It’s been a while since the last release of Catznip – mainly because the team has had a number of other projects and RL things to deal with, but R7 is now here, and it sees the viewer get an extensive update and overhaul, with new features, updates large and small and bug fixes galore.
Not only has the viewer itself been overhauled, but the Catznip team have been putting considerable effort into matters of support as well – which is where this review starts.
Catznip JIRA, Wlki and More
With the R7 release of Catznip, the team have moved away from Bug Genie and adopted JIRA as their issue reporting and tracking tool. As a part of this, anonymous postings to the tracker will not longer be allowed, and users will have to register an account. However, this does mean that the team will be better able to deal with specific issues and contact those logging problems with greater ease.
Release R7 also sees the formal arrival of the Catznip wiki, providing additional support, information, documentation and information on RLVa. The wiki is still under development, and (as with all wikis) is constantly evolving, so should be a bookmarked resource of anyone who uses Catznip as their primary viewer.
The Catznip wiki, together with the Catznip blog can be accessed from within the R7 release, via the HELP menu. Similarly, HELP->REPORT BUG will open the Catznip JIRA in your web browser (or the built-in browser, depending on your preferences setting), rather than attempting to open the default LL Bug Tracker.
So, to the Release itself.
Download and Install
The Windows installer for Catznip R7, at 29Mb in size, is just a tad bigger than the official Second Life viewer installer. Installation for me was smooth and incident-free, as all Catznip installs have been in the past.
On start-up, the familiar viewer 3.x-based FUI is displayed, with button ranged to the left and along the bottom. As with most TPVs and the official viewers, Catznip forgoes the ability to place toolbar buttons at the top of the screen, which is no great loss. Sadly, R7 hasn’t implemented the ability to align buttons to the left or right at the bottom of the screen (which I’d personally love to see gain more widespread adoption among TPVs) or at the top or bottom on the left / right of the screen. However, this also doesn’t detract from usability in any way.
The following sections provide an overview of some of the more significant updates, starting with floater updates. For a complete breakdown of updates and features in this release, please also refer to the Catznip R7 release notes. Please click any images of floaters, etc., for an enlarged view.
The Appearance floater has received significant work, with updates to both the Outfits and Wearing tabs.
The Wearing tab has been significantly updated to make viewing, ordering, finding, and sorting worn items a lot easier. The main revisions to the tab are shown below.
The Outfits tab has also been revised, with key elements shown below.
In both tabs, FIND ORIGINAL will out the inventory floater with the original item for any link selected. Additionally, attachment point details are now included for all attachments shown in the Wearing tab.
Detaching Folders, Touching Worn Mesh
Catznip introduces two useful features – Detach Folder and the ability to right-click on worn rigged mesh items.
Detach Folder is a context menu option which allows you to remove an entire folder with a single click.Simply right-click on an attachment you’re wearing, and select Detach Folder from the menu, and the attachment and everything else in the same folder will be removed: other attachments, clothing, alpha layers.
The Inventory floater has received a number of updates with the R7 release, with new buttons, the ability to use separate search filters on different tabs, a new “custom tab” option, a revised cut-and-paste option, and more.
Significant points of note with the inventory floater with R7:
- The overall layout of the floater has been tightened
- As shown above, the sort options have been moved from the gear icon button to their own button, simplifying the re-ordering of an inventory display
- Custom tabs allow you to open additional inventory views in their own tabs and apply specific search filters against them
- The right-click context menu for FOLDERS includes an option allowing you to open the folder in a new tab within the current inventory floater, or in an additional inventory floater instance
- The right-click context menu for ITEMS includes an option to FIND ALL LINKS within your inventory for a given item (moved from the gear icon menu)
- Cut & Paste operations work in a more file manager-like way. works the way you would expect from file manager with cut are marked and moved on Paste
- COLLAPSE ALL will not collapse top-level folders that are currently open
- A SHOW RECEIVED ITEMS option has been added to the gear icon button. When checked, the Received Items panel will be displayed in the Inventory floater; when unchecked, Received Items appears as a folder within the Inventory floater.
