See SL differently
Alternative viewers for older machines, photographers, vloggers and mobile
I happened to be lurking in group chat in-world when the topic turned to alternative viewers for Second Life. What surprised me however was the amount of people present who were blissfully unaware that others existed at all.
In the words of Linden Labs:
“You may connect to Second Life using software released by a third-party developer. Linden Lab provides a Policy on Third-Party Viewers to promote a positive and predictable experience for all Second Life Residents. Beware of third-party viewers that are not in the Viewer Directory: they have either declined to self-certify their compliance with Linden Lab policies or been refused for noncompliance with the policies”
So how useful are they to the average Resident? Well, as it turns out, very. There’s viewers for older machines, there’s viewers for photographers and Vloggers, and there’s more simple Android/Apple and text only viewers so you can keep in touch with your friends away from home. Firestorm for instance has a lot of features which make older machines creak at the seams, so perhaps you want something less intense on your graphics card if you’re a more basic user. Perhaps you’re exploring photography and are ready to move on to a more advanced stage. Or you’re someone who loves tinkering under the bonnet with open source.
The following guide will help you choose and then try an alternative viewer. I strongly suggest you read the feedback on each viewer’s homepage to make an informed choice before running it on your machine. All the viewers below are officially recognized and approved by Linden Labs, but they do not provide support with any non-official viewer issues, nor can be held responsible for any other mishap or problems you may encounter with them.
- Creators comment: “An experimental Second Life™ viewer striving to be at the forefront of stability, performance, and technological advancement in the open-source metaverse viewer field.”
- Systems: Windows, Macosx, Linux
- A cross between the official viewer with some features of Firestorm. Clean look, may take some getting used to but perhaps your first port of call if you want to try something less stressful to your older machine.
- Creator’s Comment: “The primary goal of Black Dragon is to enhance and refine the visuals of Second Life as well as having unique design approaches and features.”
- Systems: Windows Only
- The go-to viewer for advanced SL photographers and Vloggers with superb camera tools and occasional breathtaking winlight effects. Not recommend for day to day grid life and the interface for some may be too complex for their computer skill levels. You will need to change a lot of settings to suit your personal activity style but there is an active Discord group and the creator is helpful. Older machines will not cope well with this either so check their system requirements page before downloading.
- Creators comment: “The next generation viewer from The Phoenix Firestorm Project, Firestorm is based on the LL V3 LGPL code and offers extensive interface customizability including V1 skin options, feature and option rich with 24/7 support.”
- Systems: Windows, Macosx, Linux
- The most popular alternative viewer for Second Life, having many features which come at a cost to CPU performance if your machine is old. Best for creators, beginner and intermediate photographers and for those who are very active on the grid overall. Its Area Search feature being one of the most useful things to use (not all viewers have this)
- Creators comment: “A hybrid viewer based on a mixture of official sources and custom code aimed specifically at experienced users, with emphasis on the visuals”
- Systems: Windows only.
- The ‘under the bonnet’ viewer for those comfortable with scripting which comes with some unique viewer features that has caught the eye of some bloggers and general photographers. Some of the features include a custom Jpeg 2000 decompressor, Anaglyph 3D (see image at the top of this article) and even a Python code scripting system. If you wish to experiment with this viewer bear in mind its not recommended for complete beginners or those unsure of managing a computer interface in their day to day experience on the grid.
- Creators comment: “Kokua provides releases for PC, Mac and Linux with and without Marine Kelley’s RLV together with a broad selection of original features and the best from other viewers. Kokua aims to be the viewer of choice for RLV users who want Marine Kelley’s original implementation with more bells and whistles than Marine’s own viewer.”
- Systems: Windows, Macosx, Linux
- The one with the RLV: This is the viewer of choice of those who like to use RLV with additional bells and whistles and has handy features like additional view angle choices, EEP RLV and bulk renaming of items in inventory. Handy for the more serious Roleplayer too should they prefer a less feature loaded interface on an older machine.
- Creators comment: “Catznip aims to refine and reinvent your window into Second Life. Our focus is stability, usability, privacy and plenty of new original home grown features. It’s about taking a fresh look at things and attempting to do them better.”
