Before you do anything else, make sure you have the latest Adobe Flash plugin installed in your browser. You'll need it to view the website correctly. Also, make sure your computer is up to the challenge. A lot of the current crop of PCs have "integrated graphics" instead of discrete graphics cards to save money...and these are, in many cases, not capable of running a graphics intensive application like Second Life. See some minimum system requirements here: https://secondlife.com/my/support/system-requirements/?lang=en-US
When you first browse to http:\\www.secondlife.com you see this page:
|Click the Play for Free Button!|
|Choose an Avatar|
When you've picked your look, you next have to choose a name:
|This is Important!|
|More Important Stuff!|
Next, we move on to:
|Basic or Premium?|
Here's the last screen. The next step is to download and install the "viewer" software, the program that lets you get into the Second Life world.
|Don't Forget to Download and Install a Viewer!|
Once you've installed the viewer and fire it up, here's what you see:
|Whoops! Error, Will Robinson!|
You will be presented with the Second Life Terms of Service. You MUST scroll the TOS down, at least a little bit, to let the software know you have read them. Then click Accept. I know you are anxious to get on with it, so I won't tell you to actually READ the entire TOS and all the secondary policies that are linked to them. But I do encourage you to look them all up, and read them at some point.
After several seconds, you should see something like this...
|Eek, I'm a Cloud!|
At the bottom right, you'll see a communications window. Here you can communicate with everyone in the vicinity using Local Chat, or with people privately, one-on-one in an IM. You'll see I'm chastising Dav2 here...the fellow holding the sign. Dav has a whole slew of alts, and can be found at most of the new user areas most of the time. Unfortunately, he doesn't always give correct or intelligible advice. He's not malicious, but I think his brain is wired differently than almost everyone else's! But, perhaps fortunately, he's in so many places at once that he's almost always AFK...Away from Keyboard. Dav is only the first of many eccentric personalities you'll meet in SL!
You'll also note that I am a white cloud. I did not manage to overcome this until I changed my outfit. If you have this problem, and find you can't change your outfit*, see some additional things to try here: http://wiki.phoenixviewer.com/fs_bake_fail
One of the most scenic things at Learning Island is the shipwreck. It doesn't DO anything, but it's very picturesque.
As you move along the path, you may notice another small window open up on the right side, just above the chat window. This is an information HUD (a "Head Up Display.") Most HUDs in Second Life stay on your screen all the time, but this is one of the new-fangled kind that appears for a while, and then disappears when its job is done...in this case, providing you some basic information, like how to walk, run, and fly.
|Information HUD on Right Side|
|Aerial View of Learning Island. Start at the left, wind up on the right!|
|Fly, Young Avatar!|
|Our Goal is in Sight!|
|On to Social Island|
We always say "log out," but there's no "log out" button apparent, and that confuses some people! When you have to get back to Real Life, just hit the big X in the upper right corner of the SL window to close it, or hit CTRL+Q.
See you next time!
*Changing your outfit. Open your inventory, the button with the suitcase symbol (shortcut: CTRL+I.) Find the folder Library/Clothing/Initial Outfits. Pick one of the sub-folders, drag it and drop it onto your avatar...er, your cloud. You should appear ("rez") within a few seconds.
EDIT, Nov 24 2014: Instead of Library/Clothing/Initial Outfits, try an avatar from the folder Library/Clothing/Older Outfits. The "Initial Outfits" folder now contains all-mesh avatars, which are not customizable and can really confuse you when you start to try to change your look. Use an avatar from the Older Outfits folder, or any avatar that does not have "Mesh" in its name, and you'll learn how to wear different clothes and change your look a lot faster and easier! An even easier way to do this is to use the Avatars button...the top button on the left side of your screen, with two people on it. Choose one of the "classic" avatars...you'll find them much easier to edit and customize.
EDIT, Sept 3, 2016: The Initial Outfits folder now contains "hybrid" avatars...ones that use the classic avatar body (easier to understand and edit) and Mesh clothing. It also contains the all-mesh avatars mentioned above. Some of the new hybrid avatars feature a new "fantasy" theme...you can choose from among ten avatars suited for fantasy roleplay. In addition, Social Island has gotten a complete makeover, and now features a much more comprehensive set of tutorials and learning experiences.