Trinity Dejavu of the Catznip viewer team provided me with a brief update on things relating to the viewer. The team have been working on the next release of Catznip (R9), and are already starting to look beyond it to future versions.
“We’re starting our beta test programme for R9 and beyond,” she told me on Thursday April 3rd, “And we’re going to move to a release often and early policy rather than a HUGE update once a blue moon.”
Catznip R9 has been in development for some time and is approaching a point where it will be released in the near future. With R8 having been released in July 2013, the news of a more rapid release cycle is going to be good news for Catznip users.
Catznip runs both alpha and beta testing programmes, and details of both can be found on the Catznip wiki. However, in short:
The alpha group is to test very early versions of the viewer, and membership is by invitation only
The beta programme is not designed as an early means of gaining access to the viewer. Like alpha versions of the viewer, betas of Catznip are also liable to be incomplete, may have stability issues and will not be suitable for use as a primary viewer.
Those wishing to join the beta programme must be willing to comply with the following:
Use Catznip as their primary viewer
Be willing to undertake extensive (and repeated testing) of the viewer and viewer features
Have an account on the Catznip JIRA and be able submit reports
Be willing to accept forced updates and have personal settings wiped
Preferably have a dual-boot Windows / Linux system and know what GDB is.
Instructions on how to sign-up as a Catznip beta tester can also be found on the Catznip wiki.
In reference to the next release (R9), the Catnip wiki states:
Catznip R9 is mostly feature complete, there are a couple of little bits we really want to get in if we can … The OSX version may be slightly delayed … cross your fingers.
Catznip R9 will have materials, new particles and fitted mesh from Linden Lab.
The major delay in getting the release prepped and out has been down to CHUI (LL’s Communications Hub User Interface), which had a number of unexpected impacts on viewer performance. As a result, Catznip have implemented a new chat interface, which they describe as:
Using a mixture of R8 and the best CHUI elements. The new chat interface is fast and tight with all the bells and whistles you expect (and maybe .. a few brand new ones).
There is currently no release date for the R9 version, but I’ll hopefully carry a review when it is launched.
Catznip slipped out R8 on June 11th. I actually missed it, as it appears the redirector to their wiki page was still pointing to the old blog, so when checking I was still seeing R7 as the last release; so I was a little surprised to check the link this evening and end-up at the Catnip wiki and see Catznip R8 sitting there and purring at me!
Anyway, the important thing is the release is here and sees Catznip join the ranks of Server-side / Appearance ready SL viewers, gain pathfinding functionality and become the latest viewer to offer full Havok support, as a part of the Lab’s Havok sub-licensing arrangement. As well as these two major updates, R8 gets a number of improvements and bug fixes.
Server-side Baking / Appearance
Not actually a lot to say here, other than “it works”!
When tested on an SSB/A enabled region, Catznip R8 rendered my Crash Test Alt (running on the official SL viewer, which is SSB/A ready) and my avatar correctly, as did the official SL viewer. No grey ghosts or clouds with either.
Pathfinding and Havok Sub-licensing
A major element missing for the last Catznip release – R7 – was pathfinding support. This wasn’t because the Catznip team have anything against pathfinding; they simply found time working against them, as I noted in my R7 review:
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.
R8 rectifies this. Not only does it provide the expected Linksets and Characters options, Catznip R8 becomes the latest SL viewer to sign-up to the Havok sub-licence agreement, meaning it also gains the ability to visualise the navmesh when working with pathfinding.
A further benefit with the agreement is that Catznip can also use the official Havok-powered mesh uploader.
In addition, Catznip sees the following added / updated:
Addition of a “Per user” option to the “Show friends permissions” in the friends gear menu to always show non-default permissions
Addition of an Edit Hover button functionality to show the shape editor, scrolled down to the “Hover” wearable param
Addition of a further toolbar at the top of the world view
Addition of a Close All Folders button to the inventory outfits view toolbar
Addition of alignment options to toolbar buttons. Those at the bottom of the screen can be centred or left or right aligned, while those to the side can be aligned to the top or bottom of the screen as well as in the centre.
changed : highlight the currently worn outfit folder in bold
changed : rearrange the avatar inspector to add extra lines to the profile description
one extra line added by default through layout changes
two extra lines are added by expanding the textbox to fill the volume slider space if voice is disabled
changed : report more useful information about memory state in case of a crash
changed : allow multiple crashes to be selected in the “Crash reporting” preferences panel.
