Second Life Skills
When you enter Second Life you will get a screen with a bewildering array of controls. There are a few that you'll find immediately useful, and I'll mention only those; you can familiarize yourself with others as you become more comfortable with Second Life. You can also just ignore the whole menu section for the moment, go straight to the Navigation section and come back to the menus later. Many menus duplicate functions found in other menus, and you will develop your own routines for accessing specific menu functions.
The Top Screen Menu:
- Me: For adjusting your Avatar Profile and Viewer Preferences.
- Communicate: For communicating with your Second Life friends, either in local chat or through instant messaging.
- View: Mostly an alternate menu for checking lists and records. However the camera controls are activated from this menu.
- World: Maps and teleport destinations. You can also create landmarks and set your home location. Down at the bottom of the World menu is the very useful “Sun” command. Getting dark where you are? You can make the sun come up. You’ll find this useful for lighting screen shots also.
- Build: Access to various building and scripting tools. You will have building rights only in specific locations on Genome Island.
- Help: Need help with something? Start here.
- An additional menu (Advanced) will come up with the keyboard command CTRL-ALT-D. For the moment, ignore this one.
The Bottom Screen Menu:
- Chat: opens the local chat box from a button on the far left. The History button that pops up when Chat is opened keeps a record of all information in the Chat Channel for as long as you maintain your connection.
- Speak: if you have your Voice controls (Me/Preferences) enabled, this button opens your microphone.
- Destinations: Links to popular places to go in Second Life. Be sure to set your home location so that you can get back easily. There are THOUSANDS of locations in Second Life!
- People: Opens your list of SL friends. Online friends will be listed in bold face. You can also search for people you want to add to your list.
- Profile: Your SL profile, listing your interests or other information you want to share.
- Camera Controls: The camera controls let you zoom or otherwise adjust your field of view.
- Walk/Run/Fly: The default setting for moving around the SL world is "walk" but you can run or even fly!
- How to: Offers you a quick orientation to getting around Second Life. Check this link out if you have forgotten how to do something.
The Left Side Menu Bar:
- Avatar: Additional avatar choices -- useful for costume parties.
- Appearance: Edit your avatar or clothing.
- Inventory: opens the list of Your Stuff. The inventory is organized into folders, and includes a Library inventory that is given to all avatars. Take a few minutes to browse your library.
- Search: opens the Second Life Search function, which can be filtered using various tabs like People, Groups, Places and Events.
- Landmarks: Your list of links to locations that you have saved.
- Voice: Adjusts your voice controls.
- Mini-Map: displays a small map of the sim you are currently on and shows your position as a gold dot. Note that this map is not always oriented with North at the top. It moves as your avatar moves, with the direction you are facing at the top.
Personal and Object Menus:
The Personal Menus appear when you right-click on yourself, somebody else, or an object. Different menus come up in each case. They are dead useful controls and you will use them frequently. We'll take a quick fly over the menu and you can come back later for more leisurely exploration of the offerings in each.
You: right-clicking on yourself opens a set of menus related to your avatar, including your profile, and the avatar editing menu that you use for editing your eye color, height, and clothing. There is also a submenu for removing items you are wearing or carrying, including your clothes. Use this with caution; you don't have to remove clothing to change clothes and an inattentive avatar can accidentally become naked in public. You can also access your Friends and Groups list from this menu.
Another Avatar: right-clicking on another avatar opens a set of menus similar to your personal menu, with a few differences. You can use one of the options of this menu to add the avatar to your Friends list, and others to initiate an IM, give money or to offer a group invitation.
Ground: right-clicking on the ground opens a menu that will give you information about the land you have clicked on, including who it belongs to and what its activity restrictions might be. Genome Island, for example, does not permit public building, weapon damage or the operation of nonresident scripts.
Object: right-clicking on an object opens a thick multilayered menu of options that may or may not be available to you, depending on the object's permissions settings. With objects you don't own, most of your interactions will be initiated by LEFT-clicking on the object. After you have created an object, compare the menu you get when you right-click on your own object with that you get when you right-click on an object belonging to somebody else. Should you accidentally activate the “Put on/Wear ” option and wind up with a box on your head, just right-click and select the “Detach” (return to your inventory) option.
