Niran’s Viewer turns 2

NiranV Dean has been back working on Niran’s Viewer, and in doing so has lifted the viewer to version 2.0 with a number of initial Betas. On Wednesday October 24th, he made a final release, 2.0.2185, which he calls Niran’s Viewer Rebooted, given the amount of additional work put into it, which finally saw him bypass his planned 1.5 release.

As the last release of Niran’s Viewer in these pages was version 1.46, the following will touch on elements previously released in 1.47 – 1.49 as well.

Download and Installation

The download file remains an archive EXE, rather than an actual installer, and is just on 50MB in size. It will extract the files into a default directory Nirans Viewer in C:\Program Files. If you’ve had a previous version of Niran’s Viewer installed, it is strongly recommended that you remove it first, together with all cache and settings files. The viewer itself has no uninstaller, some removal is a matter of deleting the program folder. The locations for all three are:

  • Viewer: C:\Program Files\NiransViewer (delete this entire folder)
  • Cache: C:\Users\[user name] \AppData\Local\NiransViewer (delete this folder)
  • Settings: C:\Users\[user name] \AppData\Roaming\NiransViewer (delete this folder and all sub-folders inside).

First Time Running

Once you’ve made your initial keyboard camera preferences selection, the log-in screen features a new video from NiranV. I have to admit, I’m curious as to the music track and whether it is taken from something or original, as I rather like the keyboard arrangement in it.

Watch a video while entering your login credentials

You may get an anti-virus alert relating to the SLVOICE.EXE plugin – if you do, make sure that it is the plugin being referenced and clear it. The log-in splash screen is again liable to be something of a surprise to first-time users. There is no familiar splash screen feed from Linden Lab here. Instead, and providing you’re running flash, there’s a YouTube video NiranV has put together and which will play while you enter your log-in credentials in the panel to the right.

Note that Niran’s Viewer isn’t intended for use on OpenSim, so the other grids selection is limited to the SL Agni (main) and Aditi (Beta) grids. Once you’ve entered your you log-in credentials, you’re treated to a series of hints and tips as the viewer logs-in to Second Life.

Preferences Overlay

Niran’s alternative to the usual Preferences floater started appearing in version 1.46 of the viewer, where he referred to it as his “Skyrim influence”. It’s slowly been maturing through a number of releases since then, and with version 2.0, it completely replaces the old Preferences floater, which is no longer available within the viewer.

Accessed via the Preferences toolbar button, CTRL-P or NV->EDIT->PREFERENCES, the overlay does exactly what it says – overlays the in-world view.

Preferences Overlay with a submenu displayed

To the left of the overlay are the main options: Display, Audio Controls, Camera, Chat, User, Interface and Viewer. Depending on the complexity of the screens / options associated with this, clicking on one of them may display a panel directly, or may open-up a sub-menu of further options which in turn will open up individual panels on the right of the overlay.

Preferences overlay with an open panel

Please use the page numbers below left to continue reading this article

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Niran’s Viewer 1.46: the Skyrim influence

Niran’s Viewer continues to be updated on a weekly basis, with various new ideas being tried out. Version 1.46 sees an interesting take on the viewer Preferences, and as such, I thought it worth a look, as well as providing an update on some of the changes occurring in recent releases.

Download and Installation – 1.46

The x64 download weighed-in at just over 41Mb

On starting the viewer the first time, I received a virus threat warning for SLPlugin.exe. This tends to be a frequent false positive for the likes of Nortons, but rarer with AVG; this is one of the few times I have had the warning flagged.

New Preferences Layout

The most significant change within this release is to Preferences. As well as including the main Preferences floater (NV->FILE->PREFERENCES or CTRL-P), NiranV has included an experimental Preferences overlay, which can be accessed via the F2 key (you will have to re-assign any gesture using F2 to another key in order for this to work).

“Skyrim”-style approach to Preferences

NiranV describes this as his “Skyrim inspired” approach to Preferences – and I have to say that, overall, I like the concept.

