Preferences FAQ

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Key words: preferences options configurations systems video settings

This guide goes through each of the settings in the Preferences panel, and tries to explain what each of them does. I've also included with most of them the settings that I've found to be most comfortable with my system.


Login Location: This will specify where you appear each time you log in to Second Life. Choose My Last Location to login wherever the last place you last logged out successfully, or choose My Home to login at the location where you last specified Set Home to Here under the World menu (or the welcome area if you haven't specified a home yet). I usually set this to My Last Location.

Show Names: The first set of round buttons determine when names should be shown above other people's heads. Hide My Name On Screen can be checked if you don't want your own name to appear. Small Avatar Names will use a smaller font to display names if checked. I usually set these to Always, Hide My Name is off, Small Avatar Names is on.

Color For My Effects: When you chat, teleport, or select something to edit, you'll see particles floating around in the air coming from your avatar. This lets you specify what color you want those particles to appear. I think this defaults to white, but you can specify any color you like by clicking on the color square.

Away Timeout: This sets how long before you are automatically marked as away after the Second Life client has detected no input activity from you (from the mouse or keyboard). I recommend setting this around 300 seconds.

Print Online Notifications: Enabling this will notify you when your friends log in or out of Second Life. This will send a notification for each person who you have a calling card with. Many people turn this off since they have so many calling cards, or they keep their calling cards to just their closest friends. I have this option unchecked because I have hundreds of calling cards.

Rotate Mini-Map: The little mini-map which can be brought up with Shift+Ctrl+M can be set to either rotate with the direction your avatar is facing, or it can be fixed to always point north to up. Checking this option will make it rotate with the direction you are facing. I keep this option checked.

Notify when money (L$) spent or received: This will create a pop-up window whenever you spend or receive money while you are online. I keep this enabled so I know when I recieve a sale, and to review how much I just spent to make sure I didn't mis-type the amount.

Automatically report crashes: Sometimes, when Second Life crashes, you will be asked if you want to report the crash, to help the developers debug errors in the system. Enabling this will automatically report crashes without asking you. I keep this enabled.

Auto-detect graphics hardware on next startup: I'm not sure what this does exactly. It's probably here to help people who hare having problems with their troubleshooting. I keep it unchecked.

Reset Dialogs: Some "nagging" dialog boxes will have a checkbox which says "Show this next time". After a while, we tend to have those all turned off. If, for some reason, you want to reset them so they come back, click this button.


Mouse Sensitivity: This affects how quickly you rotate while in Mouselook (first person) view. I have mine set to about 15% from the left, which I think is the default.

Invert Mouse: Checking this will invert your up-down movements, so that if you move the mouse up, your camera tilts down. I have this turned off.

Auto Fly: There are two modes of movement in Second Life: standing and flying. You can toggle between these two modes by pressing the 'F' key.

While standing, the 'E' key is for jumping, and the 'C' key is for crouching down. While flying, the 'E' key moves you up, and the 'C' key moves you down.

Enabling this option will make it so that if you hold down the 'E' key while standing, you will enter fly mode and go up, and if you hold down the 'C' key while flying and touch the ground, you will go into standing mode. I have this option enabled.

Camera Options: This affects how closely the camera tracks you as you fly or walk around. Using a higher value means the camera will feel "looser" in tracking your position. I usually set this to 10.

Automatc Edit Camera Movement: Checking this will cause your camera to reorient and rotate when you enter Edit mode. I prefer to leave this checked off.

Automatic Appearance Camera Movement: Checking this will cause your camera to reorient and rotate when you enter Appearance mode. I prefer to leave this checked off.


Maximum Bandwidth: This slider lets you specify how fast the world should stream data to you. The number represents thousands of bits per second. I recommend 300 to start, go lower if you get packet loss, go higher if your system can handle it. I tend to stay around 500 -- i've tried going higher but even though my ISP lets me download other things clearly at 3000 kilobits per second, it seems the SL servers start to give me more trouble if I specify it much higher than 500.

Disk Cache Size: This specifies how much space will be used on your primary drive to store information that SL has downloaded, to help save having to download it again if you pass back through the same area again at a later time.

While usually larger is better, I've noticed a larger cache also degrades my CPU performance because it takes longer to look through a larger cache. I keep this set to 200MB as a compromise between lookup speed and download speed. If you have a slower connection or a faster computer, you may want to set this higher.

Note that every time you install an update to Second Life, your cache files are cleared out and reset.


Anisotropic Filtering: This option improves the subtle appearance of jaggy edges. I have this off.

Local Lighting: This makes light sources cast light onto everything near them. This can really degrade performance if there are a lot of light sources in your view. I have this off.

