To save you having to flip between this article and my previous review, here’s a summary of the five tabs:
User Options: includes three sub-tabs:
- General: analogous to the General tab in the official Viewer and containing the familiar language, content access (General, Mature, Adult), name tag display options and busy response, together with options to set name tag colours
- Advanced: provides access to all popular camera, movement and mouselook options found within the official Viewer and TPVs, together with a new set of keyboard layout options
- Privacy: displays the Privacy tab options (clear history, log file options, options for setting who can see you are on-line, etc.
Display and Audio Options: Combines the Graphics and Sound & Media tabs and comprises three sub-tubs:
- Graphics: displays a re-ordered and improved graphics settings option list as shown below, with advanced options for deferred rendering only displayed when the deferred rendering option is checked
- Advanced Graphics: displays all major advanced graphics options (glow definition, lighting, performance options (including visual auto-mute), etc., all logically grouped and accessed via dedicated buttons
- Sound and Media: includes the volume controls, media playback options, Voice settings, etc., as found in Sound & Media in other Viewers
Communications Options: brings together the communications options variously found under Chat, Notifications and Colors, and presents them in three sub-tabs which also include the relevant popular TPV options such as MU* poses, OOC auto-complete, etc.
Viewer Options: presents those options usually associated with setting-up the Viewer, including the Setup tab, the Advanced tab and also include a dedicated sub-tab for RLV/a options, all in their own dedicated sub-tabs.
User Interface Options: includes all of Niran’s Viewer’s comprehensive UI customisation options, including the ability to set the colour and transparency of all commonly used floaters in the UI. Includes three sub-tabs: UI Colors, Skins & Themes and UI customisation.
If all the tabs, sub-tabs and toggle buttons sound confusing – they’re not. Nor do they simply mean change for the sake of change (i.e. running major tabs across the top of the panel, rather than down the left side). As you work through each of the tab, it’s clear that NiranV has put considerable time and effort into trying to bring together functions and options as logically as possible.
I personally find the new layout fairly intuitive - scanning from left-to-right is more logical than scanning top-to-bottom, so browsing the tabs feels a lot more natural; I also like the fact that NiranV minimises additional “clutter” wherever possible, by making various additional options context-dependent. For example, if you’re like me, and find the V3.2 context menus more intuitive than wandering around a pie menu, you can remove the pie menu options from User Interface Options->UI Customisation simply by unchecking USE RIGHT-CLICK PIE MENU INSTEAD OF DROPDOWN. Similarly, options for shadows, ambient occlusion and DOF are only displayed in Display & Audio Options->Graphics if DEFERRED RENDERING is checked.
One thing that has been removed from the Viewer is the dedicated graphics Optimiser panel. NiranV notes that this was out-of-date and that as an experimental option, it had served its purpose.
Camera and Updates
Niran has long been working to improve the in-world view of Second Life. In the past, he’s brought us new viewing options and camera positions (as well as new movement options, now featured in the Preferences, as noted above).
With this release, further improvements to default camera position options are provided, with left & right over-the-shoulder views now available directly from the Camera floater. As many long-term readers of this blog know, I’m actually a fan of Penny Patton’s camera offsets; as such I think that Niran’s options very much enhance the default range of camera views available to users – although I do still prefer Penny’s overall approach is setting the camera back a little further from my avatar. Also, and introduced in release 1.23.5, Niran’s remains the only viewer which allows you to directly tweak your camera offsets through Preferences. Would that more Viewers did the same!
Niran also has a nice video demonstrating the camera options:
This release sees a number of tweaks to the rendering system, but no major changes (well, NiranV has been focused on the UI!). The most noticeable difference is shadows will once again be correctly rendered on alphas (with the exception of projected lights), and Niran hopes that FXAA is “a little smoother now”. There have been some additional tweaks to the high-end rendering code, but further work is required.
The following are noted as key issues with this release:
- Projected lights will not render correctly on alphas
- ATI graphics users my still experience the “pink avatar” issue
- The media volume control drop-down does not always function as expected.
Feedback and Opinion
I make no secret of the fact that I really like Niran’s Viewer. While he and I don’t always agree on things, I like his overall approach and find the Viewer offers significant improvements over the more staple approach to UI design from other Viewers. For me, this release brings Niran’s Viewer back to the forefront of my preferred Viewers, and the one I’ll likely be using henceforth for photography once more.
All of the UI tweaks and changes strike me as logical, and while I admit that at times I am still going, “Err, hang on, where’s that option gone?” when using the new Preferences panel – I have to say the I like it. Certainly, just because it is new and requires a degree of re-learning is no reason to dismiss Niran’s Viewer.
Performance-wise – as you can see from the lag meter / FPS image above, I’ve getting some great performance for my system. To put the screen cap in perspective, it was grabbed while on my build platform at some 2850 metres, with draw distance set to my usual 360 metres and with 4 others on-sim, deferred rendering disabled. When I come down to my more usual test altitude – my skyhome at 390 metres, the frame rate does fall (unsurprisingly) with the average rate knocking around at the 30-35fps point, again with 4 others on-sim.
Enabling deferred and turning lighting and shadows on does bang this down significantly, with the viewer barely getting out of single figures (although it can sometimes reach and maintain 11-12fps. This is significantly lower than I tend to get on the likes of Firestorm, Catznip and the official SL Viewer, and I assume it is tied to the fact that Niran’s uses an enhanced rendering system. Even so, while the viewer remains in single FPS figures (averaging 8-9fps), the shadows that are rendered are (to my eyes) significantly crisper than those of my regular Viewer.
There are a couple of reasons I’m not totally converted to Niran’s Viewer at present, and these are entirely personal. The first is that I’m completely converted to using a client-side AO (multiple folders and all notwithstanding); for me the convenience of being able to run my preferred AOs directly from the Viewer UI and switch quickly and easily between them without a portion of my in-world view being lost to YABH (yet another bloody HUD) outweighs other considerations.
My other reason is that – as mentioned – Niran’s Viewer doesn’t (yet?) allow buttons to be left / right (and Top / bottom) aligned in the Window, and the chat bar to be placed directly against the bottom of the window. Both of these are huge win factors where I’m concerned because a) the maximum the use of available space in the Viewer window; b) I have my home-built “multi-HUD” that allows me to have several different HUD options / systems embedded in a single tool which is ideally suited to being placed in the lower left corner of my Viewer window (I have the chat bar set to appear / hide when I start typing or tap ENTER). This again both saves having HUDs scattered around my screen and minimises the amount of space they take-up. Currently, there is only one Viewer that gives the flexibility I enjoy in using buttons, chat bar and HUD, and as such, it does remain my preferred choice for daily use.
Nevertheless, I still think that this release of Niran’s Viewer represents another step forward in the development of a strongly user-oriented Viewer which includes a lot of unique and effective options and capabilities.
In a word, it is really smooth.