Disclaimer

Black Dragon is MY Viewer, i decide which feature i want to add and which to remove, i share this Viewer to show the world that user base size is not important, i do rate quality by effort, thought and love put into the project, not some rough estimated numbers. I consider feature requests only if i you can name proper valid reasons i can agree on. It is my (unpaid) time i'm putting into this project, i'm not here to cater to every Joe's desires.

Monday, April 2, 2018

Black Dragon Guide: User Interface Tour

So you've been booting up Black Dragon and wondering about the different, where's your X and how can you find Y. This guide is going to focus on a few things about the UI you should probably know.


Toolbars

Starting with one of the first things you'll see after logging into Second Life will be your Toolbars. Toolbars are the 4 (2 vertical and 2 horizontal) bars aligned to the edge of your screen, these invisible bars can be filled with lots of buttons. By default you'll find a few of them already attached to the top.


From left to right you'll find the Voice toggle, Conversations, People, Places, the Machinima Sidebar, the Poser, Outfits and your Inventory. You can drag them to any of the four toolbars at the edge of your screen, top, bottom, left and right, you can also remove them or change their appearance as well as add new ones by right clicking them and selecting "Toolbar buttons". You can also get there by pressing Ctrl + Alt + B or by using the main menu (Dragon - Edit - Toolbars).




Local Chat


Local Chat is by default part of the Conversations window because as you might have guessed it it's a conversation (kinda... talking to yourself doesn't count). However not many know that you can simply detach the Local Chat tab from the Conversations window and have it be a separate window or more specifically a movable chatbar.






Balance

If you are wondering where your Linden Balance has gone, it can be found in your Inventory because... well it is part of your Inventory isn't it, that is if your Inventory is some kind of wallet.





Action Wheel (Pie Menu)

The good old pie menu is still a thing in Black Dragon, it can be found in Preferences - Interface - Use Action Wheel and in case you wonder why it's called Action Wheel, that's because it's really more of an action wheel than a pie menu now. It looks a lot different than what you're used to, the layout has been completely overhauled too and unified across all pie menus to offer as much consistency as possible, most options can be found in the same place across all pie menus, jellydoll options are always in the bottom menu, on the right for instance, bottom, top, left and right are the only places that can be menus except the detach menu of course. Menus are also visually highlighted with a blue border color and the entire pie menu has a fancy open animation, although you will hardly see it as it opens really fast, but here's it in super slow motion regardless.








Top Bar


The Topbar, besides additional graphics options this is probably the core of what started once Nirans Viewer. The Topbar is a unique combination of the Favoritesbar, the Statusbar and the Navigationbar all in one, neatly packed to save as much space and offer all functions still. It can also be customized somewhat, you can toggle of favorites if you want to save more space or simply don't use them, you can show coordinates and parcel properties too. The previous and next teleport as well as home button can be found here too. Did you know you can search via your Navigationbar? And did you know you can type in names of landmarks you got to auto-complete them and teleport there? You can also click into the Navigationbar and change the coordinates to teleport up/down or in any direction. Who needs the GetToHeight (GTH) command if the Navigationbar can do all of it already.


Main Menu

The main menu simply labeled as "Dragon" is another unique feature of the combined Topbar although it was more out of necessity than actual desire. It houses all menus you know and love, opens up all additional menus and makes the need to toggle the Advanced and Develop menus obsolete as these are shown by default. No more Ctrl + Alt + D (which was clashing with camera movement control anyway). A neat feature of those menus is that you can undock them by clicking the small double line at the top of a menu, this will undock the menu and make it a window you can keep open and drag around where ever you want it. Handy.


Animation "Synchronization"

Quite a few people keep asking if such a feature exists. Well does it? No, not directly. However you can find an animation "restart" in the Poser window which can be found in the main menu Dragon - My Useful Features - Pose/Animation Manipulator. Simply select everyone whose animations you want to restart and hit the "Restart" button, this is essentially the same as synchronizing them.



Machinima Sidebar


The Machinima Sidebar is a really neat and quick tool to change a few settings for that perfect shot, it has been with us in several incarnations now since almost 6 years and it's really easy to get to too! Just hit F1, you can also click the Machinima Sidebar button if you got that one in your toolbars or simply do it through the main menu Dragon - My Useful Features - Machinima Sidebar. It offers a good selection of all of the most used features (except windlight presets) for you to play with and soon you'll even be able to make your very own version of it!

































