Second Life Viewer Tips + Firestorm

I’ve been attempting to do more video/machinima in Second Life™. I also make tutorials from time to time that can be improved by the use of video. And just the other day read Jo Yardley’s Comparing the official Second Life viewer with Firestorm. While reading I realized both she and I need to know more about our alternate viewers. She uses the Firestorm viewer as her main viewer. I tend to use the SL Viewer more than Firestorm. I am switching back and forth between the two more often these days. The Photo Tools in Firestorm are the enticement that draws me to Firestorm.

Server-Scripting UG 2014-39

Server-Scripting UG 2014-39

I am more familiar with the SL Viewer. But, I have used Phoenix or Firestorm off and on since the great viewer purge… when Emerald was excommunicated.


If you do machinima you want to kill chat and notices. Depending on the type of video you plan to make you may want to still have the user interface showing, like tutorials. Both viewers have a load of chat settings. A big difference is Firestorm puts most them out in the User Interface (UI) where users can more easily get to them and remember where and what they are. 

The philosophies behind the two viewers are different. The Lindens try to make the SL Viewer easy to learn, which to the Lindens means in some measure fewer UI controls. The Firestorm Viewer is a power users viewer and the team tries to give more power and control to the user, which means exposing more viewer settings.

The result is the SL Viewer has many hidden settings. You can look at the Second Life Viewer Debug Settings to find a list of the settings. There are 40 or 50 settings related just to chat.

The Firestorm Viewer has a similar list here: Firestorm Viewer Debug Settings. It is a larger and more complex list. The list is broken into Global and Users settings and there are sub groupings; Phoenix Mode, Firestorm Mode, SL Viewer Mode, Hybrid Mode, and Latency Mode. …yeah it is a bit more complex learning Firestorm.

The SL Viewer’s Debug Settings list shows 36 settings for chat. However, Firestorm’s Debug Settings list shows about 117. Quite a difference. Plus Firestorm has another 10 or so settings that are user specific. Those are more about how chat is logged than what appears on screen.

For machinima it is the on-screen appearance that we want to control. To simply remove all UI chrome, notices, and all chat press Ctrl-Alt-F1 (it is the same in both viewer: FS & SL). There is a menu control to do the same (Advanced->Rendering Features->UI), but once off there is no way to see the menu to turn the UI back on. You WILL need the keyboard shortcut.

For combat and video tutorials we want to control screen pop ups that require a click and foul time/speed critical play. We still need our UI and HUD’s. In most viewers whatever the SL Viewer can do third party viewers can do. With the SL Viewer problem pop up notices can be stopped: Me->Preferences->Notifications and change any of the 8 notification types listed.

For making video tutorials you need settings similar to those one would use for combat play. Of course the tutorial subject can influence what is needed. For more control the Debug Settings provide finer control. They may also make your use of the viewer nicer.

