A Really Good Second Life Viewer Idea
We’re all familiar with at least one SL Viewer. An SL Viewer is the client program that runs on your PC and allows you to log into and move around inside the Second Life Virtual World. Linden Lab maintains a list of SL Viewers that are authorized to log into and interact with their platform. Of course you can also use their official viewer. All SL Viewers are incredibly difficult for most people to use because navigating around inside and using a Virtual World is a complex task. With that in mind, I’ve always been a big supporter of ideas and features that make it easier for people to use Second Life and whichever viewer they choose.
The first 3rd party Viewer I ever used was called Emerald. Some of the core members of the Emerald development team started a new viewer named Phoenix. When it first debuted, it provided some of the best, most useful and easiest to understand features ever found in an SL Viewer. In fact, the development team is responsible for many of the tweaks and enhancements now found in the official SL Viewer. They are a sharp bunch and deserve all the kudos they receive (and more).
Their current revision viewer is called Firestorm. It continues the tradition of ease of use, advanced features, reliability and set the bar the highest possible when it comes to quality of support. They have a very dedicated, professional and knowledgeable group of people supporting their viewer. When you consider they are also a volunteer group, their quality of programming and support are phenomenal. Contrasted against the crappy-ass support and piss-poor code that routinely comes out of Linden Lab, it’s even more amazing and spectacular. But I’m not here to sing their praises, I want to tell everyone about an idea for a viewer tweak that should be in every SL Viewer ASAP.
Deciding What To Wear in Second Life
If you happen to have a female avatar in Second Life then you no doubt know that a majority of your time is spent deciding what outfit to wear. Females in Second Life change clothes more often than in real life … a LOT more. And they have closets that are packed full of a lot more outfits too. One of the biggest time savers that every female demands of clothing designers is a Texture (image) that shows all the various combinations provided by the outfit. They want this so they can rapidly open the Texture, see what the outfit looks like … and then decide if that’s the one they want to wear right now.
Face it, when you have 200 outfits in your “Closet”, remembering what each one looks like just based on the name is a monumental task not even women can manage. Having that Texture in the same folder as the outfit means with a simple double-click they can open the Texture and then decide “Wear or not?”
The Really Good Idea
So here’s an idea I had the other night. It turns out I’m not the first one to have this great idea too. Apparently a few other folks beat me to it. The more people that thought of it before me means (to me at least) that it must be a really good idea to begin with.
We’re all familiar with “Hovertips”. A Hovertip is an extra bit of text that pops up when you hover your mouse over something on a web page. You can see how it works by hovering your mouse over the following word:
You’ll notice that when you hover your mouse over the word “Hovertip”, a short sentence pops up that explains what a Hovertip is and does. Hovertips can also be used to display small images. For example, my Rental Beam product uses image-based Hovertips to show off the Region and location for each rental that is available. When you hover your mouse over the Rental Name in the left-hand column, a small image appears that shows an overview of the Region and a small “beacon” to pinpoint the rental location.
Using Image Hovertips in the SL Viewer
As it stands now, anyone trying to figure out what outfit to wear must double-click, view then close quite a few Texture files to figure out what outfit they wish to wear. Not only is this a lot of extra clicking with your mouse, it opens people up to the occasional Oopsie as they accidentally drag a Texture into some other folder, drop it onto the ground or build, or miss completely and wind up wearing part of the outfit. It also requires that they remember which Texture in each outfit folder is the right one to open so they can see the outfit and its variations.
What if instead of having to double-click each Texture, a thumbnail or similar small preview version of the right Texture would appear any time the user hovers their mouse over the Outfit folder name in their Inventory. Not only would this eliminate all that extra double-clicking to open the Textures, it would also eliminate having to close the Texture once they’ve decided yes or no, and eliminate the need to open the folder and then find the right Texture to double-click in the first place. Simply associating the Texture to the folder itself would cause a thumbnail version of the image to appear automatically.
The above is just one possible way of displaying the thumbnail image, but it helps communicate the idea.
Getting This Feature Added
Below I will discuss a few other benefits and ideas regarding this neat feature, but first I’m going to ask for your help. I think this idea deserves to be added to the “standard” SL Viewer. However there is no way to actually ASK the Developers at Linden Lab to add something. They just pooh-pooh the idea and file it in their trashcan. However the Developers of the Firestorm viewer .. actually LISTEN! So here’s what I need you to do:
Go to the Firestorm JIRA link below, sign up for an account with them (it’s free and they don’t spam you, it’s only for their JIRA system) and then VOTE for this feature to be added to the next revision of Firestorm. If you want, also add a comment expressing how you feel about this idea and anything else you’d like to mention about it. If we can get enough votes going, perhaps they’ll decide it is something that needs to be added.
Once the page opens, you’ll need to find the Vote and Watch links on the far right-hand side. You’ll also need to create an account and log in before your Vote will count. The Vote and Watch links look like this:
Other Neat Things About This Idea
There are other neat things that can happen with this idea. It doesn’t have to be limited to outfit folders. It could just as easily be used with any folder. How many times have you looked at a folder and wondered “I wish I could remember that’s in there”. With a hovertip floating image displayed for that folder, you would know instantly.
How To Make It Work
There are a couple of different ways to make this idea work from the user’s perspective. The real rub is figuring out which Texture in a folder is the right one to display. Most ideas really require that some form of extra information be recorded for the folder. Unfortunately that information is determined by Linden Lab and no amount of convincing would get them to alter the database structure … especially not for an idea they didn’t invent. So a different approach will need to happen.
My best thought so far is to use a specific name for the Hovertip image. For example, any Texture named “!hovertip” (note the exclamation mark at the front of the name) would be displayed as the Hovertip for that folder. Of course you can have two things with the same name in a folder, so only the newest one would be used. (The Inventory already remembers creation date, that’s how you can sort things by newest to oldest.)
Granted, the best solution would be to right-click a specific texture within a folder then select an option in the pop-up menu that says “Use as Hovertip”, however as I mentioned above, that would require adding additional information to the Inventoryentry for the folder to store the UUID of the desired image.
The JIRA System at Linden Lab used to allow people to make feature suggestions and then also allowed people to see and vote for them. However they removed the ability for people to see Issues they didn’t create, so having a new feature suggestion to share with people is impossible. It’s a damn shame that they’ve taken every possible step to stifle, ignore, cut off and basically disrespect the people that pay their paychecks. It’s even more of a shame when you consider that there ARE good people working for them. It’s just management at Linden Lab that is intent on flying the company into the dirt … and the Board of Directors seems quite content to let them do it.