Right now, the option is clearly experimental and offers access to a limited set of Preferences options, so it is a little hard to judge as to how well it will scale and whether it will provide improved access to all Preferences options. However, the potential would appear to be there – and the ability to use the entire screen rather than a defined floater area would appear to offer significant advantages in terms of information presentation. As it stands, my only potential critiques of the approach is that:

  • Some of the text within the Preferences is poorly defined against the background (this has been something of a problem in general with Preferences in the viewer)
  • Some people might not like the fact that in using an overlay in this manner they cannot access other on-screen floaters (such as being able to IM others with Preferences open). A way around this might be to offer a toggle switch allowing users to display Preferences either as an overlay or as a “traditional” floater
Readability issues exacerbated?

I’m personally not so bothered by the second issue as I am by the first; elements of Preferences in Niran’s Viewer have always been hard to read at times, although swapping skins has tended to alleviate the problem. However, everything in the overlay Preferences is displayed on a relatively dark background which tends to mask some text in the displays very well (see the image above), exacerbating the problem of legibility.

Nevertheless, I’ll be watching to see how this idea develops over time, and how NiranV translates-over the use of multiple sub-tabs within a panel (e.g. incorporates the RLVa and  Setup sub-tabs into Viewer, for example).

Server-side Avatar Baking

This release of Niran’s viewer includes a debug setting to “enable” server-side avatar baking. As this service is not actually available at present – and is unlikely to be rolled-out for least another 4-to-6 months – it is probably worthwhile pointing out that enabling the debug setting will not alter the way in which your avatar is baked.

Other Recent Updates

The following is a summary of the significant changes made to Niran’s Viewer since I last blogged on it:

  • 1.40: saw the machinima sidebar (released in 1.39) modified so it slides over the Ui, rather than shunting things to one side (a-la the original Viewer 2 Sidebar); the Picks and Places floaters were added to NV->EDIT
  • 1.41: primarily saw the update / addition of Windlight presets
  • 1.42: local chat fixes to show the speaking indicator correctly; toggle check box added to the Machinima Sidebar for easy switching between Region default and Custom Windlight
  • 1.43:  ability to sat the time after which the Navigation bar will auto-hide; new World Map layout; ability to right-click/zoom to People floater for avatars within draw distance; alignment with LL’s code releases
Niran’s updated World Map
  • 1.44: replaced rendering engine with the current Linden Lab rendering code; addition of spell checking.

Performance (1.46)

Performance has been a mixed bag for me with this viewer – and NiranV Dean has some comments in the release notes for 1.46 on the subject. Overall, performance on my usual system & with the usual settings (see the panel on the right of the home page of this blog), I had the following results, based on my home sim with 4 other avatars present. With deferred / shadows and lighting disabled: ground level: 14-17fps; 370m: 35-39fps; 2875m: 48-50fps. With shadows and lighting enabled: ground level: 7-9fps; 370m: 11-12fps; 2875m 13-14fps. All of this was remarkably consistent, and only slightly lower in all cases than I’ve experienced of late with other viewers.

Related Links

Niran’s Viewer: return of the sidebar

Today sees Niran’s Viewer release 1.39 hit the grid, the latest in NiranV Dean’s weekly roll-outs which started shortly after the latest time I ran a major review of the Viewer (version 1.33). Given the Viewer is now on a weekly release cycle that sees smaller, more incremental changes made to it that may not easily lend themselves to in-depth reviews, I thought I’d provide a summary of the major features that have been rolling-out with the last few releases (1.34 through 1.39).

Start-up Options

Version 1.35 introduced a new start-up splash screen, displayed automatically when running the Viewer for the first time. This screen builds on the “classic” and “shooter/RPG” keyboard layout options introduced in Version 1.33.

Keyboard layout options introduced in ver 1.33

With Version 1.35, those using Niran’s Viewer for the first time are offered the choice of keyboard layouts via an initial splash screen. Note that as Shooter / RPG is the default layout, selecting Classic requires the Viewer is restarted before logging-in.

New initial splash screen displayed on starting Niran’s Viewer (Version 1.35+) for the first time

Once selected, the splash screen changes to display the usual login-in screen with background movie. Once logged-in, the keyboard layout can still be changed via Preferences->User Options ->Advanced once the Viewer was started, although a Viewer restart is required to completed the swap.

Version 1.37 further enhanced this capability by adding a LAYOUT SELECTION option to display the log-in splash screen choices, making it easier to switch between layouts prior to logging-in to SL (Viewer restart still required).

