Make your UI work for you

Posted by Weezzii in , ,

Player UI's are a fairly common discussion topic when it comes to WoW blogging. Mog and I have been up and rolling for a little while now, and I think we're about due for one -- and a couple folks in-game have been inquiring about it.
So here goes - breaking down, and building up the UI.

Making the choice to move into filling your screen with addons and modifications is all about player preference and convinience.
Personally, I've been using some sort of bar enhancing addon for years. After bars, it was tracking dots... then tracking cooldowns... seeing buffs... changing the minimap... raid frames... raid notifiers... special procs... OMG BEJEWELD ADDON! I can play a game in a game!
The list goes on and on... the warcraft interface can be doctored up however you need it to be in most cases.

Because there is so much out there to explore and test... it's really a good idea to determine what YOU need. Addons are addictive... like tatoos for some people, and your endless quest of convinience can quickly become something of a mess.
Rather than breaking down all there is to be said about AddOns in general, I'm just going to speak from my own perspective... and if you're just getting your feet wet with UI modification now, apply some of these things to yourself and see if the shoe fits.
My considerations:
I'm a GM, and I like to have fast access to a list of guild members currently online, and I like the flexibility to invite anyone in the guild to my party/raid in the click of a button. Additionally, I raid lead... and therefore I need raid information. When in raids, I want to know who's alive/dead, who has mana... who's not in the zone and who's got various debuffs. For my toon, I want my health/mana, pet, focus, and target visible at a glance. I also want multiple chat windows... preferably 3 - one for general stuff, one for loot, and one for whispers and officer chat. I want a fairly clean UI, with plenty of viewable space that also allows for a boss timer addon of some sort as well as a clean way of tracking my own buffs and debuffs. Lastly, and certainly not least, I want customizable bars. The standard blizzard UI bars are terrible in my opinion, and I like to have control over this aspect of the UI.

So, here's my current UI.. along with a second pic identifying a few things.

A walk-through -- from left to right.

Recount: A damage/healing meter... pretty basic for most people to have it these days. Mine is hidden/closed except between raid wipes or the end of an encounter when I might thumb through it briefly while we prepare for whatever is coming next.

Omen Threat Meter: Straight forward, again, most people likely already use this mod to track their threat on the current target.

Grid w/Grid Mana Bars: Allows me to see the raid in a snapshot. Faded boxes are out of range, white outlines mean someone is being targetted, and the icons designate debuffs currently on those individuals.

Chatter: A chat addon, much like Prat. Fully customizeable chat settings. The chat box on the right that is holding whispers has timestamps enabled so I can respond to most questions even if I've gone afk for a bit, and I know when they were sent.

Action bars: My pet and main action bars are done via the Bartender addon. Similar functionality to Bongos/Dominos... flip/turn/customized all your skill buttons for whatever suits your mood.

Ranged Display: Allows me to see a rough distance to my target. This isn't terribly useful for most people because their skill icons turn red if they're out of range. However... I'm a SV hunter, and I need to be at 30 yards to increase my damage... and I can shoot futher than that. So I need to know where I'm standing in relation to my target regularly.

Unit Frames: My frames were created with PitBull. There's a lot of unit frame addons out there... ag_unitframes and xperl immidiately come to mind. PitBull is extremely customizeable... to the point of being annoyingly so. But if you've got the time to spend on learning the ropes for setting it up, it's well worth the wait. This particular frame style is a copycat of MetzUI's unit frames... slightly adapted for my personal preferences.

Tool Tip: I use CowTip addon for my tooltips. In this picture the tooltip is fading out, but there's not much special about it. CowTip gives you the option for 50 things you probably don't even need on your tooltips.. and it allows you to move it where ever you want.

Buff Bar: These are Bison buffs. Similar to the stock UI.. very customizable features, however. I don't have anything with a timer on it in this pic... but you'll see examples later on in this post.

Like most people, I prefer to keep my player frames in the lower portion of the screen, so I'm taking in more information without looking around a whole lot. For the most part, my whole UI is set up with that in mind -- using the lower 3rd of the screen for much of the information I need to know.
One thing to keep in mind while creating your UI is that it is absolutely okay to just "hide" something. There's no need to have every bar or macro visible on your screen unless you really think that you're going to need it to be clickable... keybinds work just fine on hidden elements. Even in my own UI, the first full bar in the series of three at the bottom of the screen could be hidden. All I would need to do is move the mana potions to the next bar down because they aren't keybound.
So, now let's take a look at what isn't entirely obvious in my UI:

Error Monster: Keeps my errors from excessive finger bleeding button mashing from clogging up the screen. Just one notification does the trick.

Power Auras: A-MAZING addon. I will explain this later on in the post.