117 Debug Settings - click me
Firestorm  and SL Chat Settings:

  1. AllowMUpose (FS) – Allow MU* pose style in chat and IM (with ‘:’ as a synonymous to ‘/me ‘).
  2. always_showable_floaters (FS)- Floaters that can be shown despite mouselook mode.
  3. ArrowKeysAlwaysMove(FS & SL) – While cursor is in chat entry box, arrow keys still control your avatar.
  4. AutoCloseOOC (FS) – Auto-close OOC chat (i.e. add “))” if not found and “((” was used).
  5. AutohideChatBar (FS) – Hide the chat bar from the bottom button bar and only show it as an overlay when needed. This hides the local chatbar that usually appears in the lower leftof the screen in Firestorm mode.If you press Enter/Return to start chat the bar will appear.
  6. ChatBarCustomWidth (FS & SL) – Stores customized width of chat bar.
  7. ChatBarStealsFocus (FS & SL) – Whenever keyboard focus is removed from the UI, and the chat bar is visible, the chat bar takes focus.
  8. ChatBubbleOpacity (FS & SL) – Opacity of chat bubble background (0.0 = completely transparent, 1.0 = completely opaque)
  9. ChatConsoleFontSize (FS & SL) – Size of chat text in chat console (0 to 3, small to huge).
  10. ChatFontSize (FS & SL) – Size of chat text in chat floater (0 to 3, small to huge).
  11. ChatFullWidth (FS & SL) – Chat console takes up full width of SL window.
  12. ChatHistoryTornOff (FS & SL) – Show chat transcript window separately from Communicate window.
  13. ChatLoadGroupMaxMembers (FS & SL) – Max number of active members we’ll show up for an unresponsive group.
  14. ChatLoadGroupTimeout (FS & SL) – Time we give the server to send group participants before we hit the server for group info (seconds)
  15. ChatOnlineNotification (FS & SL) – Provide notifications for when friend log on and off of SL.
  16. ChatPersistTime (FS & SL) – Time for which chat stays visible in console (seconds).
  17. ChatShowTimestamps (FS & SL) – Show timestamps in chat.
  18. ChatTabDirection (FS) – Toggles the direction of chat tabs between horizontal and vertical.
  19. CloseChatOnEmptyReturn – Close the chat transcript floater after hitting return on an empty line.
  20. CloseChatOnReturn (FS & SL) – Close chat after hitting return.
  21. ConsoleBackgroundOpacity (FS & SL) – Opacity of chat console (0.0 = completely transparent, 1.0 = completely opaque)
  22. ConsoleBufferSize (FS & SL) – Size of chat console transcript (lines of chat).
  23. ConsoleMaxLines (FS & SL) – Max number of lines of chat text visible in console.
  24. ConversationHistoryPageSize (FS & SL) – Chat transcript of conversation opened from call log is displayed by pages. So this is number of entries per page.
  25. DisplayChat (FS & SL) – Display Latest Chat message on LCD. Disable to stop the on screen chat that normally appears when the chat window is closed. Chat continues to slow into chat history and transcripts.
  26. EffectScriptChatParticles (FS & SL) – 1 = normal behavior, 0 = disable display of swirling lights when scripts communicate.
  27. EmotesUseItalic (FS) – Chat emotes are emphasized by using italic font style.
  28. EnableGroupChatPopups (FS & SL) – Enable Incoming Group Chat Popups. Disabled by default.
  29. EnableIMChatPopups (FS & SL) – Enable Incoming IM Chat Popups. Enabled by default.
  30. FloaterStatisticsRect (FS & SL) – Rectangle for chat transcript.
  31. FSChatbarGestureAutoCompleteEnable (FS) – Toggles gesture auto complete in chat bar.
  32. FSChatbarNamePrediction (FS) – Toggles name prediction in nearby chat.
  33. FSChatHistoryShowYou (FS) – Show localized “You” instead of your avatar’s username (like CHUI).
  34. FSChatsUppercase (FS) – Group chats, IM sessions and nearby chat always in uppercase.
  35. FSChatWindow (FS) – Show chat in multiple windows(by default) or in one multi-tabbed window(requires restart).
  36. FSCmdLine (FS) – Enable usage of chat bar as a command line.
  37. FSCmdLineClearChat (FS) – Clear chat transcript to stop lag from chat spam.
  38. FSCmdLineMedia (FS) – Chat command for setting a media url.
  39. FSCmdLineMusic – Chat command for setting a music url.
  40. FSCollisionMessagesInChat (FS) – Shows collision messages in nearby chat.
  41. FSContactSetsColorizeChat (FS) – Whether to color a friends chat based on their friends groups.
