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  Home > MLCad > Tutorial: Manual setup - Page 3 of 3  
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Starting up MLCad for the first time

  The first time you start up MLCad the interface will show all tool bars and so-called panes - and yes, it will look a bit messy. The pile of bars and panes have to be rearranged to accommodate proper working.  
  20. The bars can be moved around, float above the interface or be docked to the borders. Move your cursor to the small vertical line at the left-hand border of the single bars, press and hold the left mouse-button and move the mouse to relocate the toolbar to a new position. The panes can be resized by moving the cursor over the border dividing them. Once the cursor has changed hold the left mouse-button and drag the border in the direction shown by the small arrows. Release the mouse-button then the pane has shrunk or grown to the desired size.
If you have a small monitor with low resolution it is recommended you hide some of those which are seldom needed. Select the View menu, the Toolbars tab, then Expert bar (View > Toolbars > Expertbar). This will deselect/untick the bar from the list. Hide:
  • Expertbar
  • Extasbar
  • Controlbar
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(The screenshot shows all menus and dialogs in one composed image).
  21. The next step is to change some of MLCad's default settings to ease working with the interface. Its not really important that you understand all the details explained below right away – I'll report them just for completeness and later reference. For now select: Settings > General > Change...  
  22. In the pop-up dialogue select the General tab.  
  23. Copy the setting as shown above. If you think they don't accommodate the way you work feel free to change them:
  • The LDraw base path has already been set at the first launch of the program. If for some reason you wanna change it or would like to load an alternative LDraw Parts Library simply press the Browse... button and search for the new directory.
  • Enter your name or nickname in the Author name: box. This name will brand all LDraw model files you create with your name.
  • Uncheck Show Warnings. Most of the warning produced by MLCad are related to erroneous references in LDraw parts, multiple version or parts their part number has changed. If your Parts Library doesn't contain any unofficial or custom part files it is however very unlikely that MLCad will encounter any problems and pop-up a warning. It is strongly recommended to disable the warnings if you plan to download and work with the library of non-certified parts. The number and frequency of the pop-ups can be rather annoying though it doesn't add much to your building experience.
  • Make sure Enable screen selection is checked. It allows you selecting parts in the building area by holding the left mouse-button and dragging a rectangle. All parts within or touched by the rectangle and not hidden by others will be selected. A comfortable way selecting transparent parts which are sometimes hard to catch by simple clicking on them.
  • Check Activate edit mode on load. If checked, automatically activates the Edit Mode when a new model is loaded, otherwise MLCad activates the View Mode.
  • Check Register file types. It will register the file type .dat, .ldr and .mpd to MLCad. File type associations help Windows identify the programs that are required to open certain files or applications and automatically start the program when you for example double-click on the file in your Windows Explorer.
  • Select On in the Automatic part upgrade drop down box. This setting controls how MLCad handles updated parts during the load of a model containing an old version of those parts. MLCad detects updated parts by looking at the first comment line within the part. If it contains ~moved to in the parts description the part needs to be updated:
    • If the option is Off MLCad will not check for newer parts.
    • Selecting Ask MLCad will check for newer parts and opens a dialog asking if it should update the model to use the newer parts.
    • The third option On causes MLCad to update the model always without asking. However you will get a message after parts have been updated. Upgrading in this term means, that references to older versions of a part are replaced with references to the newest parts, parts not updated are left untouched.
  • The Language: drop down box toggles the program's language between its native English and other supported languages. If you haven't downloaded and installed any localized language files it will offer only English. Read more in the language tutorial.
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  24. Select the Rendering tab.  
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25. Set the options as shown in the screenshot:
  • Check Shading. It will apply a lighting effect to depicting depth perception in your 3D models by varying levels of darkness.
  • Leave Perspective unchecked. This settings affects only the 3D rendering in View Mode, drawing the model in a way that all lines converge to one point augmenting the visual effect. The 3D view in Edit Mode will be always rendered in isometric perspective with all projected line parallel. Since real LEGO building instructions use isometric illustrations it is general practice to not use central perspective.
  • Use BFC statements will only become selectable after Off has been chosen in the Optimization drop down box. BFC stands for back-face culling and determines whether a polygon of a graphical object is visible to the user. The process makes rendering objects quicker and more efficient by reducing the number of polygons for the program to draw. With version 3.00 a completely new, much faster rendering mechanism - much faster than BFC could ever do - has been added, making BFC obsolete. It is present solely for backwards compatibility.
  • Select Maximum in the Optimization drop down box. This option selects internal optimization algorithm which require more memory but result in higher drawing speed.
  • Choose 1 from the drop down box for Line width. All edge lines of LDraw parts will be drawn 1 pixel wide.
  • The Stud mode will heavily affect rendering time and computer power since almost all LDraw part come with at least one stud and they tend to sum up quickly. Normal is fine for small and medium models while it is considered to turn off them altogether when working on large layouts like the moonbase you can see in the wallpaper section:
    • None. No studs will be rendered resulting in lesser memory consumption.
    • Lines. The studs will be represented by a small line.
    • Coarse. A low-res version of the stud using 8 facets instead of the default 16 will be used. The logical choice for all those with little memory or a slow computer since it offers enough detail for fast positioning by not eating all your memory.
    • Normal. Shows the stud in its full glory. Most useful when working in SNOT – Stud not on top or very precise positioning is required and all those who won't compromise on the graphics quality.
  • Activate Draw to selected object only. MLCad goes through the list of parts in the project from top to bottom, executing it line by line and will not draw the remaining parts after the current selected part. If this checkbox is unchecked, all parts are always drawn. This option has no effect in View Mode.

    NOTE! For fast operation do not activate this mode since the program can use internal speed up routines.
  • Hit the button in the Edit & View mode options box and select a Background Color for the background in the building area if you don't like the default white. The color will be used also as background color for your saved building instructions images but note that it will not be stored in the model file itself.
  • Chose Main-Color (color number 16) for the Color in the Preview options box. Main-Color is a sort of light gray that will augment details – especially on patterned bricks – in the Parts Preview pane and at the same time will not falsify the brick's coloring since all parts in the LDraw Parts Library are by default colored with Main-Color 16.
  • Check Small images. You will see smaller but more parts in the Parts Preview pane. Alternatively click with the right mouse-button in the Parts Preview pane to switch between a larger and smaller representation without the need to call up the settings dialog itself.
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  26. Close the dialogue by hitting OK.  
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Your MLCad/LDraw system should now be properly set up and you're ready to start building. You may have also a look at the tutorial to customise MLCad a bit through the MLCad.ini file.
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