OpenKneeboard for DCS


I know I’m probably late to the party with this, but it was so amazing to me that I thought I should share it just in case. If you’re not already using OpenKneeboard in DCS VR (or I guess in 2D as well), it’s definitely worth checking out!

If you don’t want to read my wall-of-text raving, AnyTimeBaby has a nice first-impressions video including tablet writing functionality which I haven’t tried yet:

A couple years ago I tried using its (now deprecated) predecessor, VRK but found the performance hit was abysmal (probably due to my inadequate 7700K/1080 system at the time) and stopped quickly. I’ve always been a big fan of kneeboards in DCS*, and have really stretched the utilization of the OEM kneeboard to what I feel is it’s maximum extent, organizing aircraft folders with checklists and weapons cards for each module I fly (and many I should fly more), such as Minsky’s excellent Hornet Kneeboard Suite, as well as charts and map sections for each terrain. ED has made this easy to organize, and I applaud them for including this in the base game the way they have.

However, last week while playing through Baltic’s excellent Dominant Fury campaign, I found myself really struggling with organizing my kneeboard at the beginning of each mission. My procedure is during start-up to go through and shortcut/bookmark each page I think I’ll need during the mission; in my Hornet simpit there are a number of switches (video recording panel) that aren’t used/assignable in DCS that I’ve dedicated to kneeboard controls. Once I designate bookmarks on the pages I need, I can toggle the kneeboard and navigate through them easily using the ‘extra’ up/down switch on my Thrustmaster Hornet stick. Works pretty good, except that in complex missions sometimes there’s a lot of page-turning to find what I’m looking for.

In a Baltic Dragon mission, this typically consists of: Mission Cards, Target Photos, Aircraft Checklists, Specific Weapons Checklist (if required), and CASE III charts. Having to rush through to shortcut these each time a mission started was becoming a bit of a chore during startup, and then of course the kneeboard is a 2D object that’s standing up in your field of view any time you have it toggled on. While you can drag it around the screen with the mouse, its orientation is fixed and it’s kind of obstrusive.

Something made me think there had to be a better way, and I discovered OpenKneeboard had revived the VR kneeboard concept, and actually made it better than ever before! And with my new system, there’s zero appreciable performance hit, which was awesome. Installation was easy, and my favorite part is that you can now organize sections. It uses the default DCS kneeboard structure, and then you can add additional documents or sections beyond that as desired. The next-best feature is that now it allows the option of having two kneeboards at once, just like the latest release of BMS.

The other thing that’s cool is you can assign new control buttons in OpenKneeboard. Once I had structure I was happy with, I had to decide how I would control it in-game. Then it hit me: in my simpit I have a dual rotary encoder that I never use (at the time I wondered why I was going to the effort of hooking it up, but had already bought it so I might as well use it!):
So I assigned the bottom encoder to rotate through sections, and the top to pages. Works great, and if you have dual kneeboards it changes the one you’re looking at. Now I don’t have to bookmark anything, it’s organized so that I can go right to the section I want, and then to the page, and can swap between sections easily.

The pop-up gaze/magnification function works great, and even with it off the kneeboards are sized large enough to read clearly in VR with my Reverb G2, unlike the stock DCS kneeboard. There’s also a radio log tab that is wonderful when working with a JTAC or punching in coordinates from a wingman. Anyway, enough (more than) said, if you’re not already using it in VR, it’s definitely worth checking out. I rate it as indispensable now, right up there with Simshaker, SRS, and Vaicom for me.

*Funny anecdote about kneeboards in real life civilian flying:

In my previous job as a captain for a charter/corporate outfit with a fleet of about 25 Citation Jets and King Airs, I was often paired with new-hire FOs who had just been typed or checked out in the right seat of various aircraft and were pretty wet behind the ears. For most of them it was their first ‘real job’ after flight instructing at the local aviation university we recruited from. I always enjoyed getting the opportunity to introduce them to line flying in the real world, and showing all the little tips, tricks, and traps that you didn’t learn in a training environment. Since I wasn’t involved in the training department, generally the first time I’d meet them would be at showtime on day one of a trip.

I learned rather quickly that if one of them proceeded to strap on a kneeboard after entering the cockpit, it was going to be a long day, or a series of long days. There’s nothing inherently wrong with a kneeboard; they’re a convenient way to keep notes, reference navlogs, or manage charts (30 years ago). I’ve used one when doing aerial survey work and animal tracking operations where I had to write down coordinates or do FM homing. That’s all well and good, but in a corporate jet there’s not really much need for it; we didn’t have paper charts anymore, didn’t really keep navlogs unless oceanic (Gulf of Mexico) and if your clearance can’t be jotted down on a sticky note (the free hotel ones were the best!), there’s something wrong.