Version 1.39 also adds audio to the log-in screen, so that the video, called “Sad World”, displayed on the log-in splash screen now has an audible soundtrack. If you’ve not watched the video with sound before, it’s really worth stopping on your way into Niran’s Viewer and doing so – the soundtrack adds significant depth to the video.

Return of the Sidebar!

Machinima Sidebar

When Viewer 2 came out, the Sidebar was – frankly – a royal mess. The intent was good, but given it came from a company that self-proclaims itself to be “interface design specialists” (80/20.com), the actual implementation was potentially the biggest pile of fetid dingo’s kidneys ever to obliterate people’s in-world experience of Second Life.

It may have provided an “unforgettable experience” (again an 80/20.com boast) – but one that could hardly be more negative in terms of user reactions to it. Whoever at Linden Lab was responsible for accepting it should have been taken outside – and never allowed back in to the Lab’s offices.

However, over time (and largely thanks to TPVs showing the way), the Sidebar evolved and actually became something pretty usable – and it is fair to say that since it’s demise, it has been sorely missed by a lot of people. I freely admit that there are elements of it I miss…

Now, Version 1.39 of Niran’s Viewer sees the Sidebar make something of a return, in the form of the Machinima Options.

Activated using the F1 key, the new Sidebar takes the form of a full-height panel that gracefully slides out from the right side of the screen. With this release, it gently moves chiclets and buttons to the left as well, but Niran plans to make the panel an overlay with the next release, so it will slide OVER chiclets and button, rather than moving them.

The panel is admittedly a bit of a monster, but for those into photography and machinima, provides a fast way of accessing and adjusting options on-the-fly. Looking at it, I’d personally like to see the capability extended to include other options – perhaps via tabbed access built-in to the panel at the top, or down the side, a-la Viewer 2 (but with the tabs themselves completely hidden as a part of the panel, rather than sitting on the right of the of your in-world view, a-la Viewer 2).

NiranV has provided a video demonstrating how the panel will look when it is working as an overlay:

Achievements

Version 1.36 introduced “Achievements” to the Viewer. This is a light-hearted means of emulating RPG-type “achievements” gained through the use of the Viewer. As you perform certain tasks, etc., so they are highlighted in a list you can view via NV->View->Earned Achievements, and colour awards are given.

The system isn’t intended to offer anything substantial – just some light-hearted fun.

Other Nips and Tucks

  • Version 1.34: corrected a double-click to teleport on the minimap so that double-click does teleport you to the point on the map you click, rather than opening the world map
  • Version 1.35: introduced split-line titles on notifiers, etc., to enable easier reading (continued in some of the later releases as well)
  • Version 1.36:
    • Tweaked the UI so that when the Navigation Bar, etc., at the top of the screen is set to auto-hide, any UI buttons located at the top of the screen will automatically re-align against the upper limit of the window, and then drop back down below the Navigation Bar when that latter is displayed
    • Introduced a dynamically re-sizing Group Notice panel within the Group floater, making the composition of longer Notices easier
    • Re-added the Restore to Last Position option to the menu when right-clicking on items in inventory.
  • Version 1.37: stabilised mesh rendering
  • Version 1.38:
    • Added spinners to Windlight floater settings
    • Re-working of the Picks and Classified floaters
  • Version 1.39: revised teleport progress to render the UI while teleporting – further updates coming on this.

In addition, each release has seen a range of additional small updates and bug fixes, and I recommend those that haven’t kept pace with updates take a look at Niran’s blog and the change logs provided there.

Performance

I did not update to versions 1.34 through 1.36. However, versions 1.37 through 1.39 continue to run well on my older-spec PC (see the home page on this blog for details & for my usual test parameters). Frame rates easily matched version 1.33, so it is now only my personal preferences vis-a-vis UI and layout that keep me from using Niran’s Viewer full-time.

The fact that the Viewer is now on a weekly release cycle means the changes being made are now more incremental than radical, but this is no bad thing, NiranV is clearly enhancing and refining what works and focusing on those areas his users are giving solid feedback on. This doesn’t mean that new features aren’t being developed – the Sidebar approach shows that – but it does mean that the Viewer’s development path is liable to be more of a gentle curve, again as one would expect from any maturing product.