  42. FSContactSetsNotificationNearbyChat (FS) – Show the On/Offline notifications caused by Contactsets in Nearby Chat.
  43. FSDisableIMChiclets (FS) – If enabled, Firestorm will not show any group / IM chat chiclets (notifications envelope and sum of IMs will remain on the screen). This turns off the chicklets that normally appear in the upper right of the default Firestorm mode.
  44. FSEmphasizeShoutWhisper (FS) – Enables bolding shouted chat and italicizing whispered chat.
  45. FSFontChatLineSpacingPixels (FS) – Line spacing pixels for chat text (requires restart).
  46. FSIMChatFlashOnFriendStatusChange (FS) – Flash IM tab when friend goes online or offline.
  47. FSIMChatHistoryFade (FS) – Amount to fade IM text into the background of the chat transcript floater (0.25-1.0, 0.25 for really light, 1 for fully visible).
  48. FSIMSystemMessageBrackets (FS) – Enables surrounding system messages with square brackets in chat transcript. []
  49. FSLogGroupImToChatConsole (FS) – Defines if group IM notifications should be sent to the nearby chat console (v1-style) or toasts (v2-style).
  50. FSLogIMInChatHistory (FS) – If true, IM will also be logged in the nearby chat transcript if logging nearby chat and showing IMs in nearby chat is enabled.
  51. FSLogImToChatConsole (FS) – Defines if IM notifications should be sent to the nearby chat console (v1-style) or toasts (v2-style).
  52. FSMuteAllGroups (FS) – Disable ALL group chats.
  53. FSMuteGroupWhenNoticesDisabled (FS) – When ‘Receive group notices’ is disabled, disable group chat as well.
  54. FSNearbyChatbar (FS) – Set to true to add a chat bar to the Nearby Chat window.
  55. FSNearbyChatToastsOffset (FS) – Vertical offset of the nearby chat toasts.
  56. FSOOCPostfix (FS) – Postfix to mark OOC chat.
  57. FSOOCPrefix (FS) – Prefix to mark OOC chat.
  58. FSParticleChat (FS) – Speak Particle Info on channel 9000.
  59. FSPaymentInfoInChat (FS) – If true, L$ balance changes will be shown in nearby chat instead of toasts.
  60. FSReportMutedGroupChat (FS) – Reports to nearby chat if a group chat has been muted.
  61. FSSecondsinChatTimestamps (FS) – Show seconds in chat timestamps, in the chat window and logs.
  62. FSShowChatChannel (FS) – Shows/Hides the channel selector in the Nearby Chat command line.
  63. FSShowChatType (FS) – Shows/Hides the chat type selector (Whisper, Say, Shout).
  64. FSShowGroupNameLength (FS) – Max length of group name to be printed in chat (-1 for full group name, 0 for disabled).
  65. FSShowIMInChatHistory (FS) – If true, IM will also be shown in the nearby chat transcript.
  66. FSShowMutedChatHistory (FS) – Shows the muted text in nearby chat transcript if enabled.
  67. FSShowTimestampsNearbyChat (FS) – Show timestamps in nearby chat.
  68. FSSupportGroupChatPrefix2 (FS) – Adds (FS 1.2.3) to support group chat.
  69. FSUseNearbyChatConsole (FS) – Display popup chat embedded into the read-only world console (v1-style) instead of overlayed floaters (v2-style).
  70. IMShowNamesForP2PConv (FS & SL) – Enable(disable) showing of a names in the chat.
  71. IMShowTime (FS & SL) – Enable(disable) timestamp showing in the chat.
  72. layout_size_chat_bar_stack – Fractional size for layout panel chat_bar_stack.
  73. LetterKeysFocusChatBar (FS & SL) – When printable characters keys (possibly with Shift held) are pressed, the chat bar takes focus.
  74. LogInventoryDecline (FS & SL) – Log in system chat whenever an inventory offer is declined.
  75. MainChatbarVisible (FS) – Internal, volatile control variable to enable/disable the chat button in the toolbar. This is not in 4.6.7.
  76. MiniMapChatRing (FS) – Display chat distance ring on mini map.
  77. NearByChatChannelUUID (FS & SL) – Reports current channel UUID number.
  78. NearbyChatFloaterBarType – Indicates the type of chat bar to use on the nearby chat floater (1 – single line; 2 – multi line).
  79. NearbyChatFloaterWindow – Show the nearby chat floater as a separate floater or embedded in the multi-tabbed conversations floater (see ChatWindow).
  80. NearbyToastFadingTime (FS & SL) – Number of seconds while a nearby chat toast is fading.
  81. NearbyToastLifeTime (FS & SL) – Number of seconds while a nearby chat toast exists.
  82. NearbyToastWidth – Width of a the nearby chat toasts in percent of screen width.
