Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Utilities - Ultimate AW User Guide

Utilities and add-ons can be tricky; what am I downloading? Do I trust the source? Will this help me be a better builder? And perhaps the most common question... How the heck do I even use this crazy thing!?

No worries, we've got your back.

For your first add-on, the Ultimate AW User Guide is about as simple to use as they come. It is essentially a modification to Active World's default user guide, which is found in the tabs window. If you've ever dealt with the default user guide before, you would understand the need for an update -- an update which this utility far exceeds by becoming more of a charming, personable handbook instead of a technical guide. The guide offers intuitive tutorials and direction for building, bots, teleports, worlds, and even finding things to do! As a utility, it is resilient against aging as much of its content links directly to the ActiveWiki, which is frequently updated.

I should know, after all. I crafted it myself. :)

Comparison of new and old user guides -- click to enlarge

The genesis of the User Guide project actually came out of my ongoing work with the ActiveWiki. I wanted a solution to integrate the knowledgebase we had established on the wiki since 2006 into the Active Worlds Browser, while at the same time exposing the specific resources to a larger audience. In SW City we had tooled around with the user guide as a solution for a tabbed teleports list, but the idea never really took. After some drafts, I decided to pick up on the usefulness of the tabbed folders to create instructional guides that were intuitive to follow by opening and closing folders.

With the goal in mind and some hard elbow-grease, I spent a good few hours compiling every resource I could find that was relevant to the topics I wanted the user guide to hit on, teleports, events listings... I even included the default user guide for kicks! No stone was left unturned... even the basic design of how content lists was considered! Unfortunately for me, upon the first launch most people didn't know what the user guide was for -- some were even suspicious of my motives! Since that time in October 2009, the guide has picked up steadily in popularity and I'm proud to say that it even earned a Cy Award last year! Not bad for a glorified list, huh?

At any rate, enough backstory. This utility is basically your Hitchhiker's Guide to the Active Worlds Universe. Installation is very simple -- just unzip the install folder and follow the instructions in the readme. You only have to replace the one default.awh file, start up Active Worlds -- and you're good to go! The guide is typically patched at least once every 3 months, though I've been known to update more frequently to accommodate large events, such as the Cy Awards and last year's AWReunion.

You can find a full list of features and information on the download page at the SW City Builders Academy. You can also follow the thread in the Activeworlds Forums, as I update that thread with the latest build information after I complete a new version.

TL;DR: The default User Guide is awful, download this one because it'll love you forever and ever. And ever.

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