Saturday, February 15, 2014

All You Do Is Talk Talk: Disentangling the Firestorm Chat Settings

The Firestorm chat options are among the most customizable and therefore complex set of settings in the viewer—and possibly in any viewer. They are a mix of Linden and Firestorm code merged into or written into the viewer over the course of more than three years and designed to allow people comfortable with either V1 or V3 interfaces to find a combination they’ll be happy with.

Some of the terminology is non-intuitive, and many of the settings interact in ways that are difficult to anticipate without getting your hands dirty and figuring them all out.

Let’s start with some basics. There are three main formats in which you can view chat text on your screen. They are:
  • Conversations window, sometimes referred to as “chat window”
  • Console, sometimes referred to as “onscreen console”
  • Toasts, which are popups that show up differently as local chat versus IMs


If you know what each kind of chat is called in the viewer preferences, you’ll be more likely to locate the settings you’re looking for. If you have to ask for help, it can save a lot of confusion if you’re able to communicate in the same language as the people trying to help you.

Conversations Window:


This is communication central for your chat. Nothing gets said that gets past the Conversations window. If you miss something the first time, you can always scroll back up through the tabs in here—or the broken-off windows—to find it.

Here’s the basic Conversations window, using default settings in Firestorm mode: IMs in vertical tabs with “V1-style” chat headers.
Figure 1: Conversations window at default settings

Figure 1 settings:
Preferences*  Chat General, “Show IMs in:” … “Tabs”
Preferences Chat General, “Chat Tab Mode Orientation” … “Vertical”
Preferences Chat General, “Use V1 style chat headers” (checked)

If you prefer your tabs across the bottom of the window, that’s easy enough to do.
Figure 2: Conversations window with horizontal IM tabs

Figure 2 settings:
Preferences Chat General, “Show IMs in:” … “Tabs”
Preferences Chat General, “Chat Tab Mode Orientation” … “Horizontal”
Preferences Chat General, “Use V1 style chat headers” (checked)

The final window option is a little more unexpected for most. It’s a V2-style option to have your IMs open up as separate windows that do not dock into the Conversations window. Either they're open on your screen separately or they’re minimized in such a way as to make it necessary to click the little icons up top—called "chiclets"—to view them. If you look at this image closely, you'll see a tiny triangle between the IM window on the right and the chiclet associated with it. This indicates that the IM window is docked to the chiclet. When you're using IM windows in this style, they'll automatically minimize when they aren't active, unless you drag the window away from the chiclet to undock it.
Figure 3: Conversations, with IMs in separate windows

Figure 3 settings:
Preferences Chat General, “Show IMs in:” … “Separate Windows”
Preferences Chat General, “Use V1 style chat headers” (checked)

You can also alter the appearance of chat in the Conversations window. We’re going back to tabs (vertical ones) now, but this appearance can be used with horizontal tabs or with separate windows, as well. What you’re seeing here is the use of V2/3-style chat headers, as opposed to V1-style, which are used in all the other examples.
Figure 4: Conversations displaying V2/3-style chat headers

Figure 4 settings:
Preferences Chat General, “Show IMs in:” … “Tabs”
Preferences Chat General, “Chat Tab Mode Orientation” … “Vertical”
Preferences Chat General, “Use V1 style chat headers” (unchecked)
Preferences Chat General, “When using V2/3 style chat headers, show mini icons” (checked)

You have the option to view IMs in nearby chat. This will allow you to follow all the conversations going on in other tabs without tabbing into them. You will have to tab in to respond, of course. You might find this useful, or you might find that it produces too much chat in one place to easily follow.
Figure 5: Conversations with "Show IMs in nearby chat window" enabled

Figure 5 settings:
Preferences Chat Notifications, “Show IMs in nearby chat window” (checked)
Preferences Chat Notifications, “Fade IM text into the background of the chat transcript window” (checked and set to 0.50)

If you do that, you can either have all the IMs—whether from groups or individuals—display only the prefix “IM:” before them or you can have the group name show, in full or in part, at the beginning of the chat line. To change this setting, do as follows below the figure:
Figure 6: Group chat showing in the nearby chat tab of the Conversations window. The group name appears in the chat headers of the faded-out chat.