SLDT: SL Data Text takes all the information you would normally find around your minimap.. as well as other snippets of info and turns them into movable text. I have the vast majority of the options turned off... just leaving a few convinient items on screen. If I hover over the "Guild" text, a pop up comes up that lists everyone online.. from there, I can alt+click someone's name to invite them to group/raid. The part that says "Jan 28 (Wed)" is actually my in-game calendar. If I click on that, the calendar will pop up --- AND, the text flashes if I have a new event I've been invited to. The other SL Data Text bits are self explanitory.

Mico Menu: I keep that hidden... but it pops up if I hover over that area - via Bartender.

CowTip: Again, an example of my tooltip addon, this time a lot more visible.

So with the exception of a couple keybound bars that are permanently hidden, that's the bulk of my UI.
I would like to spotlight two addons in particular however, because I think many people could benefit by using them.
First, let's discuss Power Auras.

Power Auras is a highly customizable addon that allows you to track buffs/debuffs/gains..etc.
In the last screenshot, you can see two different Power Auras that are setup.
(similar to Drotara's setup) The Hunter's Mark icon pops up when ever Hunter's Mark is on the target I am currently targetting... it doesn't matter if it's mine or someone else's.
The Serpent Sting icon pops up only when MY serpent sting is on my current target... and the indicator is letting me know that there are 11 seconds left on it.
I'm a Survival Hunter, so it's very important that I know when my Lock and Load procs, so there is also a Power Aura setup that pops up the Lock and Load icon over my character when it goes off.

You can do this for virtually anything. Additionally, you don't need to use icons to give you information... you can also use the preset images that come with the addon, or you can even create your own!
For instance, when I DO NOT have an aspect on, I get a faint ring that shows up around my character, which reminds me to toss one on.
To add to all this... there are customizable "fly in" and "fly out" animations to get your attention. Each button/power aura is completely independent of the other ones... and you can set some up for a certain character, or make them usable on all chacters. You can actually even import/export power auras you have set up on in your UI so you can exchange with friends.

Lastly for addons, is one that is not visible in any of my previous screenshots - Opie (oh-pie!).
Opie is a highly customizable radial button addon that allows you to access to a number of skills/macros in the push of a single button.
Opie "flies out" from a designated point into a circular fashion... depending on how many abilities you have on that particular Opie ring.
An example...

First first image is my normal view, the second is once I've depressed (and holding) the keybind for that "ring," -- although you can't see my cursor, it is actually right about where the tip of the arrow is inside of the ring. In the last image, my cursor is outside of the ring, in the lower right... and therefore, when I let go of the bind for that "ring," I am going to switch to aspect of the cheetah... denoted by the larger icon size and the direction of the inner arrow.
Screenshots do not do this mod any justice what so ever. The whole thing is smoothly animated.
You can set custom rings with macros as the buttons.. so again, it does not HAVE to be skills directly on your rings. This can free up a lot of space on most people's UI's.
That particular ring shown is simply for my most used aspects... and they're all bound to one keystroke now, rather than taking up 5 spaces on an action bar. This is great for out of combat things as well... buffs.. prayer of fortitude and fortitude take up two buttons... why? Just put them on a ring alongside spirit, shadow protection... etc. The same thing for food.. or creating food, portals, whatever you need. I have rings that I use both in combat and out of combat.
An additional feature the author of Opie included is a default ring that automatically detects quest items.
No more searching in your bag for a quest item or freeing up a slot on your bars for an item you need to use - hit your quest item Opie ring bind!

Well, that about covers the meat of my UI. There's a couple other things going on that are purely asthetic.. but nothing worth mentioning unless someone has a specific question about it.
Here are some additional screenshots showing UI's that other people sent in to WWOT:

Larocca's UI pic 1, Larocca's UI pic 2
Lucido's UI
Shaylastar's UI
Smalltoaster's UI
Zonya's UI
Kobeathris' UI
Zodi's UI

Thanks to everyone who was willing to share!
Here's a complete list of addons I'm currently using:

Button Facade
Error Monster
MikScrollingBattle Text
Power Auras
SLData Text



I'm going to disagree with Weezzii a little bit on action bars. I have seen alot of UI screenshots, and I know hiding action bars is a popular thing to do to save screen real estate, but keeping them visible can be very helpful. If your action bars are configured and placed well, they can tell you what is going on better several mods all put together. Consider, when you would like to use an ability on your target, you need to know the following things:

1. Is the target in Range?
2. Do I have enough Mana/Rage/Energy to cast?
3. Is the Ability that I would like to use off Cooldown?
4. If I am using a reactive ability, has it proced?

There are 2 nice things about action bars when it comes to determining this information. One is that it ends up saving you screen space, as you can do away with Cooldown bars, for example if you use them. The other is that you only have to look one place to determine all of this.

Most Bar mods that I have seen offer you something like 120 individual buttons, which is more than anyone needs. One thing that I have found handy is to snag one bar and just use it as a "priority bar" if you will. I will take it and put it somewhere near the middle of the screen, usually slightly off to one side or below my character, stick abilities in there in a priority order that makes sense to me. So for example, on my Warrior, I want to use Revenge any time it is available for me to use, it gets the top or farthest left slot, followed by the next most important ability to me, and so on. I don't usually keybind this bar, because if I change my priority for some reason, I still want all my abilities to be in the same place on my keyboard.


