TazorLazor

Fast(er) way to generate LDD instructions

15 posts in this topic

Hi, members of Eurobricks!

I've recently encountered a new problem- How can I generate the instructions of a model in LDD without using the built-in LDD building guide generator? Is it possible to export/convert the LDD document into a PDF or Word document?

This really bothers me a lot because I tend to create custom LEGO kits that require 300+ pieces.

Please help me out! :classic:

Cheers!

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What's the problem, exactly?

You can easily convert the HTML instruction generated by LDD in a pdf file: open the html file with a word processor (for example LibreOffice Writer) and then export it as a PDF. It could be necessary some adjustment to best fit the steps to the page of the pdf document.

EDIT:

I noticed now that the new instructions are not so easy to import in a word processor. The result is not so good to obtain a pdf with instructions without a long adaption.

So probably the best way to create instructions is:

  • Generate Building instructions using LDD function.
  • Remember to activate the advanced graphics in LDD or it will be difficult to use the instructions if the bricks will have not borders.
  • Navigate through steps, and for each screenshot rotate the model choosing the best angle and take and take a screenshot with CTRL+K shortcut.
  • Note that it is not necessary to take a screenshot for each step. LDD adds 4 pieces every time showing the added pieces in a box, so usually you can take a screenshot every 4 steps.
  • Once you have the images, you can open a word processor and insert that dragging that inside the pages and placing that.
  • At last, you can export your work in PDF.

The procedure could be a bit laborious, especially for models with hundreds steps, but the result is surely good.

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[*]Note that it is not necessary to take a screenshot for each step. LDD adds 4 pieces every time showing the added pieces in a box, so usually you can take a screenshot every 4 steps.

If you use the keyboard arrow buttons, it will step forward only 1 brick at a time.

@TazorLazor: Also, to make instructions easier to follow (and to allow the automatic generaton algorithm work better), concider temporarily removing any snot assemblies and wheels. As long as the model is very much "brick put on top of other brick", the autogeneration generates pretty impressive instructions.

I wrote a very small "primer" on this some time ago with examples how instructions can be made to look, but I can't find the topic now. It's in here somewhere. The general rule is however to allow LDD to generate instructions. Then take the generated PNG pictures (they are on the hard disk) and paste into a word document, and then complement with custom taken screenshots (Ctrl-K). It's some work, but you can make it look very good.

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I think the real problem with autogenerated instructions is that often the bricks are placed on the "dark side of the model" :grin:

That means that the brick is placed for example on the back of your model when you are looking at it from the front, so you can't see where the brick is placed (because, obviously, in the HTML instructions you can't rotate the model).

I think that's the main improvement LDD needs: if a brick is placed in a place not visible from the present point of view, the algorithm should rotate properly the model before generating the image.

That implies another little improvement: instead than offer 4 bricks every step, LDD should create groups of pieces that are well visible from the same point of view, so that is possible to use the same image to place that.

I say that because the last time I tested the instruction, LDD placed 3 pieces in front of the model, and one in the back, so that the last one was not visible and I manually have to create a separate screenshot only for this (and I had to remember to delete the box with the pieces to avoid it repeats for this piece).

PS: at start, I looked for your old post regarding instructions, but I didn't find it!

EDIT: could be that?

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If you just want to export the umodified auto-generated instructions into a pdf, you can also use a pdf printer like Bullzip pdf printer or cutePDF. Just export the instructions to HTML and open them in a browser, then click the print button and instead of you normal printer, choose the installed pdf printer as a device. The instructions will then be printed into a pdf with one step per page.

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I think the real problem with autogenerated instructions is that often the bricks are placed on the "dark side of the model" :grin:

Well, LDD actually does autorotate the model when needed. It's part of the algorithm that the placed brick should always be visible. However, this sometimes means that the image is sometimes autorotated one time too many (for my personal taste at least :tongue: ), so that is another thing that can better be controlled with some manual Ctrl-K images.

EDIT: Thanks Calabar for finding the link. :classic:

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I've always had problems generating instructions. The smallest model I ever had was about 600+ pieces and it was also the first model I built in LDD, that generated instructions in about a few minutes.

Recently, I build a model about 6000+ pieces and it took forever. I left my computer on over night and about 10 hrs later, it wasn't even half way done. The odd part about this is, I thought that the bigger the model is, the longer it takes to generate instructions. Once, it took only a few hours to completely generate instructions for a model that had about 13000+ pieces.

Edited by ATonOfBricks

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I've always had problems generating instructions. The smallest model I ever had was about 600+ pieces and it was also the first model I built in LDD, that generated instructions in about a few minutes.

Recently, I build a model about 6000+ pieces and it took forever. I left my computer on over night and about 10 hrs later, it wasn't even half way done. The odd part about this is, I thought that the bigger the model is, the longer it takes to generate instructions. Once, it took only a few hours to completely generate instructions for a model that had about 13000+ pieces.