Preferences


Oh the preferences, the heart of the Dragon. You'll find an extreme amount of extra options surfaced in Black Dragon, 90% of which are found in the "Display" tab, the very core of what makes this Viewer what it is. You'll find a lot of options for each and every aspect of the graphics in Black Dragon, almost everything is customizable to some degree if you know how.

Each and every option has been labeled properly with their correct name rather than some abbreviation that someone chose to dumb down the name, almost everything can be googled and read up on if you really want to know what it is. In addition i added tooltips for every single option explaining what the option does as best as i can without making it sound dumbed down again, they even show you visually how much of an impact the option has in general both on performance and visual fidelity. All options have also been reorganized and logically grouped to make the sheer amount of options remotely manageable, this is to make sure i'm not just adding more and more tabs making the whole preferences window a tabbing nightmare where you are just navigating deeper into the what seems like a folder structure down until you end up somewhere you don't want to be.

All options are organized from top to bottom, have a streamlined look and follow design rules to make sure everything looks as consistent as possible. Sliders are only used where it makes sense and most of the quality-type options have been simply replaced with radio button chains that offer a much simpler and easier "Low - Medium - High - Ultra" style of setting your quality as it can be found in games today, no more guessing whether 2 is better than 1 or the other way around. This also allowed for a neat little visual aid i added to highlight options that represent the equivalent of Linden Labs "Ultra" setting as well as highlight options that might cause issues or are not recommended to be set such as the feared Object Quality beyond 2. Ontop of all this, the title tabs will show small warning icons informing that something you've set might be problematic and you should possibly look into it, especially if you are having issues, you can hover your mouse over them to get more information on what is wrong. Have you set too much video memory to be used? or too less? Is your draw distance too high? It will tell you! Watch out for the signs!

If that wasn't enough there are also "Default" buttons for all slider-based options allowing you to quickly revert back to the recommended default settings. NEAT! Just another thing, you can actually click the title tabs to open and close them, WOW! Oh another, in case you are an avid mouse wheel scroller, don't worry i feel you, scrolling through these options often meant accidentally changing them when your mouse hovered over them, NO MORE, options will no longer be changed when using your scroll wheel, phew, keep scrolling! So many changes, so many improvements and so much work just for a window that displays some options you might never even look into again.

And all of this for just a tap on Ctrl + P, easy to remember if you think about Control Preferences. You can also open it from the main menu Dragon - Edit - Preferences, really easy to remember too if you think of it as a sentence. In Black [Dragon] i want to [Edit] my [Preferences].

10 comments:

  1. The machinima sidebar is pretty neat. Although, I do miss having the ability to revert values to their defaults from the sidebar. Thus, I end up using the Preferences->Display in most cases. But, I also need to adjust view angle at times and view angle is not available in the Display panel. So, I open the sidebar to change it there and now I end up working in both Display panel and sidebar both at times. Personally, I think View Angle and Depth of Field go hand-in-hand especially with photography. It would probably be best to order those two so they're next to each other but that's my personal opinion. Also, FYI the Tone Mapping section is missing from the sidebar.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I have been long thinking how to add the default buttons to the sidebar, the problem it is simply impossible without making them super tiny (which i don't want because consistency and clutter) or make the sidebar bigger (which again i don't want because it makes the Sidebar more intrusive. Nothing i can sadly do here without sacrificing quality. I might come up with something else, thinking of a right click to reset or something but that wouldn't be explained anywhere...

      View Angle is both available in Preferences (Camera) and the Sidebar. The reason the View Angle option is not in Display is because it is not a Display option but rather a Camera option. Having it in both is clutter and putting it in Display for the sake of putting it there would be illogical and inconsistent with the rest.

      Tone Mapping finetune options are not available (or any of the Color Correction options) because they aren't nearly as often used as all the other options.

      Most of these issues i plan to fix with the custom sidebar, you'll be able to add whatever Tone Mapping option you want... or any option for that matter, in fact you already can you just can't reorder them right now which is coming up sometime soon. The default thing however will remain an issue i will most likely not be able to fix without breaking either my consistency rules or doing some convoluted, hidden feature that isn't known at all.

