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Kneeboards

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The kneeboard is an often under-appreciated tool in DCS. It can provide all kinds of useful information while in flight without having to look away or alt-tab to manuals or printouts or the like. The Caucasus and NTTR maps come with airport navigation cards, and some modules — notably the AJS-37 and MiG-21 — come with their own to deal with particular quirks of the respective aircraft.

Most commonly, kneeboard pages are simply images that DCS uses to populate the kneeboard, but they can actually be fully dynamic LUA scripts. By default, DCS will for instance generate flight plan pages that overlay pre-planned waypoints on a map of the current area. Similarly, the aircraft-specific pages, like the Viggen's target parameter page, are created through LUA scripting.

The kneeboard can by default be accessed by pressing K for a quick glance; RShiftK to toggle on and off; and be paged through using the [ and ] keys. Some modules also offer shortcuts for creating marks on the kneeboard map or for creating and quickly skipping to specific kneeboard bookmarks.

Adding kneeboard pages

The really good thing about the DCS kneeboard is that it is pretty trivial to add your own pages to add whatever you feel is needed for good flying. Just create a png, jpg, or lua file that shows the information you want (preferably using a 3×4 aspect ratio) and dump it some place where DCS will automatically load it.

DCS loads image and LUA files from a number of different directories:

  • DCS World\Mods\aircraft\…\Kneeboard — aircraft-specific pages
  • DCS World\Mods\terrains\…\Kneeboard — map-specific pages
  • %USERPROFILE%\Saved Games\DCS\Kneeboard — user-specific pages

Of these, the first one can and should largely be ignored — it is just where aircraft modules store their built-in pages. The second is a bit more interesting, since that is where map-specific airport cards (if available) are stored. If you want to add kneeboards that similarly only apply to a specific terrain, they need to go here. Altering these two directories is for all intents and purposes modding, and those alterations can (but are unlikely to) be wiped out by DCS updates. Using a mod manager is a good way of ensuring that they are in order.

The last one is where the bulk of kneeboard work should be done. It is immediately available and specifically intended for the player to add their own pages to. In this directory, you can either place files that will be universally available to all aircraft on all maps, or you can create aircraft-specific subdirectories that are only loaded when you fly that particular aircraft. The naming convention for these subdirectories is fairly straight-forward: it is usually just the model name of the aircraft (so, A-10C for the Warthog), but there are enough exceptions — especially when it comes to aircraft variants — that it cannot be taken for granted.

In addition, mission (.miz) files can include a Kneeboard directory that contains mission-specific pages, but that is more something for the mission builders to worry about.

Kneeboard Builder

Kneeboard Builder is a handy tool that manages and automates a lot of the work that goes into creating custom kneeboard pages. It creates the proper directories and includes a conversion utility that can turn PDF pages into kneeboard images — handy if you want the entire A-10C emergency procedure chapter to be part of your kneeboard collection. It also offers facilities to adjust how the kneeboard appears inside DCS by adjusting its size and position, and even making this contingent on what aircraft you are in so that it does not block critical instruments.

Aircraft checklists

These should be unpacked in the %USERPROFILE%\Saved Games\DCS\Kneeboard directory. If that directory does not exist, create it first. Each aircraft has its own directory (that should be contained in the zip file).

Airfield data

These are compatible with OvGME (see tools below) and, if managed manually, should be unpacked in the DCS install directory. The files are stored in the appropriate directory structure to make the pages only show up when on a specific map.

Tools