LEGO Digital Designer – User Interface

Once the LDD software is installed and launched, as many software applications, the first UI displayed is a panel in which you may select the first action you want to accomplish. Concerning specifically LDD, you’re going to select first the type of creation you want to realize (DesignByMe as classical LEGO bricks, LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT robot or CREATOR models). For each kind of creation, the second decision is the same. You have 3 possibilities :

¬ Either you may decide to start from a model. By default LDD suggests few basic starter models.
¬ Or you feel enough confident to build your model from nothing. It may be the start point for creating the basis of future models or to improve your building skills by creating small objects.
¬ Or at least you may use models that you have already created by yourself.

Let’s start to build a train by selecting the first starter model suggested by LDD and let’s discover the LDD user interface.

3 modes : Build, View, Building Guide

By default, you are logically in build mode. The mode selection is located at the top of the software on the right. It exists 3 modes :

1. Build mode
2. View mode
3. Building Guide mode

You may switch to the mode you want to by click on one of the three buttons on the toolbar at the top of the screen on your right. Here below is this toolbar.

Build Mode

With this mode your will work! Indeed with this mode, you will be able to build a new LEGO model, manipulate it, modify it, etc.

LEGO Digital Designer :: Build mode UI LEGO Digital Designer : Build Mode - Menu
Open a new file
LDD files are LXF files. The LXF file format is a XML like file format which can be opened with BricksViewer or LDraw applications too.

Open a existing file
Once you have created a project, you may re-open it by selecting it in the repository you saved the last time.

Save
Save your project

Print
Print your creation view.

LEGO Digital Designer : Build Mode - Menu
Undo
Cancel the last action you did.

Redo
Redo the last action you cancelled.

LEGO Digital Designer : Build Mode - Menu
What is this? (F2)
Display a more detailed tooltip on the features you may activate.

Help (F1)
Open the help page online in your browser.

Bricks

The smallest element in the granularity of a LEGO building is the brick. You may get them by buying pre-designed sets or by ordering bricks directly on the Pick A Brick web site.

Visit LEGO Pick A Brick web site !

Nevertheless thanks to LDD, you may directly order and buy your own creation via the LEGO web site. That will be the subject of the 3rd post of these series about LEGO Digital Designer.

Menu
LEGO Digital Designer :: Bricks - Actions
Collapse dividers
You may act on dividers from this button or directly on the divider icon. Either you collapse the list of bricks or you expand it.

Hide colors
When you are looking for a special brick form, it may be interesting to reduce the number of displayed pieces in order to facilitate you search.

Filter bricks by boxes

LEGO Digital Designer :: Filter by boxes

Except from the LEGO store on which you may search any available sets (the last that are currently sold), you may find old LEGO sets thanks to the LUGNET LEGO® Set Database (see also the sets listed by growing reference) or to the brick-boxes web site for example.

Filter bricks by color
This filter is useful when you have alredy defined the color you want to build a part of your model. It removes unuseful bricks and reduce the quantity of move to find wished bricks.

LEGO Digital Designer :: Filter by Color

You may filter the bricks you need by reducing your choice thanks to the color property. If you want to know more about all available color, I recommend you to play to the LUGNET database concerning color reference.

Turn off filters

If you wish to come back to the initial display mode without filter, just click on this button.

Panel
LEGO Digital Designer :: Bricks - Selection

In the panel you will find all bricks you may use to build your LEGO|MINDSTORMS|CREATOR model. But I don’t if you had a particular accurate look at the brick|item description. The terminology is very … confusing|awful|strange|funny (according to your moon…).
There is a very good approach about how to classifiy and name LEGO items (bricks, beams (and so on…) in the The Unofficial LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT Inventor’s Guide book written by David J. Perdue.

Text
Resizer
LEGO Digital Designer :: Bricks - Resize
Thanks to this ruler, you may modify the size of the displayed bricks within the pane. It may be useful if you know which you want to in which categories in order to reduce the need of opening/closing repertories or the need of scrolling.

Templates

Thanks to templates you may save a group of bricks permanently to the program. So the next time you’re going to start the program the templates will still be available.

Grouping

The grouping feature allows user to group together bricks in order to re-use it later in order to accelerate your creations. Wheels for example are a good example of what can be grouped. What is interesting with this feature is the similarity with the LEGO NXT Software visual programing feature. This similarity is purely visual. But let’s see it. Here below is the LEGO NXT software interface with some robot actions :

LEGO MINDSTORMS NXT 2 Software : NXT-G

And now look at below the Groups tab from the left panel of LDD :


In order to be able to create groups, you will have to select bricks at one moment of the process. The most logical is to select the bricks you want to group together and click on ‘Create a group from selection’ or on the button ‘Creates a sub-group from selection’ in the group preview panel. Or you may create first the panel and add or remove a bricks selection thanks to the buttons ‘Add selection to group’ and ‘Removes selection from group’

LEGO Digital Designer :: Groups preview

You can create a hierarchical structure to de-compose your model in a more understandable | logical | functional structure.

LEGO Digital Designer : Groups preview hierarchy

Tools

Tools are located in a bar at the bottom of the user interface. With these tools you may select and delete bricks, change brick color, simulate rotation and movement and so on. Let’s have a look on each tool more precisely.