I wish I would have found that screenshot I had from when I had my IU all done up minimalist for my rogue. Oh well.

This is a great post though, gave me some good ideas about some useful mods that I may include in my next escapade into UI creation. The standard blizz ui gets pretty boring to look at after a while.

I would have to disagree with you on that Chris. I'm a big believer in keybinding and keeping it hidden. This could be attributed to the fact that I try to play more by feeling than by reaction. I find the natural rhythms in a class and use them. A good buff notification/cooldown timer mod is all I needed to confirmed what I already knew which was X ability had y seconds left on cooldown or was 0.1 seconds from being ready to use.

The only bar that I would keep displayed was for things such as long buff cooldowns, potions, and trinkets. The other reactionary things such as fade, vanish, or other lifesaving abilities stayed keybound and hidden to a bar that never changed (ie with stances or stealth) because it’s much quicker to react with a finger than your eyes finding your mouse cursor then moving your hand to finally click on a button.

I agree completely with keybinding everything important, I would actually prefer a mod that just looks like an action bar and acts like an action bar, but can be clicked through so it doesn't get in my way when I need to click in the game field.

I am actually using a different mod to accomplish somewhat the same thing right now, which is in some ways better and in some ways worse than an action bar. Its called Tellmewhen, and if it could check power and range, it would be the perfect addon for me.

The reason I like an action bar type mod to display this stuff, is that I only have to look one place to know if an ability is ready to go or not. I agree that in most situations, you can just go with whatever your standard rotation is and not have to worry about it, but when you are forced out of your rotation for whatever reason; movement, low power, etc; its nice to be able to tell right away what the best ability you have available is.

-- Cobeathris

I managed to find my first serious rogue UI creation attempt. Sorry for the small picture size. I made this WAAAAY back in March of 2007 while I was leveling my rogue to 70.

I've been thinking about redoing my UI and Weezzii you have some nice addons there. I pretty much run the Default UI with DHUD. But I like how all your stuff is stacked at the bottom. Do you know how combo points show or don't show on your UI? That's my main concern with my rogue.


knavve I thought DHUD displayed your combo points beside your targets health bars if you click on the imageshack link in my previous post you will see 2 red dots beside the targets bars on the HUD. I could have been using a different HUD but I'm pretty sure that I was using DHUD at the time.

Quick question for you weezzii what kind of memory usage does your UI take?

Sorry for the spams, UI customization makes me giddy. :)

Gong, ya DHUD shows my combo points, but I think it's time to get away from it. I'm not liking how I can't see anything when I have Combat text going all over the place and the HUD right in the middle of the screen, I want to clean it up so I can see Fizzurs (sp?) and Black Circles of death where I am standing. With all the is going on now, it's hard for me to see my character let alone anything I might be standing in.

I had the same problem too. What I did to clear that up was to scale everything back.

If I find the pic of my updated UI I could show you what I did, but basicaly I made everything half size and moved my scrolling text way to the outside.

Its amazing how much real estate you gain by scaling everything back even if its just by 10%! I would suggest trying that first if you still like using a HUD. I know it went a long way for me.

@ Chris - It's a preference thing. Making the UI work for YOU is what it's all about. Relying just on skills on bars to see cooldowns and activations is something I've done... but something I prefer not to do, because I've found alternatives that work better for me.

@ Knavve - For combo points I'd have 2 options in my UI. First, on PitBull unit frames it can track combo points on your target frame as little dots... not terribly different from default blizz UI. Second (and what I would probably do if I still played a rogue), I'd use power auras to track my combo points... in which you could literally make them show up however you want. You could have giant pink bunnies show up in a smiley face formation for combo points if you wanted... it's almost limitless. That's the option I'd go for... power auras... not the bunnies.

@ Gong - current addon memory is showing 14mb.

Man now I'm all motivated to build a UI like I had on my hunter again. Since I started the pally I've just never taken the time to do it, but its coming about time to. I think i'm gonna switch my unit frames to the bottom and use a bar mod....I used to play that way and really liked it. I dont know why I stopped.

Giant Pink Bunnies it is!!!

Rick's UI!

Rick, give me some goldz!!!!

Weezzii, can you post your Pitbull layout code?

This is the UI I use on my DK, it is pretty much the same on my druid except everything is completely hidden except finishing moves and reactionary tools (i.e. pots, barkskin etc).


@ Knavve

I'll give you my pitbull info tonight, just remind me in game.

I gave up with mods and just have the basica now.

I used to try all the time but as soon as i got it good there would be some patch.

Dear Knavve,

Rick has no goldz.


I heard gold is a crutch.

zomg finally a UI setup that I like

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