There are three basic ways to communicate in Second Life™. These are text chat, voice chat and Instant Messaging (either individuals, conferences or groups). Naturally these have abbreviated references: chat, voice and IM respectively. The reason for this? Well voice came relatively late to Second Life (and is still an option you must turn on rather than on by default) so people were used to chat and IM for text-based interactions already. Voice was added and needed a new term, so it got stuck with voice!

Many of the ways to do some of the more complex communication options require friends or calling cards, so these are discussed at the bottom of this page too.


Say and shoutText Chat: In order to chat you need the chat bar available. You can open this with the chat button, or by pressing return, although most people keep it open all the time unless they like using the keyboard keys rather than the arrow keys to move around. You simply click into the chat bar, type what you want to say and press return. This will cause you to Say your message (you can also click the Say button). Saying things has a range of 20m. Ctnl-Enter or the Shout button will cause you to shout - this reaches 100m. You can also use chat to emote to other people. For example you want to have the chat appear as “Eloise Pasteur waves hello.” you would type ‘/me waves hello.’ Normal chat appears with colons, so ‘Hi there!’ appears to everyone else as Eloise Pasteur: Hi there! and to me as You: Hi there!

Text chat coloursText chat is not limited to avatars, objects can also speak, if they are suitably scripted. In the Edit>Preferences (Cntl-P) on the Text Chat tab you can set the colours of avatar chat, object chat and IMs as well as various other things such as system messages, whether there is a bubble around the chat and its opacity. It can be well worth spending a little while playing with these to find combination that are restful to your eyes - you might spend a lot of time reading text in Second Life.

Communication buttonsThe Local Chat button is, somewhat confusingly, a chat history. It shows all the chat you have heard since logging in. It can show a timestamp on each item as well (you can turn this on and off in preferences), record your friends that have logged in and out, and even record IMs. All these preferences (Edit>Preferences or Cntl-P) are accessible via the Text Chat and Communication tabs.

NOTE: Whilst you may be familiar with txtspk, 133t and similar, it is unusual for staff members to use this form of writing. Most of them, particularly as they become more familiar with Second Life, will adopt some of the abbreviations, but you should expect to read and write in a fairly expanded and grammatical form.

Voice chat is a subject I'm uniquely unsuited to commenting on, being hard of hearing I don't use it. Peter, I could do with some help here!

Communicate optionsInstant Messaging is conducted in much the same way as text chat - you open the Communicate window (Communicate button or Cntl-T or View>Communicate) and type into the chat bar. If you click the arrow associated with the Communicate button you can pull up options for which tabs to open, including a list of your active IM conversations. If you have several IM conversations going on you will get tabs that appear. Clicking on a tab will jump you there, and tabs with new messages change colour so you can see them. Ending an IM conversation, particularly with a group or conference call, is easy - you just click the close button on the tab. You can, however, close the whole IM window (Communicate button or Cntl-T or View>Communicate as before) to create more screen space and then open it up again with all your previous tabs intact.

Starting an IM session is another of those things in which we have a wide range of options - including choices about sending to individuals, conference calling (up to 10 avatars) or a whole group. Let's take these one at a time:

  1. IMing an individual. There are in fact four ways you can do this in the main client stream (there are variant clients that offer a fifth way which we will ignore here). These four ways are:
    1. Right click the avatar when you can see them and choose Send IM... from the pie menu. You can also view their profile and click on the Instant Message... button there from the pie menu.
    2. Search and profileSearch for the avatar by name in the search tool. If you find them, clicking on the amber Resident Profile: their name link will open their profile and enable you to choose the Instant Message... button
    3. If you have exchanged calling cards, you can find their calling card in your inventory, right click on it and choose Send Instant Message from the menu. Exchanging calling cards is discussed below.
    4. If you have friended the avatar, their name will appear in your Communicate window, in the Contacts section. You can double click their name in the list to start an IM session. In the Contacts tab there is a groups tab and a Friends tab. In the Friends tab online friends in alphabetical order, then offline friends in alphabetical order. Making friends is discussed below.
  2. Conference calls can be started in three ways. Two of these are rather similar, and the third is a variation on the theme. It is worth noting you can have no more than 10 participants in a conference call. The two similar ways involved you Friends list and your calling cards in your inventory. If you cntl-click on several people you can highlight them all, then start an IM and it will create a conference call. From the New IM list you just open an IM as normal, from the calling cards in inventory you have a Start Conference Chat option. If you choose Start Instant Message you will actually open several IM windows at once. The third way involves your calling cards and the folder they are in so you may want to organise your cards into sub-folders for this. You can right-click the folder and choose Start Conference Chat from there. This will start the chat with everyone in the folder who is online.
  3. Group noticesGroup IMs can, perhaps uniquely, be only started by one method. This is from the New IM part of the Communicate window. Double-click the group name and you will start a new session. If you are the only group member online the session will fail, and you will get an error message telling you why. It is worth noting that Group IMs only reach online group members, but if you log in to an active chat you will automatically be added to it. There is an announcement tool to reach all group members at once, and to reach those who are currently offline. This tool can be, and quite often is, blocked to reduce spamming but in case you need it you can access it by right clicking your avatar and choosing groups, or Edit>Groups... then choosing the right group from the pop-window and clicking on the Info button. You then choose the Notices tab and Create New Notice. You can use this to send a message with an attachment if you desire.

When you are in IM, the other people's names show as blue (well in the default client they're blue). If you double click on their name you can open their profile directly from the IM window. Profiles can be useful as they can tell you about the resident you are in contact with.

Friends and Calling Cards

Making friends in Second Life is not, as you might imagine, a tool that guarantees lifelong friendship, and many people use the friends list to keep track of all their contacts not just those they consider friends. This is, in part, historical: swapping calling cards without friendship is a relatively recent option; but it also reflects the fact that having people as friends gives you access to more options and fine control over what you let the person know about you. Friendship is reciprocal - if you make someone a friend, you count as their friend too.

In order to make friends you have two methods available:

  1. If you can see the avatar, you can right click them and choose Add Friend from the pie menu. If it is greyed out, it means the person is already your friend - how could you forget them?!
  2. If you can't see the avatar you can search for the avatar by name, and choose Add Friend... from their profile.

Friends tabWhen you have added a friend the communicate window window offers you some options in checkboxes beside their name:

In addition, from the Friends list, you can choose to teleport a friend, pay them, see their profile or remove them from the friends list via the buttons at the right hand end of the Communicate window. If you select multiple friends in this way some of the options from buttons are unavailable, but you can still start a group IM session or offer a tp to all of them.

Calling cards are offered to another rather than being reciprocal, although of course they can offer you their card too. You can only offer your card if you can see someone. You right click their avatar, choose more and then Offer Card from the pie menu. Doing this puts your card in their inventory.


The sharp-eyed among you will have noticed there is also a gestures drop down near the chat bar. Gestures allow you to link some or all of audio clips, text chat and animations. Whilst you can, of course, use them if you must, as a general rule in most places and certainly in class you shouldn't. They are an incredibly efficient way of spamming the environment and distracting your fellow learners and teachers from what they are there to do. Many people use gestures for humour. That's fine - but remember a good joke is usually only funny once or twice, and just because you like the joke not everyone will. To that end, I will end with the advice: use them very sparingly if ever, and never in class.

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