ProductTeam Linden (who he/she? is it Rhett in disguise?) has posted to the Technology Forum about a new option for presenting Inventory within the Viewer. Apparently, when the Viewer was split between the Basic and Advanced modes, moves were made to try to improve / simplify inventory presentation, but they never made it to a final cut of the Viewer.
Now they have, and Linden Lab is asking for feedback. The announcement reads in part:
For new users, managing and understanding inventory is often challenging. Drag and drop over large inventories can be problematic and daunting. New users are often confused about the meaning of certain system folders.
Today we have released a Project Viewer beta that includes this simplified presentation of inventory as an option. Before we consider any widespread changes to inventory, we want to know what you think about the Simple Inventory UI, noting that the target user is someone just starting out.
The Simple Inventory UI offers new users:
- A simple display presenting only one folder at a time
- Improved wayfinding and findability
- Faster load of inventory items
The article then invites users to download a Project Viewer which includes the new Inventory presentation, and to provide feedback (via the SL forum), with any bugs that are found logged in the SINV Project JIRA. In doing to, the article notes:
It’s important to note that Simple Inventory was intended for Basic mode before Basic and Advanced modes were merged. It is still experimental and so it is unclear how it will function with extremely large Inventories, so if you have a large Inventory we don’t recommend using Simple Inventory as your only view.
There are also some incomplete features and some known issues, again as LL note.
So, what is it like? As I have a fairly extensive inventory that (if I say so myself) is well-managed and ordered that I’m in no mood to mess with, I tapped my CTA (Crash Test Alt) on the shoulder and took the Project Viewer for a spin.
The Viewer has an initial release number of 3.2.8 (248008), and installs into is own folder but shares the standard cache and user folder locations as all other SL installations. Once started, the Viewer has the same funky blue/teal UI as the DD Project Viewer – so I assume this is to provide a simple means of recognising that you’re running a Project Viewer. Otherwise, the Viewer looks and behaves like a “normal” release.
Opening Inventory initially reveals a familiar panel (for those that use the official Viewer), but one with a new SWITCH TO FOLDER VIEW link in the top right corner (below left). Clicking this brings-up the revised layout (below, right).
Key points of the new layout:
- Inventory is divided into clear sections: MY INVENTORY, LIBRARY, RECEIVED ITEMS (for the forthcoming Direct Delivery) and TRASH
- You can have more than one section open at a time
- Sections can be resized by hovering the mouse at the bottom of an open section so the cursor changes to a double-headed arrow. Click and hold the left mouse button to drag the sections beneath the open section up/down
- Within a section, folders and contents are listed alphabetically (so system folders do not appear at the top of MY INVENTORY by default, and folders are not sorted to the top when mixed with objects)
As the view is not intended to be hierarchical, there are no arrowheads to the left of folders or any ability to open them within the displayed panel. Instead, opening a folder is now achieved in one of two ways:
- You can hover the mouse over a folder to highlight it with an ACTIONS option. Clicking this will displays context menu from which you can select OPEN IN NEW WINDOW (below, left)
- You can double-click on the folder and have a new view of the contents slide neatly into the existing panel, replacing what was already there.
Note that to prevent accidents, system folders automatically have the options to move, rename or delete them disabled.
Whether you opt to open folders in a new window, or display them in the existing panel, the end result is the same in terms of what you see (below, right).
If you opt to drill down through your folders by opening each in a new window, then navigating back and forth is a relatively simple matter of swapping between windows and closing those you’ve finished with.
However, the system also makes it possible you to navigate up / down a set of nested folders within a single panel by adding breadcrumbs to the top of the panel (right) as you open each successive folder, allowing you to navigate back up the tree. At the same time, hovering the mouse over MY INVENTORY will reveal another ACTIONS option from which you can elect to go BACK TO TOP FOLDER.
Once in a folder, items can be highlighted and the ACTIONS menu used to manipulate them (e.g. wear, move, rename, delete) – again displayed options are context-sensitive (so if you are wearing an item, that option is not displayed, for example).
