Items Versus Wares
It is important to understand the difference between Inventory (also known as items) and cargo (usually referred to as wares). Cargo is in your ship, while inventory is on you. Inventory is listed in the SHIFT+I menu under player information. It moves with you when you go (or later teleport!) from ship to ship. Cargo is listed in ship storage and can be seen in the ship info menu (Shift+Enter for your current ship or INFO option in the map).
Trade and Combat ships have CONTAINER class storage, which covers all tradeable goods that are manufactured. Mining ships can have either LIQUID or SOLID storage, which covers all materials that can be harvested from space. Trading with ship storage items happens with the TRADE menu when docking, while trading with inventory happens in-person with the trader found on a platform (look out for for the shop sign above the building).
At the base of the Ware manufacturing chains are natural resources which have to be harvested and refined into useful products. Solar energy is converted directly into Energy Cells by Energy Cell Production modules while other Solid and Liquid resources need to be harvested by specialized Miner ships. Liquid resources are collected from flying in nebulae while solids require asteroids to be broken up and the fragments collected. The abundance of solar energy in a sector can be seen under the entry for the sector in the Galaxy category of the Encyclopedia.
The production and exchange of wares is key to any healthy economy and the X-Universe is no different. Despite fierce competition from NPC traders there are always gaps in the market for the player to fill and line their pocket with credits in the process whether it is using a small courier or a huge manufacturing complex.
Ware prices vary a lot depending on the quantity of the ware the station has in its reserves. For reference menus often show the average price of a ware to give a trader an idea of how good a price is.
Gaining Info About Trade Offers
Trade Offers describe what wares a station, or it's Build Storage Module currently wish to buy or sell. Once Trade Offers are known for a station, they will begin to become out of date over time if whatever granted knowledge of them stops occurring. If the player ship has Trade Computer Extension software, it postpones the time before knowledge of Trade Offers begins to deteriorate.
Ways to gain trade offers from stations:
Scanning station modules will reveal info on what wares it uses and creates.
How To Buy And Sell Items - Station Trader
Items are often found in space as loot (dropped by other ships), or in lockboxes and other storages. Some items can be useful in crafting special upgrades or useful items like the EMP bombs used in a spacesuit. Most however can be sold at a good profit. When on station platforms, the player can travel to the Trader's Corner and interact with the trader behind the counter and ask for them to "Show me your wares", opening the trade menu for items from the personal inventory. Use the sliders to buy or sell items and then click the Confirm button to complete the transaction.
How to Buy and Sell Wares - Ship Trading
When in the pilot seat of the player ship, the Ship Interactions menu will have the Trade option in the middle allowing the ship to trade with the station currently docked at. The trade menu works similar to the item trader menus, except the ship and station will trade wares from their storage with the type of wares able to be exchanged being limited by the storage type. Other player assets can be told to remotely trade by left clicking them in the Object List or Property Owned menu and then right clicking a target station and selecting Trade With to either trade with the station or its Build Storage (only present on expanding stations). Alternatively after selecting a player owned ship the wares shown by the filter can be right clicked to open a trade menu to order the ship to buy/sell the wares for the best price within the viewed area of space. Wares on stations will be automatically sold to interested NPC traders by the manager or by player owned ships assigned to act as a subordinate for the station.
How To Transfer Wares Between Player Owned Ships - Ware Exchange
There will be times when it is preferable for wares or consumables to be on a different player owned ship or station. This can be to free up cargo space for other purposes, stock up a reserve ship for exploration, meet mission requirements or to keep fleets supplied. To transfer wares between ships or stations requires one of the assets to have Cargo Drones before left clicking the asset with the ware to transfer in the Object List or Property Owned menu and then right click a target asset in Map and select the Transfer Wares With action to open a trade menu allowing wares to be transferred between the two ships up to their respective capacities for the ware.
Auto Trading and Auto Mining
Player owned ships that have captains with enough skill stars can be set to automatically find profitable transactions or to mine resources and sell them at nearby NPC stations. The AutoTrade and AutoMine behaviors are set as the Default Behavior under the Behavior menu (see below for info on mining). As opposed to an order, a Behavior is a permanent assignment for a ship until revoked. For AutoTrade and AutoMine the player must specify a whitelist of wares to trade before adjusting the leash range for how far to look for stations to buy and sell at. The ships will then be fully automated allowing the player to divert attention to other tasks.
Ships with Solid or Liquid storage types can harvest asteroids or nebulae, respectively. This generates resources (see above), which can be sold to NPC stations as a source of income that requires no operating costs. Alternatively, it can be fed into player-owned stations to act as the basis for manufacturing chains.
Resource Probes can be deployed at prospective mining sites to learn about the abundance of natural resources. In order to locate Solid natural resources, the player ship can use Scan Mode to help visually detect asteroids. Nebulae are represented as blue tiles, asteroid fields as red tiles and mixed collection sites as purple tiles on the Map. After use, Deployables like Resource Probes can be deactivated through the HUD menu, and collected by flying over them.
As of version 4.00 mining has been tweaked and here is an interpretation of what Bernd say in his stream for the release of 4.00 and Cradle of Humanity DLC.
Mining ships will only go to resource areas you have discovered. Yield from resource area with a resource probe will be compared to the average of the larger area it is in. If higher the mining ships will prefer that zone. If lower they will look for another spot to mine. This is important because the resources are not so plentiful anymore in 4.00.
Resource probes show two values for any resource detected. The left value is the current amount of resource, the right value in parenthesis is the maximum amount of resource possible at that location. This was derived from in-game observation and need to be confirmed by Egosoft.
Mining ships Piloted By Captains
Small and Medium Mining Ships:
Large Mining Ships:
Ordering Ships To Mine
All player-owned mining ships can be ordered to mine using the Mine order by right clicking a resource region on the map and selecting the Mine order before left clicking a resource to harvest from the list. They can then be order to sell their wares to stations. Player-owned mining ships that have captains with enough skill stars can be set to automatically mine resources and sell them at nearby NPC stations (see "Auto Trading and Auto Mining" section above).
Manual Asteroid Mining For Solid Resources
Mineral mining with Small and Medium ships:
Mineral mining with Large ships:
Manual Nebula Mining For Liquid Resources
At this time, it is currently not possible to collect resources from nebulae while the player pilots the ship.