Kokua 6.3.8 adds a much requested feature - a standalone chat bar reminiscent of the V1 Viewer input methods to allow chat to be typed without using as much space on the screen. Here it is!
For those who haven’t used a V1-style viewer a little explanation is in order. In the current UI all communication input, whether to local chat or to instant messages, is handled through the Conversations floater. This means that any kind of conversation needs a fairly large floater to be on the screen. It is possible to undock Nearby Chat from Conversations and then shrink it down to just the input area, however this isn’t ideal since it has to be expanded again any time the conversation history needs to be viewed.
In V1 chat input was entered through a fixed writable area at the bottom of the screen and a separate floater handles chat history. The picture below (of the Cool Viewer by Henri Beauchamp) shows how this looks. Notice in particular that the chat history doesn’t allow any chat input. If the Chat History window wasn’t being used chat would appear temporarily on the left side of the viewer window and fade after a time (similar to the way that chat toasts do now if they’re enabled)
The Kokua Chat Bar is a standalone floater that works in addition to the Conversations floater, offering two ways that chat input can be entered. Either can be used - the result will be the same.
The Chat Bar can be opened from the main menu (under Communicate in the new menu layout or View in the classic layout). In both cases, it’s right next to the command that invokes the Conversations floater. It can also be toggled directly by using ALT-H (on Linux you may need to use ALT-Super-H instead if the OS swallows the keystroke - Super is probably the Windows key, depending on your keyboard). It can also be added to the left/bottom/right menu bars by dragging this icon from the toybox to the desired location. There is also an existing keyboard shortcut for the Conversations floater - CTRL-T or CTRL-H. CTRL-T will select the Nearby Chat tab within the floater.
Once visible using it is much like the usual chat entry. The floater can be dragged horizontally to change its size. The size and whether it’s open will be remembered across sessions on the same computer. If the amount of text entered exceeds the display area the floater will automatically resize itself until 10 lines are displayed after which it will remain at 10 and apply a scroll bar. Once Enter has been pressed to send the chat message the floater will revert to its original height with space for the first line of chat entry.
Unlike the V1-inspired approaches where the chat bar is fixed near the bottom of the window, you can place the Chat Bar anywhere you wish on the screen and choose the width you want.
There are several ways that the Chat Bar can be used. One is to have the Conversations floater open to view local chat history as well as IMs. The other is to close the floater and then use either chat toasts or bubble chat to display the inworld chat. This behaviour along with other aspects of the Chat Bar can be configured through new options within Preferences.
“Starts Local Chat” is an existing option which determines whether a keystroke allows W A S D movement or invokes a chat entry floater. There is also the “Arrow keys always move me” setting within Move & View where you can choose whether the arrows move your avatar or provide movement within the chat entry field.
If you have “Pressing letter keys : Starts local chat” enabled starting to type whilst the focus is within the world view will open a chat input window. The option “Open Chat Bar instead of Conversations” decides which floater is preferred.
If neither are open the one selected by “Open Chat Bar instead of Conversations” will be opened.
If one or the other are open, the open one will get the input focus.
If both are open the selected one is again governed by the “Open Chat Bar instead of Conversations” choice.
“Conversations:Nearby Chat/Chat Bar release keyboard focus after sending a line of chat” is another existing option that wasn’t presented in the UI. The actual setting is misleadingly named ‘CloseChatOnReturn’ which described earlier behaviour however its current behaviour is better described by the text in the Preferences floater - this setting decides whether keyboard focus stays in the current chat entry floater or returns to the world view after each line.
‘Close the Chat Bar after sending a line of chat’ is a new setting which applies to the Chat Bar only, not to the Conversations floater. When this is turned on the Chat Bar will be closed after sending each line of chat. This can be combined with the “Pressing letter keys:Starts Local Chat” and “Open Chat Bar instead of Conversations” to create a mode where starting to type opens the Chat Bar which then closes again after sending the line of chat.
‘Always open the Chat Bar at login’ can be used to make sure the Chat Bar begins open/visible even if it was closed when the previous session logged out.
Bubble Chat can also be enabled on this panel along with the new option to duplicate the chat as a toast notification instead of only showing it as a chat bubble.
The Notifications options are unchanged however they are important here since they allow for fine-tuning of the ways in which different kinds of chat (eg avatars, objects, IM, groups) are handled. Note that if the Conversations floater is fully visible and showing chat history this will suspend generation of chat toasts. The concept here is that if the Conversations floater is closed toasts will be generated if ‘Pop up the message’ is selected. However if the Conversations floater is open and chat history is visible this will suspend the generation of chat toasts.
The pictures below show the three general modes of operation, in each case a line of text has just been entered through the Chat Bar
1. Using chat toast notifications
2. Using bubble chat
3. With the Conversations floater open
Finally, some people may recall the ChatBarStealsFocus debug setting. Within Kokua and the current LL viewer this is a historical setting and no longer has any function. The replacement is LetterKeysFocusChatBar which can also be driven through the “Pressing Letter Keys” section of the General tab in Preferences as shown above.