Posted in: FS2004, FSX, Reviews, simMarket, Utility

Review: SkyHighSim Charts Loader

If you’re an intermediate to advanced simmer you probably have paper charts lying about or have to flip between FS and Acrobat to view charts. SkyHighSim has created a simple and affordable app to view charts in FS9 and FSX.

Installation

The installation of this software is more involving than mostI’ve seen. You download the app and install it. Then, you request a key to be sent via a menu option. It says that it will be sent within 24 hours but I got mine within an hour. When you get your key you enter it into the apps registration menu option and then restart it. You cannot paste the key code and it’s rather long so type carefully. It works with FS9 and FSX but you will have to install it once for each version if you have both but the key you receive works with both versions so you won’t have to request a new key.

Manual and Support

The manual opens up in your default browser. It includes the instructions to register the program and a step-by-step guide on how to load the charts. I visited their web site and saw no mention of this program on their product page but they do have an active forum dedicated to Charts Viewer support.

Setting up

Setting up the charts to be used is rather difficult even for the experienced user. First, you should run the gauge installer to install the gauge into the aircraft you intend to use it. An important note here is that it will not work with all aircraft. PMDG and Wilco’s aircraft in particular and this is mentioned in the manual. There is a way to install these manually and you are given instructions on this procedure. It is not for the inexperienced FS’er as it involves opening the panel.cfg file and adding some lines and copying a file from the SkyHighSim folder to the panel folder.

In order to install the gauge you must navigate to the panel folder using an Explorer like interface. Most users can handle this but newbies and non-techies will have difficulty with this procedure. SkyHighSim should have added a checkbox type of list of availableaircraft so that non-techy users will have a much easier method of installing the app.

The annoying feature of this gauge installer is that once you’ve installed a gauge into an aircraft the utility closes. If you plan on installing the gauge on multiple aircraft you have to constantly open the gauge installer, install, open the gauge installer, install, and so on.

Working with charts

Setting up the gauges is only one part of the task. Making charts work with the gauge is another feat not for the inexperienced. First, they can only be 24 bit .bmp files that are 725 x 1024 in size. If you don’t understand that then you will not get beyond this point. Most charts I’ve seen come in PDF format. The manual explains how to convert these to work with Charts Loader. It involves downloading two free apps and using them to convert and resize. I couldn’t use the resize app because it isn’t compatible with Windows 7 so I used Paint Shop Pro to resize the images.

Once the images are resized you have to copy them into a folder of your choice so the Chart Loader can use them. One note is that the manual states they must be 725 x 1024 pixels but in their accompanying picture they show it as 1280 x 1024 so I’m not sure which one is the correct size. It’s important to note that you must do all of this before starting FS. The good news is that you don’t have to convert charts separately for each FS version. You can copy the charts to the FSX folder or just place them in a separate shared folder accessible from FS2004 and FSX.

Again, to get the charts installed and working involves allot of work that’s challenging for the non-experienced. There’s no uninstall option in the gauge installer to reomve the gauge from the aircraft. You have to navigate to the panel folder, remove the panel.cfg, and rename the panel.cfg backup to panel.cfg.

Viewing the Charts

The charts look the same in both versions on FS. To call them up you will need to use a Shift-number combo or select it from the View menu. Moving between the charts is by clicking on the tab on the right and using the arrows to slide from one chart to the next. I recommend placing charts for each airport in separate folders. It’s much easier to organize and select the charts that way. The chart viewer opens into a rather large window. It is undockable and you can undock it and slide it to another monitor if you have two. This is a handy feature. I would like to have seen the ability to resize as you can with the default GPS gauge though.

Conclusion

SkyHighSim has some pretty stiff competition for this type of product. Electronic Flight Bags from FS Widgets and SimFlyer do this and more. SimFlyers version is the same price as SkyHighSim’s, 8 Euros or $11.09 Canadian/American. On top of that Flight1 released their chart viewer while I was doing this review which optionally places your aircraft on the approach plate and can use a variety of file formats besides bmp but it’s only for FSX and it’s over twice the cost at $29.95 Canadian/American.

I cannot recommend this application for anyone other than the very experienced users due to the fact that you need to convert charts to work in Chart Loader and you will probably end up having to modify the panel.cfg file of the aircraft you plan on using it with.

 

Developer: SkyHighSim

Price: 8 Euros or $11.09 Canadian/American

data: 3 mb download and compatible with FS2004 and FSX

Purchase link: SimMarket

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