Introduction to Second Life

Here is a short introduction to Second Life. This tutorial will walk you through account creation, avatar movement and interaction, the user interface, communication, and building.

Creating an account


- Go to www.secondlife.com and click on the big “Get Started!” button.

- If you are asked to join a community click on the “skip this step” button

- When you get to the account creation page choose an avatar, a name, and fill out the rest of the information, including giving them a working email address so that you can successfully activate your account. Note: Your avatar’s appearance is NOT permanent, it is possible to change your appearance later so don’t stress about this too much. However, your name IS permanent and is linked to the email address you give them so please be appropriate and don’t call yourself something that you will regret later.

- Continue through the sign-up process until you are prompted to check the email address that you provided when signing up. Second Life will send an email to this address with a link to finish the sign up process. Once you click on this link your account will be created.

- After your account is successfully created you will be asked to download the Second Life client application. If you are using your own computer then you will need to download and install this application in order to log in to Second Life. Note: Second Life is already installed in all of the computers in the Wilson Media Lab and in the two rows of computers just outside of the lab. The icon for the application is a small hand with an eye for the palm and is located in the dock at the bottom of the desktop on any of these Macintosh computers.

- Open the Second Life application and enter your name (your second life name, not your real name) and password that you created when signing up. Then click the connect button to log in.

Logging in for the first time

- The first time you log in you will be taken to an help/orientation island. This is an area designed to familiarize people with various aspects of Second Life including how to get around, how to communicate, how to interact with objects and people, etc.

Moving Around the Environment (locally)

To can use either the arrow keys or the A, S, W, and D keys to move your avatar forward, backwards, left, and right respectively. All avatars can fly (unless the area you are in has this ability turned off) and pressing the F key will toggle you in and out of flight mode. Flying will allow you to quickly and easily move from place to place in a given location. The E and C buttons cause you to ascend and descend respectively while in flight mode or jump, and crouch when on the ground. Take a minute to experiment with both methods of movement until you feel comfortable moving around in virtual space. Note: By holding down the left mouse button on your character you can easily turn and look up or down in any direction using the mouse. The mouse’s scroll wheel also allows you to control your view by zooming in and out.

Interacting with objects and people

Although you use the keyboard to move around the environment the majority of your interaction with other people and objects will be through the mouse. Left clicking on an object is considered “touching” the object and will usually initiate any kind of functionality that is built into that object, such as; giving out note cards or other objects, animating your avatar in some special way, or changing the state of the object itself. Right clicking on an object or person will bring up a small wheel with various context-specific options on how you can interact with that object. For example, right clicking on another person might give you options to befriend that person, send them an IM/message, or see their profile; right clicking on an object might allow you to “touch” the object (the same as left clicking on the object), sit on the object, or edit the object (if you created the object or have permission to edit it).

The Interface

The buttons on the bottom of the screen (“Communicate”, “Fly”, “Snapshot”, “Search”, “Build”, “Mini-Map”, “Map”, and “Inventory”) allow you to further interact with the world of Second Life in different ways. Some of these are fairly shallow and straightforward (such as the “Fly”) button, whereas others are more complicated and allow you to access many different functions (such as the “Communicate”, “Search”, and “Inventory” buttons). The “Communicate button allows you to view your friends and the groups that you belong to as well as to communicate with them. The “Search” button allows you to search the world of Second Life for people, places, things, etc. and allows you to find them, talk to them, and visit them. Finally, the “Inventory” button allows you to access your inventory which is where any digital object that you create or are given is stored, including your avatar’s clothes, any note cards you might receive, landmarks to allow you to easily teleport to places of interest, etc. These objects are all organized in folders by their type.

Getting Around (globally)

Walking and flying will allow you to access all of the lands within your current region or “island”, but there are many more “islands” with many things to see, do, explore, etc. In order to get to any of these places you must either find them using the “Search” button, find them using the “Map” button, or have a landmark object in your inventory to allow you to teleport there. You can receive landmarks from people or objects, or you can create your own landmark of where you are currently at any time by clicking the “create landmark here” option under the world menu at the top left of the Second Life window. To teleport to one of these landmarks simply find the landmark object in your inventory in the “Landmarks” folder, double click it to open, and click on the teleport button.

Explore on your own

Feel free to explore the help/orientation island to find out more about Second Life. There are usually people and objects giving away free clothes, objects, and items at these locations as well, which will allow you to further customize your avatar and your virtual world experience.


