I normally don't post much on these forums, but after trying out the beta CHUI viewer for a few days I thought it would be worth it to share a few of my observations in using the viewer.
Although I appreciate the "idea" of what LL is attemtping with the communications system in this viewer very much, it's implimentation feels a bit...frustrating. Some people are going to really enjoy the new changes, but I fear an equal amount of people will bemoan the same changes. I forsee these changes to be quite polarizing, in the same vein as the first "communicate" window when voice came out, or the Dazzle UI, or viewer 2, or the sidebar, etc., etc.
Every viewer I've used over 6 years has had horizontal tabs for IM/Group chat sessions. I'm not saying that's the "best" method for sorting through different IM's, but it's a very simple and clutter-fee method, and is an immediately intuitive paradigm (something I think important for newbies to SL). Obviously some people prefer a vertical tabbing scheme, which as an option is a wonderful idea. To force that scheme though, without retaining the option of horizontal tabs, is a bad idea. Personally I saw no benefit to the vertical method in the CHUI beta: it seemed a bit busy , unintuitive, and a bit of a space waster.
It took me a while to figure out that Nearby/Local chat could be separated from the Communications window....but, ugh, it now looks like an IM window.
For those that prefer to have nearby chat history connected to their chat input, that's a great thing. For me, personally, I much prefer a simple, unobtrusive chat input bar. When I'm at a club or event or shopping, I much prefer to see my chat, and others, appear in-world, slowly fading away mixed together, rather than into an opaque window. It just "feels" more social (to me); more of a "shared" experience, perhaps. That may seem trivial, but for those who like to feel immersed in-world, I think it's psychologically important. Having the option to collapse the nearby chat window into the old chat input bar I think would be a win-win for everyone.
Related to that, it appears that even when the Nearby chat window is detached, it's still somehow connected to the communcations window? (Unless I'm missing something, somehow.) By that I mean, if I close my window with IM's or Group chat, it then closes the Nearby chat window too. I am hoping that's a bug, because otherwise it seems to be somewhat bizarre. If I'm at an event, for example, and want to just focus on my immediate surroundings, I tend to close out IM/Group window and just chat with the other people at the event. I'd rather not have this large, extra window taking up screen space to be honest. I read somewhere that it can be minimized, but that's neither intuitive or elegant, and just adds to one more cluttering UI element on my screen.
Finally, it seems that every type of communication one receives makes the Chat toolbar button flash orange, which I found confusing. For example, if I take a teleporter which tells me I've arrived at a new destination, the button flashes, or same as with my HUD that uses LLOwnerSay, or a scripted object which gives me some type of feedback, or if so-and-so is in chat range. All that as a default set-up seems quite excessive to me, and what's worse is that the constant orange button flash tells me nothing really useful, such as whether it's an object or person or group conference that's trying to communicate with me. One of the few things Viewer 1 I think got right is that it differentiated quite well the different types of communication one receives: if it's an IM or Group chat, a little button pops up; if it's a system message it shows up in a colored text, or if it's a scripted object a different color of text. Better yet, one could customize the colors of each message. It was a simple, elegant solution.
I often hesitate in posting critical feedback such as this for fear of seeming like "yet another negative resident," which isn't my intent. I also realize that since this viewer has made it to Beta, not much will change before it's final release, which I think will be unfortunate. It's still my hope though that LL really takes its time to get this right before changing the ways we communicate in SL.