[ Update: This post is seriously dated now. FirstLook and SLim projects are no more. There is somewhat better voice in SL now and the Lindens have released a new 2.0 viewer (which looks rather Web2.0 but otherwise stinks by most user reports (even though the Lindens tout it as the best thing since sliced bread) ah yesh, well, over 50% of SL users hate it so much they went back to the old 1.xx version viewer or 3rd party builds of the same.. but that’s another post… LOL… I’m not biased, just strong opinioned since I rather hate it myself and like the usability, stability on Mac OSX and the intuitive interface of the older viewer much better IMHO but I will stop at that.. Check out my newer posts for more on 3rd party viewers, I am researching what I can find and reporting back on the results! ]
Most people who play second life probably don’t bother or don’t know about alternate viewers.
The viewer is the client app which connects you into SecondLife. It’s open source, apparently, so that people can code around it and do stuff like the SLim, an Instant Messaging client, or FirstLook, the sort of beta version of the standard SL viewer, or even code their own viewer.
What’s cool about FirstLook, as the name hints, you can see some stuff or use some controls or customizations that aren’t yet available in the stable (heheh… well as stable as can be) viewer.
Also, if you login to FirstLook and enable voice, then you can also use the SLim client, which just gives you IM — just like an older nofrills chat client, you text or voice talk to other people on your friends list. This doesn’t get you in world, it’s just a communications sorta thing for talking to people in world, even when you aren’t fully logged in. The problem with SLim is that if the person you are talking to doesn’t use FirstLook and have voice chat enabled, then you won’t be able to IM them. You will only be able to see their online status, which, isn’t really that useful IMHO.
What may not be apparent from the download page (since the link is the same), is that SLim and FirstLook are separate programs, though they work together, can be used independantly, but they do kinda depend on one another existing in the same system.
In addition to the SL viewer, FirstLook, and SLim, there’s other viewers out there, for example the onrez store has taken it upon themselves to make a version of the viewer which is oriented to new players, giving you some useful add-ons to the interface such as teleport back, teleport history and an in-world web browser. It is aptly named the OnRez Viewer and is available for both Mac and PC.
That, and they claim the graphics look much better in their viewer. I haven’t tried it yet but it’s worth it to know someone is putting efforts into making it look or perform better. That’s the one thing that really bugs me about SL is the frequency in which stuff lags, crashes, or otherwise misbehaves itself. I’m going to try the OnRez viewer soon and I’ll report back what I find..