The Mini-map has been extensively overhauled to provide a range of additional functions. By default, the mini-map is now displayed with the world map as the background (and does so when displayed in the People floater as well). Right-clicking on the Mini-map brings up a context menu:
- Zoom : select from 3 preset zoom ranges. Scroll the mouse wheel to zoom manually.
- Objects: on/off toggle for block outlines for objects overlayed on the mini map
- Property Lines : on/off toggle for parcel boundary lines
- Parcels for Sale : show parcels for sale in yellow (toggle off/on) – requires Property Lines to be on
- Terrain Textures & World Map Textures: Select if the map back drop is generated based on the terrain or loaded from the world map (switch between options).
- Place Profile: Open the parcels Place Profile floater.
- World Map: Open the World map to display the selected location.
Hovering the mouse over a parcel will display the inspector tool tip. Clicking on this opens the Parcel Inspector to show the parcel name & description and the price if the land is for sale. The parcel inspector can be toggled on / of via a Preferences option (see later in this article) and works on both the Mini-map and World map.
Right clicking on avatar markers on the Mini-map provides the option to open their profile in the context menu. Tightly clustered markers will give the option to select which avatar’s profile is desired.
Catznip re-introduces the legacy Places search to try to improve the speed and efficiency of UI-based searching. Places search can be accessed through the Search toolbar button / floater or through the Places toolbar button / floater.
In both, the Places Search has been added as a new tab item (with the Search floater still using the “original” Places option in the Web tab).
Catznip provides a means to derender objects on a per session basis (they’ll be visible on the next log-in, not the next time you Tp away and back) or permanently (will remain de-rendered until you restore them to your view).
Blocking / derendering any nearby object is achieved by right-clicking on it to display the context menu and clicking MANAGE to display the available options. These are:
- BLOCK (silence it)
- SESSION DERENDER – remove it from your world view until the next time you log-in
- PERMANENT DERENDER – remove it from your world view until such time as you decide to restore it.
Blocked / derendered objects can be displayed via COMMUNICATE->BLOCKED / DERENDER LIST, which also lists all blocked avatars. This replaces the BLOCKED list previously found in the People floater.
Avatars can be blocked in a number of ways:
- From the Blocked / Derender List floater, as shown above
- By right-clicking on them and selecting MANAGE->BLOCK from the context menu
- By hovering the mouse over them, clicking the (i) icon in the hovertip to display an avatar pop-up, then clicking the gear icon button and selecting MANAGE->BLOCK
- Left-clicking on an avatar name in chat and following the instructions in the above bullet-point
- Right clicking on any avatar name on the nearby people list, friends list or group chat list and selecting MANAGE->BLOCK from the context menu
- Displaying the avatar’s Profile floater, clicking on the down arrow in the lower right corner and selecting BLOCK.
The Preferences floater tabs get some updates a well:
- Chat: now includes the official spelling checker option (as developed by Catznip developer Kitty Barnett as contributed to the official viewer
- Colors: includes the option to set the colour of parcel boundary lines in the Mini-map
- Set-up: includes options for automatic updates (see below)
- Crash Reports: has been revised to include a history of recent crashes which can be reviewed and may help in issue resolution
- General: includes options to Rez objects under the land group, if possible, and an option to toggle Place Inspector on / off in the Word map and Mini-map
- UI: sees the addition of a Viewer Fonts selection, with options for setting individual fonts against the entire UI, scripts and notecards, with a selection of font sets – PTSans font (UI & Monospace);Open Dyslexic font (http://dyslexicfonts.com/); Source Sans Pro (UI & Monospace); Ubuntu fonts (UI & Monospace)
Catznip R7 sees the removal of custom skin options from the viewer.