Of all the recent updates, 1.35-1.39 inclusive, it is the Sidebar that fascinates me the most. This offers significant opportunities in providing access to a lot of Viewer functionality and of addressing the wants and needs of those who lament the passing of the later iterations of the Sidebar (oddly enough, and while I hated the Sidebar initially, I’m one of the latter, having come to find it exceptionally handy as implemented in TPVs such at Kirsten’s and Firestorm). My only complaint with recent releases is that the version numbering is somewhat out-of-sequence between the blog and the Viewer itself; for example: the latest release outlined here is referred to as release “1.39 (1277)” in the blog, however, HELP in the Viewer refers to it as release 3.3.5 (1277). The last two or three releases have been the same. While this is a minor niggle, it would be nice to see consistency in version numbering.

Related Links

Niran’s 1.33: super smooth and totally flexible

Update, April 30th: Niran has released a fix for the pink texture issue affecting those using ATi graphics systems. Details are on his website, with a download link.

Earlier this month I took a quick look at the Preview Release of Niran’s Viewer 1.33, focusing on the UI work NiranV Dean has been carrying out within the release – part of an ongoing project to provide a more efficient Viewer front-end. Today sees the launch for the final version of 1.33, and in NiranV’s own words, this is a “major, major release” for a wide range of reasons. As promised in my last report on the Viewer, I’ve taken time to have a nice, long play with the Windows version.

TPVD Listing

First and foremost, after a long and incredible development curve, Niran’s Viewer has been accepted for listing in the Third-party Viewer Directory and should appear there in the next week or so – congratulations to Niran on all the work that has gone into the Viewer, and to Tarnix for the development of the Linux version.

Two Versions

The 1.33 release comes in two flavours: without and with the Mesh Parametric Deformer. The reason for this is simple, the code doesn’t set well with the Viewer – which might be, as NiranV acknowledges, due to issues with the Deformer working on his development hardware, but which could also be related to conflicts between the code and the Viewer’s rendering pipe. However, as NiranV notes in his blog: “You should be able to experience the Deformer mostly normal if you activate Deferred, Shadows and Ambient Occlusion, meaning that the separate release is only for those who can run [in this mode] and [who] want to test it to give Qarl Feedback.”

Installation

The Windows installer package weighs-in at 40Mb, and now creates a desktop shortcut icon (yay! no more hunting through Explorer and shunting bits around). Installation itself is, as always, fast and smooth, with the change log displayed in the opening window for those who are curious but who haven’t actually delved into Niran’s blog to read the information there.

On start-up, and for the first time with Niran’s Viewer, I did encounter a virus threat warning from AVG. This is something that is not uncommon among Viewers, with a number of TPVs (and the odd release of the Official Viewer) throwing up warnings on occasion. It certainly be taken to mean the Viewer is up to mischief. LL themselves provide some guidance on avoiding false threats. As the alert was related to the slplugin.exe file (a common cause of false virus alerts), I felt confident in marking the alert as a false flag and continuing.

The UI

As mentioned above, the User Interface is very much one of the focal points of NiranV’s work on the Viewer, and I took a look at some of the upcoming features in my overview of the initial Preview release. As such this is the logical place to start with this look.

The first noticeable thing with this release is the on logging-in the UI is extremely clean and minimal. with both bars and buttons only appearing at the top of the window, rather than the top and left, as with earlier versions.

UI: functionally minimalist

The buttons displayed by default are Speak, Voice, People, Picks, Places, View, Inventory and Appearance, which represent an interesting mix and which, in a nod to Kirsten’s Viewer, are initially displayed in “S19” format. There’s still no option to left/right align buttons either at the top or the bottom of the window (or to the top/bottom of the window if you place buttons on either side of your world view), so I’ll keep pestering NiranV on this :).

If I’m totally honest, the top button bar is something I’m personally not overly keen on: when active, it actually blocks the uppermost section of the screen from use, so you can’t “dock” (or more correctly in the case of the 3.2 FUI align) floaters with the top bars: there will always be a gap. But this is just a personal niggle on my part.

