AVSIM Commercial Add-on Review
FS Panel Studio
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Rating Guide

Ed Struzynski's panel program can be bought in a box or as a download

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A Completed Panel

Publisher: Ed Struzynski & Flight 1 Software
Description:
Panel editing tool for MS Flight Simulator 98. 2000. 
2002 plus CFS and CFS2
Download Size:
7.03 Mb
Format:
downloadable and boxed version available
Simulation Type:
FS2002  FS2000 
FS98 
CFS 
CFS2
Reviewed by: Robert Kirkland, AVSIM Associate Publisher

Possible Commercial Rating Score: 1 to 5 stars with 5 stars being exceptional.
Please see details of our review rating policy here

What is it?

Back in the days of FS98, Ed Struzynski created a program called CFGEDIT, which he released as freeware. It was one of my favorite utilities as it allowed me to edit and add to many of the freeware panels those little features that I wanted. From that original program evolved the shareware and soon to be boxed program, called FS PANEL STUDIO

I will say up front that I have found FS Panel Studio is the best tool I have for creating and editing FS2002 panels. The fully graphical interface lets you drag, drop and stretch your gauges and immediately see the results. You don't have to be a programmer or understand panel.cfg file syntax to create great looking custom panels. If you can’t modify or create a panel with this WYSIWYG program, then retire from trying because you are not ever going to do it.

Reader Survey

This survey is intended for those that have used this product or add-on. If you have used it, please let your fellow simulation enthusiasts know how you rate it by taking this survey. Please, if you have not used this product, do not take this poll (you can view the poll from the "Results" link below). 

Review Poll
Have you Used FS Panel Studio?
Excellent
Good
Average
I can live with it
Taking it off my system

view results

Having used CFGEDIT before I began this review of FS Panel Studio, I was already familiar with the way most of the operations within the program. Part of me was curious as to why was this improved enough that I would purchase it over staying with the freeware version? As I started using the program, it became clear why this was not only a better program, but also why I would not use CFGEDIT in an FS2002 panel. FS Panel brings features that are tailored to the FS2002 environment that CFGEDIT just doesn’t have. Just one of those features is the ability to access those cab files containing the cluster of gauges found in FS2002. The other main feature is that it allows you to edit XML gauge behavior.

The Features:

Add, delete, move and resize Gauges

With FS Panel Studio you can browse through your gauge collection to select the perfect one. Then add it to your Panel, move, resize and modify it using your mouse, seeing your changes instantly. Position your windows exactly where you want them, allowing you to overlay radio stacks and GPSs and see how they line up in real time.

Edit the Gauge Bitmaps

Using your favorite paint program, you can edit the look of any of the gauges down to the last bitmap.

Edit XML Gauge Behavior

FS Panel Studio can display and edit the internal structure of XML Gauges.

Gauge Cleaner Tool

FS Panel Studio can display all Gauges on your system that are not used on panels. It can also identify Gauges used on panels that don't exist on disk. You can then move these Gauges to a safe backup location or simply delete them to save disk space.
Test System
AMD Athlon 1.3 Ghz
Windows ME
512 Mb RAM
GeForce3 Ti200 64Mb 
Detonator 27.70
16x10x40 CD-RW drive
Creative Soundblaster 
Ch Pro Usb Yokes
CH Pro USB Pedals
1 21" Monitor 
1 17" LCD Monitor

Flying Time:
100 hours over 40 days 

 

Manual

FS Panel Studio comes complete with a 108 page, Adobe PDF format manual. You can download a free copy to see how easy it is to create your own custom Panels.

What it isn’t

This program won’t create the basic panel bitmaps nor will it allow you to create new gauges. For the former you will need a good paint program and for the latter you need to be able to program in one of the FS compatible languages, such as C++.

Getting Started

The installation is straightforward with you only needing to indicate the location of the various flight simulation programs after the fully automatically install. I would suggest reading the manual, as well as, experimenting with the various functions before starting to edit a panel that you want to keep.

As a test I did some editing on several different panels. The first step in editing was to select the panel to edit. I chose the SA-3 Bulldog by PSS, because it is one I am familiar with. The program allows you to select the panels in one of two ways. You can either open the panel direct, that is you simply go to the panel.cfg in the browser listing and open it or you can select by Aircraft. I use the select by Aircraft mode as it gives me a list of all the aircraft that are available in the FS I am using at the time. The other advantage is if you are modifying a panel that is used by several aircraft the program will follow the alias to get the correct panel.cfg for editing.

