercial air traffic (including traffic based on real-world schedules).
  11. ATC. Traditionally X-Plane ATC has been not nearly as good as in FSX and X-Plane, but in the 11.3 beta it is quite promising and will only get better. 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. If I want ATC that is not default and not PilotEdge, I have used Pilot2ATC, which I think has great potential and many users say is excellent after you have done the voice training (it reads your voice when you use the push-to-talk switch). And if you download some other voices for Microsoft Windows (available from voice software makers), there’s variety in the voices as well.
  12. 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 latest stable version of X-Plane (or beta if you wish).
  2. Download HD or UHD Mesh V4 for the parts of the world you want.
  3. Download Simheaven W2XP models and sceneries for the regions of the world you want.
  4. Download Airport Environment HD.
  5. Download MisterX’s HD Forests package.
  6. Read the primer on scenery ordering.
  7. Try the default weather, and if you don’t like it, consider other options per above (but I think you will be pleased with default).
  8. Get the Prefab airports package and MisterX airports (and any other airports you might want).
  9. Stick with the default airplanes for now.
  10. Have fun, and quickly forget what it was like to play with .CFG files.
  11. Bonus step: Download some ortho scenery from the US Orthophotos Scenery Project, and then REALLY be impressed.

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.

So I hope this helps. I’ve loved X-Plane, and the one time I loaded P3D since I downloaded XP-11 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.

22 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.

  12. Hello,

    First of all big thanks for the nice wrap up of what is needed/recommended to start with XP11. It helps a lot. One comment that I have is that the links to the HD mesh and SimHeaven lead to downloads for XP10 versions. Maybe you’d consider updating them?

    Once again thanks for the very informative blog!

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