You can move items around your inventory in several ways:
- Use the ACTION menu to select MOVE for an item / folder. This opens an additional window in which you can navigate to your desired destination (double-click through the required folders), before clicking MOVE TO SELECTED FOLDER to finish the task
- You can also simply drag-and-drop items / folders within a panel
- You can drag-and-drop between inventory windows
- You can drag-and-drop between sections (between RECEIVED ITEMS and MY INVENTORY, for example) – the destination section does not have to be expanded in order to do so.
A couple of things I did notice during testing were that a) worn items are not highlighted / indicated in any way and b) there is no option to remove / detach a worn item. There also appears to be a bug, as selecting WEAR appears to ADD the selected item to your avatar, rather than replacing anything already worn – my CTA ended up clumping around in two pairs of boots….
Feedback and Thoughts
I don’t really have any issues with the functionality presented here per se. It works OK, the overall layout within a panel is fine, and (known issues and bugs notwithstanding), it all works pretty much as expected. There do appear to be some issues that do need addressing, however, and as LL asked for feedback on the system as presented (and allowing for the fact it is only an initial iteration, here’s mine:
- Add the ability to see what is actually being worn or is attached to the avatar within the Folder View
- As most people are likely to be moving folders from RECEIVED ITEMS to MY INVENTORY, it would make sense to move RECEIVED ITEMS above LIBRARY, to reduce the chances of a mis-click dropping items into the Library section
- As currently supplied, the functionality is perhaps a little too limited – no ability to create sub-folders, for example, so the ability to organise one’s inventory is restricted to drag-and-drop into whatever is already there
- Don’t be afraid of using menu options at the top of the inventory panel (File, Create, Sort, etc.) – they are lot more intuitive for users new or established than having options buried behind obscure “+” symbols and cog-wheel icons.
Also, if it is intended provide both views (Hierarchy and Folder) within the inventory panel of the a release Viewer at some point in the future, then I’d also suggesting ensuring that the top-level folder presentation is consistent between them (i.e. scrap the “system folders to top” default in favour of an alphabetical listing for the Hierarchy View), as this will assist familiarity in switching between views.
Candidly speaking, this alternative presentation comes across as yet another Linden curate’s egg. On the one hand, it cannot be denied that there are issues around how the inventory panel functions (the “high-speed scrolling” that can occur when trying to move an item from one folder to another, for example), and that things could be improved in terms of presentation. On the other, this approach is perhaps a little too simplistic to make a valid judgement at this point; too much functionality has been stripped away. Looking at it in the form presented, it’s hard to see the direction in which it’s liable to grow (if any) – which I think may be the issue LL are having, hence the low-key call for assistance.
I also cannot help but think LL “misunderestimate” new users here. While people are new to SL, it’s doubtful they are new to computers and things such as file management tools like Windows Explorer and the Mac Finder. After all, they’ve managed to find their way online, navigated the web to the SL website, found the Viewer download link, downloaded the Viewer, found the installer on their computer and installed it… As such, is understanding the nuances of inventory management that big an issue for them? I’m not convinced.
That said, there are undoubted benefits in some aspects of what is presented here: a “flat file” view may well be more to some people’s liking (providing it is better integrated with a hierarchical view as well), and the use of a pop-up “move” window could be preferable to some than relying on drag-and-drop – and it’s good to provide alternatives. I just can’t escape the feeling the perhaps LL are missing an opportunity. Given most people are liable to be familiar with the likes of Explorer and Finder, why not grab the bull by the horns and make inventory more approachable by presenting it in a similar manner to those tools – perhaps a two-panel display, with scrollable hierarchical view to the left, open folder view to the right with the associated drag-and-drop capabilities?
I’m not saying it would be easy to do (or even necessarily a short-term development). but were it possible to achieve, I’d venture to suggest it would meet with significant approach from established and new users alike.
I’ll certainly be keeping my eye on this to see how things develop. In the meantime, and given feedback is being sought, if you’ve not already taken a look at the Project Viewer, I’d encourage you to do so & pass your thoughts / suggests to LL via the forum.