There is a lot of overlap between the datarefs and commands; very often there is both a dataref (telling information about some part of the sim) and a command (which takes action to change some part of the sim). Which should you use?
Here are some general guidelines:
- If you want to set up a joystick or keyboard, you have to use a command. The joystick and keyboard configuration dialog box lets you associate actions with a keystroke or button press, not information!
- If you need to show the status of a system (E.g. “is the landing gear down”) use a dataref. I will cover this issue in more detail in part 3, but basically only datarefs show you information.
The ambiguous case is whether to use a dataref write or a command to change a system when both exist.
- If there is a command that exactly does what you want to do, prefer the command over the dataref. For example, it is better to arm the autopilot using the commands than the datarefs. Changing the autopilot state often involves changing a lot of variables at once in complex ways. When you issue the command, that work is done for you, correctly, every time.
- If the command is not really suitable for your purpose, use a dataref. For example, to change the engine throttle position, do not use the command
sim/engines/throttle_upto move it up “a little bit.” Use the dataref
sim/cockpit2/engine/actuators/throttle_ratioto set the throttle to the precise position you want. The throttle-up command exists so that users with no joystick or mouse wheel can fly with the keyboard by pressing the F1-F2 keys (bound to throttle-up, throttle-down). It is not meant to precisely control the throttle position!
(I will discuss why there are so much overlap between commands and datarefs in part 4.)