23 December 2010

Viewer 2?

Second LifeOh hai! In case you're wondering, I probably won't finish the extensive review of Viewer 2 anytime soon. It's been several months, and to be honest, I haven't been using SL at all in that time. So I haven't had a chance to get annoyed by the Viewer. Why? Well, I kind of lost interest. There's nothing really that attracts me anymore. I'm not giving up or leaving SL or anything like that, it's just that right now, I'm not really interested. I keep following the official blog using RSS feeds, so whenever something ultimately cool happens that I need to see for myself, I will know it. And I comment on it whenever I think I should. I'm also still getting Jira mails on issues I'm watching, so whenever something happens there, I'll know it.

03 April 2010

SL Viewer 2: the menus

Second LifeOk, so SL Viewer 2 is now the official viewer. So I suppose they've put a lot of thought and work into it, making sure the most obvious (and easily fixed) bugs are gone and it's more user-friendly than any viewer ever could be. Let's have a look.
This is part 3

Hey, now I closed the Address bar, I don't see my current location anymore. Let's just look in the menus to see if there's anything that can be done about it.

SL Viewer 2

Ok, 'Me' menu, what's that supposed to be? Where's the File menu? How the heck do I upload stuff now? Every other app has a File menu. It is common sense. Users expect a File menu. Why is it gone?! Well, we've had our chances, no more uploads, we're stuck with everything that's ever uploaded now, we'll have to deal with it, I suppose.
Yeah I know, this menu is now in some illogical location, it makes no sense whatsoever not to have it at the default place.

Seriously, a 'Me' menu? Isn't it more intuitive to simply right-click my avatar? I remember being a new user once and that stuff never confused me. What makes you think current new users are going to have a problem with right-clicking their avatars?

Then, the Edit menu is gone too. Again, every other app has an Edit menu right next to File, why - is - it - gone?! What do have in its place? Communicate. What? What's that doing up there. I have two communication-related buttons on the bottom bar. Why can't I use them instead? I'm clicking on it, but nothing happens. Why not? Why have an extra Communicate menu that could have been integrated in the Communicate buttons on the bottom right, which now most of the time do nothing and are completely useless and a waste of space!

Ok, next. World menu. Ah, something sensible. Hey look! The minimap! I was missing that! Let's quickly open it. Hmm... It's rather big. And dark. Why isn't it half transparent anymore, like it used to be? I just came to the conclusion that inworld content is what I'm here for and that UI elements should not get in the way. Then WHY make a totally black, ugly minimap?! Oh, and it's on the wrong side of the screen, I want it in the upper right corner, where it used to be the last three years, ever since I joined SL. Ok, I can scale it down a bit and snap it to the upper right. Where it now blocks half the buttons for the sidebar. I will get to that later. Let's just say we're happy now having the minimap back in its normal position.

Ok next. Hmm, what does Show do in the World menu? AH! Show coordinates. That sounds lovely, let's turn it on. Hm... Nothing. Is it really on? Yes, it says it's on. Where are my coordinates then? I don't see it. I see a large black waste of space in the menubar where the region + coordinates used to be. But it's not working. I suppose it's a BUG in an OFFICIAL release. They FORGOT to add the coordinates!
Yeah, I know, this stuff shows up in the Address bar, but since I've hidden that hideous thing, I have no way of seeing my coordinates anymore. And there's a lot of wasted space on the menu bar, why, WHY couldn't the location and coordinates be on there, LIKE IT WAS?!

Speaking of bugs, I try to close the menu by clicking it again. It does not close. Luckily, there's a JIRA for that: VWR-18382.

Build menu, ok, good. Help menu, sure, fine. Advanced menu (if toggled on), that's good.

Then there's that whole bunch of wasted space, especially if the Advanced menu is off (which I imagine most users have). This space would be PERFECT to put, let's say, my current location and coordinates. Oh wait, that used to be on there. Now it's GONE! WHY?!

Anyway, then there's my L$ balance. Somewhere in the middle where you can't easily find it. And it's in inconspicuous grey. Hey, this is important info I need all the time. Why is it in a location where I can't find it FAST? Why is it grey? If you too want this back how it used to be: VWR-18777.
To make things worse, right next to the L$ balance is a completely unnecessary text/button 'Buy L$'. And that IS in green! Hang on, if I click my balance, I get a window where I can buy more L$. So why then is there an extra button that does exactly the same thing, but also takes up precious space. I could have used that space to see, oh let's say, my inworld coordinates. Get rid of that annoying text.