Shadows: This adds a subtle shadow effect on ground surfaces cast opposite the direction of the sun. I turn this on sometimes. It doesn't seem to have too bad of an effect on performance.

Disable Far Clip: I'm not sure what this does *exactly*, but checking this seems to extend your view distance, which will result in more objects being displayed and lower performance. I have it unchecked now.

Shiny Objects: This enables shinyness and bump mapping (Object Bump). Turning this on can have a minor impact on performance. I have this off.

Avatar Rendering: Normal is a very basic view, and should be selected if you want a higher frame rate. I have this selected. Bump Mapped will introduce a small amount of additional detail Bump Mapped & Cloth will cause loose clothing and long hair to slightly wave, as if blown by a small breeze

Terrain Detail: None will give the fastest display, but lowest quality appearance to the land textures. Some is a medium performance/quality tradeoff. Full will show high resolution land textures, but can slow down your frame rate slightly. I have this selected.

Gamma: This adjusts the darkness of your view. Turning it up will make things darker, turning it down will make things lighter. I have mine set to 0.80.

Nighttime Brightness: I haven't played with this option yet. I assume it lets you adjust how dark it gets at night =)

Display resolution: Select "Run in a window" if you like to do things in the background while SL is open, (ie, open a web browser, check email, etc). If you don't check "Run in a window", you can specify what screen resolution you want Second Life to run at in full screen.

Note: You can switch between full screen and windowed mode without changing this setting by pressing Alt+Enter at any time.

Fullscreen Aspect Ratio: I'm guessing this is probably for people who have non-standard proportioned monitors (not 4:3) to use as an override. If you have an unusual monitor and things seem "squished" or "fattened" to you, you can probably adjust this to get the proportions a little more normal. Most people should be just fine leaving this setting at 1.333 with 'Auto detect' on.


AGP Graphics Acceleration: This gives me about a 25% boost in speed to enable, but not everyone can enable it due to driver or hardware incompatabilities. I've also heard some people say that turning this on can slow down their performance. I'd say go to a quiet area, relog, and try it both ways to see if it helps or hurts your frame rate.

Texture Cache Size: Normally, you set this to 'Small' if you have under 512 MB of system memory, or set it to 'Large' if you have 512MB or more. However, if you run a lot of programs in the background and only have 512MB of memory, you might want to select 'Small' instead just to leave some room and avoid disk swapping.

Video Card Memory: More than anything, this setting lets you specify how much texture data should be downloaded and displayed. Setting this lower will cause smaller textures to download, but they will probably appear more blurry. Setting this lower will help make textures load faster, but will compromise appearance quality. Most of the time, I keep this set to the size of my video card's memory for maximum quality.

Object Detail: This slider compromises speed for quality for the level of detail given to displayed objects. Farther to the right means higher quality, but can cost some speed.

Tree Detail: This is the same as Object Detail, but applies to the special tree prims.

Avatar Detail: This is the same as Object Detail, but applies to avatars. Sliding this to the left will make avatars look much less accurately defined.

Avatar Vertex Program: I'm not exacty sure what this does. This option should usually be enabled unless you see problems with avatar postures (twisting or bending into unnatural shapes).

Show Avatar in Mouselook: This will make your body and attachments appear while in mouselook (first person) mode. Unchecking this will make you invisible to yourself while in mouselook mode.

Draw Distance: This setting has the largest effect on your performance. It determines how far into the world you can see. Setting this higher means not only will your video card have to render more objects, but you will have to download a lot more objects as well. I usually keep this set at 128 meters.

Fog Distance Ratio: If you prefer your view to fade off into fog, set this number lower. If you prefer there to be less or no fog (which means you may see the edge of your draw distance clearly), set it higher. I have it set to the maximum at 4.0.

Drop Draw Distance if FPS <: If you don't like your frame rate dropping below a certian threshold, you can set a minimum perferred frame rate here, and the engine will temporarily drop your draw distance to try to achive the frame rate you specify (down to a minimum draw distance of 64m). To disable this feature, set it to zero.

Bumpiness Draw Distance: If you have Shiny Objects enabled in the Display tab, this will specify how close your camera has to be to an object for it to display with bump mapping ('Object Bump' in the texture tab when editing an object). To disable bump mapping altogether, while keeping Shiny Objects enabled, you can set this to zero.

Max Particle Count: This specifies the maximum number of particles the client will display at once. I usually recommend keeping this at 4096, since using any other value will mean you probably won't see the same effect as the person who created the effect intended. Setting this lower can help with performance, however. Setting this higher has some strange effects as well.

If you want to disable particles altogether, you can press the Alt+Shift+Equals key combination to toggle them off/on. This resets every time you log in.

