CHUI: progressing towards mainstream release

I first took a look at the CHUI – the Communications Hub User Interface – project viewer on its announcement and release back in October. Since then, as noted in my SL project news updates it has gone through recent updates as it progresses towards readiness for mainstream release, quite possibly in the early part of 2013.

The past week has seen new updates to both the “release” version of the project viewer (December 22nd) and also to the “development” version of the viewer (December 24th). Both are available from the viewer download wiki page.

The “main” release – viewer 3.4.3.268591, was announced via a forum post, which highlighted the updates as:

  • Addition of notifications and notification preferences
  • Smaller Conversations and People windows with increased resizability
  • Adding more ways to get to certain functions. For example, we added a speak button to the Conversations window toolbar
  • Improved performance
  • Bug fixes and polish
The new "Speak" button in the confersations floater - available for IMs and open chat
The new “Speak” button in the conversations floater – available for IMs and open chat

The resized floaters is a good step forward, as is the greater control now available in resizing windows. There are still some elements missing from the conversations floater people my find convenient (or at least annoying because of their absence), in particular:

  • An ability to range IMs horizontally rather than vertically: many people prefer to have their IMs ranged horizontally, possible as a holdover from the “old” integrated conversations floaters which stretched back in 1.23.5. The problem here is that any move to incorporate this into the design would break with ergonomics of the “collapsible” nature of the current floater using the right / left pointing chevron buttons
  • The inclusion of a teleport button for the IM windows: this is altogether more useful, and it is hard to see why this was dropped from the redesign, given it is part of the current IM floater layout, and most likely a button which sees frequent use. OK, so teleports can still be achieved via the right-click context menu, but if convenience is the name of the game, it is hard to see why the teleport button has been ignored
The three compact views of the Conversations floater: one reason horizon IM tabs may not be incorporated
The three compact views of the Conversations floater: one reason horizon IM tabs may not be incorporated

Whither the Survey?

One thing still very much missing from the CHUI project is the promised user survey. When the project viewer was first launched in October, the Lab specifically asked people to try it out and consider a number of questions relating to it, noting that, “We’ll ask you to complete a survey in approximately one week to gather your thoughts on these questions.”

The survey has yet to appear. Whether this is because the feedback coming through the CHUI JIRA has been sufficient for the project team (and the amazing Whirly Fizzle has been generating an incredible amount of detailed and informative feeback!) is unclear.

Current Status

The precise status of the project is unclear, but it appears to be reaching a “feature complete” status – which again raises the question as to whether we ill see a survey on the project or not. Merging the project viewer to the 3.4.3 code base would appear to move it one step closer towards a viewer development  / beta viewer merge (both are now 3.4.4 code), but there are wider issues within the viewer still be rectified. For example, nothing happens at all when right clicking on any object contents – the usual context menu fails to appear. It’s therefore unlikely that the CHUI code will make an appearance in a development or beta viewer until such time as it has been confirmed problems like this have been identified and resolved.

In the meantime, and if you haven’t already done so and would like to, the CHUI JIRA remains open for comment, and the project viewer can be obtained from the SL Alternate Viewers wiki page (links below).

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