Introduction: Getting Started in LSL Scripting in Second Life

About: Hey all, this is Blueman Steele. I don't log in much now but want to try to put some of the many things I learned in Second Life here on this site.

Hello and welcome to "Getting started in LSL scripting". LSL stands for "Linden Scripting Language" and is used to script the objects you will encounter and make in Second Life.


This tutorial is intended for those who have never programmed before, Second Life or elswhere. However, this tutorial will make little sense outside of Second Life. LSL is very specific to Second Life.

You will begin by running the standard "hello world" script and eventually move towards making your own. You will need to be familiar the basic principles of Second Life and general building skills before you can make use of everything in this tutorial.

Let's move to step 1. "What is LSL?"

Step 1: What Is LSL?

LSL is the Linden Scripting Language. This is the language all scripts in Second LIfe are written in. Its structure is based on Java and C. Scripts in Second Life are a set of instructions that can be placed inside any object in the world, or any object worn by an avatar, but not inside an avatar. They are written with a built-in editor/compiler which we will access in step 2.

One thing that makes LSL unique is it's heavy emphasis on "States" and "Events". A door can be "open" or "closed" and a light can be "on" or "off". A person can be "hyper", "calm", or "bored". Many real life objects have "states" and the same can be true for LSL programs. Minimally a script will have one state, the default state.

An event can be thought of as a "Trigger". Events are not user defined in Second Life but rather predefined in LSL. One called Touch_start(), will trigger the code in it when the object running the script is touched. So the minimum LSL program must have one state with one event in it. Here is a look at a minimal program in written in LSL that can loosely be translated as...."When I am in the default state, and I am touched, say "Hello World" on channel zero".

touch_start(integer total_number)
llSay(0,"Hello World");


Scripts can make an object move, listen, talk, operate as a vehicle or weapon, change colour, size or shape. A script can make an object listen to your words as well as talk back to you, scripts even let objects talk to each other.

The most basic object in Second Life is the "Prim" or primitive, the basic building block of all objects you can build in Second Life. When several prims are linked, they can each contain a script which speaks to the rest of the object via Link Messages. These are faster and more private than having objects "chat" or email each other. These are beyond the scope of this tutorial and we will instead focus on single scripts in a single prim.

Scripting is harder to learn than basic object manipulation, but is very rewarding once you make progress.

If you've built in Second Life, everything you can define in the edit window can be defined in a script. All interaction you see between objects or between avatars and objects is via scripts.

Learning more about the world and building model is vital to some aspects of scripting, thus I'd recommend a good foundation in building as you learn to script.

Step 2: Running Your First Script

Traditionally one starts by writing the smallest program possible to print "hello world". Since LSL only runs inside objects, you must know how to create an object and put a script inside it.

You must be on land which allows building. Either your own land, or land where you have permission to build on such as a sandbox. Right click on the ground and choose "create". (for one button macs use command+click)

By default, you should see a "wand" icon with which you can click and create a cube on the ground.

You will automatically enter "edit" mode and an edit window will pop up.
(Note: to place a script in an existing object, right click it and hit edit to open the edit window.)

In the edit window you may see a button marked "more>>>" click it to reveal five tabs marked general, object, features, content, and texture. Click "content".

This window shows the contents of an object which can hold scripts, notecards, even other objects. Press "new script" to add a new script.

This will open the LSL editor with a default script. This editor will color code your syntax and provide some info about keywords when you hold your mouse over them. It will also do basic syntax checking.

Before explaining the code, lets run it. Hit "save" and close your edit window (not the LSL editor window).

You should see the words "Hello Avatar" from "object"

If you touch the object, it will say "Touched."
(make sure the "edit" building window is closed for touching to work.

Congratulations! You have compiled and run your first LSL script!

Step 3: Wash / Rinse / Repeat

We now have a running script, however most scripts you make won't run the first time you run them. It will take many tries as you correct errors and make improvements. When you hit "save" on a script, the LSL editor "compiles" the code to something LSL can understand. It will stop however if it finds an error.

Brackets, parenthesis, and semicolons must all be perfectly in place before a script will run. If you are new to programing this can be one of the most infuriating steps and lead you to screaming DWIM (Do what I mean!) Part of becoming a programing in ANY language is learning how to precisely define steps and correctly type them into the language you are working in. Thus you will find yourself writing, running, then RE-writing your code several times.

The script you made runs the instant you hit save. If you take it into inventory, it will "suspend" what it was doing but go right back to it when rezzed again. (If you are not familiar with "taking" and "rezzing" an object you may need to revisit your building skills).

Each time you re-write your code you'll want to reset the script.

Try reseting the script in the following ways.

1. Press Reset in the script window.
2. Select the object and go to TOOLS>RESET SCRIPTS IN SELECTION

Also try stopping and starting the script from running via checking and unchecking the "running" button, or the TOOLS>SET SCRIPTS TO NOT RUNNING IN SELECTION and then TOOLS>SET SCRIPTS TO RUNNING IN SELECTION.

Once you get comfortable with stopping, starting, and reseting a script, try changing the words "Hello Avatar" and see what else you can make it say.... for goodness sakes keep it PG.


Scripting in Second Life can be a little bit like fixing your car.... while going 60mph down the freeway. Thus you need ways to stop the programs for they may affect others.

Objects can hold more than once script and they will all run at once. This can be used in the following manner. Say you write a script that makes a prim change color every few seconds. You also write one to make it follow you. Put them both in one object and it will follow you while changing colors!

For simplicity's sake, the following examples will all be used individually so be sure not to put two or more into the same object.

Step 4: A Closer Look

Lets take a look at the deafult code.

// Code start
llSay(0, "Hello, Avatar!");

touch_start(integer total_number)
llSay(0, "Touched.");
// Code end

The code above contains 2 comments, 1 state, 2 events and 2 functions. Lets look at them individualy.