Outfit Composite Limit: I'm still not sure what this is, even after asking around. It may just be a legacy setting that they have forgotten to remove. The default is 5, which is where I've left it. I can't tell what it changes when I change this value.


Mute Audio: Turns off all in-world sound effects. Not recommended unless you are easily annoyed by them =)

Mute Audio When Window Minimized/Hidden: Turns off in-world sound effects when SL is minimized or hidden.

Play Streaming Music When Available: Land owners have the ability to specify a shoutcast/icecast type of stream on their parcels, which will play automatically when you enter their land if you have this enabled. This stream is sent directly to you from the shoutcast server and does not pass through Second Life's system.

Play Streaming Video When Available: Checking this allows you play streaming video when it's available on a parcel.

System, Wind, Footsteps, UI Volume: These are regular volume sliders that adjust the volume of their respective sound sources. I have mine set to roughly 100%, 50%, 10%, and 50%.

$ Change Threshold: This will play a sound if you spend or recieve money, if it is greater or equal to the amount you specify here. I have mine set to 50, which I think might be the default.

Health Change Threshold: Like the $ Change Threshold, this will play a sound if you take more than 10 points of damage in a damage-enabled area.

Doppler Effect: The higher you set this, the more doppler effect will be applied to objects that are emitting sounds.

Distance Factor: I think this affects how far sounds propogate, but I'm not entirely sure.

Rolloff Factor: I think this affects how quickly the sounds fade in volme as a function of distance, but I'm not entirely sure.

Default Upload Bitrate: When you upload a sound file, this will be the default quality setting (sort of like the quality setting on an MP3). A bigger number means higher quality sound, but also it will mean a longer delay when you first play the sound to people who don't have it cached.


Chat Font Size: This lets you specify the size of the font that appears in the chat overlay area in the bottom left corner of your screen, but does not affect the size of the text in the windows (such as IM and Chat History).

Chat Color: This lets you specify the colors for the different types of chat text. 'System' is system messages such as errors or special announcements. 'Users' is the regular chat text you see other people typing. 'Objects' is chat text which comes from scripted objects. By default, these are a very light blue, white, and green, respectively.

Fade Chat After: This applies to the chat overlay text which appears in the bottom left corner of your screen. The higher you set this, the longer the chat text will stay on the screen before fading out. If you set this too high in a very chatty area, the chat text may begin to fill the whole screen. Setting this lower will keep this from happening, but gives you less time to read it before it fades out. I've used a setting of 60 seconds for a long time now without ever having to adjust it. Set the opacity slider to determine how dark the chat console is.

Note: You can always open your chat history window with Ctrl+H which shows the text in a scrollable window without fading.

Busy Mode Response: This is a message to send to people who try to IM you while you are set in (BUSY) mode, which you can select under the 'World' Menu.

Chat uses full screen width: Checking this will cause the chat overlay text to wrap at the right screen edge, instead of partway across the screen. I prefer this option turned off.

Close chat after hitting return: Turning this on will let you use the Enter key to open the chat text entry box and start chatting, and then it will close the chat text entry box after you press Enter again to say your line of text. I definitely prefer this to be checked, as this is the way that most game chats work.

If this is left unchecked, the chat bar will stay open all the time, and you will have to use your mouse to click outside of it in order to to press shortcut keys.

Arrow keys move avatar when chatting: If this is enabled, then you will not be able to use your arrow keys to move your cursor around and edit the text in your chat text entry box, instead it will cause your avatar to move. This may be preferable if you have "Close chat after hitting return" unchecked, but you will probably want it turned off if you have "Close chat after hitting return" enabled so that you can easily move your cursor to edit your text. I have this off.

Show chat bubbles: Click this to see avatar's chat in bubbles over their heads. Set the opacity slider to determine how dark the background behind the chat is.

Send IM to E-mail: If you enable this, then any Instant Messages that you recieve from people while you are offline will be forwarded to your email address. This can come in handy to keep in contact while offline. As of version 1.4, you can now reply to emails you recieve from this to send an Instant Message back to the person who sent it to you. I have this enabled. You can change your email address in your Account Settings on the Second Life website.

Include IM in Chat History: If you want the Chat History window (Ctrl+H) to include Instant Messages (like the chat overlay does), then enable this feature. I have this feature off.


When a popup message box appears, you have the option to check a box to not see it again. This tab is where you manage those popup boxes.

Popups I have disabled: This is a list of the popup message boxes you have chosen not to see again. You can turn the message back on by highlighting the question and clicking the Enable this popup button.

Popups I want to see A list of the popup messages currently appearing.

contributor: Kex Godel