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Select Aircraft to Edit
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Select Config File Directly
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Select a Panel to open

Once the panel bmp is loaded the program allows you to see the gauges in several formats. First you can add and resize a grid that allows a “Snap-to Grid” function that makes aligning a stack of gauges very easy. The second viewing option is decide whether you display the gauges “transparently” or not. If you chose not to view them transparently then you will see the blocked sides of the gauge bmp. If you select “Draw gauges transparently” then you see the gauge almost as it will appear in the final product.

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Applying the grid
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Outlining Gauges

The third option allows you outline the gauges. This is very helpful when you are aligning gauges or you have to overlap the gauges. The last option is whether to display all gauge elements. This means instead of just the gauge face being shown, little items such a pointers are also shown.

With the options set and a panel selected, we can now start having some fun. You can select a gauge in the panel. Gauges can be moved or resized and generally manipulated in just about any way you want.

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Adding a gauge
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Selecting a gauge to edit
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Editing the bitmap

You can select, move, resize and, repaint any of the FS2002 Cluster gauges such as the 747 for example. This is a feature that CFGEDIT does not have. Each gauge has a number amount of bitmaps within it and FS Panel Studio gives you access to them all. These will include the face bmp, the pointers, tapes, etc. That means if you want pink or green faces on all your gauges you can have them.

You can also select the various hot button icons from FS2002 to use to bring up the ATC, radios, GPS etc.

With our gauges options set all we have to do is move the cursor over the top of the gauge face, click and the corners of the gauge outline will ave small squares added showing that you have selected that gauge. A look at the information bar at the bottom of the screen will show that you the name of the gauge and its size and location on the screen

Put the cursor back over the face of the selected gauge and the cursor will show a four-way arrow symbol. Right-click and hold and you can drag the gauge any where on the screen. Go to one of the corners or on any of the outlines, click and hold and you can change the size and shape of the gauge.

A simple tap on the delete key on the keyboard and the gauge is removed.

To add a gauge, just click the gauge icon at the top of the screen or use the pull down menu. Then scroll thru the gauge list highlight the gauge you want and bingo it is added to the panel. Then you can resize and relocate the gauge so it is perfect for your use.

Told you this was as simple as 1-2-3

The other options for repainting gauge bitmaps, or .bmp files, adding an additional window to the panel and working with XML gauge behavior are just as simple.

One other great feature is that the FS Panel Studio program creates your panel.cfg file in the FS2002 format by keeping and recognizing the lines of code that create panel and gauge lighting etc. When you save the panel.cfg, FS Panel Studio will create a back up file of the previous for you and it saves all the versions as you go work with and save each one, You will it hard to get into any trouble using the program with its back up features.

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Adding a new Window
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The Gauge Cleaner

One last comment I don’t recommend the use of the Gauge Cleaner option for only one reason; you may be removing just the gauge that you want to add to that new panel.

I won’t go any further because half the fun is in learning this program. It is intuitive, straightforward in its logic and darn near impossible to screw up. This is an excellent program, no bugs, no complicated learning curve and an install that works.

Conclusion

If you are thinking of using the freeware CFGEDIT, don’t. This program is a very bug jump for panel and gauge redesign. And unlike the early version, the latest version allows you to not only repaint the FS2002 cluster gauges found in the XML folders but you can repaint any gauge in your folder.

But remember, it does not allow you to create a gauge from scratch or create the panel bitmaps, or .bmp files, but when it comes to panels and gauges that is about all it doesn’t do.


 

What I Like About FS Panel Studio
  • Easy for beginners 
  • Very good documentation 
  • Makes Adding gauges and modifing panels a breeze 
  • Ease of use, short learning curve 
  • All WYSIWYG

 

What I Don't Like About FS Panel Studio
  • Nothing

 

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The review above is a subjective assessment of the product by the author. There is no connection between the producer and the reviewer, and we feel this review is unbiased and truly reflects the performance of the product in the simming environment. This disclaimer is posted here in order provide you with background information on the reviewer and connections that may exist between him/her and the contributing party. 

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