Daily Archives: June 18, 2011

My Ideal Viewer

OK, so over the years I’ve looked at just about every major Viewer to come out of the starting gate. Some I’ve reviewed in this blog, some I’ve chosen not to. I can’t claim to be intimately familiar with all of them, but I think I’ve used enough of them for long enough to determine what I would personally like to have in my Ideal Viewer.

Version and Installation

Right, well first off, I want a Viewer that can keep up with the latest developments  – or more particularly, improvements – churning out of Linden Lab. This means I want a Viewer that comes from the Viewer 2 Snowstorm code. Sorry, Viewer 1, but you’ve had your day. My ideal Viewer is one that installs cleanly and easily and tells me what I’m getting; I don’t want to be faced with a lot of tedious swapping of .EXE files, unpacking of additional folder and what have you – so again, bye-bye some Viewer 1 TPVs.

Frame Rates

Good frame rates

Frame rates aren’t everything, but they certainly smooth things for the better. As such, my ideal Viewer will consistently push out the best possible frame rates for my hardware. Given SL 2.6.4 banged things through at around 55 fps at a consistent rate when on my own (and over half that with other around), so it’s not unreasonable for me to expect that kind of performance on a consistent level (SL 2.7.1 has, for some reason now tailed off to figures below Firestorm on my machine after a good start during the first day or so I played with it).

Ideally, and allowing for the fact my graphics card and CPU are not cutting-edge and I only run Windows 7 32-bit, so have a RAM limitation – I’d ideally like to be able to run shadows without seeing my machine grind to a halt. Right now, only Viewer 2.7.1. and Firestorm Beta seem to be able to do that for me – and 2.7.1 does so significantly better than S21.

Top Bars

My ideal Viewer will minimise the impact of the top-of-screen navigation bars, etc., that doesn’t impact on their usefulness and which give me the option of being able to display my location information without compromise in terms of screen real estate or without the information vanishing just because I turn a bar or two off.

Firestorm’s top bars – note the location information right at the top, allowing me to turn off the navigation bar without losing information

On the subject of top bars – my ideal Viewer would have a pre-requisite that the Preferences shortcut button is employed in every skin variant.

Sidebar

My ideal Viewer will avoid the Sidebar like the plague; if it must use the Sidebar then:

  • It will do so without idiotic tabs cluttering up the right side of the screen and making things look unsightly
  • It will provide button-based access to all of the Sidebar tabs, either from the toolbar at the bottom of the screen (e.g. Firestorm) or via an optional floating palette (e.g Kirstenlee’s & Kokua)
  • It will be appropriately sized so as not to feel like an elephant is taking up residence on my screen
  •  Tabs detached from the Sidebar will given me the option of closing them (not minimising – closing) without having to re-dock them, and will then be persistent on opening thereafter (preferably via a toolbar button, but even by retaining the relevant right-side tab if necessary).

Communications

My ideal Viewer will properly integrate my communications options, be they local chat, individual IM sessions or Group Chat. It will present these options in a single, tidy reference-point and not force me into having to use the People tab of the sidebar to reach someone . It will also present my options for communicating without making large demands on  screen real-estate. So far only Firestorm successfully grants all of this.

Viewer 2 Communications: Top left – Viewer 2: limiting in extremis; Top right – Kokua: wasted space; Bottom left – Firestorm: perfect! (windows all default size)

Walking and Camera Movement

Movement and Camera Controls, please

I like the camera movement options with Viewer 2 et al, even with a trackball rather than a mouse (although still a pain in the bum on my netbook’s touchpad). However, there are times when the camera controls and the movement controls are handy to have around. Therefore, my ideal Viewer would include both. Just like Kokua.

In-World Profile Windows

In-world Profile window

Yes, the new web-based profiles have their uses – but the fact remains, they are most frequently used in-world – and having to repeatedly have the Viewer web-browser thrown open, or to be chucked out into your external browser is on the high side of bloody annoying. It’s also slow at times. Therefore, my ideal Viewer will retain a “Viewer 1” style approach to Profiles (Firestorm) and include the option to use either it or the web-based view.

UI Flexibility

While Viewer 2 has come a long way over the last 18 months, some aspects of it remain something of a pain. Information can easily be missed, for example. It’s also fair to say that old habits do die hard and many of us have doing things a certain way ingrained ‘pon our souls for better or for worse.

UI Extras – it’s about choice

Therefore, my ideal Viewer would include options that allow some degree of customisation within the UI and provide people with options that help them feel more at home with the Viewer.

At the moment, Firestorm leads the way here – not only for the privacy options and the like, but for the fact it includes a UI Extras tab in Preferences, which not only includes some handy sliders with which you can carry out small adjustments to the UI, it also includes some options liable to put a smile on a lot of faces (circled) – although Kirstenlee’s Viewer, in fairness, offer the old-style pie menus as well, athough they are turned off by default, rather than on by default as with Firestorm. Indeed, the only additional option it needs here is one that will chuck system alerts and notifications up to the top right of the screen.

Context Menus

Proper context menus

I prefer the context menus over pie menus. Done right, they are far more intuitive than hunting for the right slice of things & in keeping with the majority of computer applications. But they are not with fault. My ideal viewer would therefore consider what someone is likely to be doing wherever they are, and provide the menu options they are most likely going to want to use, whether they are building, shopping or whatever.

Firestorm blazes the trail here (no pun intended), and I’d definitely incorporate their approach into my idea Viewer. It’s fast and efficient and doesn’t require multiple step-downs to get to the things you want.

Built-in AO

Take the load off the server; give yourself client-side flexibility & lose the need for HUDs. My ideal Viewer is one that incorporates an client-side AO system that is comprehensive and easy-to-use. Right now, that’s Firestorm only, but doubtless Kokua will be following suit.

And the Rest

No Viewer would be complete without:

  • RLV  / RLVa (it’s not just about the BDSM, OK?)
  • Radar a-la Firestorm
  • 3D (only in Kirstenlee’s S21 Build 8 right now)
  • Comprehensive privacy options (Firestorm)
  • The ability to disable various blank screens (i.e. teleport)
  • Media filter Viewer 1 TPV-style TP indicator displayed whe teleporting & the Tp screen is disabled
  • Can easily be optimised for photography / machinima (as with Kirstenlee’s S21)

And that’s about it. There is nothing extraordinary here. Everything I’ve described above exists in various flavours of the Viewer right now. Question is, will anyone bring them all together into a single offering?

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