On Wednesday August 21st, NiranV Dean officially confirmed that Niran’s Viewer is now depreciated (or as he put it, “Dead”).
He first announced plans to end the viewer’s life in May 2013, when he also announced its successor, Black Dragon. Since that time, he has been working on the replacement viewer, producing a number of beta releases along the way, the latest being version 2.3.1, which appeared on August 23rd.
As I’ve not covered Black Dragon to date, I decided to take a quick look and provide a mini-overview – not a full review, just and overview of the viewer and some of the work Niran has been carrying out.
Download and Installation
The download weighs-in around the same file-size as the official viewer. As with Niran’s Viewer, this isn’t an installer per se, but rather a self-extracting archive which will install the viewer files in the required folder, but which will not generate a Start menu entry, desktop shortcut, etc. You’ll need to do that yourself (not that it’s particularly taxing).
Splash Screen and Logging-in
Black Dragon’s splash / login screen is very similar to that used with Niran’s Viewer. Instead of the usual Destination Guide, etc., options found with the official viewer and a number of V3-style TPVs. Instead, users are treated to one of Niran’s music videos.
If the viewer has been installed for the first time, or is a completely clean install, the Create Account / Continue pop-up options will be displayed as per most V3-style viewers.
On logging-in, anyone who has used Niran’s Viewer will get a further feeling of familiarity – by default, Black Dragon has its toolbar buttons ranged at the top of the screen, and has a number of other Niran’s-like UI elements, including the vertical menu list, now called Dragon.
I confess, I’ve always liked this approach to the menus. Training the hand to use it doesn’t take long, and it offers a relatively tidy and compact means of having the menus available.
Preferences, Floaters and Panels
One thing that has always bugged Niran (and myself to a certain degree) is the amount of “white space” (or “wasted space”, as Niran calls it!) some of the viewer’s floaters and panels have. While there is an understandable need to consider all levels of eyesight and readability, some of the viewer 3 panels do seem to have an over-abundance of blank space in them which could perhaps be better utilised. Black Dragon goes some way to reversing this; several of the floaters have been tided-up such that they do take-up less screen real estate, offering a more compact display.
However, Niran hasn’t (perhaps wisely) gone to some of the extremes seen in his older viewer, at least for the time being. Frankly, I hope he doesn’t. While a degree of tidy-up in floaters is welcome, I did feel that some of the large-scale redesign of evidenced in various floaters in Niran’s Viewer actually left a lot to be desired. A reduction in “wasted space” didn’t always correspond to an improvement in usability.
Materials and Build Floater
One of the new Lindeny shiny bits to appear in Black Dragon is materials processing, and it is an area where Niran has taken a slightly different direction to the official viewer, offering-up a completely re-worked Texture tab for the application of maps.