A nice touch with Niran’s Viewer, for those who don’t use the top of the window for anything at all, is the ability to hide the Navigation Bar, etc., at the top of the screen completely when not in use (the mini-Location bar is automatically displayed in its place) by setting Preferences->User Interface Options->UI Customisation->HIDE TOPBAR AUTOMATICALLY. Introduced a couple of releases ago, this is still something I like rather a lot, given I don’t use the top button bar.

In terms of the button options, Niran’s Viewer presents pretty much the standard set of buttons that come with the Official Viewer, so there is not the massive range of buttons that are displayed by other TPVs – which itself isn’t really a problem. One Button that does make its debut with this release is the SCRIPT button, which opens the Script Information floater.

Colours

When it comes to colours, Niran’s Viewer presents the most customisable UI of any Viewer, something I’ve again covered in the past. With this release, NiranV adds a new tweak to the use of colour: to denote options in both menus and Preferences tabs which may result in Viewer issues and  / or crashes, or which should be used with caution on the part of users unfamiliar with them. Those options where caution is advised are coloured orange with this release, with the more experimental / specialised options coloured red (see right). NiranV indicates that these colours may change with a future release, but the idea is certainly a good one in terms of being a visual indicator (although there is a risk colouring an option will encourage people to “click and see”).

In a slightly tongue-in-cheek move, NiranV has coloured the option to Exit the Viewer red because after all, as he says, it does close down the Viewer and logs you out of Second Life!

Fix it!

A new addition to UI floaters comes in the form a pin icon in the top right corner of most (not all) floaters. Called “Fix it!”, this locks a given panel in the position in which it is currently displayed on-screen.  Once active, the floater cannot be accidentally dragged elsewhere on the screen. For those involved in activities such as photography, machinima and combat, I imagine this could prove a useful option. The option is also likely to appeal to those who like to have certain core panels (such as inventory) function in a similar manner to when the Sidebar was available (i.e. always appearing on the right of the screen), as they can “lock-in” the floaters to do so – although in the latter case, it should be noted that the functionality currently isn’t persistent between re-logs, although this should be fixed in a future update.

Frame Rates

All Viewers include the option to include a “lag meter” in the top right corner of the menu bar, which shows the Viewer’s performance in terms of a colour-coded graphics bar. NiranV has improved this by allowing you to toggle between the bar and a numeric frame rate display.

Again, this is only a subjective measure of performance, but for those puzzled as to whether the traditional bar is indicative of good or bad performance, the numeric display should help clarify matters.

Super Smooth

The bet way to describe using the Niran’s Viewer UI is smooth. That you’re in something very different to other Viewers is evident the first time you move your camera view – everything pans and slides very smoothly, almost as if you’re on a cushion of air, with motion gliding to a gentle halt. Of course, you can achieve the same in other Viewers by altering your camera movement options, but NiranV has done it for you, making the entire experience a lot .. well … smoother.

This approach can be seen elsewhere in the Viewer, particularly the way options and sub-panels in floaters slide gracefully in or out of view. Take a look at one of Niran’s excellent videos for a practical demonstration:

Preferences

Preferences are the clearest instance of significant changes to the UI. NiranV has done a considerable amount of work in this area to try to rationalise both the way in which Preferences presents options to us, and how we interact with it. A lot of this I covered last time around, but NiranV has continued to refine and improve.

Preferences: overhauls and rationalised

The first noticeable thing on the redesign – at least for those who used the Preview 1 release of 1.33, is that the Preferences panel now auto-sizes itself correctly according to your screen resolution; there are no more scroll options to the left / right of the panel as described in my look at the initial Preview release.

Those coming to Niran’s Viewer for the first time are liable to find the Preferences panel something of a “?!” moment when first opening it; who wouldn’t after the basic layout of the panel having remained pretty much unchanged (other than for custom tabs) almost since the dawn of time? However, I have to say that, with a couple of very minor reservations, NiranV has produced an alternative Preferences panel that makes a heck of a lot of sense and encourages fast, easy use.

At the top are five major category tabs, most of which are pretty self-explanatory. Each of these has up to three sub-tabs (displayed at the bottom of the floater) which help rationalise and order functions and options. Additionally, some tabs may have context-specific options that are only display when certain options are enabled (such as with advanced rendering in the Display and Audio tab, or many have additional toggle buttons on the right to shift between sub-groups of options.