There are also a number of bug fixes which have been implemented by the Catznip team and / as a result of fixes coming out of the Lab; there are also a number of updates to RLV/a. For details on all of these, please refer to the R8 release notes.
This isn’t a huge update compared to others, but it marks a significant step forward for Catznip both with the Havok su-licence support and, most importantly, the SSB/A support. I also have to admit I like the button alignment options (something we’re unlikely to see in the official viewer, but which is so very handy in making screen space more usable.
Given this release is to ready Catznip for the grid-wide deployment of Server-side Baking / Appearance, it is strongly recommended that if you are a Catznip user and have not updated, that you do so ASAP.
Performance-wise, Catznip R8 on my PC offers around the same performance as most viewer releases over the past few months. Running with Advanced Lighting Model off while in my home region with around four other avatars, FPS varies from the high 20 through the high 40s, depending on my altitude. When running with Advanced Lighting Model enabled but no shadows enabled, rates tend to range from the low teens through to high teens / low 20s.
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.
Just as I pushed out the weekly Viewer round-up, Kitty and the gang slipped out Catznip R6, which nicely compliments (and perhaps complements!) R5. My timing sucketh.
R6, based on LL 3.2.7 code, is a maintenance release that fixes a range of bugs and gives Group management some love and attention and well as adding other nibbles to enjoy.
Changes to Group Notices
If you’re constantly pushing out Group Notices, you’re liable to like this. You can now create a Group Notice without having to open Group information first. Simply display your Group list (COMMUNICATE->GROUPS or CTRL-SHIFT-G), right-click on the name of the Group for which you wish to create a notice and select CREATE NOTICE. You can still create Notices in the usual way as well – via the Group information floater itself, but the menu option is liable to be a timesaver.
Nor does it end there. Rather than being confined to the Group floater, the Create Notice option now gets a floater of its own, meaning that when used with the new menu short cut, less screen real estate is used-up. All the functionality associated with raising a Group Notice is retained, and the floater can be resized to suit your needs while writing.
Viewing a Group’s archive of Notices is now also easier, thanks to another addition to the contact menu: simply right-click on a Group in your list and select VIEW NOTICES to immediately display the history of recent Notices for the Group in the Group floater.
Staying the Groups, the Group toast has been reworked for greater clarity with:
The details of the notice sender and Group are now displayed on separate lines and are clickable – clicking the Group name will open the Group’s profile; clicking the sender’s name will open their personal profile
The number of visible lines in the Notice has been increased from 7 to 10 for better readability
The date is displayed in a smaller font to provide better separation between it and the notice title and the main body of text.
Finally, Groups get a handful of bug fixes, as detailed in the release notes.
R6 brings with it additional Windlight options and a nicely cleaned-up list (WORD->ENVIRONMENT SETTINGS->CUSTOMIZE MY ENVIRONMENT->FIXED SKY) which includes creators’ attributions wherever possible, which is a nice acknowledgement to see. TBH, I can’t specify which of the list are new – as I’ve never actually looked at what was there to start with in Catznip (shame on me, I know), but the release notes refers to them as a “huge stack”, so there should be a lot for regulars to enjoy.
Elsewhere there are nips and tucks – the delay that may be experienced when right-clicking and . or editing an object has gone, so menus, etc. immediately respond, issues around the multi-line chat freezing the word view have been corrected, etc.
Chat also sees any character opening the chat bar or focusing on Nearby Chat when WASD is set to start typing. All I can say on that is “Three cheers!” As someone who has her WASD set for typing rather than movement, the tendency for some Viewers to ignore various keys has been a source of considerable teeth-grinding…
As updates go, this may well appear to be a small one, but it again demonstrates that Catznip remains highly innovative in examining how people actually use the Viewer and its UI on a daily basis and in seeking ways and means to make common tasks easier to access and get on with.
Catznip R5 (3.2.1), available for Windows and Linux is released today with some rather smart features.This was apparently intended to be a maintenance release, but things grew as work progressed to the point where it became a release in it own right. It’s based on the V3.2.7 code base (“ish”, as the Catznip blog puts it), and so should include some of the latest Shining fixes from LL to reach the Viewer code repositories.
The Windows installer weighs-in at just a touch over 26Mb – par for the course for most V3.2-based Viewers nowadays, and installation is pretty much as expected as well. no unpleasant surprises, just accept the licence and away you go. As usual, I opted for a completely clean install, including the manual deletion of all user-related folders, although this isn’t listed as an explicit requirement for the release.
