SL Reference

If you're familiar with computer gaming then Second Life will be very natural for you: WASD, arrow keys, jumping, customizing, chatting, teleporting, and generally making some fun for yourself.

If you've never used a 3D computer game then you will find it's a novel experience and you'll need a little patience to learn new things. 

If you're using your own account then the first time you log in you're on one of the several "tutorial islands". These are safe havens for complete newcomers to learn how to use the viewer, look around, move around, and follow the instructions to learn.

If you're using a loaner account, you'll find you're in the Folkdance place. You'll still need to learn the basics, but here are the most essentials:

Advanced User Tips

Hold shift to slide left or right.

Flying is toggled using "F". 

Running is toggled using Control+R.

You can customize the primary viewer by adding buttons around th edge of your window. Out of the box should be several buttons already. These are quick shortcuts for commands in the menus.

Move: Walk your avatar and camera using the arrow keys to move forward, backward, turn left and turn right. 

Look: Fix your camera on a specific object by holding Option (Mac) or Alt (Windows) and then clicking the object. If you hold your mouse button down and push forward you'll zoom in closer on the object. Tap the ESC key to release your camera back to normal.

Lighting: Second Life has a 4 hour day cycle. 3 hours of daylight and 1 hour of night. You can override the sun's position using the menu World > Environment > Midday. That gives you the brightest view of the world.

Sound: Sound is mostly controlled using the music play button in the window's upper right.

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The Play button is the musical notes.

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The Play button is the triangle.

Clicking it toggles music on and off. Sometimes you need to toggle it a couple times is the music stream cuts off.

Hovering over the Speaker button pops up a menu for controlling specific categories of sound. You can control muting and volume of these. The most important ones are the "Music" and "Sounds", which control the volume of the music stream and the caller sounds from the Dancer HUD.

Text Chat: Talking to people near you is done by the menu Communicate > Conversations. You may need to click in the white typing area to make sure you are typing into it, otherwise your typing may be mistaken for movement commands.

TIP: Pay attention to short-lived dialogs appearing on the upper right corner of your viewer. These are notifications that are invitations to take some action, reply to someone, etc. After a brief display they collapse into a small button. You can re-expand it by clicking the button.

Private IM: Talking to people privately is done by right-clicking their avatar and choosing the command "IM" (instant message). You can also right-click their name in the Conversation or People windows to IM them.

Voice Chat: Second Life supports voice chatting but it's not a popular technique in general places. (Contrariwise a very few people refuse to type at all and insist on Voice.) We won't be using it in the Folkdance place. 

"Sitting": You sit on objects to rest in a chair, take a ride, or even to dance! This is odd but true, sitting in Second Life is really about asking the object to animate you in some special way. A chair is the most natural use of sit (and its converse "unsit" or "stand"). The dance system objects in the Folkdance place are meant to be sat on in order to dance. When you are done with a dance you stand (unsit).

Inventory: When something is given to you it goes into your inventory. You can see your inventory items in the Inventory window (Me/Avatar > Inventory). There are three tabs:

  • My Inventory — everything you own as well as the stock Library provided to everyone.
  • Recents — items you acquired during this logon session
  • Worn — Items you're wearing

Recents is pretty handy, by the way.

Teleporting: The land space in Second Life is gigantic. Really, really enormous. You can't possibly walk it all. So there exists teleporting. There are two main ways to do this:

  • In a private IM window or a notification pop-up someone may invite you to teleport to them. 
  • If you have a Landmark you can double-click it to go to it.

Landmarks are bookmarks for a specific place. You'll find them in your Inventory window (Me/Avatar > Inventory) in one of the two Landmarks folders. You can make your own Landmarks using World > Landmark this place, or someone can give you one. 


Using Second Life is free, but of course you can still spend real money in it. Typical items for purchase are avatar designs (shape, skin, hair), clothing, accessories (AKA "attachments"). It's also common to tip in games, club events, and for appreciation of creative visual arts.

Linden Dollars ("lindens", written as L$ or simple "L") are the in-game currency. You exchange real currency ($, £, etc) for lindens. The exchange rate fluctuates based on demand, exactly the same as any currency exchange. The rate is historically pretty stable between 240L and 250L per US Dollar.

Virtual goods can be bought in-world at many shops and malls, as well as on the web at the Second Life Marketplace.

While you can change your avatar's appearance for free, the best looking enhancements come with a price tag. For example, a totally replaced body plus clothing might run you L$2,100 (less than US$10). Please see the page on Avatar Appearance before embarking on this complex topic.

Read Linden Lab’s own Second Life Quickstart page too!

© Larry Copes and Bob Peterson 2021, 2022