The FO’s that brought their kneeboards turned out to be dependent on writing down everything. Apparently the kneeboard thing was something being pushed by the flight school, it seemed to be pretty universal. One wrote everything down long-hand (imagine writing down CRAFT, except "CLEARANCE- ROUTE-, etc), resulting in a 3-page novel each leg, laboriously copying down clearances and re-routes, even writing down frequencies and altitudes instead of plugging them into the panel right away. Sounds benign, but it resulted in everything taking twice as long, and the FO getting further and further behind the airplane. When center calls you back before you give a readback because you’re still writing, that’s a problem. I’d keep telling them to stop writing so much and focus on the ‘doing’ part, but it was an ingrained behavior.

Finally, I got to the point where I’d ask them before they ever even got in the cockpit “Do you have a kneeboard?” If they replied yes, I’d politely tell them to go put it back in their car, they won’t need it in our operation and try to explain how it just tended to hamper them in the cockpit. It was a crutch that turned into a boat anchor when you’re flying the kind of equipment that we were. You can’t imagine how crestfallen a new FO on their first line trip looks when the captain greets them in the parking lot and makes them take their kneeboard out of their flight bag, but it really was a real thing, and making the kneeboards go away quickly fixed the problem.

Plus the straps wrinkled their dress pants! :joy:


Interesting, I’d have assumed having a place to jot notes would be helpful versus a hindrance. Well nothing a grease pencil on the canopy can’t handle :wink:

:rofl: :man_facepalming:
Believe it or not, I’ve seen that before too. Once! I took away his marker and then he had to clean the window when we landed.

It is, and the notepad out of a Hilton or from the FBO works great. We keep one clipped into the yoke of the airplane for writing down clearances, and I use it to jot the spelling of a fix maybe once every few flights. But most of the info you get should be ‘written’ into the panel. Modern FMS even have a place to enter your EFC when holding. It’s when it becomes a boat anchor that you’re dragging along the whole flight that it’s a major problem. Kinda like the iPad wizkids that focus on updating the reroute in their foreflight instead of putting it into the box (FMS) first.


Nice. Thanks for this.

What I really want is: dynamic keeboards. Just text would make my dynamic missions more user friendly.

Drawing on it would be too much to ask and not necessary…but I’d take it!

PS: I’m still reading all that and getting around to the YT

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I think you’ll like what OpenKneeboard does. It pulls the current mission, briefing, and radio logs into their own tabs/sections when you load a mission, and the radio log is pretty invaluable for me.

The only thing it doesn’t do is grab Vaicom’s virtual kneeboard, which is pretty awesome tool in itself. I still occasionally use the ED kneeboard for that (tanker info), with the radio log most of its features are redundant.

You can also import entire PDFs apparently, so you could theoretically take an entire Chucks Guide into the cockpit with you, which solves a major problem in learning an aircraft in VR. :grinning:

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Cool. My missions, being ‘dynamic’ are spitting this stuff out after you jump into the cockpit - some important things change each time (OTW it wouldn’t be dynamic).

IF they had a proper mech. for running code before you hit ‘fly’ I’d be in heaven. Like a proper briefing mode…I wonder if the ready room thing will address this. One can only hope. Only way to do it now is to “UNsafe” the player’s install. And I refuse to do this. At least automatically.

Still reading. Thanks again.

Thats’ cool. I tend to do the Copy/Paste into image; save as PDF…for procedures I frequently stumble over. The above should ease that pain.

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Now THIS is nice.

Just what the doctor ordered too. Or at least it helps; since my missions generate dynamic ground targets you have to enter the coordinates and, well, my memory is short and the text output (via F10 menu item) isn’t as ‘immersive’.

Spoke too soon. I don’t have this:

Taking notes requires a wintab-compatible graphics tablet.

ScratchPad works ok too. Or it did before 2.8. Need to check this. Here’s the link:

How do your missions communicate the targets to the player? If it’s via radio, it should be captured in the radio log, right?

I wonder if there’s an iPad app that could emulate a pc tablet?

Both audio and text (text is an option). Goes something like this:

You launch on a CAS-CAP: go to a control point, check in, wait for tasking from the ABCCC dude[1].