Mini (Location Bar) Moves
On start-up, everything appears pretty much as usual: the familiar V3.2 FUI, buttons ranged to the left and along the bottom of the screen, the mini-Destination Guide open by default. Nothing special here, it would seem. However, as we all know, looks can be deceptive.
That the Navigation Bar can be switched with the Mini-location Bar is common knowledge among V3 users. Usually when this is done, the Mini-Location bar replaces the Navigation Bar, occupying the same space beneath the Menu Bar, but shunted to the left of the screen, hence earning the name “mini”. However, Catznip offers-up more screen real-estate to users by placing the Mini-location Bar within the Menu bar and the top of the screen. Additionally, users have the options to hide either or both of the BUY L$ and the Marketplace SHOP buttons.
Both the move of the Mini-location Bar (which will dynamically resize as the Viewer Window is resized) and the ability to hide the buttons are well-considered. The former gives a modest increase in screen real estate while the latter are likely to be appreciated by those who either don’t buy their Linden Dollars through the Viewer, or who prefer to access the Marketplace directly through a Browser bookmark. Moving the maturity rating to a clearly visible icon within the Mini-location Bar is also a smart move.
Chat and Spell
This release brings some nice additional options to Nearby Chat. Right-clicking on the Chat Bar itself reveals new menu items: the ability to switch between a single-line and multi-line chat bar and to change the displayed font size in Nearby Chat on-the-fly, together with the ability to reveal blocked chat (from muted avatars). Both the single/multi-line Chat Bar and the font size options will update the options in the relevant Preferences tabs (Catznip->Chat and Chat respectively).
Alongside of these, although it is not at all obvious from using the Viewer, is a completely re-written in-line Spell Check. For those that aren’t aware, Kitty volunteered her services in order to bring the Spell Check to the official Viewer, and the re-write present in this release of Catznip represents part of this ongoing work. The core changes to the in-line checker comprise:
added : ‘Second Life glossary’ dictionary (enabled by default)
fixed : overwriting existing text won’t trigger a new spell check
fixed : opening an existing modifiable notecard doesn’t always show existing misspellings
fixed : scrolling through a notecard can hide all misspellings
fixed : squiggly lines aren’t centered on the misspelled word (fixed for LLTextEditor)
(from the Catznip blog)
This release brings with it a tidy-up of the General settings tab in Preferences, and sees the Notifications options moved to their own sub-tab under Catznip, together with additional items, but little in the way of other major changes in layout.
A lack of widespread updates to Preferences shouldn’t be seen as a sign that Viewer isn’t still growing a developing – as the next section shows, Catznip is being constantly enhanced. A stable Preferences floater is more a sign that the Viewer is maturing in a stable, smooth manner.
The major new addition to Catznip is the Script Recovery feature. To quote from the Catznip blog:
“Ever crash or get logged out while editing a script and then lose all your work?
“Following a crash or forced disconnect you’re now presented with a dialog offering to recover the scripts you had open.
“This works for all scripts, everywhere, and as we found out while trying to take the screenshot for this release, is very robust and persistent. It won’t go away till you either recover or dismiss it .. even if you crash.”
Script Recovery works by locally auto-saving open scripts every 60 seconds. Should the Viewer crash, scripts are presented to the user via the floater shown above, and optionally recovered to lost & found folder. Further:
The backup copy is only saved when the editor isn’t pristine
The backup copy is removed when the script has been successfully uploaded, or when the floater is closed.
Once would anticipate this finding favour among scripters, and is liable to be picked up by other TPVs down the line. However, full kudos and credit to Kitty and the Catznip team from bringing it into being.
Other Nips and Tucks
RLVa is overhauled with this release, with a number of FUI-induced bugs being eliminated. Specific updates include:
changed : flipped “RLVaEnableSharedWear” on by default
fixed : disabling a toolbar button doesn’t block the button’s commit signal
fixed : LLFloaterReg::toggleInstanceOrBringToFront() bypasses the blocked folder list and the validation signal
fixed : region “alerts” aren’t show location or show names filtered
fixed : various issues and enhancements relating to @showloc
fixed : the RLV API renames “Avatar Center” to “Root”
(from the Catznip blog)
Group Moderation gets a Catznip boost – with this release it is possible to directly remove someone from a Group by opening the Group Participants list and right-clicking against an individual name – the eject option will appear in the context menu.
There are a number of other nips and tucks to the Viewer which can be seen listed in the official blog post on the release.
