We’re all familiar with the Second Life Viewer in one flavour or another. But what about the non-graphical “lightweight” clients that are available for accessing SL when using a “full” Viewer isn’t always an option?
Like the Viewer, these “lightweight”, or text-only clients come in a number of flavours, some of which can run on computers and others on mobile devices. Given I don’t have a suitable mobile device, I thought it might be interesting to take a look at the former, focusing on the Windows platform, and given some kind of insight into their features and capabilities for those who have never used them. So over the course of three articles, I’ll be taking a look at Libretto, Metabolt and Radegast – all of which are on the SL TPV Directory, and all are still very much under enhancement.
Metabolt modestly describes itself as, “a thin text client with rich features to enable users to perform most important functions in SL”
Installation comprises downloading a ZIP file, extracting the contents to a temporary folder and then installing from there, which is somewhat long-winded, but the results are worth it.
From the start it is clear that Metabolt is intended to cover a lot of bases, allowing you to not only log-in to Second Life’s Main grid, but also to the Beta aditi grid, and to a number of pre-defined OS grids. You can even define a custom log-in for any grid not on the list, providing you have the necessary login uri. As with a graphical Viewer, you can additionally set your preferred log-in location. Finally, on logging-in, your avatar’s details are saved by Metabolt & can be selected from a drop-down drop-down list (First Name), simplifying the logging-in process in future sessions.
A successful log-in to Metabolt takes you directly to the Chat window (below).
- Applications Menu: provides access to a comprehensive set of preferences, some of which (Text, etc.), mirror the chat preferences in the SL Viewer, while others (such as the AI icon), are specific to Metabolt
- World: provides a series of in-world and avatar-specific options, including the ability to animate your avatar (so you can dance if you log-in at a club, rather than standing like a lemon); allows you to Tp Home or set a Tp point where you are, rebake (useful if someone informs you that you are a cloud in-world), go to your account history page at secondlife.com, etc.
- Tools: provides access to a range of tools, including a searchable grid map, complete with teleport options, a separate teleport option, an exceptionally powerful Object Manager (see below), an upload tool for images, and various other tools
- Logs: allows you to define save locations for for Metabolt chat and IM log files (a-la the Viewer), and accesses a log of all teleports made while using Metabolt
- Utilities: Reloads the AIML libraries associated with the AI plugin and allows you to launch the official SL Viewer, if you have it installed.
- Chat: displays the chat window, show above.
- Friends: opens the Friends tab. Here you can:
- IM a friend, view their profile (in a Viewer 1-style profile window), offer to teleport them to you, pay them, or remove them from your friends list.
- IMing a friend opens a new tabbed window which in turn provides options to view their profile, save a log of the conversation, review the history of the conversation and even mute them
- You can also set / revoke map, edit and see permissions against Friends from this tab
- Groups: displays a list of your current Groups, and allows you to start a Group IM, activate a Group tag, view Group information, leave a Group, invite someone into your Groups, and even create a new Group
- Inventory: is a powerful window that allows you to view, sort and organise your inventory, look at item properties and wear / remove / transfer items, as well a perform a number of other tasks as shown below.
- Search: opens a Viewer 2-type search window, allowing you to search in-world and the SL forums and related sites
- IMbox: allows you to review and reply to unread IMs you’ve received from other avatars.
To the right side of the window tab is a small computer icon which will display a drop-down menu:
- Merge with: allows you to merge a selected window with another window and display them in a single tab. The option will then change to Split, allowing you to separate the two windows once more
- Deatch: will detach a selected window tab from Metabolt and display it in its own floater. Use the Reattach option in the floater, or simple close the floater to redock the window with Metabolt.
Object Manager Window
This is a powerful feature within Metabolt when interacting with objects around you. Using this tool you can:
- Scan your immediate vicinity for objects (set your desired scan range)
- Interact with objects using the In-world tools – walk to an object, point to it, sit on it, stand up from it, mute it, etc.
- View the contents of an object (CONTENTS) to check scripts and other items it might contain
- Display a 3D image of the object (3D View) and:
- Zoom in/out on it, rotate it, etc., using the ALT key and your mouse
- Right-click on the image to display a list of actions you can take with it (sit on it, return it, etc.)
- Use the camera icon at the bottom of the image window to save the image to your hard drive
- You can additionally view details of a selected object and its child components.
The Object Manager includes a button to touch items around you and which should – I think – bring-up any menu associated with them to allow you to interact with it; however, this option does not appear to work as expected at present: a window is opened for the Touched object, but no actual menu is displayed.
Moving using Metabolt
Moving around in-world using Metabolt is obviously not easy – you can’t see where your avatar is going, or who or what is in the way. However, movement is possible in a number of ways, including:
- By using the Object Manager window and selecting an object then clicking on GO TO (to walk to it) or LOCATION to teleport to it
- By opening the map (TOOLS -> MAP or CTRL-M) and displaying a region before setting your desired co-ordinates and teleporting to it
- Using the movement and direction keys, in combination with the map / mini-map
- Having someone teleport you to them (TP offers appear in red alongside the Window Tabs)
- Getting friends around you to help direct you as you use the movement keys.
- Using the radar FOLLOW or GOTO buttons (see below).
None of these options – other than teleporting to fixed points – are terribly effective, but can at times help with things, and can be fun to try!
Another useful set of tools are the radar buttons, which are displayed in the Chat window. These become activate when an avatar name is selected from the list of nearby avatars, and are described below
Metabolt and other Grids
A major plus point for Metabolt is that it supports other grids, making it a good contender if you have a presence on several grids and need a text-based client to access them. I tried Metabolt with both InWorldz and Avination – neither of which are on the default list of grids, and logging in to both was as simple as giving my avatar details, selecting OTHER… from the drop-down list of grids and then giving the login URI for the grid to which I wanted to connect. If I have a complaint here, it is that the grid name isn’t added to the list of available grids, so you have to re-enter the URI each time you wish to enter a grid that isn’t listed.
The Metabolt website is very polished and provides excellent support in the form of a set of wiki pages, one of which provides a series of additional plug-ins to the “basic” client, as well as a reasonably-good Help section. There is also a forum for users as well, which appears to be in reasonable use, suggesting that there is lots of help to be had there from other users, should you need it.
Use and Opinion
Metabolt can appear a little off-putting with the log-in page ads (although there is an option to remove these if you donate to the project) – but don’t let them stop you trying out the client, as it may prove to be what you’re looking for when you can’t use the full Viewer.
Despite the apparent complexity of the main window, getting to grips with Metabolt is very easy, and you should encounter few problems in using it for basic tasks. That said, refinement of some of the more advanced options – such as touching objects – is required.
I’m personally not convinced of the need to include movement keys – unless there are plans to include some kind of 3D real-time rendering tool, a-la Radegast. I also felt the overall colour scheme could be improved; some of the background colours on the Object Manager buttons might make reading the button labels hard for some people. Sitting on a object was also sometimes touch-and-go due to not being able to define precisely WHERE on an object you might want to sit (unless a poseball is available for selection); but this is an issue for any non-graphical client offering this type of functionality.
That said, Metabolt is certainly a more involved text client than Libretto, and can enable you to do a lot more while without full graphical access to a grid. Overall a very good application with an impressive feature list.