  83. NotificationGroupChatOptions (FS & SL) – Specifies how the UI responds to Group Chat Notifications. Allowed values: [openconversations,toast,flash,noaction].
  84. NotificationNearbyChatOptions (FS & SL) – Specifies how the UI responds to Nearby Chat Notifications. Allowed values: [openconversations,toast,flash,noaction]. This removes the chicklet that counts conversations and notices in the default Firestorm’s upper right.
  85. OnlineOfflinetoNearbyChat – end online/offline notifications to Nearby Chat panel (v1-style behavior).
  86. OnlineOfflinetoNearbyChatHistory – Show online/offline notifications only in chat transcript.
  87. PlainTextChatHistory (FS & SL) – Enable/Disable plain text chat transcript style.
  88. PlayChatAnim (FS & SL) – Your avatar plays the chat animation whenever you say, shout or whisper something in nearby chat.
  89. PlayModeUISndNewIncomingGroupIMSession (FS) – Holds state for Prefs > Sound/Media > UI Sounds – UISndNewIncomingGroupIMSession. 0 = Mute this sound, 1 = Play only on new session, 2 = Play on every message, 3 = Play only if not in focus. This setting is shared with Chat > Notifications > ‘When receiving Group Instant Messages’.
  90. PlayModeUISndNewIncomingIMSession (FS) – Holds state for Prefs > Sound/Media > UI Sounds – UISndNewIncomingIMSession. 0 = Mute this sound, 1 = Play only on new session, 2 = Play on every message, 3 = Play only if not in focus. This setting is shared with Chat > Notifications > ‘When receiving Instant Messages’.
  91. PlayModeUISndRadarChatEnter (FS) – If enabled: plays the sound when avatars enter chat range. Also depends on RadarReportChatRangeEnter.
  92. PlayModeUISndRadarChatLeave (FS) – If enabled: plays the sound when avatars leave chat range. Also depends on RadarReportChatRangeLeave.
  93. PlayModeUISndTyping (FS) – Hear the typing sound when others type in to local chat. Originally FSPlayTypingSound.
  94. PlaySoundGroupChatIM (FS & SL) – Plays a sound when group chat IM received.
  95. PlaySoundNearbyChatIM (FS & SL) – Plays a sound when nearby chat IM received.
  96. PlayTypingAnim (FS & SL) – Your avatar plays the typing animation whenever you type in the chat bar.
  97. RadarEnterChannelAlert (FS) – Toggles whether radar sends out chat alerts when it detects a new avatar.
  98. RadarLeaveChannelAlert (FS) – Toggles whether radar sends out chat alerts when it detects an avatar has left.
  99. RadarReportChatRangeEnter (FS) – Display a chat message when avatar enters chat distance.
  100. RadarReportChatRangeLeave (FS) – Display a chat message when avatar leaves chat distance.
  101. RadarReportDrawRangeEnter (FS) – Display a chat message when avatar enters draw distance.
  102. RadarReportDrawRangeLeave (FS) – Display a chat message when avatar leaves draw distance.
  103. RadarReportSimRangeEnter (FS) – Display a chat message when avatar enteres local region.
  104. RadarReportSimRangeLeave (FS) – Display a chat message when avatar leaves local region.
  105. RestrainedLoveCanOOC (FS) – Allows sending OOC chat when send chat restricted, or seeing OOC chat when receive chat restricted.
  106. ShowChatMiniIcons (FS) – Toggles the display of mini icons in chat transcript.
  107. ShowScriptErrorsLocation (FS & SL) – Show script error in chat (0) or window (1).
  108. ShowStreamMetadata – Shows stream metadata (artist, title) notifications. (0 = Off, 1 = Notification Toast, 2 = Nearby Chat).
  109. SpeakerParticipantRemoveDelay (FS & SL) – Timeout to remove participants who is not in channel before removed from list of active speakers (text/voice chat).
  110. StreamMetadataAnnounceChannel – Chat channel where stream metadata is announced to.
  111. StreamMetadataAnnounceToChat – Announces stream metadata to a defined chat channel.
  112. TranslateChat (FS & SL) – Translate incoming chat messages.
  113. UISndRadarChatEnter – Sound file played when avatars enter chat range (uuid for sound asset).
  114. UISndRadarChatLeave – Sound file played when avatars leave chat range (uuid for sound asset).
  115. UISndTyping (FS & SL) – Sound file for starting to type a chat message (uuid for sound asset).
  116. UseChatBubbles (FS & SL) – Show chat above avatars head in chat bubbles.
  117. WarningsAsChat (FS & SL) – Display warning messages in chat transcript.

