Hidden Features

Update 14 Oct 2017: my Lego Ideas project submission, Planetary Outpost, has been accepted. Please visit my page there, support, and help spread the word. If you want to see this as a set, we need 10,000 votes for Lego to consider the idea!

I’ve been using LDD for months now – heck I started my project on it on the 6th of June 2016!

Of course I haven’t been working on it non stop since then. I have children, a job, things to do and places to be! But yeah, on and off, I’ve been working on this project for well over a year (yikes).

In so doing, I’ve come to really appreciate LDD – and Bricklink’s Stud.io – but I seem to be drawn to LDD more for some reason. Maybe it’s a personal thing.

Anyway, since there’s no obvious manual with this app, I thought I’d share the five features I’ve discovered over time which have turned a frustrating app into an invaluable one.

1. Navigation

Moving around your project is not intuitive. It took me ages to realise that I wasn’t dependent on the single rotation axis LDD seemed to allow me to have, based on the navigation arrows at my disposal… until I found out I can right-click-and-drag to rotate around my project anywhere I happen to be, and, even better, shift-right-click-and-drag allows me to pan left and right, and up and down. All of a sudden, I could finally explore the inner reaches of my design!

2. Outlined Bricks

By default, pile bricks up of the same colour and you end up with a seemless wall. It may look great but it’s useless from a design point of view. You need to be able to see all the brick that make up your creation, like you can with Stud-io by default. Thankfully, it’s just an option away:

Go to the Preferences and make sure “Outlines on bricks” is ticked. While you’re there, turn High Quality rendering on, and move the Advanced Shading as far to the right as it’ll go. This’ll increase the visual quality of your work  and it is so worth it. I guess it eats up more processing power, but all computers are super powerful these days, right?

You’ll need to restart LDD to see the changes but don’t hesitate. It actually makes LDD usable.

3. Groups

OMG groups are a godsend! They’re not perfect, but if you work on a complicated project, you can’t really do without them. The way they work is you highlight some bricks, then go to Edit > Group. You can still move individual brick around, but you now also have the option of selecting that group (now displayed in the Groups sidebar on the left) to move them all in one go. You can also add or remove individual bricks from that sidebar.

Without that feature, my project wouldn’t have seen the light of day.

4. Hinges

If your model has a hinge, or anything that twists and/or turns, you can use the Hinge option to make it move straight from LDD. Hit the “H” key to activate this tool, then click on a part. If it can rotate, you’ll see rotating arrows. Click and drag them and doors can open, minifigs can sit down and wave, … it actually brings your creation to life and I can’t believe I didn’t discover this until very recently.

5. Screenshots

I thought I knew it was possible to take screenshots of a project by going to View > View Mode, choose from one of the four available backdrops and use your computer’s built-in feature to take a snapshot.

How wrong I was. You can take a screenshot from inside the app itself by going to Toolbox > Take a Screenshot. But what’s so awesome is the fact that you’re not limited to the View Mode, but you can do this from the Build Mode. Why is that so awesome? Because when you do it from Build Mode, LDD creates a PNG file… with a transparent background.

That’s right: you’re no longer dependent on four really poor bundled backdrops to display your project. Instead you can import the screenshot into any image editor and add whichever backdrop you’d care to imagine.

Conclusion

So there you go: I can now move around high quality outlined bricks, which can be grouped together, turned on their hinge and have any backdrop applied to them. All of a sudden LDD became a lot of fun to use for me, and if this is new to you, then I hope you’ve found this of interest.

Until the next time, Captain out.

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