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Reader UI of the Week: Working with non-widescreen monitors

Each week, WoW Insider and Mathew McCurley bring you a fresh look at reader-submitted UIs as well as Addon Spotlight, which spotlights the latest user interface addons. Have a screenshot of your own UI that you'd like to submit? Send your screenshots along with info on what mods you're using to readerui@wowinsider.com, and follow Mathew on Twitter.

Another day, another call for help from a community member in need. What are we to do, ladies and gents? Not help out this poor soul? Stand idly by when one of our own is in need? No. That's not what we do. We are a loving and caring bunch, a proud and patient people, who take in those downtrodden and emerge with happiness and love in our hearts. Or whatever.

Lellee is asking for help. With a non-widescreen monitor and certain UI principles set in stone, we have our work cut out for us. But using solid UI-building tactics and moving out of comfort zones, I think we have the ability to turn this UI into something more akin to the solid and suave-looking examples that this column has showcased before. It just takes time, patience, and a little bit of planning. At this point, it isn't even the addons -- it's all about what you do with them. Read on, champions!

Tell us of your plight, Lellee:
I've had the same UI for years. The biggest changes I've made have been one addon for another. FuBar got switched to ChocolateBar, Healbot to Grid+Clique, only because I had issues with both. I see other people's amazing UIs, and I wish I could have them, but there are so many roadblocks. I'm so picky, which is why every time I've tossed out all my addons, my UI looks pretty much the same when I remake it.

I have bad vision. I do wear glasses, but I'm able to play longer when things are bigger because my eyes strain less.
  • I like every addon that does something/need configuring, all info (like XP and rep), and every spell to be readily available, the less chat commands to remember the better. That's why I use ChocolateBar and MiniMapButton Frame, but something has to give. I refuse to consolidate my buffs, because I forget to ask for them when they're not on.
  • I have three 85s, all healers, (soon to be four since I'm adding a tanking/dps DK) and a bunch of alts, all the way down. I like most addons to be usable by all and for UIs to look nice on a leveling character, a dungeoning character, a farmer, and my raider main. I like things to be similar across them, even keybindings.
  • I don't have a widescreen monitor (mine is 19"), but for some reason, widescreen UIs captivate me.
  • I use XPerl for raid frames, but I shouldn't really need it (save for player frames because it's pretty), because I have Grid for raid frames, but I can't get Grid to display certain raid debuffs like XPerl, nor can I get XPerl to display healing info like I need. I'd really like to have Grid display those debuffs, and figure out how to have the player menus as well!
  • I have a bad habit of not configuring/pruning my addons. There are some that are disabled on all characters (since 4.0), yet still kicking around in my addons folder, some that are awfully half-assed configured, like WeakAuras, which provides info on one buff for one character (Nature's Grace on my resto/boomkin druid).
  • I like addons that are pretty dumb proof no less. If it's complicated, I need a tutorial; I never would have set up Grid if I didn't have a four-part tutorial and if Clique wasn't so easy.
  • No Comic Sans-y fonts. Blech. I prefer serif.
What else do I want out of a UI? I want more space, I want to know more cooldowns and short-buff times, and I want to be able to see everything too, all on a 19" monitor. I know this and a more organized UI that doesn't have my eyes darting everywhere will make me a better player, but I simply don't know how to accomplish it.

Addons I use all the time:
XPerl, Grid, Clique, Bartender, OmniCC, RSA, TomTom AutoBar, Gatherer, ChocolateBar, MiniMapButtonFrame, Chat, Postal, AtlasLoot, SmartBuff, Outfitter, Talented, DeadlyBossMods, Omen, Mik's Scrolling Battle Text, WIM, Auctionator, Recount, Baggins, along with a lot in the background, like Broker stuff.

Addons I use for one character:
Archy, TotemTimers

Addons that are around/broken/not configured
XLoot, WeakAuras, Skillet (has some errors, but I like it), Auditor, Panda

I think that's everything, if not too much.

