• Overlay Editor Tutorial Part One

    Overlay Editor Tutorial Part One

    By Paul Mort

    Hello and welcome to a new series of tutorials showcasing the features of Overlay Editor, a wonderful tool used in the creation of X-Plane sceneries.

    Overlay Editor is the brainchild of Jonathan Harris, known in the X-Plane word as 'Marginal'. His software allows you to create (with relative ease) X-Plane sceneries which range from small dirt strips in the back of beyond to full blown international airports located next to a metropolis.

    Over the course of these tutorials, you will discover not only how to create your first basic scenery, but also additional sceneries which contain that added 'wow' factor.

    So What Is Overlay Editor?

    In basic terms, Overlay Editor gives us (the developer) the tools to either create a new scenery from scratch or enhance an existing scenery which is always located within your X-Plane Custom Scenery folder.

    The great thing about X-Plane is that it has a very modular layout in terms of where everything is located. Sceneries, as mentioned, always go in your Custom Scenery folder and aircraft always go in your Aircraft folder. There are no other locations where additional 'user' files are stored (except plugins), but that's a different topic. The upshot however of having a layout like this, is that it's very easy to keep everything under control, which includes your scenery.

    To create a scenery, X-Plane first has to find the airport data which will be used as a foundation for our scenery. X-Plane holds this information in the form of a database and this is where the information (apron and taxiway layout) of thousands of airports is stored. The basic layout of each airport is known as the .apt file. This .apt file contains only concrete foundations, taxiways, local roads and taxiway markings. This is our foundation, our starting point, and where the developer can add additional buildings, etc.

    Where To Get Overlay Editor

    The first thing we need to do is download and install the software. You'll find the download for Overlay Editor here (Windows, OSX, Linux):


    Once you have unzipped the file a good place to move it to is your X-Plane directory. This keeps everything in one place. When first opening Overlay Editor, it will ask you to locate your X-Plane directory. Once done, it will then load into the opening screen.

    To open an unpopulated airport and create one from scratch, we need to click on the menu icon labelled 'Go To Airport' (Figure 1).

    Overlay Editor
    Figure 1

    With this done we are then presented with a dialogue box in which we can select our desired .apt file either by airport name or by ICAO code. When an airport is selected, you'll see that the longitude and latitude of the airport is also shown (Figure 2).

    Overlay Editor
    Figure 2

    Once an airport is selected (depending upon the complexity of the chosen airport) you will be presented with a view of the .apt file. This can range from a just a simple grass strip to a complicated tangle of runways and taxiways. Figure 3 shows what a typical medium density airport .apt file looks like.

    Overlay Editor
    Figure 3

    To zoom in so as to see more detail, you can use your mouse wheel. If you have a clickable mouse wheel, then you can zoom and also drag the view around to suit your needs.

    1. DominicS's Avatar
      DominicS -
      Nice tutorial Paul. One of the great things about the X-Plane world is the relative ease in which scenery can be produced. With Overlay Editor plus all the free object libraries, it's possible to create a decent scenery in a couple of days.

      Looking forward to the next in the series.


    1. alfme's Avatar
      alfme -
      Very interesting and informative tutorial Paul. Even we who thinks we know the most after using the overlay editor for a long time can't hardly wait for the next chapter.
    1. Bamboo Cougar's Avatar
      Bamboo Cougar -
      Good work sir. Clear, concise - a real primer for the beginner.

      I've been building scenery for over 5 years and I still use World Editor (WED) for just the bones. Overlay Editor is my go-to for the flesh and dressing it up

      Cheers. Thanks for doing this for the community.

    1. saturn28's Avatar
      saturn28 -
      Hi there, whenever I load in the scenery I end up with a black blank page for any airport from grass srips that I know to airports like DFW. But either way the picture ends up black or a purple screen with no scenery. Please help Thanks and nice tutorial!
    1. RayH's Avatar
      RayH -
      Like this tutorial. On the org there is a thread containing V2.7 which works on latest iMAC OS. It seems to overlay quite niceley onto the WED/Gateway stuff. Just need another folder in custom_scenery that uses the same airport ID.
    1. Vicsim's Avatar
      Vicsim -
      Amazing quick tutorial. I am also evolving in XP11 and I now want to improve my airports. Thanks for the awesome tutorial. looking forward to more.
    1. RLC150's Avatar
      RLC150 -
      I getting an error when I load the current version of OverlayEditor on my MAC. I have X-Plane 11.41r running on MACOS 10.15.2.
      Error Message
      "Can't load default airport data. The X-Plane global apt.dat file is invalid"

      Also getting this in the python window.
      Traceback (most recent call last):
      File "/private/var/folders/fk/0gc11xbj52dg4_6w_n8m_7500000gn/T/AppTranslocation/6D656723-20D7-48A2-A8E2-CCE73102E32C/d/OverlayEditor.app/Contents/MacOS/draw.py", line 600, in OnIdle
      elif self.needrefresh:
      AttributeError: 'MyGL' object has no attribute 'needrefresh'
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