Continue reading “Niran’s 1.33: super smooth and totally flexible”

Niran’s 1.33 Preview: pathfinding the UI

One of the things that has always attracted me to Niran’s Viewer – and is drawing back to it now that performance has once again improved on my hardware – is the fact that NiranV Dean is constantly looking at the UI as a seasoned user of SL and other immersive software and trying to find ways to reorganise things within the UI – particularly menus and floaters. This has led to Niran’s Viewer being highly innovative in both look and feel.

In recent releases, this has been reflected in the fact that right from the moment you load the Viewer, you know you’re using something very unique: The log-in / splash screen has been markedly different from other Viewer for a while, and recently gained a video element to replace static images. The video – shot in the Insilico region – demonstrates the power of Niran’s Viewer as a Machinimatographer’s tool, and is beautifully overlaid with the log-in options without the latter intruding on the video itself.

I’d still link to see some kind of link to the Grid Status page (indeed, given LL won’t step-up to the plate on this one and provide a Viewer-based means for users to be aware of SL issues prior to logging in (not everyone uses the Dashboard). I’d like to see all TPV take a leaf from Firestorm’s book in this regard), but other than that Niran’s approach to the log-in splash screen is enticing. Once you’ve entered your credentials, the screen reverts to the familiar images, progress bar, mandelbrot-like animation and Niran’s famous (and amusing) tips.

Of Floaters and Preferences

Given this is a Preview of an upcoming release, I don’t intend to cover everything that NiranV is doing with the Viewer – I’ll take a broader look once a former release is made. Instead, I’d like to focus on the massive amount of work he’s been putting into the various UI floater panels – which, with this release – reaches the Preferences floater itself.

Now, I’ll be the first to admit that when NiranV first started to work on redesigning the floaters (the Build floater in fact, after revising the World Map), I wasn’t entirely convinced as to the result. Since that time, he’s continued to refine and improve his layouts and I have no hesitation in saying that they are reaching a point where my early concerns have been completely invalidated.

And evolutionary process: the redesigned Build floater as it first appeared in Niran’s viewer (top) and how it looks today

More recently, the work has extended to the People floater, allowing information of friends and groups to be presented in a way that easily scans on the eye and doesn’t require floater resizing or other messing around with each update that comes out.

The People floater showing the Nearby tab with mini-map enabled, and the Groups tab (edited for privacy)

Other examples of Niran’s work can be found in elements such as the Mesh Upload floater, which I looked at recently and which presents the necessary information and options without putting a size 14 footprint all over the in-world view.

Preferences: a Complete Overhaul

Version 1.33 of Niran’s Viewer brings with it something we’ve never really seen in the entire history of the SL Viewer: a radical redesign of the Preferences floater.

That you’re into new territory when accessing Niran’s Preferences is immediately obvious: there are no left-side tabs. Instead, primary options are accessed from a left / right scrollable tab list at the top of the floater, with additional sub-categories for a given option are displayed in sub-tabs access at the bottom of the current Preferences page being viewed.

Options have also been renamed in an attempt to make the tabs more reflective of the options they contain. By default, Preferences will open on the Communications Options tab (above). However, and in a move long overdue in Viewers: the floater will actually re-open to display the last tab actually in use / displayed when OK was pressed / X was clicked on to close the floater.

The tabs as currently displayed in Preferences comprise (from left to right across the top scroll area):

User Options: includes three sub-tabs:

  • General: analogous to the General tab in the official Viewer and containing the familiar language, content access (General, Mature, Adult), name tag display options and busy response, together with options to set name tag colours
  • Advanced: provides access to all popular camera, movement and mouselook options found within the official Viewer and TPVs
  • Privacy: displays the Privacy tab options (clear history, log file options, options for setting who can see you are on-line, etc.

