Alchemy brews a new beta

Alchemy-logoOn Wednesday August 27th, the Alchemy team released further beta version of their v3-style viewer, which they refer to as a celebratory release, marking their inclusion in the Lab’s Third Party Viewer Directory.

As a beta, version 3.7.14.33534, the release obviously isn’t a full feature release; as Cinder notes in the blog post, it is still a work-in-progress, and the Alchemy team are still working on things. As such, this article is a rapid-fire overview of points-of-note, rather than an in-depth article.

The new release is available for Windows (32-bit and 64-bit) and Mac (64-bit), with Linux referred to as “coming soon”. I installed the Windows 64-bit version, which not only suited my system, it allowed me to run the new beta alongside the 32-bit version of the previous beta release, which I looked at back in April. Installation was smooth and direct, with the viewer firing-up automatically once installation had finished. No anti-virus flags triggered, just my usual firewall warning about the SLplugin for voice,

Starting the viewer revealed the most notable change to it – the UI font presentation. To quote Cinder’s blog post:

We’ve decided that Adobe® Source Sans Pro is a little nicer on the eyes, and Sovereign went to great lengths to push around the pixels and make everything fit just right.

The viewer certainly reflects this effort; font presentation is crisp and sharp (doubly so, perhaps on my new shiny monitor! 🙂 ), and everything fits the floaters, button, icons, toasts, etc., perfectly when using a default UI size, and it scales nicely with the UI size slider. Alongside of this, the UI itself has been generally refreshed, although some of the updates may not appear obvious to the eye.

Preferences

The additional move & view options in Preferences
The additional Move & View options in Preferences

Preferences get the same UI refresh as the rest of the viewer, and a couple of changes in the Move & View tab, which see the addition of two camera constraints check boxes (Disable Minimum Zoom and Disable Object Push), and a check box for Realistic Mouselook (which comes to Alchemy via NiranV Dean).

Toolbar Buttons

Alchemy 3.7.14 sees changes to the toolbar buttons available to users.

Alchemy Toolbar Buttons floater
Alchemy Toolbar Buttons floater

Of particular note with this release is the addition of the buttons for sharing to Twitter and Flickr, the Region Tracker and Quick Settings buttons (both of which are examined later in this article), and the removal of the Windlight button.

Legacy Profiles

Alchemy's new legacy profile display - integrated into the People floater
Alchemy’s new legacy profile display – integrated into the People floater

Legacy profiles come to Alchemy with a completely fresh implementation of the profile floater, which has been neatly integrated into the People floater. Accessing your own profile can be done from the Me menu or the Profile button, as per usual, while accessing other people’s profiles can be done through the right-click avatar context menu, also as per usual.

All of these options open the new profile panel within the People floater, and the arrow at the top left of the floater will switch you back to the People panel display itself, allowing you to page back and forth between, say, Nearby People and individual profiles quickly and easily, and without opening additional floaters. Note that in this regard, your own avatar is listed in Nearby People, allowing you a further means of accessing your own profile information.

This entire approach is smooth and sweet, and followed through with all other means of accessing a profile (e.g. through the mini-map, and so on). Nor does it end there. The updated Profile display neatly organises the various tabs – Second Life, Groups, Interests, etc, vertically, with what might be the mostly common-used option buttons (Chat, Add Friend, Block) ranged at the bottom of the display, with a gear icon providing access to additional options – share, offer teleport, request teleport, Pay, etc.

Snapshot Floater Update

As I’ve recently reported, the official viewer is gaining a more unified snapshot floater (at the time of writing, available via the Snowstorm RC viewer version 3.7.15.293295). Given that this beta release of Alchemy is based on the Lab’s 3.7.14 release code, it doesn’t include the newer snapshot floater; instead it provides its own means switching to the Facebook, Flickr and Twitter floaters.

This has been achieved via the addition of three links (rather than buttons) at the foot of the snapshot floater itself. Clicking on any one of these will close the snapshot floater and open the required upload floater.