Navigation: Walk, Run, Fly, Sit, Stand, Teleport
Let’s just admit up front that the navigational interface at Second Life isn’t as slick as the interface in a high-end game like World of Warcraft or Lord of the Rings. For builders at Second Life, it can even be a bit of a hazard, as it is easy to disappear that wall you just lovingly created with a careless mouse move. However, that said, it’s really easy to get around in Second Life and there are multiple ways to do it.
- How to Walk: Walking uses your keyboard’s arrows. The forward arrow takes you forward. The backward arrow takes you backward. You turn left or right with the left and right arrows. Holding the left or right arrows down will rotate you in place. Don’t feel bad if you walk into walls. Some of us still do! You can run in Second Life by using CTRL_R. You have the option to set this as the default mode of moving around, also, by checking “Always Run” in the World menu. To toggle running on and off, just CTRL-R before you move. But the real fun is flying!
- How to Fly: Flying is a good way to cross an area quickly or even to hop from one island to another. Flying can be activated by selecting the “Fly” button in the lower menu, and then using the arrow keys to direct your movement. You can then stop flying by selecting “Stop Flying” in the same location. You can also fly up and down using the Page Up and Page Down controls. These controls can be useful for quickly clearing an obstacle.
- How to Sit: There isn't any real need to sit down in Second Life, but most people seem to be most comfortable in group meetings if avatars are sitting. To sit, just right-click on the object you wish to sit on, including the floor or the ground, and select the “Sit” option in the upper left quadrant of the pie menu. Using the arrow keys while your avatar is seated will zoom your view back and forth or rotate it around you. To stand up again, just select the “Stand Up” button that appears at the bottom of your screen when you sit down. The “Sit” wedge of the pie is also used for local teleporting.
- How to Teleport: Teleporting is the rapid transit of Second Life. You can teleport both within an island, using local teleport objects or clear across Second Life, using Landmarks. The most common local teleport controls operate using the “Sit” position of the general controls. The “Sit” choice may be replaced by "Teleport" or by the name of the location to which you will be teleported, e.g. “Abbey”, Second Floor” or “Up”. Some local teleport objects will give you a choice of multiple designations via a teleport menu; others offer just the single choice that replaces the “Sit” option. If the island you are on permits it, you can even jump from location to location either within or between islands by opening the main map, selecting your destination and then selecting the “Teleport” button at the bottom of the map. Long-distance teleportation can be done by searching for your destination on the map or with the Search function, marking it with the cursor, and then teleporting. Landmarks can be created at most locations just by selecting the “Create Landmark Here” option in the “World” menu. Once a landmark is in your inventory, you can access it directly by clicking on it, embed it in objects or notecards or even give it to another avatar.
Communication: Chat, IM, and Voice
Second Life is, among other things, a large social network. Unlike most games, there are no Non-Player Characters, so everybody you meet there is backed by a real person, and opportunities for professional networking and collaboration abound. You can work through class assignments or explore the other areas of Second Life on your own, but learning is a social activity and is deeply enriched by your interactions with other people. So you’ll want to communicate. People at second life are generally amiable and helpful, so never hesitate to ask a question.
You can communicate in multiple ways in Second Life.
- Chat: When you are within 20 meters of another avatar, you are within Chat distance. That means that messages you write into the Chat screen will be displayed and his or her chat record as well as yours. You can open and close the Chat panel just by clicking on the Chat button in your bottom screen menu. If an avatar is within sight, but more than 20 meters away, you can either Shout to increase the distance your message carries, or right-click on the avatar to open an IM channel. The latter is generally considered more polite. To shout, just select the Shout option that appears at the far right of the Chat panel when it is opened. The Shout option will become active after you type in your message. Shouting will take your message to avatars about 100 meters away, so use it sparingly.
- IM: To send an IM, you can either right-click on an avatar you can see, or select an avatar from your Friends list. Your Friends list will come up if you hit the “Communicate” button on the bottom screen menu. Select the person you want to message and then Select IM/Call. If you want to message an avatar NOT on your Friends list, you can search for the avatar's name, using the Search function of the bottom screen menus.
