LEGO® Digital Designer is a simple software which can make your building life easier. You can build virtually with it. You can also check out bricks (i.e. before buying) which you don't have and check its size/compatibility with other bricks. LDD is small, easy to use and there are not many advanced features. But there are some "hidden" secrets that are not so obvious for everyone...
If you don't know LDD follow this link to download it for free. I really recommend it. It was updated with several hundred new bricks few days ago. Alright, back to the main topic.
Ah, it is worth to mention that I am not English native and it was pretty hard for me to write this tutorial in English. I did my best, but if you cannot understand something or found some grammar error please let me know in the comments below.
1. Extended Mode
Extended Mode is a much better building mode then default mode. First of all - panel with selection of bricks is more simple. Each type of brick appears only once. This makes it much easier to reach the element you are looking for. All brick are in red color. After putting them in the working window you can change their color to any color. Here you are not limited to the colors of the default mode where every brick has only limited number of colors. Also there are more bricks in Extended mode. Some of the bricks are not available in default mode.
When you want to create a new model in Extended mode choose it in starting window (right side).
When you want to convert your already created model to Extended mode do it in the working window (top menu - View > New Themes > LDD Extended).
2. Graphic quality and outlined bricks
After installation by default LDD starts in mode with pretty bad graphic mode. Shading is poor and all bricks in same color look like one big brick. It is because they are not outlined. I have good news for you - it can look much better.
Go to Edit > Preferences (top menu), or just press Ctrl-6. Make sure to check there:
• High-quality rendering of bricks placed in scene
• High-quality rendering of bricks in the Bricks Palette
• Outlines on bricks
• Advanced Shading (set it max to the right)
• Compatibility mode level (set it max to the left)
After making changes you need to restart LDD. And now you can enjoy much better graphics.
If there are any error (especially after opening model) which you haven't experience before changes it means you need lower Compatibility mode level. One step to the right and restart LDD. Do it again if you still got bugs. Without going into details - it is a slider responsible for hardware acceleration and probably your computer is not 100% compatible with LDD.
3. List of used bricks
So you built a model and you want to check what bricks have you used? Also what colors and quantities? It is really easy. Just press CTRL-B and save the file in .xlsx format. Your list of elements is ready. You can open it with Excel, OpenOffice or Google Docs.
Groups are very useful feature. Especially for larger models. With a single click you can select multiple elements and i.e. move them, hide them etc. You can create groups by selecting bricks you want to put in a group and then press Ctrl-G. Tip: to select more then 1 brick just drag your mouse or click single bricks with holding CTRL key. To manage groups later open the "Groups" tab. There you can add and subtract bricks and create sub-groups. Just remember - every brick can belong only to one group at a time.
5. Search bar
When you looking for a specific brick you can significantly speed up the process of finding it among the thousands of other shapes. Just use the search bar located in the upper left corner, just above the bricks panel.
You can enter specific size in studs i.e. "2x4". It will reduce displaying elements just to bricks with this particular size.
You can also type number of the bricks, i.e. "3001". It is the same numbers you may know from Bricklink or Rebricable. Not always numbers from BL are working out. You can try look at the Rebricable. Every brick there is described with alternative numbers. You need to look at last position - LEGO Design ID.
In the search bar you can also enter words i.e. "shark". It is fast way for finding unusual elements.
6. Building instruction
So you have built great model and you want to recreate it in a real world? Probably building instructions will be useful. LDD will make it for you. Just press the icon in the upper right corner called "Building guide mode" or simply press F7. That's it! Now you have an interactive building instruction. You can rotate and zoom each step.
After you generated interactive instruction you can also create instruction for the internet or print in html format. Press Ctrl-H, or the icon in the upper left corner that says HTML.
Unfortunately sometimes automatically generated instructions are not very logical. I would recommend splitting large models in several different files.
I often see that people put on the internet screenshots straight from the program. There are visible grids and interface elements. I can only say - you're doing it wrong!
I suggest you press CTRL-K and save the file in .png format. You'll get a clear picture of your model without any interface elements. It is perfect for publication. Additionally it has a transparent background so if you have ambitions to put something in the background it will be very easy.
Huh? It is only 7 tips so far you say? And should be 10. You are right! I cheated a bit with a title. But not entirely ;) I am done with LDD itself but I have for you a bonus. I'll write about 3 programs that are incredibly handy addition to LEGO® Digital Designer.
8. Easy renders from LDD files by Bluerender
Screenshots from z LDD are ok. But there is a better way to show of you model. Bluerender is a software made by LEGO fan, Eurobricks user with nick msx80. Bluerender is very simple to use:
• set the view you want in the LDD
• save the file (you may need to insert random brick to the scene and remove it because Save option may be not available if you only change the view)
• close the LDD
• open Blurender
• choose your LDD file (Input file LXF)
• enter a name for new image (Output file)
• press the "Render" button and... it is ready! :)
If you want go deeper it is worth to try modification made by the user bublible. You will find there some nice stuff making quality even better like new materials, outlined bricks and more. More info and download at Eurobricks topic.
9. Better building instructions for LDD files - Blueprint
Blueprint is a next program by the user msx80. It generates pretty good building instructions. It also let you to edit individual steps. It is not perfect but I think it creates much more logical instructions than the built-in LDD generator. Worth to mention that Blueprint always creates separate steps for groups so in some way you can plan your instruction already during the creating model.
More info and download you can find at Eurobricks topic.
Last but not least program is LDDManager. It is interesting tool which let i.e.:
• create Bricklink Wanted list in XML format based on the model from LDD
• make various analyzes of parts, colors, etc. from LDD file
• batch replace parts in LDD file
• generate LDD file from an external parts list
I think this software is the most complicated from all 3. I recommend read the PDF which you can find after installation. You can find more info and download at Eurobricks topic.
As you can see the title of the post was not so deceptive. I hope you will find useful this article. It took me some time to gather all those infos and I would be more then happy to read article like this a year ago when I had no idea about all those things :)
Ah, I would like to mention that there is another software called LDraw. It is huge, written by fans, a real beast in virtual building with LEGO®. There are also plenty of additional extensions. It contains more bricks than LDD (LDD is missing some, especially older molds). But it is also more complicated, more difficult to use and I think less intuitive.
Personally I use only LDD. It is simple. Maybe to simple. But it has its charm and incredible intuitiveness. It is more then enough for me. I use it for planning larger dioramas and for building small and medium models. However, if you want go full professional in the world of virtual building and you not afrraid of software like CAD I recommend you go for LDraw.