Group Tools: website revamp

GT-logoGroup Tools, the Windows-based third-party client aimed at users who need to manage large groups in terms of regular notices, group-wide IMs, or operate a region greeter bot, etc., updated on December 28th to version 2.2.26.

With it  – or quite possibly before the update, as I’ve not visited the Group Tools website since my week 51 viewer release summary – came a revamp to the Group Tools website itself, which very much helps to put information clearly and cleanly before people unfamiliar with the client.

I last looked at Group Tools itself in September 2012. The client has been through several iterations since then, so I’ve no idea how relevant that review is compared to the current version. Because Group Tools requires the purchase of a licence, and I don’t actually have any specific need for the client, I’ve not actually subscribed to the services in order to keep up-to-date. As a result, and given there are no publicly available release notes for updates, it’s a little hard for the likes of me to keep track of changes to the client as they are released.

The revamped Group Tools wesbites is cleaner and easier to read
The revamped Group Tools wesbite is cleaner and easier to read

I have tended to poke my nose into the website on a weekly basis, however, if only to check for application updates for my weekly viewer release summaries, which is why I copped the changes to the site this week.

The amount of information – with a couple of possible exceptions – in the site hasn’t overly changed; however, the layout has, and the result is a series of web pages which are easier to read, have improved navigation (the left-side menus would appear easier to read than the old white-on-blue menus), and the site appears to benefit somewhat from smoother loading – although that could be purely a placebo effect on my part. Some of the individual pages lack clear subject headings, it’s true, and the text could perhaps benefit from a little more white spacing between lines, but these really are minor niggles on my part; overall the look is very sharp and pleasing to the eye.

The two possible exceptions to the information presented appear to be the Support Ticket area and the updated FAQ area. I’m a little cautious as to calling these part of the revamp, as it is entirely possible they’ve been part of the website for at least a couple of months, and I’ve simply messed them when visiting it – although neither appear to have been there prior to late October. So if they are new, they’re likely to be very welcome for established users and those coming to Group Tools for the first time.

One thing I would personally like to see added to the site are details of updates to the client alongside of the downloads. While it may well be that such details are sent to registered users of Group Tools when an update is available, having them also recorded on the website, either as formal release notes or simply as a bullet-list of key changes, would also be of benefit both to registered users and to parties potentially interested in the client.

If you are a Group Tools users and haven’t seen the updated website, it might be worth hopping over and taking a quick look. In the meantime, for those unfamiliar with the application, here’s an introductory video.

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Group tools: giving notice to people

Group Tools is a Windows client for Second Life specifically designed for those who need to send out group notices or IM messages simultaneously across a number of groups.

Rather than having to create individual notices for each group, or copy & paste a message multiple times into different group IM sessions, Group Tools allows you to set up a single message (with attachments, if required) as a notice, as an IM or both, to all groups you have determined should receive the information. As such, the client is aimed towards people like entertainers, large event organisers, venue owners, and so on, who may operate multiple groups which need to receive the same information, or are members of multiple groups to which they frequently send the same information.

To achieve its goals, Group Tools is designed to be used with an alt account, which is treated as an in-world bot for the sending of messages. So to make effective use of the client, you will either require an alt account which can be used in this way, or create one specifically for use with Group Tools. The bot itself needs to be a member of all the groups to which you regularly send IMs and notices (ans will require permission to send out notices in the case of the latter), and be logged into SL via Group Tools in order to send messages as required. To add flexibility, Group Tools includes the concept of an “Operator’s Group”, which allows those you trust to be able to send out notices / IMs through the bot (they do not need to be running Group Tools).

Account Registration

Group Tools is unusual in that it requires an account registration process and a licence fee payment in order to be used. The registering account should be your main account, which is used to manage your bots, and not any account you intend to use as a bot. Accounts are registered in-world at the Group Tools office.

Licence fees can be purchased on an in perpetuity basis (one payment only) or on a monthly renewable basis. For those wishing to try-out Group Tools, a free one week trail period is available, which provides access to Group Tools in full. Licence prices can be found on the Group Tools website, as can the Privacy Policy, which is a recommended read.

Registration will also supply you with a sample notecard which can be used as a template to help with formatting your own message notecards.

Once you have registered, you’re ready to download Group Tools (if you’ve not already done so), and set-up your bot(s).

Download and Install

The Group Tools download .EXE is 7.56Mb in size, and should install OK once downloaded. However, issues have been reported using Norton Internet Security, and guidelines have been posted on the Group Tools website for those who may encounter similar problems.

Control Centre

Group Tools comprises two parts: the Control Centre, used to set-up bots and log them into Second Life, and the Client Window, where specific operations can be carried out.

Launching Group Tools displays the Control Centre screen which you use to define your bot(s). Bots are set-up using the account name / password for an SL account and linking them to the registered  Master account. Account names are entered with a period between the first and last name, not a space (i.e. “Inara.Pey”, not “Inara Pey”).

Control Centre screen as it appears before any bots have been defined

Once this initial information has been entered, SAVE BOT should be clicked. This will create a dedicated bot account within Group Tools, complete with a Group Tools-specific password, which is quite separate to the bot’s SL password (and so cannot be used to log-in to SL with the bot via other means). Clicking SAVE BOT will also refresh the Control Centre screen to display a SETTINGS button next to the bot’s name. Clicking on this opens a tabbed panel (below), allowing further options to be set for the bot.

Updated log-in screen for a saved bot

The Settings tab comprises options to:

  • Set a default log-in location for the bot when using Group Tools
  • Allow the bot to automatically sit on a defined prim (useful if the bot is logged-in to a busy area and you do not what it to be an obstacle to traffic – just supply the UUID of the prim on which the bot is to sit)
  • Assign the bot to an Operators Group – see below.
  • Set whether or not Group Tools should start and log-in to SL using the bot whenever you start Windows.

The Misc tab allow you to set various options, including:

  • Whether or not the bot can accept friendship offers from anyone or just from operators
  • Whether the bot can use money
  • An automatic IM reply sent in response to incoming IMs
  • How inventory offers are received by the bot.

Once you have set / changed any of these options for a bot, make sure you click SAVE BOT to ensure the settings are correctly stored by Group Tools.

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