LEGO Digital Designer : Tools - Selection Selection
By default the selection tool is on the ‘Single Selection‘ mode.
LEGO Digital Designer : Tools - Single Selection Single Selection
You can select only one brick.
Multiple Selection
You can select several bricks at the same time.
LEGO Digital Designer : Tools - Connected Selection Connected Selection
In the ‘Connected Selection‘ mode, when you select a brick, any brick which is connected to the selected brick is selected. The process is repeated until no more brick is connected to already connected brick.
LEGO Digital Designer : Tools - Color Selection Color Selection
In the ‘Color Selection‘ mode, when you select a brick, all bricks which have the same color are automatically selected.
LEGO Digital Designer : Tools - Shape Selection Shape Selection
In the ‘Shape Selection’ mode, when you select a brick, all bricks which have the same shape are automatically selected.
LEGO Digital Designer : Tools - Color and Shape Selection Color and Shape Selection
In the ‘Color and Shape Selection‘ mode, when you select a brick, all bricks which have the same color and the same shape are automatically selected.
LEGO Digital Designer : Tools - Clone Clone

The ‘Clone‘ tool allows you to duplicate a group of bricks that you have selected. It may be useful for models which has symetric shapes.
LEGO Digital Designer : Tools - Clone in action

LEGO Digital Designer : Tools - Hinge Hinge

The ‘Hinge‘ tool allows you to rotate a part of you model around an axis. The hinge wheel allows a better simulation with pre-defined angles. The wheel is a graphical component that Autodesk uses a lot in its applications (read a previous post about Autodesk Inventor Fusion Technology.

LEGO Digital Designer : Tools - Hinge in action

LEGO Digital Designer : Tools - Hinge Align Hinge align

The ‘Hinge align‘ tool is real adapted for TECHNIC models. Indeed thanks to this tool you may simulate the connection between two endpoints of a chain of beams. Select the first endpoint.

LEGO Digital Designer : Tools - Hinge align in action

Then select the second endpoint, if the connection is not valid the ‘Hinge align‘ tool is colored in red.

LEGO Digital Designer : Tools - Hinge align in action

Otherwise it appears again in a green color. And as soon as you select the second end point, the connection is automatically launched by the application.

LEGO Digital Designer : Tools - Hinge align in action

The last selected beam moves automatically according to the possible rotation that the mecanism offers…

LEGO Digital Designer : Tools - Hinge align in action

…until the connection is done.

LEGO Digital Designer : Tools - Hinge align in action

To have a better understanding of the Hinge Align tool capabilities, watch this demo on flickr made by Bledwood.

LEGO Digital Designer : Tools - Paint Paint

With the ‘Paint‘ tool, you may modified the color of bricks. Nevertheless this tool is useful for ponctual change. It’s no possible to mix the ‘Paint‘ tool with the ‘Multiple Selection‘ tool.

LEGO Digital Designer : Tools - Paint in action

LEGO Digital Designer : Tools - Hide Hide

The ‘Hide‘ tool may be a very useful tool to make temporary disappear bricks in order to add bricks in a model. Moreover I like the LEGO face indicating whether or not the bricks are hidden.

LEGO Digital Center : Tools - Hide in action

LEGO Digital Designer : Tools - Delete Delete

The ‘Delete‘ tool is the equivalent to the Delete key from the keyboard. It deletes selected bricks.

View Mode

The ‘View’ mode allow you to visualize your model in a specific context thanks to a background image and to print it or to share it in a digital format (a .png file in the local repository of your LDD).

LEGO Digital Designer : View Mode - Menu
Print
Print your model. I haven’t try to evaluate the quality of the impression. Sorry for that !Screenshot
Take a screnshot of your creation. Useful for sharing on your blog !

Explode the model
I don’t know the reason of this feature. You may explode your model and after a short period it will re-build by itself. Funny but unuseful as far I’m concerned.

Change background
You can adapt the background to the theme of your model. Here a desert for a wagon is not the best illustration. A railway station would have been more professional, I confess it !

Building Guide Mode

One aspect I love in this overall process is the way all LEGO products are easy to learn. As I said previously with LDD you can build your LEGO model with included the building guide. Have you never noticed that there is not explanations except drawings in the LEGO building guide. Personally I’ve never had problem with that. And you?
With LDD, LEGO declines the same concept but dynamically. User can generate a building guide which will be print and included in your LEGO set box.

LEGO Digital Designer : Building Guide Mode - Menu
I like the interface of this mode because it’s very simple and understandable. The building mode is a view of each step of the building process of the model you created. Like in paper format, no indication is necessary.

You may either print your guide or generate the HTML web site.

User preferences configuration

As any software you may configure your own preferences. Click on the menu bar ‘Edit/Preferences‘ (or Ctrl+6), you may obtain this modal window :

Among user preferences, the most difficult one to understand is ‘ “Keys for turning” shown along with cursor ‘. By selecting this preferences, user may have a better control on how he sets a brick on its workspace. When he chooses a brick and drag it on the workspace, a menu navigation appears and he may make turn the piece according to his needs. Here below is illustrated this feature :

Initial state Right | Left Top | Bottom

For a complementary understanding of the user interface, I recommend you to watch the Get Started video tutorials series made by LEGO. After that you may read the online User Manual. And you will be ready to fully enjoy using LDD.

To complete this post, you may watch the official video tutorials – short and very clear – about the following themas :

¬ User interface
¬ Brick Palette
¬ Toolbox
¬ Camera control
¬ View mode
¬ Building guide
¬ Basic build 1/2
¬ Basic build 2/2
¬ Preferences
¬ Ordering models

PS: I begin this post with the LEGO Digital version 3.o and finish it with the 3.1. The 3.1 version is not a major evolution of the software. The main feature is the integration of ATLANTIS models.

I brickly recommend LDD !

<<– Introduction

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