Figure 6 settings:
Preferences Chat Notifications, “Length of group name to be printed in chat transcript”
Setting to “0” will show only “IM:” at the beginning of the line;
Setting to “-1” will show the entire group name (shown in image);
Setting to a positive number will show that number of characters in the group name.

Chat Console:


This is the part that scrolls up the left-hand side of the screen with a non-windowed, semi-transparent (by default) background. Not everyone loves the console, but under normal circumstances, local chat is going to appear somewhere outside of the Conversations window when it isn’t open to the Nearby Chat tab, and console is a fairly customizable place to put it.
Figure 7: Chat console, also called "onscreen console" or just "console"

Figure 7 settings:
Preferences Chat Notifications, “Use console for chat popups instead of floating toasts (Viewer 1.x style)” (checked)
Preferences Chat Firestorm, “Use classic draw mode for console” (checked)
Preferences Chat Firestorm, “Use full screen width for console” (unchecked)

You can view either local chat alone in the console or local and IMs interspersed. Above, there is only local chat. If you’re viewing IMs in the chat, as well, it will show up as below:
Figure 8: Chat console, with "Show IMs in chat console" enabled and both local chat and IMs showing

Figure 8 settings:
Preferences  Chat  Notifications, "Enable incoming chat popups" ... "IM Chats" (checked)
Preferences Chat Notifications, “Use console for chat popups instead of floating toasts (Viewer 1.x style)” (checked)
Preferences Chat Notifications, “Show IMs in chat console” (checked)
Preferences Chat Firestorm, “Use classic draw mode for console” (checked)
Preferences Chat Firestorm, “Use full screen width for console” (unchecked)

If you choose to include group chats in chat console (Preferences Chat Notifications, “Show group chat in chat console”), as well, then the same setting that adds the group name to the beginning of each line of text in the Conversations window will carry over here, as well. See Figure 6 for that and for the settings explanation that follows. Although you can display group chat in both or only one of the two places (Conversations or console), the format for both is determined by the same setting.

There are a couple of additional settings that affect the appearance of the chat console. They’re pretty easy to distinguish from one another, so I’ll illustrate them both in one picture. One is “classic draw mode,” which displays all of the console text against a single background, as shown in Figures 7 and 8. Below you’ll see this turned off, which displays each line of console text against a separate background.

The other setting is “full screen width.” Don’t confuse the phrase “full screen” here with using “fullscreen mode” in Graphics; they are unrelated. “Full screen width” here simply means the console extends all the way across your screen, however wide your screen is, as shown below. Disabling it will cause the console to extend only about one-third of the way across the screen, as is the case in Figures 7 and 8.
Figure 9: Console with "classic draw mode" unchecked and "full screen width" checked.

Figure 9 settings:
Preferences Chat Notifications, “Use console for chat popups instead of floating toasts (Viewer 1.x style)” (checked)
Preferences Chat Firestorm, “Use classic draw mode for console” (unchecked)
Preferences Chat Firestorm, “Use full screen width for console” (checked)

Chat Toasts:


Because of the default settings in the most commonly used login modes (Firestorm and Phoenix), it’s possible you’ve never seen a chat toast. Local chat toasts show up in the same location as chat console, while IM and group chat toasts appear in whichever corner of the screen your chiclets are in. Notice how these are in the same location as chat console but look significantly different. If you hover your cursor over them, an "x" will appear in the corner that allows you to click them closed if you want them to go away before they fade.
Figure 10: Local chat toasts

Figure 10 settings:
Preferences  Chat  Notifications, “Use console for chat popups instead of floating toasts (Viewer 1.x style)” (unchecked)

Group and IM toasts are different from any other chat display in that they show up in the upper right or lower right corner of the screen, depending on where your chiclets and group chat are displayed (Preferences  User Interface  General, "Group Notices and chiclets in Top Right"; if this is unchecked, they will appear in the lower right), and if they are in the upper right corner, they will appear in reverse order. Take a look at the time stamps in Figure 11 to see what I mean: the bottom toast is the one that came in first, and so forth—the toasts push each other downward as new ones come in.

