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Help: Adding/Editing Virtuals

Help Home > Virtuals > Adding/Editing Virtuals

  1. How do I create a virtual?
  2. What is the Stamp Image for in virtual solutions?
  3. What is an image URL?
  4. What is a 'map'?
  5. What is a 'decoy'?
  6. What do I list for the clue?
  7. How do I use the shapes and coordinates?
  8. What is a hint?
  9. What is a taunt?

How do I create a virtual?

First, decide on a topic. Then decide on a format. The format can be a single question, a series of questions from which a passkey is derived, some sort of a puzzle, even something that has to be translated, like another language. Once these things are decided, click on Create Virtuals link from the Virtuals homepage.

Fill out each of the pages, starting with the name of the virtual. You will also have to provide a clue and a solution. The solution consists of the passkey that must be figured out as well as a link to an image online that's the 'prize' for solving the virtual.

Be sure to put thought into your subject and format. Posting hundreds of easy single-question virtuals can be very annoying to solvers who want a bit of a challenge.

When creating a virtual, please consider the intent of the AQ site. A virtual should be much like a real letterbox in that when you "find" the virtual letterbox you will be rewarded with a stamp image that a letterboxer personally carved. Imagine finding a real letterbox and inside, instead of a stamp you find printed and cut-out pictures from a website. Although web images are allowed, it is still a discouraged practice.

Help Home > Virtuals > Adding/Editing Virtuals

What is the Stamp Image for in virtual solutions?

When someone solves a virtual, the prize for successfully 'finding' the box historically has been an image of a rubber stamp. Carve a stamp like you normally would, then scan an image of it for others to 'find.'

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What is an image URL?

The prize for solving a virtual is an image. Historically, the images were of hand-carved stamps, thus originating the term virtual "letterbox." Over time, most people thought that was too much effort and resorted to ripping images off from other locations on the web. Because of the enormous amount of disk space uploading those images filled, Atlas Quest stopped hosting the images directly and now requires just the URL for the image. The URL is a website address, such as For the solution image, the URL should point to an image, however, not a webpage. Most images will usually have a URL that ends with .jpg, .jpeg, .gif, or .png. You might find other image types out there, but those are the main ones. For instance, the URL for the AQ logo can be found at

If you point to an image that already exists on the web and are using FireFox, you can find the URL for it easily by right-clicking on the image and selecting "View Image" or "View Background Image" (if the image is a background image), and the URL for the image will open in a window or tab with the URL displayed in the address bar of your browser. Other browsers will have similar options.

If you actually carved a stamp or are using your own original artwork or photos (and good for you if that's the case!), you'll have to find a location to store your image—either on your own website or a photo-hosting website such as PhotoBucket. Solution images may not be hosted on Atlas Quest, so don't try to use the Photo Gallery to host your images. Any URL that points to an Atlas Quest domain will be rejected. Sorry, but we just don't have enough disk space to host virtual images.

Image-search virtuals will also have an image associated with each 'failed' link.

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What is a 'map'?

When solving an image-search virtual, you hover your mouse cursor over a picture to find links hidden within the image. While adding a box, we call this the 'map' since you'll use it to create 'areas of interest' that can be clicked. The image, essentially, is a map that is searched for links.

For the Map URL, you specify where on the Internet the map image is located. Sorry, due to disk space constraints, the image may not be hosted on Atlas Quest. The map's URL is required.

The Map Hover Text is what message will appear when the mouse cursor hovers above the image and is completely optional.

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What is a 'decoy'?

A decoy is a hidden link in an image search type of virtual that is not the solution for the virtual. It's a place to get people's hope us ("Yes! I found a link!"), then basically shoot them down again ("Drats, not the link I was looking for.") And it gives people the enjoyment of trying to find more links than just the solution if they so choose. It does become somewhat addicting to find all of the links!

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What do I list for the clue?

For passkey virtuals, list enough information for people to figure out the passkey.

For image-search virtuals, give a hint about what someone should be looking for in the photo.

Clues are required for all virtuals, and all of the normal markups (bold, italics, links, images, etc.) are allowed to be used for the clue. For a full list of the markup options, check the Markup Comparisons page. You can select your markup preferences from the Miscellaneous Preferences page.

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How do I use the shapes and coordinates?

Each area of an image-search virtual needs to be defined, and this is done by specifying the shape the area should take and coordinates necessary to place the shape. Three shape options are available: the circle, the rectangle, and the polygon. Coordinates are based on the map you already entered, where 0,0 is the upper-left corner of the image, and is counted in pixels. If you have two or more areas that overlap, even partially, and someone clicks on that area, most browsers will follow the link for the first area that matches the click. This cannot be guaranteed for all browsers, however, so it's not recommended that areas overlap, at least not to a large extent.


The coordinates for a circle should fit the format: x,y,r — where x,y specifies the location of the circle on the map and r specifies the size of the circle. As an example, a circle with the coordinates "200,100,30" would create a clickable area where the center of the circle is 200 pixels from the left side of the image, 100 pixels down from the top, and with a radius of 30 pixels.


The coordinates for a rectangle should fit the format: x1,y1,x2,y2 — where x1,y1 specifies one corner of the rectangle and x2,y2 specifies the opposite corner. As an example, a rectangle with the coordinates "100,50,150,75" would create a clickable area 50 pixels wide (150-100) and 25 pixels tall (75-50), where the upper-left corner of the clickable area is 100 pixels from the left side of the image and 50 pixels down from the top.


The coordinates for a polygon should fit the format: x1,y1,x2,y2,...xn,yn — where each x and y pair mark a point along the edge of the polygon. If you need to create a shape that's not a circle or a rectangle, this is your only option available, but it can create any shape you could possibly need. There's no real limit to the number of points you can specify except the length of text allowed in the boxes where you enter them. You'll need a minimum of at least three points (which would make a triangle), but you can use four, five, six, or any number of points necessary to create your shape.

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What is a hint?

A hint is what the browser will display when someone hovers the mouse cursor over the clickable area. Hints are not required, but it does increase the anticipation when people get a hint about what they'll find when they click the area.

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What is a taunt?

When someone follows a link from an image-search virtual that does not lead to the solution, you can 'taunt' them about not finding the right link. This is like the success message when finding the correct link to follow, except it's the message displayed when the wrong link is followed. You don't have to taunt people, and only good-natured taunting should be done anyhow, but you can also use this space to explain the image that gets displayed. It is a place you use to educate, amuse, tease, or just have fun.

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