      Delete
    2. I agree right-clicking wouldn't make much sense and it most users would never know of a hidden feature. I don't know what else to suggest really. Having something visible there, such as a button, is the most visible form of presenting an option. Phototools has revert "D" buttons an people seem to love the Phototools. I suppose there isn't much of an issue with tiny buttons at least from the user experience perspective if they enjoy using it. Plus, most people are already familiar with Firestorm. So... I really don't see the issue with consistency, clutter or sacrificing quality here.

      If View Angle is a Camera thing, then Depth of Field should go in Camera as well because in photography/cinematography (we're talkin' about cameras here...), DoF is a major thing.

      Delete
    3. My problem with adding a tiny button is that it doesn't fit into the consistency and quality of thought put into the UI that i have been constantly maintaining. Just because people are used to having a clunky, cluttered UI with tiny shortened labels doesn't mean it is a good thing to do and should be disregarded as "fine". This is the reason i've redone the UI so many times in the past, something didn't add up well and i had to change it which in turn made it necessary to change large parts to stay consistent.

      View Angle is solely a camera option in regards to how it is part of the entire camera mechanic in SL. It is internally a part of the camera section as it is externally part of how wide the angle of your camera is.

      Depth of Field is solely a graphical feature as it is neither internally in code nor externally a part of the camera, Depth of Field works completely independent of all the camera and it's settings with the exception of View Angle since the strength of DoF is directly taking into account the "Zoom" (Camera Angle) of your camera which is absolutely necessary. You're right that it is part of the Camera in a Real Life photography scenario but this isn't real life photography. Depth of Field is solely considered an additional visual Post Processing feature that can be toggled on or off completely independent of the camera itself which is why it is organized into the "Display" section rather than "Camera". Most games have the View Angle (Field of View) in the Display tab as well because there is either A) No other tab to logically put it into or B) They do not have more camera options making it solely perceived as Graphical feature thus making sense having it in the Display section where the other Graphic options reside (usually, unless Graphics is a separate tab in which case "Display" already acts as the extra tab).

      Delete
    4. But think of the features from how users would use them, not so much how they are technically implemented within an engine. More people understand real-world use of concepts than a 3D engine. Not to say that something like DoF is a perfect representation of cameras in real world, but still, think about it more from a general user concept than a technical developer viewpoint.

      Delete
    5. But wouldn't i end up shoving all options everywhere then because from a users perspective (which funnily i am myself) its only good to have all options available at any time everywhere?

      Delete
  2. Another note, the Tone Mapping section includes Color Correction. Personally, I see Color Correction as its own thing next to Tone Mapping. Not like it is now, but a collapsible section for Tone Mapping and a collapsible section for Color Correction. This way, if you have Color Correction turned off, it will assume "None". If you have it on, it will assume "Linear". If you expand that in the future to include more styles, then it can be setup similar to Tone Mapping styles.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. If it doesn't work this way because of how the two are intertwined within the code/shaders, then either two things...
      A. Rename "Tone Mapping" to "Tone Mapping & Color Correction" or something else that would refer to the two concepts and then just title the sub sections within in.
      B. When you enable Tone Mapping, Color Correction is automatically enabled with it.

      Delete
    2. Color Correction is included in Tone Mapping for several reasons, first and foremost they go hand in hand and are designed to be used together, hence why they share one tab, secondly when they were implemented both Color Correction and Tone Mapping had multiple styles, Color Correction's second style was removed because it either didn't work or was exactly the same as having it off. To be eligible for it's own tab an option should be a "Master Toggle", something that is a major separate feature and it must not be a multi-option which Color Correction was at that moment. Neither Color Correction nor Tone Mapping will get additional modes in the future. Both were developed by Geenz Spad (Exodus Viewer) and i lack the experience in both Math and Rendering to make new ones, although as far as i can see it would just be a matter of translating some calculations to glsl.

      Delete
    3. I thought about linking Color Correction with Tone Mapping but it would take away options, not that it would be a big loss not having Color Correction as separate option anymore but it's an option nonetheless.

      I skipped the problematic a bit by enabling Tone Mapping and Color Correction by default to make sure both are on at the same time when Deferred is enabled.

      Delete