Zen Viewer Released Review

Reading Daniel Voyager’s blog I see a new viewer is out. Oh yay! Something else to play with. My first check is to go looking at the viewer’s web site. In this case that is mostly BitBucket, a programmer’s code repository tool. So, don’t expect the typical blog, wiki, and forum.

Zen Viewer

Zen Viewer in near default setup

There is an instructions page in the “wiki”. I personally think every viewer should have install instructions and explain the basics of how the viewer sets itself up. In this case they tell me the viewer will install in its own folder and use its own settings and cache. Good to know.

While many viewers share the Roaming\SecondLife\[avatar_name] folder for chat, Zen creates a separate folder for all the chat logs and user settings. You do have the option in Preferences->Privacy to change the location. If you don’t, then the viewer will only see chat that has happened in it.

They also list their special Debug Settings. Support is via the developer, Zena Juran, in-world by direct contact, IM, or note card. Feature requests and bug reports should go in Issues section of Bitbucket.

The wiki is a nice touch.

Download Zen Viewer 3.2.8 (7)

The Zen Viewer download page is here. So far, there are 24 downloads of the (7) version. Download is quick and about 26mb.

The install places the program in C:\Program Files\Zen Viewer\

The install creates a separate folder in Roaming for the user settings and chat logs.


The viewer is in Linden Lab’s Third Party Viewer Directory.

First Down Size

I was freaked at first when I tried to use a less than full screen window. The Restore Down button took the viewer down to nothing. See the image. It took me a couple of tries to notice the viewer was not simply minimizing to my task bar. You can grab the corner and size the window.

Preferences Panel a little Different

The setting panel is arranged differently. If you have become accustomed to the Viewer 3 FUI you’ll have no problem finding things. Graphics setting are a bit different. But, again you’ll have no problem. There are more graphics settings exposed in Preferences. Shadow settings have their own panel in Preferences.

Zen Menu Item

There is a Zen menu item in the top menu. It will let you select the pie right click menu or V3 list menu to use. It has some other choices. See image.

The Mesh Deformer Alpha Version is in part of the viewer. In Develop there is the option to turn it on or off. It is on by default.

Build Tools

The build tools seem to be a mix of several different features. The panel is rearranged a little. All the stuff you are going to be looking for is there and at least near where you’ll expect to find it.

The panel includes the triplets copy for size, rotation, and position. Qarl’s align tool is included. Default build options is part of the panel. Build Math is included. I think it is about as complete a set of build tools as exists.

Using Light & Shadows, Ambient Occlusion, and Shadows and 1280×700 window (there are no LOW to ULTRA settings) I get about 19 FPS in a sandbox and my home.

The viewer has Mesh Upload.

Mesh Upload Panel


This is very much a Viewer 3 interface viewer. It has lots of stuff missing from the Lab’s viewer. If you build in SL and like the V3 interface, you will want to check out the Zen Viewer.

5 thoughts on “Zen Viewer Released Review

  1. Nalate, I use Zen as my viewer of choice and have read several reviews of Zen but no one has yet mentioned the inbuilt Clientside Particles Editor which is in the latest 3.8 series of viewers. For the first time this gives me a chance to create my own particle effects, creates scripts, and allows my scripting partner to actually teach me how to create particle effects.

      • Zen is not any where near the first to release the Particle Editor. I first saw it in Dolphin3 weeks ago. Then heard it was in other viewers before Dolphin. Don’t slam Zen for early release of PE. I can’t see where Zen gets the attribution for the PE. Most people in SL have never herd of Zen. Lots have heard of the PE and I’ve sent several people to Dolphin3 to see it.

        Don’t jump on Dolphin3. Lance gives attribution. Plus his release of the PE has allowed many to provide feedback on the design of PE that would not otherwise have seen it. Plus, I’m told they were not the first to put the PE feature out in a viewer.

        I try to keep this blog drama free, which is complicated when we have issues to talk about and reputations are important.

  2. Can viewers be build like modules or plugins? Like different render – add em and woala? Like shadows, add replace. Why its so complicated with repacks rebuilds reinstalls?

    • I don’t work with the code. From what I’m told and hear the Lab is working toward making the viewer more modular. For now it is not all that modular.

      Things like a shadow ‘module’ that could be changed out is a good sounding idea. If we were not rendering in real time, it would probably be ideal.
      Linear processing is easy to understand, but it can be horrifically slow when the tasks are large. To gain speed we are moving toward more and more parallel processing. We are hitting the physics of how fast we can move an electron through a CPU. Most CPU’s run in the 2.5 to 3.0 Mhz range now and we get additional speed by placing multiple CPU’s within a single chip. The newest super computers use 16 core (CPU’s) in a single chip we call the CPU. Then they use thousands of CPU’s. Literally millions of things happen at the same time.

      The viewer is complex. It deals with a complex task. Many of the tasks it must accomplish are required to happen in real time while remaining coordinated with 50,000+ other client computers and thousands of Linden Lab servers.

      Consider yourself the programmer. Imagine having a coloring book of blank pages and five classrooms with 30 kids each. You have also been given a paper list of X,Y,Z coordinates, another with a list of transparency values for those X,Y,Z points, a catalog of pictures, another list of which pictures to draw between which X,Y,Z’s, and a list of miscellainous things like music channels and other stuff. It is your job to coordinate all the kids to draw the picture from this information. You have one day to draw 500k triangles to make the picture. Some triangles are behind others and won’t show. Some sets of triangles are on a moving object that is rotating. Someone has to figure out how much it has rotated for this picture. At the end of the process the picture has to be on one page. I’ve barely started.

      Your job is to write the instructions telling them how to do it. You have to tell them every step. Including minutia like pick up the blue crayola. While it would be easy to have one kid do it, it would take a long time. So, you have 150 kids to coordinate. If you tell them all to pick up a crayola at the same time they cue up at the crayola box waiting to get their color and waste time.

      The best instructions you can imagine and write, will fail the first try. In spite of how much you think, you will not anticipate everything. If you gave me your instructions when done I would probably look at them and then ask where is the bathroom break. Something unforeseen to you or I would be needed further complicating things.

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