Performance and Opinion
Based on 3.2.7 (or thereabouts), this release of Catznip runs extremely well on my standard PC; in fact, Catznip, as with Exodus, has tended to run somewhat better than other TPVs as a rule anyway; I’ve no idea why – it simply seems to like my PC. This release tends to continue the trend, and puts Catznip, tested against the current 220.127.116.11086 V3.2 release on the same sim with the same avatar load (albeit with different screen layouts, yadda, yadda), gave a pretty good run for itself in default mode – averaging some 32-33fps on the ground with 5 other avatars on the same sim while about 8-10fps faster at 390m. Enabling deferred and shadows easily halved these figures – with ground rates only just managing to stay in double figures.
Overall, another release that solidly builds on Catznip’s reputation, and which includes another series of smartly convenient extras that make the UI even more convenient to use in terms of direct access to functions and options. Not being a hard-core scripter, I have no idea how often crashes feature in terms of lost work, but as stated above, those that script from directly within the Viewer are liable to appreciate the Script Recovery function should they find their Viewer vanishing on them unexpectedly.
Catznip migrates to the V3 FUI with release of version 3.2.0, which comes in two flavours: R3 (without the LL OpenGL fixes) and R4 (with the fixes). Unlike the recent Dolphin and Niran’s releases, the release doesn’t add any new button positions or button options to the FUI, but instead offers some very nice features elsewhere.
The 3.2.0 R4 release installed without a hitch, and on launching displayed the now-familiar FUI, with almost all the buttons active by default, occupying the left and bottom sides of the window (only ABOUT LAND, BUILD, MAP, PICKS, PREFERENCES and SNAPSHOT are excluded).
The most obvious new feature added to Catznip is that rather natty “collapse” button on the majority of panels / floaters. If you are using several panels and simply want them out of the way, but not actually closed (as you’re still using them), this button causes the selected panel / floater to collapse into a single line, allowing you to “stack” a number of panels and quickly swtch back and forth between them.Collapsed panels can be aligned to the top side of the screen (e.g. under the Navigation / Favourites Bar, if you use it), allowing you to present yourself with an alternative means of accessing those panels / floaters you routinely use.
Other key changes comprise:
“ChatTimestampSeconds” setting has been included to show seconds in chat timestamps (for nearby chat and instant messages)
An active group title drop-down to the group side panel tab, with the “” entry keeping the group active, but hiding the group title from your nametag
“Wear on Current Outfit” option has been added to the inventory category context menu; (replace) wears all items in the folder similarly to selecting all items and right-click “Wear”
The Me menu has been revised to include a new option to open profile Picks directly, and to include the SET AWAY and SET BUSY options (no longer in a submenu as with V3) – see right
An “Expiration” and a “Clear History” option have been added to the recent people history gear menu
Optional skins have been removed from the installation folder
As well as making your own Picks directly accessible from the Me menu, the panel can now be displayed from your avatar context menu by right-clicking on your avatar and selecting MY PICKS from the context menu.
Preferences UI Updates
The PREFERENCES->CATZNIP–>UI tab has been extended to include a range of options, including:
Whether or not the “collapse” button described above should be displayed in floaters and panels
The ability to have the chiclet bar and / or notifications displayed at the top or bottom right of the screen
Whether item properties open in a separate floater or the inventory panel
The ability to set display lifetimes (seconds) for script permissions and notification
Elsewhere Catznip sports the new translation options in PREFERENCES->CHAT (no surprises there) and gains the new snapshot floater that includes the option to upload snaps directly to your web profile feed.
On my PC, pretty much in line with the most recent V3 release and the likes of Dolphin 3.2. Frame rates on a sim with 5 other avatars hovered in the mid-teens, dropping sharply to single figures with shadows enabled. I have encountered a few problems in terms of settings not persisting between relogs (graphics would default back to HIGH and 128m Draw distance, while the Destination Guide insists it is open on my screen with each log-in). Other preferences (spell check language, button changes, etc), all persisted without incident.
Yet another great Viewer from Kitty, with some very nice touches – did you know for example, that you can teleport directly from a landmark contained in a notecard in Catznip? Just open the notecard and right-click on the LM. Touches like this make Catznip fun to use (although I don’t use it nearly enough to discover all of them), and the move to the FUI, coupled with both popular TPV options (such as radar and Kitty’s own spell check) and the enhancements described here (as well as a number of bug fixes), continue to ensure Catznip presents a viable and well-considered alternative to the official viewer.