Beginner’s Guide: How To Use Minecraft Coordinates

Minecraft Coordinates Aren’t As Hard To Use As You Think!

So, you’ve managed to get yourself lost in Minecraft. You decided to explore a jungle, and here you are, two hours later, with absolutely no idea how to get home. Don’t worry, we’ve all been there. You’ll get home soon enough. And when you do, you should probably write down your coordinates so you don’t get lost again.

At first glance, though, Minecraft coordinates can be pretty confusing for most players. A bunch of random numbers that move around randomly while you walk doesn’t sound all too helpful. But it turns out those numbers actually aren’t random at all. They explain precisely where you are in the world at any given moment, right down to the block you’re standing on!

The ABC’s Of The XYZ’s

Press F3 on your keyboard. In the upper-left corner of your screen, you should now see a whole big mess of information. You can ignore most of that stuff for now… you’re only looking for three numbers: X, Y, and Z.

The X coordinate shows your east and west movement. As you turn toward or away from the sun and walk straight, you’ll see the X coordinate increase or decrease, depending on which direction you’re moving. If you stop moving, the X coordinate will stop going up or down.

Next we have the Y coordinate, which shows your altitude (how high up or down you are). If you jump up onto a higher block than the one you’re standing on, the Y coordinate will increase. If you dig a hole and jump into it, the Y coordinate will decrease.

Last but not least, we have the Z coordinate, which shows us our north and south movement. It works just like the X coordinate, only for north and south/ forward and backward.

X and Z can be practically infinite, but Y is hard-limited… you can’t build anything higher than 256 blocks in the air, and you can’t dig below bedrock, which is usually found down between 1y and 5y (you can break bedrock in creative mode, but there’s nothing below bedrock other than a big empty black void and instant death, so don’t go down there). You can travel above 256y though, even if you can’t build that high, either in fly mode or using a flying mod, like Minecraft Flight Simulator or Flan’s Mod.

The X and Z coordinates do get tricky, and here’s where most people get confused by coordinates: they can be positive or negative numbers, which can definitely throw you for a loop… literally!

Let’s ignore Y for a bit, and say you were standing at 0,0 (X=0 and Z = 0). If you turned east and walked one block, you’d be standing at 1,0. If you walked south one block, you’d be at 1,1. Pretty simple, right?

But what if we went back to 0,0, and now, we walked west one block? Now we’re at -1,0. And if we walked north one block, we’d be at -1,-1.

Imagine the exact center of this image were coordinates 0,0. It shows how the coordinates will move into negative or positive numbers based on what directions you move in.

Imagine the exact center of this image were coordinates 0,0. It shows how the coordinates will move into negative or positive numbers based on what directions you move in.

X and Z coordinates can be negative or positive numbers, and that means navigation requires you to think backwards when standing at negative coordinates. Positive numbers always count up to get higher, and negative numbers always count down to get higher. A negative number has to count up to zero, whereas a positive number would count down to zero.

Look at these numbers. They start out negative, and then they increase to zero, after which they become positive:

-5 -4 -3 -2 -1 0 1 2 3 4 5

Once you wrap your head around that, coordinates become pretty easy!

If you’re standing at 0,70,0, and your friend is standing at 100,20,-250, where do you need to go to reach your friend?

Well, we know they’re at X100, and that’s a positive number, so we need to move EAST 100 blocks. They’re at 20y, which means they’re 50 blocks deeper into the ground than we are, so we need to dig DOWN to 50 blocks. And they’re at -250Z, which is a negative number, so we’ll need to go NORTH by 250 blocks (because we’re counting down from 0 to 250).

And now that we know how to watch and read our coordinates, we can move to our friend on the fly, knowing we need to generally travel EAST, DOWN, and NORTH to get to them. They better have cake. That’s a whole lot of walking to not involve cake.

That’s pretty much all there is to coordinates. It seemed way tougher than it was, right? Now that you know how to use coordinates properly, you shouldn’t get lost as you travel around in Minecraft. Don’t forget, you can also make compasses and maps to help make your exploring even easier.

Photo by RaeAllen

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