Virtual World viewers: Part 1 – Which one to use?

In browsing Second Life blogs the other day; I came across a reader poll about what viewer people use for Second Life. (You can find it at HarlowHeslop “Which viewer do you use?”)

Thanks to Harlow’s poll and readers’ comments – it got me thinking of how difficult it is to know, as a Mac user, whether a viewer suits my system or not. As a Second Life and OpenSim resident; I’ve changed my viewer of choice several times for different reasons, whether that was an unstable viewer or just to improve the experience.

Although documentation is usually offered in some form; researching the general user experience usually means looking for information scattered across various developer sites, forums and personal blogs. Or simply downloading it and hoping it works.

Before drama ensues; I’m not seeking to single out developers and testers for focusing on their particular platform of choice. That is understandable and reasonable.

To help with sharing information: I intend to review the current main viewers, and a few others, based on their Mac-friendliness for basic tasks.

This is not full bench testing. I’m not an alpha (or beta) tester or a programmer and I don’t have any ties to a particular viewer or development team. Which viewer to use is dependent on what you want to do in your virtual environment, which virtual world it is used for, what machine you are on and other personal preferences.

The reviews are intended to give an overview of what is available. What I will be looking for is how well Mac viewers work without extensive changes to settings and what works on the operating system and hardware I have. For the purposes of these tests they will be taking place in Second Life. Where possible, I will be using the latest stable release and not any experimental or beta viewers.

It would be great to offer a full review of all capabilities, but, that requires more time and knowledge than I can give. For those who are looking for specific advice on streaming media, building, advanced photography, scripting or other abilities I apologise in advance at not being able to include all details.

Completed Reviews

Viewer 1 series

Imprudence 1.3.2

Phoenix 1.6.0.1600

Viewer 3 series

Exodus 12.01.03.01

Firestorm 3.2.2.24336

Linden Lab 3.2.8.248931

Review criteria

Download and installation (including what documentation is available)

Navigation (user interface and avatar movement controls)

Graphics

Avatar Appearance editing

Transactions

Friends, chat, groups and maps

Snapshots

Testing set-up

2007 iMac with a 2.4 GHz Intel Core 2 Duo processor and 2GB SDRAM Memory

ATI Radeon HD2600 Pro graphics card. Operating system is OS X 10.6.8. Online connection is wireless broadband.

N.B I recognise that the iMac being used is not a recent model. As it is only just four years old; I don’t consider this to be outrageously antique and it is my sole computer for recreational use.

In Part 2 I will be looking at two Viewer 1 versions; the still popular Phoenix viewer and the 2011 stable release of the Imprudence viewer.

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