Mouse Navigation

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For a while I've been thinking about how to make SL easier for new users to navigate. In some user tests (circa 2005) I observed several users trying what I call "coffee cup" navigation -- hold something in their left hand and try to navigate SL using just the mouse.

This doesn't work for several reasons.

  • Click-drag on avatar rotates camera, but doesn't move it.
  • Arrow keys are on the right edge of the keyboard, meaning right handed users move their right hand back and forth between arrow keys and mouse.
  • Users new to 3D environments don't discover AWSD navigation.
  • Once they discover AWSD navigation they make frequent errors with typing navigation input into chat and vice versa.
  • Alt-Zoom requires two-handed control, yet is important for getting good views of many pieces of content.

Proposed Mouse Navigation

Primary Navigation

  • Left click on avatar walks forward
  • Drag left turns left, drag right turns right
  • Drag slightly back stops walking
  • Drag more back walks backward
  • Drag forward starts running

To help users discover this:

  • Hovering over your avatar changes cursor to special "walking" icon
  • When mouse is down on avatar, transparent arrows appear on screen representing forward/back/turn with the currently active arrow highlighted
  • Arrows surround cursor position, suggesting dragging towards the one you want
  • Of course, arrows can be turned off by advanced users


  • Flying is hard because the mouse is a 2D input device, but flying is 3D
  • Maybe just navigate in 2D, with on-screen widgets to go up and down?
  • Or maybe using the mouse wheel flies up and down when holding down the left mouse button on the avatar. The avatar starts flying in the direction of the scroll until scrolled in the opposite direction. Or the avatar could move up and down little by little for every scroll, which ever seems more efficient.


  • Show explicit "tool" icons in the toolbar for arrow vs. zoom vs. orbit
  • Holding down Alt highlights the zoom icon
  • Mouse wheel switches between tools
    • Thus you can both move avatar and move camera using only a wheel mouse
  • Tool tip for zoom and orbit icons shows keyboard shortcuts

Go To Point

  • This is hard because the most interesting place to walk is right in front of you, which you can't click because the avatar is in the way
  • Double-click on ground does a stupid walk-to-point autopilot
  • Users can tag objects as being "walls"
  • Double-clicking a "wall" walks toward it
  • Auto-pilot doesn't try to walk around objects. It turns off if it gets stuck.
  • Auto-pilot is driven by the server, so motion is smooth in the face of network latency

Object Selection

  • Right now you must do right-click of objects to select them and issue a command
  • This limits the commands to what fits in the right-click menu
  • For non-wall objects:
    • Single click selects and shows highlight
    • Objects can specify an "info window" to appear on the edge of the screen
    • Info window can contain:
      • Picture
      • Buttons that issue chat commands to a script in the object
      • HTML page?
      • Information about creator/owner/script status, etc.