Figure 11: IMs in toasts, upper right corner of screen


Figure 11 settings:
Preferences  Chat  Notifications, "Enable incoming chat popups" ... "IM Chats" (checked)
Preferences  Chat  Notifications, “Use console for chat popups instead of floating toasts (Viewer 1.x style)” (unchecked)
Preferences  User Interface  General, "Group Notices and chiclets in Top Right" (checked)
Preferences  User Interface  General, "Hide group and IM chat chiclets" (unchecked)

Since the IM toasts have led us to the chiclets, let's look at a couple of other options. We'll put the chiclets (and therefore the IM toasts) at the bottom of the screen and hide the IM and group chat chiclets. Note that although you can hide the chiclets that represent specific conversations, you cannot hide the chat bubble ("Conversations") and envelope ("Notifications") icons. You can of course close out all of the notifications to make the envelope icon go away, and if you have not yet received or sent an IM during the login session, the chat bubble won't be there yet, but those are not the same as hiding icons that are there and functioning.
Figure 12: IMs in toasts, lower right corner of screen

Figure 12 settings:
Preferences  Chat  Notifications, "Enable incoming chat popups" ... "IM Chats" (checked)
Preferences  Chat  Notifications, “Use console for chat popups instead of floating toasts (Viewer 1.x style)” (unchecked)
Preferences  User Interface  General, "Group Notices and chiclets in Top Right" (unchecked)
Preferences  User Interface  General, "Hide group and IM chat chiclets" (checked)

The settings for customizing the appearance of toasts are located in Preferences  User Interface  Toasts, but I'll let you experiment with those and figure out what works best for you. They are not all about chat toasts, though; the word "toast" refers to any popups in the viewer that appear in a corner of the screen and then fade after a time if you don't interact with them in some way that makes them do otherwise. So if you make changes there, expect them to apply as well to other toasts, such as group notices.

Additional Settings:


The above is meant to be an introduction to the major UI options with regard to chat appearance. There are many, many other options in the viewer, though, that affect chat in some way, some of which show up in the images in this post. They're all covered in brief on the Chat Tab page of our wiki, or you should come to our classes; the class called "Preferences 1" covers all of the chat options.

Finally, here are a few that affect the appearance of the images above:
Chat color: Preferences  Colors  Chat Color. I use green for "My text" and white for "Others"
Viewer skin: Preferences  Skins. I use Firestorm skin, CtrlAltStudio scheme here.
Toolbar buttons: Avatar  Toolbar buttons. As you can see from the pictures, I keep my toolbar very empty, but you can do a whole lot. We have a wiki page that explains more.
Channel selectorPreferences  Chat  Firestorm, "Show channel selection in chat bar." This adds a number box to the right of the chat bar in Conversations to allow you to change the channel on which scripts are listening. If you use this to change the channel, don't forget to change it back to 0 when you're done or else your local chat will not show up.

If you have additional questions about the settings, check out the Firestorm wiki for answers or come to our classes. There are additional ways of getting help listed on our getting help page.

* To open the Preferences window, hit Ctrl-P or go to Avatar menu  Preferences.

2 comments:

  1. i am trying to figure out how to set my conversations chat window so local chat stays there not populating on my screen, in trying to follow settings in help for firestorm i now dont see friends who are on line ... can it be set to default and have the local chat and announcements stay within the conversation chat box?

    ReplyDelete
  2. I want to know why I only have 2 pages of converstaion I want all of it from the time I first started talking to the person, please tell me how to fix this

    ReplyDelete