Elite Dangerous guide: Controls and the HUD

elite dangerous horizonsA little while ago I suggested people check out Elite Dangerous. It has rather a steep learning curve so I thought it may be best if I provide some pointers for  budding Commanders to help them on their way. In this multi-part guide I shall cover the basic controls and movement, as well upgrading your ship and navigating the starport services, trading, exploration, bounty hunting and mining as well as giving you the low down on the galactic powers.  I confess I’m no Elite Dangerous expert so if you spot any errors or wish to contribute then please feel free to contact us so we can update the guide.

Space in Elite Dangerous is a vast, dark, inhospitable place and if you can’t get to grips with the basic controls of your ship you’re going to have a tough time getting in and out of starports. My first piece of advice is to complete the tutorials, especially the docking one and if need be, do it a few times until you’re comfortable with the docking process and the ship’s controls.

Elite Dangerous


The PC version of Elite Dangerous has fully customisable control schemes allowing you to swap and change your bindings whether you use mouse and keyboard,  HOTAS joystick or an Xbox One control pad. In order to cover both platforms I’m going to cover the Xbox pad control scheme. If you are playing on PC and wish to use the Xbox One Control scheme then you need to go into control settings, presets, select the drop down box and chose classic context settings. It’s worth noting that the Xbox One control pad has a very good comfortable scheme that is easy to use.

Elite Dangerous

As you can see, the left and right bumpers are used to increase and decrease the throttle. The left stick controls the pitch and roll whilst the right stick controls your yaw . Click the left stick (L3) and the right stick will enter the alternative control scheme which changes the function of the right stick and will now control your vertical (up/down on the stick) and horizontal  (left/right on the stick) thrust. To navigate in and out of spaceports you will need to get used to switching between these alternative controls.

Elite Dangerous

The triggers control your primary and secondary fire functions whilst the D-pad will handle your power distributions between the systems of your ship.  The A, B, X and Y buttons have multiple uses. They have a primary function by simply pressing the button but holding the button in will bring up a different menu (above) depending which button you hold. You can use the D-pad whilst the menu is up to select one of the functions. My last tip on the controls of your ship is to leave flight assist on, at least  until you’re a bit more experienced.


The HUD in Elite Dangerous is very useful and you’ll use it a lot so it’s well worth familiarising yourself with it early on. The HUD consists of 4 parts. There’s a front panel, a left and a right panel and finally if you look down you’ll see the vehicle hangar panel which I’ll cover in an Elite Dangerous: Horizons section.


Elite Dangerous

The front panel contains a lot of information. The scanner (which has adjustable range) is front and center and is essential for knowing where contacts are within your vicinity. The gauge directly underneath the scanner shows the scanning range.

When at  maximum range the yellow marker will be on the right of the gauge and when it is towards the left, the scanning range will be at its smallest. Contacts are shown on the scanner relative to the player’s ship and vary in shape and colour. Red contacts are hostile, orange neutral and green contacts are friendly.  You can also tell if ships have weapons deployed. If they do, they will be a triangle instead of square. If they flicker white then they are firing at you.

Elite Dangerous

FSD (Frame Shift Drive) wakes and cargo appear as grey contacts. The lines connected to the  contacts show if the object is below or above the ship. If the line is above the marker, then it is above you, and if the line is below the marker, then it is below you. 

To the left of the scanner you will see whatever contact you are locked onto, be it a star, planet, space station or another ship. You will get information about the contact and if that contact is a ship you will get details about its hull integrity and be able to see if its Shields are up. You can see the same information about your ship to  the right of the scanner.

Elite Dangerous

To the right your ships shield and integrity information you will see the power distribution interface (picture above). Power is spread between system, engines and weapons. You have 6 ‘pips’ to allocate by using the d-pad and a maximum of 4 pips can be allocated to any one category. If you have the maximum 4 pips allocated to that category it will charge at the maximum rate. If you have no pips assigned to one category then that system will not recharge. Pressing D-pad down will reset all pips to their default distribution.

The system category relates to ship systems and shield integrity, the engine category handles the engines boost and maximum speed, and the weapons category handles the recharge rate for thermal weapons (beam/pulse lasers for example).

Right Panel

Elite Dangerous

The panel on the right hand side of your cockpit handles information relating to your progress, ship’s functions and your cargo. The ‘Status’ tab shows your name as well as your ranks in combat, trade, exploration and your CQC rank. From this tab you can flick through the various sections and see your reputations with each faction.

Elite Dangerous

The modules tab will show you your ship’s systems and their power usage. If your power draw is too great you will be left stranded in space until you fix the issue. You can assign systems priority so that your ship can better manage the flow of power. For example if your ship is using too much power it will shut down your tertiary systems whilst maintaining your secondary and primary systems.

Elite Dangerous

The Fire Groups tab allows you to assign your weapons and defence systems to a fire group. 1 represents primary fire and the number 2 represents secondary fire. You can have multiple fire groups set up allowing for a variety of combinations to be set by a commander. You can switch between fire groups by holding X and tabbing through with LB or RB.

The last two tabs are pretty self explanatory, showing you the contents of your cargo and showing you your ship’s systems that can be turned on/off like the ship’s lights for example.

Left Panel

Elite Dangerous

The left panel contains your navigation and contact information as well as your missions and bounty information. In the image above you can see it displays your current location and destination on the left,  provides access to the Galaxy Map and System map in the bottom left. Celestials and other systems are shown on the right section.

Transactions shows you any outstanding missions that you have accepted as well as bounties and fines. Contacts shows you ships and starports in the vicinity. When you scan a ship  the sub system tab will show more information on each of the ship’s systems, allowing the player to target each subsystem. Any cargo being carried by the target ship will appear in the cargo tab.

Elite Dangerous

So this will hopefully help you find your way around the cockpit of your ship and help you get underway. If you have any specific questions about the game or anything covered here or perhaps you just need help then just send us a message and we or one of our lovely community members will do our best to help you out.

The complete list of our Elite Dangerous Guide can be found below. Simply click the one you want to see.
Part 1- Elite Dangerous Guide: Controls and the HUD
Part 2- Elite Dangerous Guide:  Outfitting Your Ship
Part 3- Elite Dangerous Guide: Navigation
Part 4- Elite Dangerous Guide: Making Money

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