Update 4th January 2012: Due to some issues with gamma correction, etc., the Exodus team have issues Beta 7. Core changes are listed here.
The New Year brings with it a new release of the Exodus Viewer. Version 12.01.02.1 (Exodus run a release number system based on the day/month/year of the release, so in this case the release is the first release made on the 2nd January 2012), also known as Beta 6, brings with it a host of new features. Among them:
- New graphics functionality
- The parametric deformer Alpha
- Mesh upload
- New FUI options and improved chat bar
- V1-style chat console
- Ability to save or load position and rotation information of a object into it’s description (something I’ve been wanting for years – so YAY, EXODUS!)
- AZERTY keyboard support
- The new V3.2 snapshot floater
- A range of options imported from other TPVs
- Bug fixes.
Exodus is available in Windows, Mac and Linux flavours – this review is based on the Windows release.
The installer weighs-in at 28Mb – the same size as the official V3.2.6 Viewer. Installation offered no surprises, with the installed Viewer taking-up around 108Mb of disk space – again, the same as the official 3.2.6 Viewer.
On start-up, the Viewer bucks the recent trend in using all, or part of the V3 log-in/splash screen, and instead opts for a clean design with links to the Grid at War Blog, the Exodus Twitter feed and the SL Grid Status page. I’d personally prefer more from the V3 log-in screen, but that’s purely a personal view.
Once logged-in the Viewer displays the familiar V3.2 Flexible User Interface (FUI), and as Cilla Black might say, there are a lorra, lorra buttons, particularly on the left side of the screen – which we’ll get to in a moment.
Other than the buttons, the UI offers little in the way of major surprises on first looks, presenting pretty much the standard Menu bar, Navigation / Favourites bars layout. Your region co-ordinates are included in the Navigation Bars – which is not to say things haven’t changed. Unlike recent Viewers using the 3.2 code, the Destination Guide isn’t opened by default in Exodus.
The menus offer some nice nips-and-tucks: those options that are Exodus-specific / rated to combat use / are popular options are coloured yellow, immediately drawing the eye to them. Where these options are toggle on/off, toggling them on will cause both the familiar tick to appear alongside them and the item colour to revert to white, a nice touch to prevent visual distractions with items you don’t want to reset.
There are a couple of nice additional touches in the Advanced menu – double-click teleport is included as an option, and camera constraints are disabled by default.
The Me menu includes an additional option to access Exodus’ dedicated Preferences. In earlier releases, these could be found in a Sidebar panel (Exodus having been released just before Rodvik gave word of the coming new FUI), and are now displayed in a dedicated floater panel, accessed wither through Me or via CTRL-SHIFT-P.
The Build menu has a nice addition: you can select an object or linkset and use the BUILD->SCRIPTS->REMOVE SCRIPTS option to remove all scripts from the object / root prim of the object.
Exodus, being feature-rich even before the FUI appeared, has a lot of buttons in order to cater for the wide range of options / dedicated functions it contains. With this release, it becomes the Viewer with the most buttons displayed by default on starting-up. These are:
- Left: Avatar chooser, Appearance (outfit) editor, Inventory, Search, Places, Map, Raid Advisor, Mini-map, Animation Overrider (complete with mini on/off), Exodus Preferences, Preferences, Quick Preferences, Redraw
- Bottom: Chat, Messages, Speak, Voice, People, Profile, View Move
The Customise Toolbar floater reveals further options, including Exodus’ Mini-radar, Mini-statistics, Statistics, and Visuals buttons.
This is a very comprehensive set of buttons; however, some might find the similarity between some of the icons – the Map and Raid Advisor or the AO and Move, for example (when only using icons) to be initially a tad confusing, leaving them reliant on tool tips until familiarity kicks-in.
Button Placement and Labels
Exodus draws on Niran’s Viewer, in that buttons can be located to the left, right, bottom and top of the screen, and introduces additional display options (left). The FUI has been critique by people who don’t like icons, it’s been critique be people who like icons; it’s been critiqued by those that don’t like icons and text….
So Exodus now gives you the best of all worlds – display your buttons as icons only; reduce the size of the buttons if you find them too big; display your buttons with text and icons or with text labels only. However, note that with standard V3.2 FUI functionality, buttons placed on the left and right sides of the screen automatically default to icons only (regardless of setting), and so text options are limited to the buttons placed at the top / bottom of the screen.
Among the buttons there are a couple worthy of additional mention. The first of these is the AO button. Initial solutions for including the AO in the FUI have been to provide two buttons – one for AO settings, one for turning them on / off. Exodus has a single button, with a smaller integral button in the top right corner. Click the main part of the button to access AO settings, click on the inset button to turn your AO on (inset button turns blue, as per the screen capture here), click it again to turn the AO off. Quite simply the most elegant solution to client-side AO integration into the FUI I’ve yet seen.
Exodus does not have a texture refresh option, as is starting to appear in other TPVs, but it does have a Redraw button, which will temporarily drop your draw distance to zero, before resetting it to your default, forcing the Viewer to re-draw everything and re-render all that is in line-of-slight. This can actually be alarming when it first happens, as your in-world view can clear of all detail (see below) for a few seconds before everything re-renders.
If this happens to you, don’t panic, everything will reappear. I can’t say how effective this is for sorting out unloaded / rendered textures, as Exodus has rendered everything so fast for me fast and perfectly.