Can someone please explain to me the difference between Zone chat and Local chat, and maybe direct me to a good reference for chat. This is the first MMO I've gotten serious about and am enjoying it immensly. Thanks in advance.
Zone goes to everyone in the same zone, even accross instances (social maps will often have several copies running at once to keep them from being overcrowded). So even if you're at opposite ends of New Romulus and on different instances, you'll still hear somebody talking in zone.
Local chat is shorter range, it goes a few meters around you. A lot of people ignore it, since the limitation makes it harder to use - moving around you can lose each other.
Fleets have their own chat channel (two, actually, with the second reserved for officers), which goes to anyone anywhere in the game. Teams have a similar channel, no matter where team members go they can still use the team channel to contact each other.
Then there's custom channels created by players. Some fleets use these, and there's a lot of special interest ones - EliteSTF for finding teams, Doffjobs and doffcalls to find doff assignments, redalert to find Borg attacks, and so on. These aren't just global, but also cross servers - players on the test server can communicate with ones on the live server through these. They also go to Champions Online, Cryptic's other game. There's even a way to connect an outside chat client to them so you can use them while not in game. This is why fleets often use them - members on alts and even other games or not playing can still connect and communicate.
Zone chat goes to every player on every instance (copy) of the map your are currently on. Local chat only does to everyone within a certain distance of your avatar only on the same map instance. The distance varies from map to map (50-75 ft)
Everything the guy above said along with some more information. For example the following are several commands that can be used in chat.
/s or /l changes you chat channel to local (50 ft I believe) and also says everything after the command in local (i.e. "/s Hello" would post "Hello" in local.
/z Same as the above except it posts to Zone.
/g Same as above but posts to group
/f same as above but posts to Fleet.
/t char name@handle or /t @handle sends a private message to the person you name, if you recieve a private message you can automatically reply by pressing backspace when you're not typing in the chat box.
/Channel Name posts to the channel name you type so long as you're signed into the channel (i.e. /local types to local, /CoX types to the custom channel CoX so long as you're signed up to it.
/em posts as an emote, (I.e. "/em loves STO" would post "Char name@Bluedarky loves STO"
/showfps 1 shows your current frames per second.
/showfps 0 stops it showing your current frames per second.
/netgraph 1 shows a graph showing your latency between you and the server and the relevant numbers.
/netgraph 0 removes the netgraph.
There are also several system channels that the system uses to tell you information, you don't need to worry too much about these.
So far people seem to have covered the basics so ill go for a different aspect chat colors and chat tabs. if you right click on the chat window you can go to you chat set up where you can by clicking on the little boxes change the colours of different channals so when you see them you can tell what they are. or add new tab to show only specific channals.
I often have my main tab as a mixture of everything then i have one "group" tab with my fleet/officer/fleet global channals an area tab that shows only emotes local PMs and team which i use often when i dont want to see all the extra chatlines like when im role-playing, and a global channal with my player created non fleet channals a system tab for all the rewards/missions/combat info...ect
here is my generic rundown on channals though its probibly redundant:
Zone is often used for buying and selling stuff advertizing fleets silly memes (gorn) and general help from other players...( where is the bank? what is the best science vessle?)
Team is used for teams related chat (go fig)...(what mission are we doing...can i roll need on this gun)
Fleet is used for guild related chat(also go fig) ...(hey i donated a bunch of tribbles and ale to the fleet bank.... when is the guild event going to start)
Local is often used for semi casual conversations and roleplay ... (good day captian that is a very nice uniform...)