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.