The blue settings in the accordion above are those that affect visibility of nearby and group chat and notices. Those are generally available in the Preference panels. You can find most of these settings in Firestorm’s Preferences->Chat. The SL Viewer provides access to the commonly used ones in Preferences->Chat too, but the majority of the settings listed are only accessible via the Debug Settings.

With Firestorm you can get the viewer setup the way you like it for everyday use and then save your settings. You can then tweak your chat settings to work as you want them to for a specific purpose. Then save those settings under a different name, otherwise the ‘save’ overwrites your previous settings. That will let you change back and forth. The annoying gotcha in the process is having to relog after loading saved settings to get the newly loaded settings working.

The SL Viewer has no settings-save feature. You can however accomplish the same thing by making a copy of the viewer’s settings.xml file and renaming it. You have to do this after you close the viewer. When you have your collection of settings files you then copy  them over the viewer’s settings.xml file so the viewer will use the altered settings on next launch. Pretty tedious, but doable. Firestorm definitely has the SL Viewer beat on this point.

One of the points Jo was complaining about is there is no control to turn off Group Notices. So, whenever someone sends a group notice it will pop up on you screen, which could spoil a video. The feature can be turned off using the Debug Setting EnableGroupChatPopups. Top menu->Advanced (Ctrl-Alt-D to open Advanced, if it is not showing)->Show Debug Settings. Type in the name and the panel updates with choices as you type.

Jo Also ran into the problem of settings changes not sticking. If you change settings and the viewer crashes, there is a good chance those settings will be lost. There is also the problem of invisible crashes, which happen when you are exiting the viewer. You may not even notice the viewer crashed, but the settings changes can be lost.

The fix is to open the viewer, make any changes and close the viewer. By being on a short time you reduce the impact of memory leaks and the chance of crashing on exist. That’s probably too much work for one or two changes. But, some past versions of the viewers almost always crashed on exit, so this was the only way to get settings changes to save. We never know when we may see that problem again.

Jo goes on to list other advantages to using Firestorm over the SL Viewer. For anyone that is a power user the Firestorm viewer offers a lot. I think for someone just starting out, it can be a bit overwhelming. But, the Firestorm people give classes, so it may not be that bad.

Whichever viewer you chose, you now have the information you need to make the screen appear pretty much as you want.

4 thoughts on “Second Life Viewer Tips + Firestorm

  1. In Firestorm you can add anything that has a debug setting (and just about everything does) to the Quick Preferences window. EnableGroupChatPopups would be a likely candidate for ppl doing videos. An exhaustive list of Firestorm debug settings can be found at

  2. Pingback: Second Life – Machinima Settings | Nalates' Things & StuffNalates’ Things & Stuff

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