Before installing SpaceEngine, please check that your system meets the program's hardware requirements:
Dual-core 2 GHz
Quad-core 3 GHz
Nvidia or AMD/ATI with 1 GB VRAM*
Nvidia or AMD/ATI with 2 GB VRAM
*Dedicated video memory
When installing SpaceEngine, please do not install on top of an older version! Install to a new folder instead.
Automatic Installation (EXE installer)
If you downloaded the executable installer, simply run the installer and follow the instructions. Note: SpaceEngine will automatically configure itself to use the language you select during installation.
Manual Installation (ZIP archive)
If you downloaded the .zip archive version, open the archive and extract it to a location of your choice. If desired, add a shortcut to the SpaceEngine executable (SpaceEngine/system/SpaceEngine.exe) to your desktop or taskbar.
Note: SpaceEngine is a portable application. To copy SpaceEngine to another PC, simply copy the program's folder and paste it there.
The purpose of this section is to give you a basic overview of everything you need to know to get started in SpaceEngine.
Many topics are not covered here, and those that are covered here are covered in greater detail elsewhere in the manual.
Launch the program from a shortcut you created when you installed, or directly from the executable /SpaceEngine/system/SpaceEngine.exe. The startup process make take 1-2 minutes the first time, so please be patient.
When the program has loaded, you will see the main menu. This menu can be accessed at any time by pressing [Esc]. The "Settings" page allows you to adjust various options, including language. To change your language, go to the "Player" menu. When you are ready to enter the universe, select "Planetarium" from the main menu's main page.
Once in the Planetarium, you'll notice on your screen a HUD displaying information in several locations. The text in the upper-left displays information about the selected object: its name, type and classification, its distance from you, its temperature, mass, diameter, surface gravity, and so on. The text in the lower-left tells you what object the camera is bound to and the binding mode, the current date and time, your current velocity/acceleration setting, and your actual velocity. The text in the lower-right tells you the limiting magnitude of objects (the dimmest objects visible), and your camera's current field of view (FOV). The animated circle which sometimes appears in the upper-right tells you when something is being loaded or generated.
You can enable graphical toolbars onscreen (if they're not already enabled by default) to give easy access to most common controls. This is recommended for new or casual users so that you don't have to memorize dozens of keyboard commands. The toolbars are located on the edges of the screen at the center-left, center-right, bottom-left, and bottom-right. Move the cursor over these areas to show the toolbars. To see the function of a button, hold your cursor over it. To lock the toolbars open, press the pin icon. For the bottom toolbars, pressing the pin again will set them in a half-closed state until you move your mouse over them, at which point they will open and expose the buttons again.
The camera can be moved in any direction and rotated along any axis. To move the camera, press the [W] [A] [S] [D] [R] [F] keys. [W] [A] [S] and [D] move forward, left, backward, and right respectively, similar to most games. [R] and [F] move up and down. To rotate the camera horizontally and vertically, hold the Left Mouse Button [LMB] and move the mouse. To rotate the camera around its long axis, press the [Q] and [E] keys. As an alternative to the above keys and the mouse, you can use the Arrow Keys and Numberpad to move and rotate the camera. To change the speed your camera moves it, scroll the mouse wheel, or use the [+] and [-] keys on the Numberpad.
To select an object on the screen, simply move your cursor over it and left-click. To select an object by name, open the Find Object menu, either using the toolbar button or by pressing [F3]. You may then start typing the name of the object you wish to select. When you've partially completed a name, you may select it in the list, or you may finish typing it manually. When you have the name input, pressing [Ok] or [Enter] will close the menu and select the object, and pressing [Go To] will automatically fly your camera to the object.
You can browse the planetary system of the currently selected object by opening the Planetary System Browser, either by using the toolbar button or by pressing [F2]. In the system browser, you can select each object by left-clicking on it. To browse up and down the hierarchy of a system, right-click on an object. Right-clicking on a planet will display its moons (if any), right-clicking on a sun will show its planets (if any), and so on. To move back up, right-click on the planet/sun/barycenter at the far left of the list.
Finally, if you want a quick way to select "home", pressing [Shift]-[H] will cycle between selecting the Milky Way, the Sun, and Earth.
To automatically go to a selected object, press [G]. Press [G] a second time to go there faster. Alternately, you can use the Go To toolbar button, which always moves at the faster speed. To center an object on your screen, press [C], or press the Center toolbar button.
Information about the current time and rate of time flow is visible in the lower-left HUD section and its toolbar. You can control the flow of time by using the buttons on the right of the lower-left toolbar, or by using the following keyboard commands. Pressing [L] will increase the rate at which time passes. Pressing [K] will decrease this rate. Pressing [J] will reverse the flow of time. Pressing [\] (backslash) will set real-time speed (1x forward). Pressing [Ctrl]-[\] will set the time to the current real-world time according to your computer's clock.
Field of View
By default, the camera's field of view (FOV) is 45°. Your current FOV will always be displayed in the lower-right corner of the screen. There are a few ways to change your camera's (FOV). Initially, pressing the middle mouse button [MMB] will toggle the camera's FOV between the default FOV (45°) and the default zoom FOV (20°). After manually changing the FOV using one of the following methods however, [MMB] will toggle between the default FOV and your last-used FOV. On the keyboard, the [Home] key serves the same function. You can use this to quickly reset the FOV to default, and quickly return to your last FOV setting if you wish. You can decrease or increase your FOV (zoom in or out) by holding [Shift]-[LMB] and moving the mouse forward and backward. You can also use [PgUp] and [PgDn] on the keyboard.
SpaceEngine has two graphical options that all users will find especially useful: landscape level of detail (LOD), and autoexposure. To open the Graphics menu, use the settings button on the left toolbar, or press [Ctrl]-[F4]. The slider at the upper-right of the window controls Landscape LOD. It ranges from -2 (lowest detail) to 2 (highest detail). This affects the rendered level of detail on detail planet landscapes, planet clouds, and the surfaces of stars. Note: higher LOD settings require progressively greater amounts of memory. LOD 2 cannot be used as a typical setting unless you have a very high end graphics card with at least 4GB of VRAM, though it can still be used in some situations on cards with less memory, like when setting up screenshots, or if you are running SpaceEngine at a low resolution. LODs -1 to 0 are recommended for cards with 1-2GB of VRAM, and LODs between -1 and -2 should be used on cards with less than 1 GB of memory. Land on a planet and explore with different LOD settings to see what effect it has on your system.
Autoexposure adjusts the limiting magnitude of objects when bright objects are on the screen, like planets and suns, so that faint objects like distant planets and stars become dim or invisible when bright objects are in view. This simulates the behavior of eyes and cameras in reality. You can toggle this option on the left side of the graphics menu, or using the [V] key.
To switch between fullscreen and windowed mode, and to adjust your resolution, open the Display menu, either through the Main Menu or by pressing [Ctrl]-[F8]. You can use the settings in the Window Mode section to set your resolution and change between fullscreen and windowed. You can also toggle between fullscreen and windowed mode by pressing [Ctrl]-[Enter].
There are two types of screenshots you can take in SpaceEngine. The first is a screenshot which captures the scene but does not include the interface, so you can take a clean screenshot even with HUD text and interface items open. The second is a screenshot which does include the interface. To take a screenshot without the interface, press [F11]. To take one with the interface, press [Ctrl]-[F11]. Screenshots taken with SpaceEngine are stored in a folder called screenshots in your SpaceEngine folder.
See the main spacecraft section of the manual to learn about using and controlling spacecraft.
That's it, you should now be ready to take your first steps into the universe with SpaceEngine! To learn more about the program, read the rest of the user manual below.