Additional Updates Not Covered Here
In additional to the changes and updates reviewed above, Catznip sees a number of other updates, which include those adopted from other TPVs (please refer to the Catnip HELP->ABOUT CATZNIP floater (which has itself been smartly updated) for a complete list of developers who have directly or indirectly contributed to Catznip). These include:
- Build Tools: an initial cut of what will be an extensive overhaul of the build tools and which is designed to bring Catznip into parity with other TPVs. Updates with R7 include: unique pipette pickers; parameter copy and paste; edit object at root; adjustable object axis; ability to rez objects under the land group even across parcel boundaries
- Chat Alerts: sees the addition of: ability to highlight matching categories to allow for conditional highlights; ability to apply different highlighting masks on chat, IM and group/conference chat messages; highlighting of parsing callback functionality + working sound and flash triggers in the chat history control
- Group Enhancements: group moderators in are now show bold and sorted at the top in the participants list; adds:
- Receive Chat in the general group profile panel to control whether incoming group chat sessions will spawn
- A Snooze Session menu option on the group chiclet context menu to temporarily snooze a group chat session, with the time configurable by the user and taken from the last received message
- People Floater: names are handled better with added support for displaying both usernames and Display Names
- Texture Refresh: Catznip now has texture refresh added to the context menu for avatars and objects
- Voice Controls: sees per-avatar voice volume slider in the Voice Settings floater.
A Note on Pathfinding
Catznip R7 does not include any pathfinding tools, as the team had enough on their hands getting all the updates, changes and fixes already planned for this release merged, tested and made ready for release. This doesn’t mean pathfinding is being ignored, however. Expect to see it in a future release.
Catznip R7 see the introduction of automatic updates, allowing future updates to be downloaded in the background. PREFERENCES->SETTINGS includes an option allowing you to set the viewer to prompt you on the availability of an update prior to downloading, or to prompt you prior to installing a downloaded update.
Performance-wise, this release is perhaps a little slower on the rough-and-ready fps measure.With my usual test defaults (see the Review Systems panel on the right of this blog’s home page) and on my home region with four other avatars present, average frame rates were:
- Deferred off:
- Ground: 34-35 fps
- 370 metres: 41-42 fps
- 2875 metres: 53-55 fps
- Deferred on + lighting set to Sun/Moon + Projectors; ambient occlusion off:
- Ground: 10 fps
- 370 metres:12-12.5 fps
- 2875 metres: 13 fps
Which are all remarkably consistent with one another, and mark the fact that recent releases to the core SL code have at some point allowed me to start running viewers with both lighting and ambient occlusion both active – something which really clouted my GPU at the start of the year. Not sure when this occurred, as I’ve tended to keep ambient occlusion off because of the issues I used to have, and only flicked it back on as a result of playing with Phototools recently.
As arbitrary as they are, these results put Catznip well up there with other relatively recent viewer releases, and make it a comfortable fit for my PC.
This is a pretty big update, incorporating a lot of original work, merges with code from LL and other TPVs, and a lot of bug whacking. There is much here I like: the mini-map is infinitely better using the World map as a background; the Appearance floater is a lot more logical with some excellent additions; while the changes to the Inventory floater make that a lot more attractive in both look and use.
Many of the updates – Group chat enhancement, build tool updates, texture refresh – see Catznip return to parity with many popular features found in other TPVs, something which should also help increase its popularity.
Using the legacy Places search is a poke in the eye as to what has been lost with the “newer” search when it comes to searching for related items – such as land for sale. Having the extended list and side panel display means a lot less faffing about when simply trying to find out information on a parcel or twelve and teleporting around them.
I’ve been running a release candidate on-and-off using my Crash Test Alt over the weekend, and the full release for most of today without any major hiccups or problems; it’s even co-operated when running Firestorm alongside it on the same machine (something which can end-up in something of a punch-up when I run Firestorm alongside other viewers as resources on my PC get low).
For those who use Catznip as their primary viewer, this update is undoubtedly going to be welcome and enjoyed. It’s not quite enough to tempt me away from my preferred beasts – but it’s getting awfully close. Rawr!