Exploring the Viewer: The Basics

As we learned last time, the Viewer is the piece of software which lets users like you and me access and interact with the virtual worlds of Opensim. Let’s start a deeper dive into some of the common features you’ll find in pretty much every flavor of Viewer.

Viewers have a lot of different tools and functions packed into them.  They’re sort of like a Swiss Army Knife for virtual worlds!  The good news is you don’t need to know all the tools right away, and most users only use a handful of them.

Login Screen

This is the starting point for every user’s experience in Opensim.  The Login Screen lets you pick the Grid you want to log into, and has a username/password sign-in.  If you have multiple accounts (either on different Grids, or the same Grid), you can use the same Viewer for all of them.  Login Screens generally also show a special “Front Page” for the currently selected Grid, and may show announcements and other useful information.

3D View

Once you’re logged in, the vast majority of the Viewer will be occupied by the view of the 3D world you’re entering.  By default, most viewers will try to make a “best guess” on what quality the 3D graphics should be at.  You can change these settings in menus at the drop-down menus at the top of the Viewer window. The 3D world may take a bit of time to load in (we’ll cover why later), so sometimes patience is a good thing.

3D Camera Basics

Opensim allows for two main kinds of camera.  The default is a “Third-Person” camera, which allows you to see your Avatar and move the camera around wherever you’d like.  Use the Alt (or Option Key) and click with your mouse move the camera in this mode. Press Escape to reset your camera.

The other camera type is “First Person” which lets you look more-or-less through the eyes of your Avatar.  The “M” button lets you toggle this camera.

Up next, we’ll explore some of the tools located in icons along the edge of the 3D View.  These tools will be useful for every user, regardless of what you’re trying to do in Opensim.

Let’s Talk Basics: The Viewer

We’re back! Thanks to everyone for your patience during our break.

We’ve covered a good amount of area already here in the LTB series, but there’s a topic we haven’t gone over that’s pretty fundamental to the rest: The Viewer.

The Viewer plays a very key role in our ability to experience Opensim.  It is the piece of software we use on our computer to enter into virtual worlds, see what’s going on in them, and interact with them.  If you’re familiar with how the Web works, then the Viewer is a lot like your web browser (Chrome, Firefox, etc).   One obvious big difference is that a web browser is normally used for interacting with flat “2D” websites, while the Viewer is designed for interacting with 3D worlds.

It’s helpful to understand what a Viewer does and doesn’t do.  A Viewer acts as a sort of access portal to a virtual world.  It does the hard work of talking with the simulator programs which are running that world, and faithfully drawing the world those simulators describe.  They don’t do much of the work of actually “simulating” the world, aside from chiming in whenever you want to do something. Viewers can also act as a virtual toolbox for users who want to create things in their worlds, but it’s not required that every user use those tools.

Viewers come in quite a few different flavors, each managed by a different team with slightly different priorities. Like the main Opensim project, Viewers are all open-source and free, so they’re largely the creation of volunteers contributing their own time. Because of how similar Second Life and Opensim are, many Viewers are focused primarily on Second Life, with features to support Opensim provided on the side.

We’ll dive more into viewers next time, and go over some of the basic functions you can expect to find when using one.