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This section will help you set up the files you need to get started with LDraw. The installation process is not complicated, but it does require a working knowledge of computers.
What is LDraw?
The term "LDraw" can be used to refer to the original DOS based LDraw program, the LDraw parts library, the LDraw file format or the LDraw System Of Tools. As you can see this can be very confusing for new users. For this tutorial LDraw will refer to the LDraw System Of Tools, which you will be installing on your computer.
In a nutshell, LDraw is a free "CAD"-like set of programs that allows a user to create virtual LEGO® like models on your computer. You can use it to document models you have physically built, create building instructions just like LEGO, render 3D photo realistic images of your virtual models and even make animations. The possiblities are endless. Unlike real LEGO bricks - were you are limited by the number of parts and colors - in LDraw nothing is impossible. You have an unlimited supply of virtual bricks in every possible color. Even colors that LEGO has never created!
As stated LDraw is a series of various programs. At the basic level you need at LEAST two of these applications:
- The LDraw Parts Library
- An editor
The parts library is the core of the program as it has over 4800+ LEGO parts (as of June 2011). Note that the ONLY brick we ENDORSE is LEGO although the parts format can be used for any other type of brick (MEGA Block, Block-it, etc). LDraw.org, however, DOES NOT SUPPORT OR ENDORSE these other types of bricks and they are NOT part of our official parts library. Also while our parts authors are hard at working creating new LEGO parts NOT ALL LEGO bricks are currently available in the library. The process is very hard and time consuming and our part authors are all volunteers. So be patience if the piece you are looking for is not in the library. If a part is not in the library you can check the LDraw Parts Tracker to see if the part is in production. Otherwise, you can post a request for a part creation to the LDraw Forums.
An editor allows the user to create virtual models using a graphical windows interface in the process. Most people found it very hard to use the original editor (LDRAW.exe) since it was a DOS based program with no graphical user interface – it is therefore no longer featured. To overcome the limitation of the original DOS program several 3rd party editors have been created. MLCad is the most popular of our 3rd party editors and is very easy to use if you are comfortable using Windows and the drop & drag concept. LeoCAD is a great editor for Windows and Linux which has offered several improvements to the straight LDraw .dat format. It supports some basic animation (via keyframing) and can also export to 3DStudioMax, POV-Ray, and Alias Wavefront. SR 3D Builder is a LDraw-based CAD editor with special features for LEGO Technic models and a extremely fast real-time rendering engine.
If you want to create 3D images (renders) of your models that you created in LDraw you will need several more add-ons to LDraw:
LDView is primarily a viewer program that does also convert your LDraw model file (.ldr or .mpd) into a POV-Ray file (.pov). POV-Ray is the ONLY non-LDraw program of the bunch. It is used to create stunning 3D images of anything. See sample 3D images of what POV-Ray can do by visiting: http://www.brickshelf.com/cgi-bin/gallery.cgi?f=37564 and check out the http://www.povray.org/ website for more information.
Automated installation (Recommanded)
Use the LDraw All-In-One-Installer, in short AIOI, if you want a quick and easy way to install LDraw parts library and many of the popular 3rd party tools as well.
The AIOI supports Windows XP (Home and Pro), Windows Vista (all versions) and Windows 7 (all versions). On 64-Bit Operating Systems it will install in the "Program files (x86)" folder. The Installer will NOT run on Windows 95, 98, ME, NT Ver 4, 2000, or XP below SP2. If your version of Windows is different, follow the manual install instruction at http://www.holly-wood.it/mlcad/install-en.html.
- Download the following file:
Mirror Peeron.com: LDraw_AIOI_2012-03_setup_32bit_v1.zip
NOTE: The file is protected by a Captcha image. Please type in the letters you see in the picture.
Mirror 1000Steine.de: LDraw_AIOI_2012-03_setup_32bit_v1.zip
- Unzip the content
Use 7-Zip (recommended), Winzip or Winrar if the explorer of your Windows OS has no inbuild decompression of .zip files.
- Execute the AIOI
To start the installer double-click on the LDraw_AIOI_2012-03_setup_32bit_v1.exe file. A tutorial with screenshots of the single dialogs can be found at http://www.holly-wood.it/ldraw/aioi1-en.html.
NOTE: You must have administrator rights on your account in order to properly run this installer.
The installer file is 222 MB in size and the following library files and applications are included. Note that newer version of each application may be available as this installer was created for the release of the latest LDraw parts library update, which happens twice or three times a year.
|Library or Application Name||Type||Installed by default|
|LDraw Parts Library 2012-03||Parts library||
|LPub 18.104.22.168||Publishing tool||
|LeoCAD 0.79.2 - 7114||Editor||
|SR 3D Builder 0.7.3.12 (unregistered)||Editor||
|Sticker Generator 1.2.5||Generator||
|LGEO Parts Library||POV-Ray parts library||
Takes you through step-by-step installing a simple LDraw system with the LDraw Parts Library and MLCad as editor you need to begin creating your own virtual LEGO models. These are the classic LDraw installation instructions. Allows hands-on control of the process.
Learning how to use your new editor may be a challenge, but with a little practice you will get the hang of it. There are tutorials for MLCad and LeoCAD available online. These should help you in your journey to becoming a 3D LEGO-style modeling expert.
Check out the tutorial page where you can learn techniques to enhance your proficiency with various programs of the LDraw System Of Toolstools. Easy to follow step by step instructions teach you everything from using software programs to creating stunning renderings.
Need help with any of this? Check out LDraw.org's Forums and ask a large group of users for help.