Display and Audio Options: Combines the Graphics and Sound & Media tabs and comprises three sub-tubs:

  • Graphics: displays a re-ordered and improved graphics settings option list as shown below, with advanced options for deferred rendering only displayed when the deferred rendering option is checked. This tab also includes a button for accessing Niran’s own Optimiser floater
Re-ordered and clearer graphics settings
  • Advanced Graphics: displays all major advanced graphics options (glow definition, lighting, performance options (including visual auto-mute), etc., all logically grouped and accessed via dedicated buttons
  • Sound and Media: includes the volume controls, media playback options, Voice settings, etc., as found in Sound & Media in other Viewers

Communications Options: brings together the communications options variously found under Chat, Notifications and Colors, and presents them in three sub-tabs which also include the relevant popular TPV options such as MU* poses, OOC auto-complete, etc.

Viewer Options:  presents those options usually associated with setting-up the Viewer, including the Setup tab, the Advanced tab and also include a dedicated sub-tab for RLV/a options, all in their own dedicated sub-tabs.

User Interface Options: includes all of Niran’s Viewer’s comprehensive UI customisation options, including the ability to set the colour and transparency of all commonly used floaters in the UI. Includes three sub-tabs: UI Colors, Skins & Themes and UI customisation.

Feedback and Thoughts

NiranV Dean continues to push the envelope in terms of re-working the Viewer UI. In terms of the changes to Preferences, I think the approach taken has a lot of merit and actually provides a much faster means for one to locate options (after traversing the initial learning curve). The layout is easy to use and options have been brought together with considerable thought. Obviously, there is a degree of re-training one must go through to use the Preferences with ease, but this isn’t exactly mountainous and shouldn’t be cause for complaint.

Were I to critique it at all, it would be in that the User Options and Viewer Options contain some degree of cross-over in terms of what they do. As such, even after spending a good deal of time using the Viewer it can still be confusing as to where a given set-up function might be – do I go to User or Viewer (or even the Viewer sub-tab under User Options?). I’m not sure how this could be avoided without having something of a mess in terms of one page displayed a multitude of sub-tabs, but I do feel that these are areas where further work may be required – and is probably being considered, given this is only a preview.

Now, if Niran provides a means to left / right align buttons (I’m not so much fussed by top / bottom alignment on the left/ right, if I’m honest, as I don’t place buttons to the side of the screen) and gets the chat bar so it can be “docked” to (or at least aligned with) the bottom of the Viewer window, I’ll be one very happy bunny!

Performance-wise, 1.33 is perhaps the best release of Niran’s Viewer I’ve run on my PC recently, with respectable frame rates at my standard settings in the high 20s / low 30s. Enabling deferred and shadows does still crash this – and rather more so than recently LL Viewer releases, with an average frame rate of just 7-9fps with shadows on running my normal defaults (see the Review System panel on the right of the main page of this blog). However, Niran’s seriously kicks bottoms when it comes to the sheer quality of the world-view generated when running deferred with shadows: the lattice-work of the roof of my house casts beautifully crisp shadows that suffer none of the “greying” or blocky fuzziness I’ve experienced with other Viewers.

Crisp shadows

I’ll have a further look at updates and changes to 1.33 when it reaches a full release status.

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Niran’s Viewer 1.30: pushing the envelope

Note: Niran subsequently released versions 1.31 and 1.32 following this review. Both contain tweaks and additions to 1.30, including further floater layout alignments (most notably the People floater (1.31) and the Merchant Outbox is translated and functional in German (1.32). You can catch these updates on Niran’s blog

NiranV Dean has released version 1.30 of Niran’s Viewer, which is described as “a complete overhaul” – and there is enough that has gone into it to justify that comment.

The Viewer has been something of a differentiator in the TPV world on a number of fronts: elements of UI presentation are markedly different (such as the menu presentation and things like the Build floater), the Viewer also offers a huge amount of nips, tucks, tweaks and changes to the graphic end of things which, while geared towards higher-specification machines, offer much that is of benefit to machinimatographers and photographers. Finally, and as the Viewer has developed, NiranV has not been afraid to seek to incorporate more of a game-like approach to things.

The changes in this release are extensive – and some are not always obvious (such as localisation in the log-in and log-in progress screens),, which doesn’t make them any less time-intensive to produce. I’ve aimed this piece at covering the more visible changes.

