interesting thread that you started here, it seems so natural to many of us that it's often overlooked.
What preferences do you set? Why and when?
i usually don't display the Borders and the Ice datas, but like you i like to use the Water Depth or the Land Elevation to have a rough visual range aid, i also like to have the Lat/Long lines displayed with 1° interval.
i tend to not display the weather datas but i like to have all the nav zones displayed.
If units are well spaced i display All Datablocks and All Paths but i don't display the datalinks, the sonobuoys only when i manually plot an ASW search plan and, off course, i display the Ref Points.
What windows do you create? Why and when?
i usually keep only one window and zoom on hot points when needed. That habit is certainly due to the MP gaming where the resources used by a second window slow down the game.
How do you make best use of the Formation Editor and Mission Creation/Editor?
i tend to use the Formation Editor and the Mission Creator only when there is too much unit to manage them manually, certainly when i have to remain hidden and respect a restricted EMCOM.
Do you make heavy use of missions/formations and the AI or do you everything through plotting and individual units?
By the way, when i use them it's mostly for the ASW and CAP tasks, i tend to do manage all strikes mission by myself to perform coordinated strikes.
What is the best use of staff options?
simply because i like to manage everything by myself, i tend to not use any staff assistance. If i had to choose, i would use the Navigation and Weapon Allocation assistance to keep my platforms under control.
What are good techniques for using the sensor settings?
the EMCOM policy is very variable and is really specific to the given tactical situation so i tend to manage it all by myself.
What difficulty levels give the best play? (I recently found out that AUTO LINK is preferred for sub heavy play.)
i tend to play on Hard settings versus the AI and Hard setting with Auto Datalink on versus humans or when it's a sub only scen.
Do you use the AAlog? How much detail do you put into it?
i set all verbose options available and tunr the AA log on, it detail all the combat details, it's interesting to see what really happened when something happened too fast to let you understand during the game.
What is the best way to review the battle: VCR, TimedSnapShots, or manual screen grabs?
i prefer the VCR because of the Playback Controls and the ability to check the Unit Status.
hope it helps,
"A mind is like a parachute. It doesn't work if it's not open."