- Voice: Voice is a relatively recent addition to Second Life. To use the Voice option effectively, you need a headset or a microphone and speaker. Voice can be enabled from the Preferences menu. The Preferences menu is the bottom option in the Edit menu of the top screen menus. Open the Preferences menu and then select the Voice Chat tab. Click on Enable Voice. You may also need to run the Voice Setup Wizard to connect the Voice software to your headset.
Inventory: Finding and Managing Stuff
During your Second Life, you will acquire stuff – clothing, gadgets, landmarks, notecards, and various other objects. Open your inventory from the lower screen menu to see what's in there now. You will have two main folders: “My Inventory” and “Library”. The Library inventory is common to all avatars and contains a number of folders in which you will find various basic items: Clothing, Objects, Notecards, Landmarks, Scripts and other things. You have the same folders in the “My Inventory” section, and new items in various categories will go into these folders. You can also create new folders from the Inventory menu, so that as the number of items you acquire grows, you can file them appropriately. Folders can have subfolders, so you can organize your stuff in any way that makes sense to you. Items in your inventory can be sorted either alphabetically or by date of acquisition, so that new items always are high up in your various lists.
New inventory items can come from several sources. Another avatar gives or sends you a present. You get something from an object. You buy something or pick it up as a freebie. Items given to you by an object or another avatar will always ask for permission before entering your inventory. When you give it, it will automatically go to the appropriate folder, new clothes to Clothing, new objects to Objects, etc. If you pick up an object yourself, either by purchasing it or from a freebie warehouse, you'll need to add it to your inventory. Initially, you'll do a “Buy” command, or a “Take Copy” if it is a free item, and it will probably go into your inventory in a new Folder. If what you have is a Box, you may need to take it out of inventory and right-click it to get the “Open” option. Most purchased items will give you instructions on how to take the item out of its box.
Point and Click: Communicating with objects
Most objects in Second Life that are not simple buildings, landscaping or furniture are interactive. That is, you LEFT-click on them and they will respond in some way. Interactive objects will always elicit the “hand” symbol when you put your cursor over them. What happens when you click will depend on the object. Some common possibilities are:
- Object Chat: when you click on the object, it will talk to you. The message is displayed at the bottom of the screen following the name of the object, e.g.Abbey Cat (sleeping): I was here first! Beati possidentes.
- Object Sound: when you click on the object, it will make a sound or maybe play some music.
- Notecard givers: when you click on the object, it will offer you a notecard. If you accept the notecard, the note will open and you can read it. It will also be saved to your inventory after you close it. Many objects will give informational notecards in Second Life. It is probably the most common response to clicking on an object. On Genome Island, most signs have information or instructions on notecards, so get in the habit of clicking on everything! If an object offers you a notecard that you already have, just decline it.
- Object givers: when you click on an object it will produce another object. The object may be something you can take with you or it may be part of a data set or a demonstration. For example, on Genome Island, clicking on a cat may give you some kittens!
- Landmark givers: maps or entry points may give you a landmark. When a landmark is first offered it will give you the option to teleport to the new location or simply to add it to your map. Or you can decline it. If you add the Landmark to your map, it goes into the Landmarks folder of your inventory and you can click on it later to get a teleport to the location.
- URL givers: some objects are portals out to the Internet. You may get a document, or access to a database, or the URL of a website associated with the Second Life exhibit you are visiting. University sponsored sites may offer links to the school web page. The creator of an object may give you a link to his or her web site. Some of the books you'll see on Genome Island will give you links to Amazon.com. No, I don't get a kickback from them! Experimental objects on Genome Island may give you a spreadsheet for recording and analyzing your data.
- Data production: many objects on Genome Island are data producers. That is, they will give you the results of an experiment in some form.
- Vehicles: in Second Life, vehicles are a special class of scripted object and are generally activated by RIGHT-clicking. To drive most vehicles, you right-click and sit in or on the vehicle and then use the arrow keys to move around. Vehicles are way fun! I especially like the hang glider on the roof of one of the ISTE buildings. Vehicle-like objects around the SciLands include the catapult on the roof of the Science School, the planet ride at the Exploratorium, and the weather balloon at NOAA.