Storming the fire….

firestorm-logoJessica Lyon over at Phoenix has announced that a pre-Alpha version of the Phoenix Firestorm Viewer will be released on Monday 31st January. Over on the Phoenix website she states:

Speaking of Firestorm!As most of you already know, we have been very busy working on the Firestorm Viewer. Most of you seem to also know that we plan to put out a “Preview” build of firestorm at the end of this month.. and most of you seem to be very eager to try it out. A lot of work has gone into Firestorm already but is mostly interface improvements and changes. It is critical that you understand the Firestorm Preview is just that… a preview, it is not yet ready for full-time use. But this will give you an idea of what’s in store in the future. If you would like to try out the preview of Firestorm at the end of the month, please join our in world group named Phoenix-Firestorm Preview Group. The build will be announced in that group and you can find help there as well.

Do understand! The Firestorm Preview build should be considered Pre Alpha! Not beta, not Release Candidat.. it is pre alpha and as such it has a lot of bugs that still need to be worked out.

To aid those eager to get their hand on it, Jessica and the team – in a move Linden Lab really, really, really should have thought of for themselves prior to the issuance of Viewer 2.0 a year ago – have released a video introduction to the new Viewer.

The highlights are:

  • Phoenix has adopted a broad Viewer 2.x front end that is robustly “clean” in its overall look.
  • They have followed Kirstenlee Cinquetti’s lead and completely re-sized the Sidebar so that it no longer takes up the entire right-side of the screen, but fits into its own window
  • The Sidebar is now accessed from a set of tool bar buttons – again like Kirstenlee’s Viewer2 hybrid, but with the buttons actually embedded in the tool bar, rather than on a floating palette – and those buttons that are not required can be “turn off” (hidden)
  • In a further improvement, the behaviour of the Sidebar is more persistent: if a specific Sidebar tab (say, HOME, is undocked, moved and closed, Firestorm will remember the last used position and size of the tab, and will reopen it again at that size and position rather than pushing it back into the Sidebar once more (one assumes this behaviour is persistent between log-ins)
  • Within the Inventory tab on the Sidebar, there is an additional button to quickly and easily open a further Inventory window – no need to remember keyboard combinations
  • The chat bar / tool bar combination at the bottom of the screen is re-sizeable, thus allowing those who wish to have more room for their chat entry to have more room – again, especially useful when the more useless Sidebar buttons are hidden
  • Viewer 1.x camera control / movement control window functionality is retained – both can be open at the same time, although both use the Viewer 2.x layouts
  • Firestorm retains the Viewer 1.2x combined window for chat / IMs and your Contacts list (avoiding the need to use the “Nearby Friends” Sidebar tab) and which includes the local chat entry bar that has been conspicuous by its absence in Viewer 2.x
  • Further, there is a PREFERENCES option that removes the space-wasting Viewer 2.x “headings” from the chat and IM windows, leaving you with the more user-friendly Viewer 1.2x appearance – and in keeping with Viewers like Phoenix 1.5.2 and Imprudence 1.4 et al, the tabs for chat and IMs in the chat window can be stacked vertically
  • Viewer 2.x’s Navigation Bar / search bar is retained, and by default includes a LAND button (sorely missed from early iterations of Viewer 2) and:
    • Includes a SKY button for quick Windlight tweaks
    • Can be controlled from the LAND display at the very top of the Viewer window, allowing you to turn the Navigation, Search and Favourites elements off or on
    • The bars are all semi-transparent, further lessening their impact on the main display window
  • Other items that are familiar to current Phoenix / other Viewer 1.2x-based TPVs will be familiar with include:
    • RLVa support
    • Ability to disable the login, logout and Tp splash and “progress” screens
    • Double-click teleporting
    • Running multiple Viewers
    • An option to quickly and easily change the UI skin (including a skin that retains the Viewer 2-style little Sidebar tabs on the right of the screen for those who like (!) them. A nice touch with the Skin option is the automatic inclusion of Hitomi’s Starlight skins (although there may be issues using Starlight with the pre-release of Firestorm)

There are some things that are potentially missing from Firestorm at present – Jessica states it currently retains the Viewer 2.x behaviour of having media streaming ON by default, something people don’t like – but this will be altered in a future release. The LAND display at the top of the Viewer window, while allowing you to turn things like the Navigation Bar off / on, appears to lack the ability to open the ABOUT LAND window if the Navigation Bar is turned off.

Overall, I have to say this Viewer has me excited. It appears to combine the best of Viewer 2.x and Viewer 1.x to present a crisp, clean Viewer environment that is highly customisable. Certainly, I’m looking forward to trying it out from Monday.

For those who wish to try the pre-release, it is recommended that you join an in-world Group that has been set-up specifically for the Firestorm release – as Jessica states, the Phoenix support network is still itself ramping-up on the new Viewer and so may not be able to provide the necessary support.