Thanks,
Lellee
Thanks for the email, Lellee. Attaining the type of UI you want is not always the easiest thing to do, but it can be done and done easily if you give it a little thought, planning, and time. Frustration is one of those big hurdles in planning and tinkering with your personal space that can seem daunting but can be extremely rewarding at the same time. Let's parse your UI and see if we can come up with some ways of getting your setup closer to what you want.

The space you have

The first thing you're going to want to do is draw a picture of your user interface. I love pictures because they are not hard to customize and you don't need any configuration experience to do it. Draw out what you wish your UI could look like. Put in realistically sized boxes for your addons, and don't make things smaller than you really think they would be on the real version.

You will covet widescreen UIs until you get a widescreen monitor yourself. There is nothing wrong with you; the widescreen setup gives you more workspace to deal with and provides that crucial extra width that just feels right. I went for a long time on my standard, squarish monitor, and my life was never the same after the widescreen came into my life. Monitors are pretty cheap these days, especially from a place like Newegg, so if you are so inclined, find a way to get a widescreen monitor for cheap. If you're that worried about the size of your screen and monitor, it's the most bang for your peace-of-mind buck.

Getting rid of floating addons

Now that you understand the space that you have, you have to begin to populate only areas of the screen that you're devoting to static UI elements. Which pieces of your UI never change? Which pieces will stay static no matter what fight you're in or whether you are grouping or raiding? Not only that, but you're going to want to keep parts of the screen open and available for notifications like cooldowns or DBM warnings.

Your current UI feels like it has too much space in between addons. By condensing your UI, especially the bottom bag bar and chat frame, you could gain a lot of space in the middle of the screen. Pull it all down and layer everything in a nice, neat way. MBF could be moved up next to the minimap, and your buffs can be turned into bars rather than the huge buttons that dominate the top of the screen.

I understand having bad vision; I am the same way and use larger addons and scale things out more than I'd like to. The way to combat this is to make things bigger but stack them with defined borders so that you can quickly see the information you're looking for. In most addon configuration utilities, you will find a Border option. Tinker around with it and add some nice, defining outlines to your addons for easier visibility.

Redundancy is the enemy

For you, Lellee, you're going to need to trim down redundancy if you want to free up more space. Omen and Recount can be combined with Skada to turn two windows into one. XPerl needs to go in favor of your main Grid setup. Look around for Grid addons or utilities that add whatever buffs or debuffs you feel Grid is missing; people write these little addons for Grid all the time. If you ask in the comments here about what specifically Grid isn't showing, I am sure someone will have the answer. Since I don't know exactly which debuffs and information you're looking for, I cannot recommend anything, but we most likely can in the comments.

If you're looking to save space on cooldowns and ability notifications, you might want to try sticking all of that onto a ForteXorcist or Sexycooldown bar and scaling that on top of your action bars. It's a different way of looking at cooldowns and notifications, but it's fairly easy to configure and keeps a mess on just one sliding bar.

A chat addon could help reposition your chat edit box and get rid of some of the chat interface for more room.

I know the feeling

I know what it feels like to put yourself through the paces of figuring this all out. My best advice is to trim down the addons until you have what you want as the core setup, only add what you can reliably fit, draw pictures to help you plan, and get rid of the wasted, floating space between addons. You don't need a widescreen monitor to achieve UI cleanliness, but it helps if you've got that extra couple of bucks around.

Again, the best advice I can give is take it one addon at a time. Get that picture in your mind. Hell, copy someone else's setup. We've got a gallery full of UIs that can be adapted to your needs that barely need any customization at all. The key is patience and fortitude, and you will be ridiculously impressed with your own results if you give it the time it needs.

See you guys next week.

Interested in getting the most out of your user interface? Come back once a week for more examples of reader UIs. For more details on individual addons, check out Addon Spotlight, or visit Addons 101 for help getting started.

Filed under: Add-Ons, Reader UI of the Week

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