Over-the-Shoulder

The first noticeable difference between 1.30 and earlier versions is that the camera default position has been moved to an over-the-shoulder view. This may not be to everyone’s liking, but it does offer an improved world-view in many respects. As someone already using Penny Patton’s camera offsets to achieve a similar result, I found the look very familiar and comfortable when I logged-in, although the camera position is a little closer than I’m accustomed to seeing. This isn’t a problem until one uses the DOWN ARROW / S-key for moving backwards; while this now turns your avatar around, it also tend to have your avatar well over to the left on-screen, making navigation even over a short distance a little harder. For those that aren’t keen on these views, it’s obviously possible to reset to a more “traditional” view.

Staying with the camera for a moment, mouselook also gains the ability to use the SHIFT key in combination with mouse movements to smooth the motion of the latter on-screen and provide precise tracking. Handy for those in combat / shooting situations.

Floating Away

NiranV’s work on redesigning various floaters continues. With this release, People and Mesh Upload come in for attention.

The People floater joins Build in going horizontal – – and this works particularly well with Nearby, wherein the people list and mini-map can be displayed without having to have a long vertical panel opening on-screen.

Revised People floater

Another nice touch with this is that both ONLINE and ALL are displayed side-by-side (although may require extra scrolling if you have an extensive list of friends!).

The Mesh Upload floater has been compressed and the lay-out tided so that it also doesn’t require so much on-screen real estate. The result is a clean, compact approach that is still relatively easy on the eye, although the ability to resize it via dragging might not go amiss for those who would prefer it to be a little bigger.

Mesh upload

The Build floater has been further tweaked and again provides a cleaner display and appears less cluttered than early iterations.

Menus and floaters have also had their transparency adjusted to give a consistent feel right across the Viewer, and to aid in readability.

“Pick a colour, any colour…”

Perhaps the biggest single update in terms of the ability to customise the Viewer is that users can now set the colour and transparency of every common floater in the Viewer and set colours against every common widget.

UI colour and transparency options for floaters

Changes to floaters require a Viewer restart to take effect, while changes to widget colours will be applied immediately.

For those missing KLee’s Viewer, a small nod has been added to Niran’s 1.30: the UI buttons can now by displayed in KLee Viewer style.

And there’s more…

As well as these changes, 1.30 also sees:

  • More work on translating the UI for German and French users
  • Improvements and tweaks to various Preferences panels
  • Fixes to media roll-off and max sliders
  • Incorporation of the latest Shining fixes
  • Text compression (which may help with some crash issues on older cards, but not recommended for ATi systems)

A full list of changes can be found at the end of the blog post on the release.  Gone from this release is the “main menu” option and the SL Kinect2 option. The former is being reworked, the latter may be gone for good due to compiling issues with Linux.

Feedback

I’ve always liked Niran’s Viewer – the “dares to be different” approach has meant that the Viewer has been very innovative and something very different from “standard” 3.x-based offerings. My experience has suffered over the last few releases because my PC has struggled to manage the Viewer, particularly when running some of the more advanced deferred rendering options. Whereas early versions ran very well – frame rates up in the mid-30s sans deferred options, more recent releases have been barely half that.

Release 1.30 goes some way to reversing this trend, allowing me to achieve frame rates of between 28-32 with 3 or 4 others on-sim, and deferred rendering is back on a par with earlier releases (around 8-9fps). This still isn’t as fast my PC can manage with other Viewers, but it’s a lot faster than I’ve enjoyed of late with Niran’s, and as such is very welcome.

In all, the Viewer runs smoothly, exhibits no proclivity towards crashing on me (it rarely has), and I had no lock-ups when taking lots of snapshots with deferred rendering turned on (an issue I tend to get with other viewers, particularly if I move the camera around a lot with the snapshot floater open when running in deferred).

In terms of the UI changes, the ability to make the UI multi-hued may find a lot of appeal among those who like a highly individual look to their Viewer. For me, I like the general tidying done to the Build floater – which is starting to grow on me – and I very much like the new People floater, which really maximises the use of space. The new default camera position is also something that appeals, given I already use something similar, although I’d personally prefer to set my camera back a little further.

Overall, a lot of work continues to go into this Viewer, it’s still one of my two preferred Viewers when it comes to my amateur attempts at photography, and given I’ve got a slight boost in performance with this release, it may well see a lot more use again as I hop around the grid exploring and snapping pictures.

Kudos!

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