Then there's the time, that's fine. But hey, try this out. The time is clickable. That is, you can click it and it makes that clickity sound. So it is clickable. But what does it do? Allow me to change the time? Does it allow me to change from PDT to GMT or whatever time zone I want it to display (which could actually be very useful). No. It does absolutely - nothing. Ok, the few hairs I had left are now officially ripped out my head.

Then, there is, what? A Media play button and a speaker icon. What is that doing there? If it absolutely had to be on the menu bar, copying from OS X, it could be to the left of the time. Not where it is right now. And then that space which it is now wasting (since I hardly ever use it) could be occupied by either a Search icon (magnifying glass) or the good old bandwidth meter. I suppose it's time to reopen VWR-3156 for this.

Now, all this crap like 'this should be there and that should be here' wouldn't be so bad if Viewer 2 allowed customization. I remember talking about customization back in the days I could still attend triages, so surely the Lindens know it's what people want. In fact, my browser, Opera, is fully customizable. I can put the tabs to the left or to the right or at the top, whichever I like best. I can take off the Next and Previous buttons if I want, I don't use them anyway, I have keyboard and mouse gestures for that. And there are a lot of skins available if I don't like the default one, so I can easily make the browser, which I use a lot, look and feel exactly how I like it. But there is none of it in SL Viewer 2.0. No customization. Oh sure, you can hide the address bar and the favourites bar and some of the buttons at the bottom bar. But that also takes away much needed functionality. Camera Presets are really cool, but they're worthless if I hide the View button from the bottom bar, simply because I don't like it.

Anyway, we're not done with the Viewer yet, I still have to take a look at the sidebar and of course I'll need to try the Viewer in practical situations. I will try to be social, be creative with photography, building and scripting. How does the Viewer feel when just trying to live your average Second Life?

Stay tuned and read on. I will go over the sidebar next...

...in part 4.
(Be prepared)

SL Viewer 2: Preferences

Second LifeOk, so SL Viewer 2 is now the official viewer. So I suppose they've put a lot of thought and work into it, making sure the most obvious (and easily fixed) bugs are gone and it's more user-friendly than any viewer ever could be. Let's have a look.
This is part 2

We're off to set our Preferences, so let's just for now get rid of all these buttons in the bottom bar (where I ended part 1), I like the Snapshot button, so let's keep that (which makes me wonder, why make Snapshot an icon and the others text?) and open Prefs. Command+P opens.
Hey, I remember once opening a JIRA issue for getting Command+comma to open Prefs, just like in every other OS X app. Let's see. NO?! Back to VWR-6197 and add Viewer 2 as affected version.

Well, let's use the inferior Command+P (which is supposed to open a Print window) instead to open Prefs for now.

Whooh, another big, clunky window with a lot of wasted space. Well, you don't have this open all the time, so I suppose it's fine (in the old viewer it was just as big as here).

SL Viewer 2

Ok, General tab seems fine for now.

SL Viewer 2

Graphics tab, sure, fine. Although I am wondering why the Apply and Reset buttons aren't on the same height as the OK and Cancel buttons. The General tab doesn't even have a Apply or Reset button. Like I wouldn't want to reset anything I set up in there? Sure, there aren't so many options in there as in the Graphics tab, but still, it's inconsequent not to have them on all tabs.

SL Viewer 2

Privacy tab. Again, no Apply or Reset buttons. What if I totally messed up my Location of logs? "Oh crap, now where was that..." I want that to be on its former location again, I can't reset it. I'm officially screwed.

Also, there's a Block list. What this has to do with privacy, I don't know, but the button is on this tab anyway. But if you click it, it opens the block list in the sidepanel on the right... And the Preferences window is blocking that... And ESC does not even close the Prefs window! Any other normal app out there has the ESC key connected to the Cancel button. But in this viewer, it still acts as resetting the camera position. Which is bullcrap, because the Prefs window is so huge, I couldn't have it open and position my camera at anything, so why the hell does ESC reset my camera while the Prefs window is open, yet there is no way to quickly close the Prefs? Even Command-P, which is, contrary to other apps, not used to Print, but to open Prefs, does not close the Prefs window (VWR-1266, yes, this bug exists for three years now already).

SL Viewer 2

Sound & Media is next tab. Input/Output devices toggles a few extra options. That looks good, that's how I sort of expected the Block list to pop up too. Although five blocks for audio monitoring is not very much, I suppose it suffices. But even when I'm silent, it shows two to three blocks of background noise. And the fourth block is already red. Now I happen to have one external harddrive on atm, but surely that's not generating so much noise. It's certainly not more than any standard pc makes.