Any line starting with two forward slashes is a comment. It will not run and is used to help you document your code.

// This is a comment


A "State" in LSL is a section that is running, and waiting for events. Only one state can be active at any one time per script. Every script must have a default state with at least one event in it. Except for the default state, each state is define by the word STATE followed by the name of the state. The contents of the state are enclosed in two curly brackets.

// contents of state go here

state playing
// this is a state called "playing"


Events are inside of states. By "inside" I mean it is between the open and closed curly brackets that represent the body of the state. When that state is active, those events wait to be triggered and run the code inside them. We've seen "state_entry" which is trigged by the a state being entered, and "touch_start" which is triggered when you, or anyone, touches an object.

Lets take a look at the deafult code.

// Code start
touch_start(integer total_number) // this is an event
// this is the content of the event
// end of event
// end of state


Functions lay inside of events and are either defined by you or built-in. Those built in to LSL all start with two lower case L's. We've seen llSay() so far. Functions take "arguments" or values in the parentheses that follow it. If you hover over the function in the editor, a popup will show that tell you what the function is expecting. In the case of llSay it expects a number and a string. We send it the number zero and the string "Hello, Avatar!" separated by commas. The function is "expecting" a number and strings and won't take anything else.

Step 5: Putting It All Together

Line by line, here is the hello avatar script. Copy and paste this to a new script to see it color coded.

// All Scripts need a Default State
// this open curly bracket denotes the start of the state
state_entry() // an event
// another curly bracket starts the body of the event
llSay(0, "Hello, Avatar!"); // a function inside the event
// closed curly bracked closes the state_entry event

touch_start(integer total_number) // another event inside default state
llSay(0, "Touched."); // a function between the brackets of the touch_start body
// end of touch start
// Code end

The instant you save your script, it enters default state, which in turns runs the "state_entry" event which in turn runs the funciton llSay() which makes the object talk.

After this the program waits idle in the default state until a new event is called.

Touching the box triggers the even "touch_start" which also makes the object speak.

Step 6: Introducing States and Events

LSL scripts will not run beginning to end . Instead they will look for a default state and wait for an event. Within those events, there can be a call to go to a new state.

Lets look at a script with two states with two events in each.

The Full Code:
default //default state is manditory
state_entry() // runs each time time state is entered
llSay(0, "turning on!"); //object speaks!
llSetColor(<1,1,1>, ALL_SIDES); // sets all sides to most bright
// note the semicolons at the end of each instruction.

touch_start(integer total_number) // another event with only one function inside
state off; // sets the script to a new "state" an starts running "state off"
} // this curly bracket ends the body of the default state.

state off // a second state besides "default"
state_entry() // this is run as soon as the state is entered
llSay(0, "turning off!");
llSetColor(<0,0,0>, ALL_SIDES); // sets all sides as dark as possible

touch_start(integer total_number)
state default;

// ---------------end of code ----------------

A simplification of this would be

//set color to light and, if touched, enter the "off" state.

state off
//set color to dark and, if touched, enter the "default" state.

Note that after "default" all new states begin with the word "state". Also, while the object has a texture, the color will effect the "tint" more than the true color.

Step 7: A Closer Look

Let's examine the default state.

First we see the "state_entry" event, which gets triggered each time the default state is entered.


The first line in the event state_entry is...

llSay(0, "turning on!");

This makes the object speak "turning on!" on channel zero. What is channel zero? It is the same channel you see all public chat on.

A semicolon ends the line and yet another instruction follows.

llSetColor(<1,1,1>, ALL_SIDES);

This turns the prim to it's brightest tint. If you take the texture off the prim, you'd see it as bright white, with a texture, it looks "normal". The three 1's stand for the Red, Green, and Blue, values of the tint.

After that the event is done with the two lines of commands, the script waits idle in default waiting for more events to happen.


While idle in the default state a touch will trigger the "touch_start" event.

Inside of the "touch_start" event is only one command:

state off;

This is a command to move immediately to a new state named "off".

This state is defined after the default state and nearly mirrors the default state except that it turns the prim dark and when touched will put the script back into default mode. Thus creating a loop.

1. Enters default state
2. Runs code in "state entry"
3. Waits to be touched.
4. When touched enters "state off"
5. Enters "state off".
5. Runs code in "state entry" (note in the "off" state's body)
7. Waits to be touched.
8. When touched enters "default" state.

Where the whole thing starts over.

Step 8: A Final Word on Words

Objects speaking is a great way to know what a script is doing, but everyone can hear it for 30m all around you. As you get into more complex scripts this can get pretty noisy! Three alternative ways to see what is going on exist.


llWhisper( ) is just like llSay( ) but only broadcasts at half the distance. You still l must state what channel. So....

llWhisper(0,"turnign on!");

...might work a bit to save the sanity of your neighbors.

Using llShout( ) doubles the distance heard, but can cut the amount of friends you have in half. :-D

llOwnerSay( ) uses no channel and is heard only by you. Very usefull and can triple the amount of friends you have!

llOwnerSay("turnign on!");


You can make a totally silent message via llSetText( ) like this.

llSetText("I am on", <1,1,1>,1.0);

What do the numbers mean? the <1,1,1> we've seen before. It represents the values for red, green, and blue. For now just know that <1,1,1>, means "white" and <0,0,0> means "black". Replace the llSay(0,"turnign off!"); with...

llSetText("I am of", <0,0,0>,1.0);

The 1.0 is the alpha setting. 1.0 means fully opaque, and 0.0 would be completely transparent (invisible).


Where would you put a command to say something just before the script leaves the default state?



Right above the "state off;" command in the "touch_start" event inside of the default state.

Don't confuse it with the "state off" that defines the start of the new state!