- Systems: Windows and Macosx only
- This viewer in both look and feel is closest to the official viewer of Linden Lab, but with a smattering of additional features and new unique settings including additional privacy settings.
- Creators comment: “The RLV enhances your experience when you use it in conjunction with RLV-compatible objects, which are able to restrict the user from detaching items, receiving IMs, hearing chat, teleporting etc”
- Systems: Windows and Macosx only
- With ‘SL Experiences’ and the Roleplayer community growing within Second Life this has now become a surprise helpful tool away from the adult-only community. Please ensure you read everything attached to this system before installing so you are aware what will change once you log into Second Life using this.
- Creators comment: “Singularity strives to combine the beloved look and feel of Viewer 1.23 with the latest and greatest of available technology, and to stay compatible with future Second Life changes and features”
- Systems: Windows and Linux only
- This is the second most popular viewer after Firestorm, and old hands may appreciate the feel of an earlier viewer coupled with additional parts wrested from the old Emerald viewer. It seems to be popular with roleplayers and RLV users, so read their guide on their site first to make up your mind, but its popular enough that you may find a user in your friend circle who uses it – chat to them first before going ahead and installing. Friendlier to older machines.
Mobile and light Viewers
- Creators comment: “”Light-weight feature rich non-graphical client, ideal for situations where full 3D rendering client is less than ideal option, for instance, an office environment, running on low performance computers and similar
- Systems: Windows, Macosx and Linux
- This is the viewer ideal for those who like to sneak onto Second Life while at work, or want to carry on talking to friends if their computers are so old its just a desktop potato at this point. Please note its mostly a text-based system, although it does have a basic world view now for emergencies or if you wish to get your bearings around a room. It still has all the other things generally including a map, your inventory and so on but you will need to learn how to attach and detach items ‘blind’ if this is entirely new to you.
- Creators comment: “SpeedLight is 100% web-based viewer which does not require any downloads. It can be used both in desktop and mobile browsers, allowing to switch between devices without logging out. Supports multiple avatars (with a possibility to switch between them).
- Systems: Windows, Macosx, Linux, Android and iOS.
- This is the replacement by a relatively newer developer for a much loved older mobile viewer that’s been temporarily disabled. Also to replace the short-lived Linden Lab mobile viewer. Please note however that there is a charge for this service. A basic set up is free on the mobile systems, but if you want all the other options/bells and whistles you need to pay a fee to unlock them.
- Creators comment: “MetaChat is a text-only viewer for all Virtual Worlds based on the OpenSimulator software for 3D worlds. There is no 3D view, this is a text-only viewer. Add accounts from different worlds with different start locations. Chat with groups, see group infos or write group notices. Chat in open world. Move around a mini-map, teleport to landmarks. See your inventory, preview textures or pictures”
- Systems: iOS Only
- Created for iphone users, there is a separate Android version (listed below). Ideal for chatting to friends or in groups on to go, keeping up to date with roleplay, chatting while at work or for sim owners needing an emergency line inworld while they are out and about away from their computer. Bear in mind its pretty basic so you cannot render SL, but you can do other basics as needed.
- Creators comment: “Local chat and instant messages – converse with your friends, groups or someone else. Teleport to other regions and nearby avatars. Region map with accurate positions of other avatars. Profiles – look at your own and others profiles. Designed with usability in mind – simple and intuitive to use, tap chat and instant messages to get more information about the sender. The unique always on feature – stay logged in while answering a phone call or carrying the phone in your pocket.”
- Systems: Android Only
- For Android phones anywhere, this is another service that is paid for but it does offer over a month’s free try before you buy. Again it is pretty basic text viewer, best suited for sim owners away from home, people stuck at work wanting to chat to friends, and of course a few helpful additional features should you end up being teleported anywhere else on the grid.
- Creators comment: “GroupTools is a text only client with a small set of features compared to many other clients. The main focus is to make SecondLife residents experience with group activities more barable since sending multiple notices and IM’s can be a hassle and very time consuming.
- Systems: Windows only
- Just like Radegast and being text based only, but focusing on providing helpful tools for content creators, sim owners and large event hosts. They also provide a bot hosting service.