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Addon Spotlight's top 5 addons of 2011

Each week, WoW Insider's Mathew McCurley brings you a fresh look at reader-submitted UIs as well as Addon Spotlight, which focuses on the backbone of the WoW gameplay experience: the user interface. Everything from bags to bars, buttons to DPS meters and beyond -- your addons folder will never be the same.

Addons and the WoW interface had a big year in 2011. Many famous addon authors and developers left World of Warcraft for different games or exited the genre altogether. Some addons were incorporated into WoW itself, like the oft-requested bag search and a really cool new altitude notification system for tracking on the minimap, making exploration in 3D environments that much easier. Transmogrification and void storage were introduced, and new interface elements like the new Extra Button and PlayerPowerBarAlt confused and amazed us as we scrambled to get our action bars working before raid night.

Here are my top five favorite addons of 2011. Remember, these are not addons that came out in 2011, but rather the five addons that I just could not live without this year. These are the five addons that I will never be able to live without, and you probably have some choice words about this list. Let's hear your own top five lists in the comments.

5. Shadowed Unit Frames

For me, Shadowed Unit Frames is still the best party, unit, target, and player frames addon out there. I love Pitbull and its customization options, but every time I dig too deep, I end up not liking the result of my hard work. It's really less about the addon and more my personal preference, which is how addons work by nature anyway, but the results that I personally achieve are rooted firmly in Shadowed Unit Frames.

The clean frames that SUF puts out easily integrate into any user interface, provide tons of customization, and never give me any hassles when upgrading to a new patch or expansion. I've been using SUF forever, even during the dead periods when the addon was not being updated. Now, the addon is trucking along fine with hopefully no end in sight. SUF has been a mainstay for a long time, and I hope it stays that way.

SUF stays at the #5 spot for two years in a row. I really love this addon.

Download Shadowed Unit Frames at [Curse].

4. Whisp

Whisp wasn't a contender for one of the top five addons of 2011 until I started playing the Star Wars: The Old Republic beta. While I know that it sounds weird to put an addon on this list based on another game, hear me out, because it makes sense. Whisp had given me something amazing. When that amazing thing was taken away from me, I had no idea what I had lost and how much it would affect me.

The basic job of Whisp is to create a log above your chat input box that shows your previous messages, whispers, and tells to and from your current tell recipient. By pressing R to reply, you get the box to input a new message as well as a box containing a chat log of your recent conversation. I cannot begin to tell you how much I began to rely on Whisp to track my conversations and remind me what I was talking to people about without having to scroll up through a chat window and find the right person and their specific message.

WoW has an amazing, moddable user interface that just puts other MMO interfaces to shame. It is a sad day when the ability to mod and change a game's interface is looked down upon as a problem. I understand there are concerns about player function and ability, changing the way the game works because of addons. No one really wants to be saddled with DPS meters and all sorts of stuff that's been somehow deemed necessary. Of course not. But the little tweaks, the things developers might not have thought about during the game's development or pieces too small to be picked up during limited betas, are sometimes best left to the community to fix after the fact. WoW's been doing it for seven years, and it's worked out pretty well so far.

Whisp, for me, is the embodiment of interface freedom, where one enterprising person fixed a really interesting problem without having to do much to fix it at all.

Download Whisp at [Curse].
3. