You can create as many bots as you’ve purchased Group Tools licences, and you can assign individual settings to each one. Every bot you create is added to the Select Bot drop-down list at the top left of the Control Centre.
During the bot creation process, you will be prompted to back-up the bot details locally. In addition, the FILE menu option presents you with additional options for exporting or importing bot account details (useful if you are using Group Tools on more than one computer, and simply want to import backed-up bot details rather than having to create accounts from scratch), and to delete bot accounts which are no longer required.
The concept of Operator’s Group is important, as it allows others to use a bot you have created to send out notices and IMs on your behalf. This is particularly useful where a group has multiple managers / event coordination staff, as it means that notices, etc., can be taken care of by more than one individual. Operators do not need to have Group Tools installed on their computer – they can work with the bot directly from their SL viewer of choice and use the notecard option defined below for outgoing messages. All that is required is that they are in the same group as the bot you wish them to be able to use.
When setting-up an Operator’s Group, make sure that it is not set to open enrollment, or anyone will be able to join and potentially access the bot to send group messages and notices.
The Client Window
Logging-in to SL using Group Tools will display the Client Window, the default view of which is shown below, and which is fairly self-explanatory.
Sending Notices and IMs
There are two ways in which notices can be sent using a Group Tools bot – using Group Tools, or using a formatted notecard via an SL viewer.
Sending Using Group Tools
To send a notice or group IM using Group tools, click on WORLD->TIMED MESSAGES. This will open the message screen, which also allows you to define which groups will receive messages and notices sent by the bot.
Groups to which notices / IM messages are to be sent are selected by checking the group names in the panels on the right of the display. Note that only those groups for which the bot has notice and / or IM rights enabled will be displayed in these panels. The message is composed in the left side of the display, which is also used to set whether the message is sent as an IM, a notice, or both. In addition, you can add an attachment to the message in the form of a notecard, landmark, etc, just as you can with a notice, providing the item is copyable and is contained in the bot’s inventory. Messages can also be sent immediately, or can be set to be sent on a defined time / date – thus allowing them to be set-up in advance and effectively queued by Group Tools. As long as the bot is logged-in to SL, the messages will be sent.
Sending Using a Notecard
Sending a message / notice via a notecard is potentially more flexible in that it allows anyone assigned to a bot’s Operator’s Group to send messages through the bot to all of the selected groups. All that is required is a pre-formatted notecard with the required message information and embedded items such as SLUrls, if required. A sample of notecard formats is supplied when you register an account with Group Tools. The following video demonstrates how to send a message in this way.
Note that you can also allow others to operate your bot via their own copy of Group Tools – all they require is the bot’s user name and Group Tools password, and your Master account avatar name. Providing you have set-up the bot with a Group Tools specific name and password, other users will not be able to log-on to the bot account using an SL viewer.
Details on how others can use a bot can be found on the Group Tools website.
Group Tools includes a range of other functions, which take the form of a set of menu options under WORLD and a set of commands. These are outlined within the Group Tools website and are not expanded upon here. There is also a HUD which can be used with Group Tools and which can be purchased from the Group Tools store. As I have limited use for the client beyond this review, I did not purchase a copy of the HUD to examine its functionality.
This is a very specialised client, already listed on the TPV Directory, fulfilling a very specific need. It this, the functionality appears very comprehensive, and the overall usability is very flexible – particularly with the idea of the Operator’s Group for bots. How popular such a tool is liable to be is questionable, but the fact that it has been created is indicative that there is an identified niche need within SL which it is filling. Certainly, for those working across multiple groups and who need to send the same messages / notifications out to them on a routine basis, Group Tools is liable to be a major time saver. As such, and if you are in that situation and haven’t given it a try yet, it might be worth giving the week’s free trial a go and seeing how it works for you.