Viewer 2 is wonderful for the Second Life uninitiated. However, it also is a disaster for those of us experienced with second Life for more than a month with the "classic" viewer. Linden Lab had announced open-sourcing the Second Life viewer in 2006, there is now a smorgasbord of "official Linden Lab Second Life Viewer" alternatives.

Among all the current third-party viewers there is no question that the Emerald Viewer by Modular Systems is the best known, most popular and most actively in-use non-Linden Lab viewer on the Second Life grid. I like Emerald, but I have some reservations about it, which if you'll indulge me, I will explain below. I promise to do my best at keeping pithy about it all.

The short answer: most popular does not translate into "best".

The Official Linden Lab viewer was "branched-off" into a second incarnation called Snowglobe right about the time Emerald was just starting to become well-known. During this time, for me anyway, I had just discovered the Gemini viewer (which Skills Hak, the Gemini Viewer developer has now since become part of the Emerald viewer team) which at the time had better features than Emerald and I also really liked the amazing graphic features of the Kirstens Viewer.

Back then Kirstens viewer was blazing fast at rezzing (drawing the world when arriving at a new location on the grid) - it was stunningly fast. About the same time, Linden Lab released their Snowglobe viewer. Someone convinced me to give it a go.

I was shocked at the stunning speed with which the Snowglobe viewer rezzed the world. Literally shocked. So much so that I recorded a comparison machinima between what I considered for myself to be the four "front runner" viewers at the time. And I don't. do. machinima. ever.

Take the time to view this video. it's long (about eight-minutes). Even though it is a very old comparison, the results still apply today. And it will put what I explain below into a very real context. In short, nothing beats Snowglobe for rezzing performance to this day. (Sure, you can proclaim otherwise but you're only lying to yourself and you know it.)

The premise of the video is my "60-Second Viewer Rezzing Test": Official Viewer, versus Gemini Viewer, versus Emerald Viewer versus Snowglobe Viewer. Rules:

  • clear cache before starting each viewer
  • stop the test at exactly sixty-seconds
  • compare the picture as rezzed by the viewer
  • In all cases, stay in the same script and prim-heavy location
    (to ensure a heavier-than-normal "load" was placed on the download and rezzing abilities of each viewer)

Sowglobe wins by a massive margin by having 90% of the world rezzed where the next best viewer was Gemini at about 75%. Emerald came in about the same as the "official" Linden Lab viewer.

So, what does all that have to do with all this?

Problem: Emerald features or Snowglobe performance as it seems neither the two shall meet. Answer: Imprudence Viewer.

Because of the massive disappointment of Viewer 2 from Linden Lab, and LL turning it into the only "official" Linden Lab viewer, the Emerald Viewer have made massive inroads into the grid in terms of popularity and mindshare. It seems everyone knows about it and most of them are using it.

However, for me Emerald feels a bit "heavy" - bloated if you will.

There are too many "features" in it, most of which goes unused by the majority of its users. Frivolous things like "rainbow-colored" selection beams and "bouncing primtits" and such. Not to mention a bunch of features that technically are against the Linden Lab Terms of Service and Community Standards. For example: resident privacy: it doesn't matter if you try to "hide" from other people by turning off the "Show in Search" option in your profile, or allowing only friends to see when you are online and all that stuff. Emerald bypasses it all.

Then there is the whole controversy surrounding the Emerald development team, how most (if not all) of them were griefers and hackers "back in the day" and how they, and by extension Emerald Viewer can't be trusted security-wise and so on and so forth.

But I don't care about all that stuff. The dealbreaker for me is simply the abysmal performance of the Emerald Viewer. It is no different than the "official" Linden Lab viewer. Most certainly because it is based off the Linden Lab "official" code base. Kirsten's Viewer is still very good, but the problem there is that it is "bleeding-edge" technology. In perpetual beta (and sometimes alpha) phase. Though stable and rock-steady, it requires updating a bit more often than I prefer.

More important to me than bouncy primtits is rezzing performance, hands-down. I have said time and again that Linden Lab badly needs to take the Snowglobe "code" and inject it into their official viewer for the performance aspect alone. If Viewer 2 was on Snowglobe engine, I'd swear by it, the majority of population opinion be damned. Kirstens is doing Snowglobe code already. The Emerald team also is doing it. Unfortunately, the Snowglobe version of the Emerald Viewer must be a very low priority for the developers as it has been in beta for longer than I can remember, and it's buggy as hell.

Thus, the only reason I would truly enjoy the Emerald Viewer: Snowglobe "engine" is missing, thus for me Emerald is: fail.

Finally after several months of trying my damnedest to actually like Viewer 2, I needed a replacement, more based on what I spoke about previously, not it's User Interface or the way it works. I looked at Kirstans and Emerald again. Kirstens is still bleeding-edge and Emerald still has lackluster rezzing performance.

I am speaking only for myself when I say that performance is the most important feature for me, no matter how well Emerald caters to nerdy-geeks of Second Life. It also just feels bloated to me with so many unnecessary "features" (including the naughty ones, like showing "true online status" abilities and such).

I decided to give Imprudence Viewer another look after several months away. I've newly noted that it has all the "best" features of Emerald already built-in and the kicker for me is that the Imprudence development team have already fully migrated to the Snowglobe engine. They most certainly haven't been sitting still. I applaud the Imprudence development team!

Imagine my surprise to find most (if not all) the Emerald features already included in there as well, right down to bouncy primtits, even though they do not "advertise" these features on their blog or the informational page on the Second Life TPV page. The main difference here is those features which don't really require a preference setting (such as just how "bouncy" primtits can be) are set to default values, thus the preferences window doesn't include them.