Almost everything in Second Life has been created for users by users using the program’s built-in tools. The building tools in Second Life are fairly easy to start using but offer a lot of options and depth for people interested in learning to create more complex objects. To start building you can either click the blue “Build” button at the bottom of the screen or you can right-click on an object and choose “edit” from the options wheel. Either way it should bring up the build window on the left side of your screen. There are five buttons along the top of this window that will allow you to create and manipulate your objects and change the different options available directly underneath them.

•    The button with the magnifying glass with the plus sign in it on the far left gives you options to change your view of what you are building by panning, orbiting, and zooming. Clicking one of these options and then moving the mouse with the mouse button held down will adjust these various features.

•    The next button with the hand in it will allow you to click and drag your objects into various positions through moving, lifting, and spinning.

•    The Third button with the small box and arrow in it will give you options on how to manipulate your object’s shape. You have options to change position, rotate, and stretch your object. When the position option is chosen your object will feature colored arrows that will allow you to move your object along the various axes by clicking and dragging on the arrows. When the rotate option is chosen your object will be shown with different colored circles around it. By clicking and dragging on any of these circles you can rotate your object around the various axes. When the stretch option is chosen your object will feature small colored boxes on each of its sides and grey boxes in its corners. By clicking and dragging on any of the colored boxes you can stretch and shrink the object along the various axes. By clicking and dragging any of the corner boxes you can stretch and shrink the object while keeping its relative shape the same.

•    The Fourth button with the magic wand is what you use to create a new object. The different buttons with pictures of shapes on them allow you to change the initial shape of the object that you want to create. To create an object simply click inside the world where you want the object to be created.

•    Besides these four basic buttons and the options for each that are displayed below them there are more options in the panels that take up the bottom half of the building window. These options include changing the object’s name, adding textures and scripts, and manipulating the object’s position and rotation more precisely using exact measurements in units of length and degrees. These options are beyond the scope of this tutorial and more information on how to use them can be found by searching the web.

Building your first object: a billboard

•    Making the billboard shape: To create your billboard first open the build window and select the magic wand from the top row of buttons (fourth from the left). Then make sure the image of the cube is selected in the options below. Now click anywhere outside of the window (in the actual Second Life world) to create your cube.


Now that you have your cube you must stretch it into a billboard shape. Click on the button with the arrow and the box from the top row of buttons (third from the left) and click on the stretch option that appears underneath.


Now click and drag one of the red or green boxes on the sides of your cube to stretch the cube to the length you want for your billboard. Then click and drag on one of the boxes on the other side of the cube (red or green, whichever color you didn’t click on before) to shrink the width of your billboard.


Now click and drag the top blue box on your cube to change the height of your cube to the height you want for your billboard.


Now you should be finished with the final shape and have a tall, wide, and thin billboard. If you want to change the direction in which your billboard is facing simply click on the rotate option and then click and drag the blue circle around the billboard to orient it the way you want.

•    Uploading a texture for your billboard: Now that the billboard shape is done you can upload a texture (picture) to slap on the side of it to advertise. To upload a picture simply open the file menu at the top left of your window and choose the “Upload Image” option (Note: uploading an image costs $10 Linden per image). This should open up a window allowing you to browse to the file of the image that you would like to upload (.jpg files are the best for images). You can grab an image off of the Internet using something like GoogleImages or you can create your own image in Photoshop or some other graphic design software. Once you’ve chosen the image file that you would like to upload, you will be shown a preview and given the chance to name the image before uploading. Once you click the upload button the image will be uploaded and placed in the textures folder in your inventory. From here all you have to do is click and drag it from your inventory onto your billboard or wherever you would like to place it (you can click and drag images into your personal and group profiles in this way also). This image will stay in your inventory and you can apply it to as many objects as you want.

•    Placing the billboard in your Inventory: Now that your billboard is complete and you have uploaded your image onto it you will want to put it in your inventory and take it with you. First you will want to give it a name by clicking on the “General” tab in the bottom half of the building window and changing the name-field from “Object” to whatever you want to call your billboard. Next you will want to right click on your billboard and choose the “Take” option to place it in your inventory. Your billboard will show up as whatever you named it at the top of the items in the object folder in your inventory. To take it out again simply click and drag it from your inventory to wherever you would like to place it in the virtual world. Once it is in your inventory you can place as many as you want (but please try not to annoy everyone by filling up a whole space with your billboards). You can always edit the rotation, size, etc of your billboard by right-clicking on it (it has to be in the world, not just in your inventory) and choosing the edit option. To save any changes simply right-click and choose “Take” to put the new edited copy in your inventory as well. To delete extra objects that you don’t want lying around simply choose to edit them and then hit the delete button on your keyboard.

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