Players: K-Mart (ABCCC guy in a C-130 or somesuch)
Me: Me

K-MART: “CHEVY11, K-Mart, new tasking. Advise ready to copy”.

ME: I respond via F10 menu or VAICOM PRO/Voice Attack (my preferred method), “Roger, go ahead”. Or say/do “Unable”.

K-MART: “Target is armor at [Geo/UTM coords], moving [direction]”

ME: Respond in the affirmative

K-Mart: “roger, cleared direct”

All the text is spit out and thus in available in the Message History but you have to hit ESCape for this which of course freezes the game (some find this handy). I save it for a “Say again” command.

[1 ] How long you wait is random, ie; if an AI (another mission) has perchance schwaked it already then it will try to find another. Or maybe not.

There’s an off chance you will get nadda (in the above example). Hold and refuel as necessary until your VUL time is up. Kinda like real world ops (air-to-ground) for the last several decades; air superiority is established and we’re in the interdiction/ground support phase. How long you wait is configurable - some people don’t like that much authenticity.

Chance of TIC (troops in contact); Show Of Force; Recon (fly somewhere then call in and report sighting the thing or not); and my fav; Armed Recon using the “Kill Box” concept - you have to use your sensors and find something (then get approval to kill it - a bureaucracy simulation within :slight_smile: Etc, etc.

All based on a lot of research of the various types of CAS. There’s also pre-planned interdiction and ‘alpha strike-like’ missions. The JTAC stuff is proving to be very complex. The interdiction and alpha-strikes are basically done; I’m justing trying to tweak the timings - with reticent AI.

And it’s not killing my FPS - important!

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That sounds pretty cool, are your missions available for download on the user files, or hosted on a server somewhere?

It sounds to me like (assuming the text goes into the message history), your target info would be captured in the OpenKneeboard radio log, just like all of the ones in the Dominant Fury campaign, so that would work pretty well in my mind.

Hey, you’re on to something! I may have to get in touch with that project - no idea yet how it works but it may be nothing more than ‘tagging’ the text for entry - only want certain things in there. Hmmmmm

Not yet. I REALLY want this working without any bugs when I let it loose. Testing it is time-consuming. It’s ~10,000 lines of lua code (no, I didn’t count them but it’s a good guess based on the line counter in my editor).

I’m in fact culling some ‘features’ cus, well DCS, is getting in the way [again] and to make them work as authentic as I want requires too many hoops for the user to jump through. There is a ‘system’ you have to get used to but anyone that is familiar with aviation should get it pretty quick. For all others there going to be YT videos (another time suck) and, gasp!, a manual to actually read.

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That’s cool. I hope you consider recruiting some Mudspikers for beta testing when the time comes! Hint hint

For sure. I’m about to make the interdiction and alpha-strike version ready. For testing that is. Just PM me your system specs (just for reference) and such. To include what maps you have; currently it supports the AV-8 and F-18. Test map is Syria but if I’ve done this correctly it should only take a few days to port it over to another map - the content ‘engine’ takes all the time; it’s a combo of pre-placed targets/objects and ‘hints’ (of where/what to place); hard to put an APC under a bridge with an algorithm (or at least I don’t want to have to write that algo).

I’m only, oh, about 8 months behind! Wife likes to travel - a LOT - and that sorta interrupts progress here. But she puts up with my ‘hobby’ so…

What I NEED is someone to run it, eventually, and do the YT video tutorials. I HATE making videos. But I’m not good at it :slight_smile:

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Sent you a PM. I think it worked. With a link to the initial draft of of the draft of the manual. Mostly intro stuff and musing.

Ooops. If you don’t have gmail let me know - it’s a G-doc link


I’m trying to get this to work with custom pages in BMS 4.37 - do you know where I need to put the documents that should appear on the kneeboard?

I keep trying to find info but continually come up with articles and posts saying how great it is and what it can do, but not how to do it - including the info provided by the guy that makes it.

I’m not with my gaming PC right now or I’d be glad to tell you in detail. If I recall, you set up the tabs in the settings (a gear icon?) of the OpenKneeboard app itself. You can point it to a folder with all the images or a pdf or there’s a bunch of other ways to do it, but once you find that portion of the settings it’s pretty easy to set up. Sorry I can’t be more help right now.


Thanks - yes, I just worked that out from various posts on the BMS forum. :+1:

*it’s also on page 2 of the quick start guide in the app!