This gives Imprudence a very clean, lightweight feel with blazing fast rezzing speed. And unlike Emerald, there is no "controversy" over the Imprudence Viewer or its development team as, according to many reputable journalistic sources1 , Imprudence is more transparent and license-compliant than any other third-party viewer. In other words: it is very easy to trust the developers and the viewer itself.

One "deal-breaking" feature of Imprudence Viewer for Emerald viewer users will be the lack of the "secondary attachment points". Yes, this is a feature. Why? Because that "feature" of Emerald is terribly broken.

In other words, for the majority of Second Life users (anyone not using the Emerald Viewer) will not see your Neko tail coming out of your ear and your faerie wings coming out of your ass (which is what happens with Emerald Secondary Attachment points).

Besides the very few Emerald "features" not included in the Imprudence Viewer, you might want to just give it a go for the shear performance aspect alone. User-friendly User Interface (read: familiarity) and the way it is easy to find everything (even the "Advanced" menu is invoked from another menu - great discovery here). My only suggestion might be to go through the preferences window as soon as you start it up and log-in for the first time, and set the "Pie menu" to the "classic" (I forget the actual title) layout. Of course, if you are willing to learn the new layout, you might just like it better.

So, for me...
Linden Lab Viewer 2: fail.
Modular Systems Emerald Viewer: meh.
Imprudence Viewer: win
Imprudence Viewer with 90% Emerald features AND Snowglobe engine: STUNNING.

Go ahead, give Imprudence a go. I recommend the most recent "weekly build" as they are rock-solid stable. Visit the Imprudence blog here.

From the Imprudence Wiki:

The Imprudence Quality Pledge:

  • This software is not provided or supported by Linden Lab, the makers of Second Life.
  • Imprudence has lots of surprisingly awesome functionality.
  • See the features list and release notes for details.
  • We won't expose your privates. Please see our privacy policy.
  • If you need help with the viewer, please post in the forums.

The best features from Emerald and the Snowglobe engine make Imprudence "win", here are "some" of the features of Imprudence for those of you unsure about it (found at this web page):

  • Countless user interface improvements

  • Improved OpenSim support
Support for up to 100 groups, 99% hollow prims, 1% hole size, megaprims up to 256m in size, and prim Z position up to 10km on OpenSim. OpenSim grid names are also used instead of "Second Life."

  • Content Backup
Export and import objects, scripts, and avatar shapes that you created.

  • Minimap Radar
The minimap features a built-in "avatar radar" to tell you who is nearby.

  • Enhanced Minimap
The minimap has better zooming, panning (Shift-Click and drag), double click to teleport, and other improvements.

  • Built-in Animation Overrider

  • Restrained Life API
Imprudence supports the Restrained Life script API used by BDSM toys and scripted gadgets.

  • Double-click Teleport and Autopilot

  • Advanced Build Options

  • Build Math Expressions

  • Building hotkeys to cycle through prims in a link set

  • Windlight Toolbar

  • Grid Manager
 [Second Life, Open Sim, etc.]
  • Client Identification and clothing layer protection

  • Improved Pie Menu Layouts
The layouts for all pie menus have been improved to be more consistent, useful, and easy to learn. Legacy pie menus are also available.

  • Search Inventory by Creator or Description

  • Inventory Quick Filter
The Inventory window has a new Quick Filter list to easily show only items of a certain type.

  • Free Temporary Texture Uploads

  • Worn Items Tab
The Inventory window has a new "Worn Items" tab which shows you all items that your avatar is wearing.

  • Unread IM Count
The "New IM" popup button now shows you how many new IMs you have, and the Communicate window title tells you how many unread messages you have in other IM tabs.

  • IM Autoresponse
Send an auto-response when someone starts typing/sends you an IM . Includes sending inventory along with your response.

  • Middle-mouse Paste for Linux
When running on Linux, Imprudence supports the common Linux idiom of copying text by highlighting it, then pasting by middle clicking. Imprudence also works better with stardard Linux clipboards than the regular SL viewer.

  • Confirmation dialogs to prevent accidents
Certain actions now have optional confirmation dialogs ("Are you sure?") to avoid harmful or embarrassing accidents, such as teleporting home or taking off all your clothes when you didn't intend to.

  • Restore to Last Position
This little feature uses the sim co-ordinates saved in the object to place the object back at its last location. It will use the same co-ords for every sim and works with all objects 

  • Offer Teleport button in IM window
The IM window now has a button to offer a teleport to the person you're IMing with.

  • Double-click to wear attachments in inventory
You can now double click on inventory objects to wear (or unwear) them as attachments.

  • "Phantom Avatar" Mode

  • Breast Physics

  • Asset (Texture) Browser

  • Animation List

  • See object's Last (previous) Owner

  • Ground Sit Anywhere

  • Hide Selection Outlines

  • Choose Default Chat Channel

  • Disable Login/Logout/Teleport Screens

  • Search/Replace in Notecards

  • SpeedRez
Increase rez speed via draw distance stepping.

  • New Profile Layout
Includes the ability to copy an avatar's key and invite them to a group.

  • Optional Message When Paying a Resident
The message will appear in that Resident's transaction history online.


  1. "Imprudence is one of our favorite after-market Second Life viewers, and the only third-party viewer that we're certain complies with all of the source and asset licensing." All Massively announcements regarding Imprudence Viewer: