Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Cleaning Out the Closet

Virtual life is easy…we don’t have to any of that time-consuming maintenance stuff like eating, sleeping, or personal hygiene…we don’t even have to do housework! But there is one chore that, like the laundry, is always there, and never quite 100% done: inventory management.

Your inventory is where you keep all the stuff you build, buy, or otherwise acquire in Second Life. This information is stored on Linden Lab’s inventory servers. There have been calls for a capability to back up one’s inventory on a local hard drive (and you can actually get such software from a third party vendor), but concerns about intellectual property rights have stymied any official efforts in this direction. This post isn’t about the technical details or copyright law issues though…it’s about the practical aspects of dealing with your inventory every day.

A large inventory can be a burden to sort through. It can also be slow to load, especially when the Lag Monster is loose on the grid. And it can slow down your teleports. So, periodic housecleaning is a good idea. How big is “too big”? No one really knows. There are no limits on the size of one’s inventory. New avatars have around 3,000 items or so. I know some people who have amassed over 100,000 items! Four years into Second Life, my own inventory has crept up over 26,000 items, and I’m trying to slim it down. My feeling is that an inventory of around 10,000 to 20,000 items is “about right”.

You open your inventory with the Suitcase icon on your Taskbar (the controls at the right edge of your screen)…or for Phoenix and other 1.23 style viewers, with the Inventory button on the bottom row. (Viewer 2 Basic Mode users can’t open the inventory at all…another good reason to switch to the Advanced mode). When you open it, you see a familiar looking folder tree, a lot like file folders in Windows. In fact, these folders share a lot of the same properties as Windows file folders

There are only two top level folders: My Inventory and Library. The Library folder is read-only; you can’t add or delete items from it, but you can use them. It contains all of your “basic issue” stuff…the initial starter avatar outfits, some textures, and a number of other objects. The other folder, My Inventory, is where you will spend most of your time. It contains all of the things you’ll get or make in the course of your Second Life.

At the top of the inventory window is a text entry box, used to enter search terms. Even for a well-organized inventory, the search function is highly useful.

Under the My Inventory folder, there are a number of “system folders”. These are distinguished by having a little symbol on the yellow file folder. You can’t delete system folders. When you receive certain types of things, they tend to go into one or another of these folders. Animations and poses will automatically go into the Animations folder, landmarks into the Landmarks folder, and so on. While you can’t delete the system folders, you can move stuff out of them and into other places that make more sense to whatever organizing scheme you come up with.

You can make your own folders, too. Just right click in your inventory window, and choose New Folder. Then right click it and give it a name. You can move it about, or put it into another folder, just like any Windows filing system.

I use the system folders as the top level of my organization. Under Clothing, for instance, I have a great many subcategories. Accessories, lingerie, outerwear, dresses, pants, tops, shoes... My filing system is based on color, so a particular outfit might be found at “My Inventory/Clothing/Dresses/Gowns/blue&silver low back sheath - Ultima” (I try to put the maker at the end of the description. It makes it easier for me to remember where I got the dress, when someone asks).

My usual method of getting dressed is much like Real Life…I put on some underwear, then choose a dress, or pants and a top, matching shoes and jewelry, etc. That’s realistic, and it does insure variety. But lately, I’ve been making more use of an SL convenience: Outfits. An Outfit can include everything…shape, skin, hair, eyes, HUD attachments, and clothes. You can switch from one Outfit to another with a single mouse click.  We’ve had Outfits for a long time, but they’ve only become really practical recently, because of a Viewer 2 advance – the addition of Links.

No Copy items used to be the bane of Outfits, because No Copy really meant “no copy”. You couldn’t even make a copy of it in your inventory. So if you included your favorite No Copy earrings in an Outfit, they moved from wherever you had them stored into that Outfit’s folder, completely messing up all your organization.

But Links are “pointers” to items in your inventory. You can include a Link to those earrings in your Outfit, and the earrings themselves stay right where you filed them. When you Copy any item in your inventory, then right click a new location, you have the option to Paste the item (creating a copy of it, if it’s copyable) or Paste As Link (creating a pointer to it).

To make an Outfit, right click yourself and select My Appearance, then click the Make Outfit button in the Appearance window and give the Outfit a name. Then you can find it later in your My Outfits folder. Any No Copy items you’re wearing will automatically be saved as Links in the Outfit folder.

Whew! That’s enough spring cleaning for now. More later!

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