The Alchemy snapshot floater with the links to switch to the Flickr, Facebook orTwitter upload floaters (l); and the additional image size options
The Alchemy snapshot floater with the links to switch to the Flickr, Facebook or Twitter upload floaters (l); and the additional image size options

Something I actually missed with the snapshot floater when reviewing Alchemy back in April were the additional formats for saving snaps to disk or posting to your Profile feed. These include:

  • 720p, 16:9 (1280×720)
  • 1080p, 16:9 (1920×1080)
  • 4K UHD 16:9, 8.3 MP (3840×2160)
  • 4K native, 1.90:1, 8.8 MP (4094×2160)
  • 4K, 4:3, 12.6 MP (4096×3072)

These offer a nice additional range of photo options for the keen SL photographer.

Quick Settings

Quick Settings options
Quick Settings options

The Quick Settings floater, complete with its own toolbar button, is another of the new features with Alchemy 3.7.14 beta. As with the quick preferences options found in other TPVs, this offers quick and easy access to a number of frequently used options including Draw Distance, Level of Detail, etc., and access to windlight settings.

These all appear to use the standard SL viewer defaults, so for example, Draw Distance has an upper limit of 512 metre and the LOD slider / spinner has an upper limit of 2.00 (use the RenderVolumeLOD debug if you prefer LOD to be set to 3 or 4).

Region Tracker

The Region Tracker is described as, “letting you keep tabs regions gridwide from anywhere in Second Life”. This opens a new floater that works in conjunction with the world map.

The Region Tracker floater
The Region Tracker floater

The floater itself lists all regions added to the Tracker, displaying them by label (set by the user), the region’s maturity level, its actual name and the number of avatars in the region.

The list can be sorted alphabetically by label or region name, and numerically by number of avatars present, and the width of the individual columns can be adjusted.

The top right of the floater includes three buttons which are, in left-to-right order:

  • Refresh: refreshes the list and updates the avatar count in listed regions
  • Bin: deletes a selected region from the list
  • Map: opens the world map focused on the selected region.

Regions are added to the floater by opening the world map, locating them via Find, and then clicking the Track Region button. This will display a dialogue box allowing you to add a label for the region. Clicking OK in the dialogue box adds the region to the Tracker.

Adding a region to the Region Tracker via the World Map and the Track Region button
Adding a region to the Region Tracker via the World Map and the Track Region button

I don’t know how much of the Region Tracker is complete, or whether there is more to be added – having an ability to select a region and teleport to it without necessarily having to open the map would be useful, if possible. Having used Alchemy while flying, I found it useful in listing airports around Blake Sea (two of which are shown in the images above), so I could use the Tracker  to see how busy they were while flying without opening the map. I could then select a less busy destination at which to land – which was actually handy, given Hollywood Airport had a huge influx of people at the time I was flying (30-ish in the region at one point).

Other Updates

In addition, the following updates are included with the release:

  • Group UUID and URL in the group info panel
  • Resync Animations
  • Adaptive vsync
  • For Mac users:
    • OS X Notification Center support
    • OS X Badge unread message counter
    • OS X Retina display support
    • OS X OpenAL support
    • OS X TLS support improvements
  • A dice roll command
  • Niran’s “Realistic” mouselook
  • Mini-map improvements

Feedback

Alchemy continues to develop and offer a reasonable range of features and I’ve enjoyed playing with it for the past few days. It’s been as stable and responsive as any other v3-style viewer.

The legacy profile display integration into the People floater is something I find particularly attractive. In fact, one of the visual appeals with this viewer is the care taken over presentation in the UI; not just with the new UI font, but in the way floaters, etc., have had their layouts cleaned-up and made to look a lot more fluid and logical in the way they present information to the user.

All told, a nice update, and with more on the way (such as an overhauled Search), Alchemy holds plenty of promise and yet more magic still to come!

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