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Reader UI of the Week: Simple UIs for laptop gaming

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.

Laptops are becoming increasingly more popular for gaming ever since the ascension of the capable laptop video card and the desktop replacement. Coupled with the fact that most developers found the need to make their games laptop-compliant to succeed in the global marketplace, laptops are the big gaming PC for many, many people. World of Warcraft is notorious for being able to run on practically any machine, and I am sure there are some high school kids out there playing during Chemistry right now on their TI-85. That joke hurt because I realized how long it's been since I had a TI-85.

Qiuxiang's laptop setup does laptop UIs right -- it's simple, boils the game down to very basic elements, and does not take up the precious screen real estate with too much stuff. Sure, during raiding you get bombarded with notifications and warnings, but everything is manageable with a little bit of legwork. Not everyone raids to the extent many people do, so it's nice to see a user interface setup that makes just playing the day-to-day game something gorgeous.

Qiuxiang's UI - Laptop UI, IceHUD, adorable little action bars

What have you got for us, Qiuxiang?
Hi, Mat.

I've been playing around with my UI for a while, trying out different things. I don't raid except once in a blue moon, so my UI didn't need to have a lot of raid utility involved. This is what I finally came up with.

Addons I use:

Bartender4
Buttonfacade
Chatter
ChocolateBar
Grid
IceHUD
SexyMap
Skada
TipTac
DBM

I play on a laptop, so I've been aiming for a minimalist approach. I use Grid (not shown) for when I'm in a group, so I don't tend to bother with other unit frames. I tried Shadowed Frame Units for a while, but determined that IceHUD was better suited to my personal needs. It shows me my own mana and health, and I have the threat bar it offers turned on as well.

I use the trinitybars plugin for button facade just because I like round things. They're like coins. Shiny, shiny coins. Also, I was fascinated by the trinity bars UI and I'm sad it doesn't exist anymore.

I keep my minimap in the upper corner because I don't really use it for anything except looking for nodes. I thought that sexymap style works well for my mage.

I am open for suggestions, if you have any, but I wanted to show this off to someone. :D

Qiuxiang
Level 85 Mage
Eldre'Thalas (US Alliance)

Thanks for the submisssion and the email, Qiuxiang. The first noticeable differences in this UI are the fact that the chat box is located in the middle of the screen, as well as a lack of "heavy" UI-related elements. Let's dissect, shall we?

The world goes 'round

I don't know if the subject of round action buttons has come up in my column ever (it probably has) or if I have ever discussed my opinion on them (I probably have). Over time, my opinion on rounded action buttons has changed significantly and often, as one day I find them weird and inefficient to the next where I find them whimsical, adorable, and very fitting when done correctly. Qiuxiang's setup works nicely because I can imagine this setup on the laptop screen, as a mage. Exactly why rounded action buttons suit a mage better, I do not know. But that's how I feel.

If you're going to explore the use of round action buttons, remember a few of these concerns. First, it is a bit inefficient on space, since the rounded buttons will need to be larger than their square counterparts to get the entire ability icon in the frame. While this isn't usually a problem, people with less than perfect eyesight might have to scale up the buttons a bit more than normal because of the size of the icon.

Second, you can quickly get out of control with the size of the round action buttons, opposed to the square buttons that fit nice and neat together to form a solid block. Do not be discouraged! If that is the motif you are going for, stay square. On the other hand, if you like your action buttons to breathe a bit, with some space in between them, creating a very nice transparency effect, rounded buttons may be the way to go.

Chatbox theater

Having the chat box center screen is a great way to create easy symmetry along the bottom of the user interface and allows a screen with less workable space to gauge center-specific sizing. As long as the chat edit box (where you enter text) floats away from the box or on top of the box, I am happy. I just can't do the whole "chat box grows larger from the bottom with the edit box" thing anymore. Call me crazy.

When dealing with the chat box on a laptop, you may or may not be using a mouse. Some people don't use a mouse at times when playing on a laptop. I know, crazy, but it happens. When you are using a mouse, however, you probably have one with a fancy scroll wheel in the middle between the two buttons. This means you don't really need all of the scroll buttons on the chat box, since the scroll wheel allows the player to scroll up and down through their past messages. And with an addon like Whisp, another personal favorite of mine, you can easily see the previous lines in any conversation with your reply target.

Taking up space

Qiuxiang's UI doesn't need all of the raiding accoutrements because raiding isn't a priority. If you don't raid much, you don't need to build a raiding UI. Many people miss the point that not all WoW user interfaces must be innundated with raiding addons and notifications. The game has been designed now in such a way that encounters, especially in the 5-man dungeons, are easily dealt with based on in-game notifications and the basic setup. I'm not entirely sure if DBM is even needed for content before raids. It's nice to have, but not mandatory.

For light raiding, you can grab DBM but you don't necessarily have to build your UI around it. Just go for some minimal notifications and timers on boss abilities. As a DPS, you need even less for most encounters in the normal mode tier 11 content, and with the raid finder coming in patch 4.3 more and more people will be entering these instances with the notion of success and potential team work. Remember, new raiders, you don't need every addon to be successful all the time -- learning your class and the fight mechanics through the dungeon journal are much more important.

So with that, I present to you Qiuxiang's UI courtesy of Qiuxiang. The laptop is a tricky little computer, and without the benefit of a 23" screen players need to conserve their precious screen space so that they get to see the game and not the meta game. The right balance was struck with Qiuxiang's UI, in my opinion -- easy to set up, asesthetically pleasing, and doesn't overdue the raiding addons since, admittedly, raiding is a secondary concern. Great job!

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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