Note: Niran subsequently released versions 1.31 and 1.32 following this review. Both contain tweaks and additions to 1.30, including further floater layout alignments (most notably the People floater (1.31) and the Merchant Outbox is translated and functional in German (1.32). You can catch these updates on Niran’s blog.
NiranV Dean has released version 1.30 of Niran’s Viewer, which is described as “a complete overhaul” – and there is enough that has gone into it to justify that comment.
The Viewer has been something of a differentiator in the TPV world on a number of fronts: elements of UI presentation are markedly different (such as the menu presentation and things like the Build floater), the Viewer also offers a huge amount of nips, tucks, tweaks and changes to the graphic end of things which, while geared towards higher-specification machines, offer much that is of benefit to machinimatographers and photographers. Finally, and as the Viewer has developed, NiranV has not been afraid to seek to incorporate more of a game-like approach to things.
The changes in this release are extensive – and some are not always obvious (such as localisation in the log-in and log-in progress screens),, which doesn’t make them any less time-intensive to produce. I’ve aimed this piece at covering the more visible changes.
The first noticeable difference between 1.30 and earlier versions is that the camera default position has been moved to an over-the-shoulder view. This may not be to everyone’s liking, but it does offer an improved world-view in many respects. As someone already using Penny Patton’s camera offsets to achieve a similar result, I found the look very familiar and comfortable when I logged-in, although the camera position is a little closer than I’m accustomed to seeing. This isn’t a problem until one uses the DOWN ARROW / S-key for moving backwards; while this now turns your avatar around, it also tend to have your avatar well over to the left on-screen, making navigation even over a short distance a little harder. For those that aren’t keen on these views, it’s obviously possible to reset to a more “traditional” view.
Staying with the camera for a moment, mouselook also gains the ability to use the SHIFT key in combination with mouse movements to smooth the motion of the latter on-screen and provide precise tracking. Handy for those in combat / shooting situations.
NiranV’s work on redesigning various floaters continues. With this release, People and Mesh Upload come in for attention.
The People floater joins Build in going horizontal – – and this works particularly well with Nearby, wherein the people list and mini-map can be displayed without having to have a long vertical panel opening on-screen.
Another nice touch with this is that both ONLINE and ALL are displayed side-by-side (although may require extra scrolling if you have an extensive list of friends!).
The Mesh Upload floater has been compressed and the lay-out tided so that it also doesn’t require so much on-screen real estate. The result is a clean, compact approach that is still relatively easy on the eye, although the ability to resize it via dragging might not go amiss for those who would prefer it to be a little bigger.
The Build floater has been further tweaked and again provides a cleaner display and appears less cluttered than early iterations.
Menus and floaters have also had their transparency adjusted to give a consistent feel right across the Viewer, and to aid in readability.
“Pick a colour, any colour…”
Perhaps the biggest single update in terms of the ability to customise the Viewer is that users can now set the colour and transparency of every common floater in the Viewer and set colours against every common widget.
Changes to floaters require a Viewer restart to take effect, while changes to widget colours will be applied immediately.
For those missing KLee’s Viewer, a small nod has been added to Niran’s 1.30: the UI buttons can now by displayed in KLee Viewer style.
And there’s more…
As well as these changes, 1.30 also sees:
- More work on translating the UI for German and French users
- Improvements and tweaks to various Preferences panels
- Fixes to media roll-off and max sliders
- Incorporation of the latest Shining fixes
- Text compression (which may help with some crash issues on older cards, but not recommended for ATi systems)
A full list of changes can be found at the end of the blog post on the release. Gone from this release is the “main menu” option and the SL Kinect2 option. The former is being reworked, the latter may be gone for good due to compiling issues with Linux.
I’ve always liked Niran’s Viewer – the “dares to be different” approach has meant that the Viewer has been very innovative and something very different from “standard” 3.x-based offerings. My experience has suffered over the last few releases because my PC has struggled to manage the Viewer, particularly when running some of the more advanced deferred rendering options. Whereas early versions ran very well – frame rates up in the mid-30s sans deferred options, more recent releases have been barely half that.
Release 1.30 goes some way to reversing this trend, allowing me to achieve frame rates of between 28-32 with 3 or 4 others on-sim, and deferred rendering is back on a par with earlier releases (around 8-9fps). This still isn’t as fast my PC can manage with other Viewers, but it’s a lot faster than I’ve enjoyed of late with Niran’s, and as such is very welcome.
In all, the Viewer runs smoothly, exhibits no proclivity towards crashing on me (it rarely has), and I had no lock-ups when taking lots of snapshots with deferred rendering turned on (an issue I tend to get with other viewers, particularly if I move the camera around a lot with the snapshot floater open when running in deferred).
In terms of the UI changes, the ability to make the UI multi-hued may find a lot of appeal among those who like a highly individual look to their Viewer. For me, I like the general tidying done to the Build floater – which is starting to grow on me – and I very much like the new People floater, which really maximises the use of space. The new default camera position is also something that appeals, given I already use something similar, although I’d personally prefer to set my camera back a little further.
Overall, a lot of work continues to go into this Viewer, it’s still one of my two preferred Viewers when it comes to my amateur attempts at photography, and given I’ve got a slight boost in performance with this release, it may well see a lot more use again as I hop around the grid exploring and snapping pictures.