I’ve been in Second Life for over 5 years and for almost all of that time I’ve been using alternative third party viewers.

Only recently, when trying the Oculus Rift, I tried the official Linden Lab viewer again and it made me remember why I never use it.

Nevertheless I felt it was about time I compared the two to see if and why I am sticking with Firestorm.

Please take note though, this is a very personal choice, I will judge both viewers by the way I use them for Second Life, you may not need the tools that I find essential.

And also remember that I haven’t used the official viewer in a long time, so I may just not realise that some of the options I am missing are actually there but I just can’t find them.

I first need to install an update, unfortunately that keeps crashing, can’t write some file or another, so I’ll have to skip that.

One of the first things that annoys me about the official viewer is the group chat messages that start bombarding me.
I am a member of about 40 groups, some of them use group chat a lot, so the second I log on, the window pops up with all sorts of chatter I am not that interested in.
Especially when I was trying the Oculus, the last thing I wanted to see was all these windows opening, it wasn’t easy to close them and I even had to remove the headset to do that in some cases.
And if you crash or just want to log on for a short moment, this becomes even more annoying.
In both viewers you can uncheck “receive group notices” but Firestorm also allows me to turn off group chat, which I’ve done with almost all of my groups.
Finally some peace and quiet!

Screenshot_117As a builder to me the Firestorm building tools are very important, without them things would be a lot more difficult.
Some of these are missing in the Linden Lab viewer.
For instance, Firestorm allows me to copy the grid position of a prim, size, rotation and the texture settings.
Imagine if you accidently delete a building or even half a city, no problem.
I have copied the exact grid location and put that in the description of the building, so all I have to do is take it from my trash, rez it and put it back in the same position.
Of course I could just manually copy and paste these settings one by one, or even write them down somewhere, but that is just a lot of extra work.
In Firestorm all it takes is a click.
And when you’re very busy building something huge and complicated you sometimes need to copy and paste these settings all the time.
To me this has become a much loved and often used tool that I would miss, a lot, if I returned to the Linden Lab Viewer.

What I also miss is the little Firestorm window that gives you some of the more important settings for easy access.
There are some things you need to change regularly, for instance your draw distance when SL becomes a bit laggy or when you teleport into a very busy sim.
In stead of having to go into your preferences and graphics settings, it’s just handy to have that button right there on your screen, I know, I’m just lazy.
The only option I miss here at the moment is the shadow one, turning that on and off quickly would be great because it has a huge effect on performance but its also one you want to use a lot when making pictures.
But after mentioning this here on my blog, my readers informed me that I could edit this Quick Preferences menu myself and add or remove whatever I wanted, how brilliant is that!

I keep crashing, not sure why.
Every time I start SL again, I get bothered by group chat messages again… ironically enough its usually the Firestorm group chat that pop ups the most.

As a sim owner and manager I have to keep an eye on what is happening, even when I am in my skybox workshop far away.
In the LL viewer I can not see that far, the only name that pop up on my radar is my own.
I can’t see who is in the city in the region next door, if any of these people are potential grievers, if they are following the sim’s dress code, etc.
Even when I teleport into the city, only the person nearby shows up on my list.
There are 4 people here, I don’t know who the 2 others are, if they have been here before, if they are trouble makers, if they are wearing 1920s clothes, nothing.
After looking around with my camera for a long time I find the visitors, turns out one of them is waving a gun around, against the sim’s rules.
In Firestorm I would have been able to see every single person in my region and the ones next door and with a simple double click on their name in the radar my camera focuses on them.
While staying in my skybox workshop I can still keep an eye on what is happening in the sim, I don’t have to stop working to go and check what is going on.

Another thing I really miss in the LL viewer are the contact sets.
These allow you to keep track of your contacts but also of people not on your friends list.
I know, I know, this is all sounding a lot like 1984 Big Brother NSA you’re being watched club day, but if you have to manage a busy community and want to keep people safe from grievers and if you promise them that you will try and keep people out who insist on ruining the 1920s experience by running around in latex miniskirts and with dragon wings, you need to keep an eye on things.
The contact sets allow me to put people in categories and colour their radar name accordingly.
For instance, someone who has been trouble, could be coloured red, people who have been in Berlin before and who have put on the 1920s clothes orange, fellow sim managers blue, etc.
By looking at the name list and even the dots on my radar I can see right away if there is someone who could potentially cause trouble, if another sim manager is there to keep an eye on things, if someone is visiting who has never been before and who might like some assistance, etc, etc.

These are a few of the tools that I find essential, they may have no use to you at all, but I wouldn’t want to go without them and that is why I am staying with Firestorm.

In the end Firestorm just gives me more options, more freedom to use SL in a way I like.

Why do you use Firestorm or do you prefer the official Linden Lab viewer?
Or perhaps you use a different viewer altogether?

Share your thoughts in the comments section!

My beloved radar, showing Orange dots (outfit checked avatars) ad a Green dot (first time visitor)

My beloved radar, showing Orange dots (outfit checked avatars) ad a Green dot (first time visitor)