Anyway, the other buttons look simple enough, although it is a bit confusing Voice Chat is on this tab (I suppose it's Sound), when there's also a Chat tab in the Prefs window. To distinguish one from another, I think you would expect to have Voice Chat and Text Chat. And then Voice Chat could have its own tab in the Prefs window, there's plenty of space for another tab. I say this now because we will encounter more Voice Chat related preferences in one of the next tabs. Just so you're prepared, but remember any average new user will be confused to the extreme.

SL Viewer 2

Text Chat tab next. Ok, to set the text colours. And some more options. Tip: check the 'Enable plain text chat history' checkbox, because otherwise the chat history window is going to be hell.

The colours list is confusing and incomplete. Owner is default a light yellow. But in my chat history window, an object I own is green. Also, chat history from previous login sessions is all in some darker grey colour, which I cannot set here.

Show IMs in separate windows or in tabs. Why does that require a restart? 'Enable plain text chat history' does not require a restart, even when that also changes the look of a UI element. So why do I need to restart? I wouldn't know.

Oh, and with all these colours, you would expect there'd be a Reset button here too, but there is none. I can seriously duck up the colourscheme and there'd be no way I can reset it.

Anyway, Notifications tab is next, I'll skip that now, because there's nothing to see.

SL Viewer 2

Setup tab. Oh, that's network setup. And... whether or not I want cookies. And... how to set up a joystick. Ok, just throw a bunch of random stuff to setup in here.
Why isn't there a separate Network tab in the Prefs? And a separate Joystick tab? And a separate Web tab? Plenty of space, the eight tabs there are now hardly even take up half the screen anyway.

SL Viewer 2

Well, Advanced then. Ok, I can set the camera default preset here, I suppose? Could I maybe set the other camera presets here too? No. So they added a much wanted feature camera presets, which is cool, then deny them the option to customize those presets (or, heaven forbid, add more presets), which is cruel.

And what is Toggle speak on/off doing in the Advanced tab, when all other Voice chat options are in the Sound & Media tab? Wouldn't it be better to put them ALL in a separate Voice Chat tab?

I am missing the option to install new viewer skins. It used to exist in Viewer 1, they had created an extra skin called Dazzle. Well that's cool, allow us to ditch the hideously dark default skin and let us create our own nice and light and open and friendly skins. No! Skin nazi says you may only use the default ugly skin.

I am also missing the option to turn on or off tooltips. Maybe that's in the menus though, I will have a look at that...
...in part 3.

SL Viewer 2: initial thoughts

Second LifeOk, so SL Viewer 2 is now the official viewer. So I suppose they've put a lot of thought and work into it, making sure the most obvious (and easily fixed) bugs are gone and it's more user-friendly than any viewer ever could be. Let's have a look.
This is part 1

Ok, that looks rather... dark. And big and clunky, really. And there's a lot of unused (read: wasted) space, on the menu bar, on the Favourites bar, whatever that is. And at the bottom bar, the buttons are way too large and there's black unused space on there too.

SL Viewer 2

And where are my coordinates? I would like to know where I am. Well, I'm sure we can find that later, first, let's see if we can do something about the wasted space in the Favourites bar. Ah yes, right-click it and you can turn that and the Address bar off. Good! Why do we need an Address bar anyway, SL is not a webbrowser, it shouldn't look like one.

SL Viewer 2

With that out of the way (ahh, so much extra space)... Hey, that makes me think. Why do I come to SL? To view the inworld content! Ah-ha! So shouldn't the UI be designed to stay low profile and giving me as much inworld content as possible? Then why are the Address and Favourites bars so huge to begin with? Taking away precious space I need to show me the inworld content. Looking at my real webbrowser, I'm noticing the same thing, the UI is small, even customizable, so that I have now in Opera no more Next, Previous, Stop, Refresh buttons, as I can do all that with keyboard and mouse gestures. Well I'm glad I can hide these bars in the SL Viewer, I do not need them, I do not want them.

Now where was I? Oh yeah, with that out of the way, I can look at the bottom bar. What's in there and do I need it and how do I get rid of it?

Hmm, Gesture. I don't need that, I can type my gestures in chat. Move. I don't need that either, I move with my keyboard. View, don't need that, I view with the usual camera controls, like alt-click, control click and so on.
What's this? Presets? Oh, now that's nice. A much asked for feature. If only I could create my own additional presets now... And access them easier than through this button.

SL Viewer 2

Well I'm sure I can set that in Preferences or something.

Which I will discuss in part 2.