It makes sence it takes exponentially longer since there are more "solutions" to take into account. But 10 hours seems way to long. I would propose that you break it down to smaller sub-models.

Also, and this is important, try to move all snot-assemblies to the side (i.e. not connected to the main model). The building guide generator has real problems with dealing with snot built parts in relations to normal studs-on-top. Even wheels/tyres on a vehicle is sometimes problematic with wheels "flying in" from the side or hanging in mid-air.

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It makes sense it takes exponentially longer since there are more "solutions" to take into account. But 10 hours seems way to long. I would propose that you break it down to smaller sub-models.

I Agree... 10 hours are absolutely too much time.

Could be your machine is old or slow? Can you provide any detail?

The solution proposed to divide the model in submodels is very good, and has many advantages.

Not only it reduces the total computational time, but it allow to create separate instructions for each main element, such as classic lego build instructions do.

You could divide the model creating one built instructions for each buildings, for each vehicle, for minifigs, etc...

At the end you can put all together adding a screenshot of the whole creation (or do that in more than one step).

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I remember someone editing the LXF file and manipulating the xml entries to improve instructions based upon subgroups. I dont know if the model generation algorithm still respects subgrouping, but that would be the most obvious way of getting instructions into a decent approach; and probably faster and easier to handle.

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I remember someone editing the LXF file and manipulating the xml entries to improve instructions based upon subgroups.

I remember too. This should be the post, by user hrontos.

He explained here that the building instructions has been generated outside LDD.

Because of his intervention I added an explicit request for LDD 5 asking the support of 5 sublevels for building instructions.

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I remember too. This should be the post, by user hrontos.

He explained here that the building instructions has been generated outside LDD.

Because of his intervention I added an explicit request for LDD 5 asking the support of 5 sublevels for building instructions.

Yes, this approach is quite easy, but it has two problems. Grouping in LDD is kind of clumsy - when you make mistake, it is not easy to insert group between existing groups, so you have to plan carefully. As best approach seems to be not build the model but to disassemble it - this means that groups are in reverse order - you actually remove bricks from finished model. Using the hide tool you can simulate removal. Add bricks to group, select whole group and hide it. Continute with next bricks, create additional group and hide it. Transformation from groups to building steps is easy.

Then comes the problems of correct view point selection, since LDD does not save the view when in building guide mode. There is no simple solution for this.

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As best approach seems to be not build the model but to disassemble it - this means that groups are in reverse order - you actually remove bricks from finished model. Using the hide tool [...]

With the "reverse grouping" and the hide tool there is an important trick to use.

If grouping is a bit "clumsy" in LDD, hiding could be worse! If you make a mistake, you can't turn back or undo last action, so you have to start from the scratch.

The trick is to create a parent group to include all other groups (or few parent groups for main parts of the model, at least). That because it is easy to hide already grouped parts simply selecting that group and then use the hide tool. Otherwise there could be the need to select many groups to achieve the same goal.

hrontos, could you remember me what was the external software you used to create build instructions?

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With the "reverse grouping" and the hide tool there is an important trick to use.

If grouping is a bit "clumsy" in LDD, hiding could be worse! If you make a mistake, you can't turn back or undo last action, so you have to start from the scratch.

The trick is to create a parent group to include all other groups (or few parent groups for main parts of the model, at least). That because it is easy to hide already grouped parts simply selecting that group and then use the hide tool. Otherwise there could be the need to select many groups to achieve the same goal.

Yes, of course, you should start with one root group that will at the end contain whole model, all steps are actually a subgroups of that root or subgroups of other subgroups. Just like one building guide contains more submodels. Number of group levels seems to be unlimited, but building guide mode can handle only 3 levels, so when converting groups, the levels are flattened. It is still good to have number of group levels as high as needed and not only 3 since I hope LDD will support more in the future. Subgroup display can be rotated and LXF contains fields containing orientation of the sub group but LDD does not store the adjusted orientation there. If they will improve it, we will have easy place to store view for each building step.

hrontos, could you remember me what was the external software you used to create build instructions?

I manipulated the model file using xslt transformation, if you want, I can post it here. It can be executed either by msxsl.exe or any web browser. Or I will wrap it to some simple exe that will be just asking for a model file and add building instructions there. This assumes "forward" groups, not reverse order. But can be modified. Pure XSLT works also on Mac, exe only in Windows.

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I manipulated the model file using xslt transformation, if you want, I can post it here. It can be executed either by msxsl.exe or any web browser. Or I will wrap it to some simple exe that will be just asking for a model file and add building instructions there. This assumes "forward" groups, not reverse order. But can be modified. Pure XSLT works also on Mac, exe only in Windows.

I think the best choice would be to open a dedicated topic where you can post your guide and your files.

That would be a great entry! :wink:

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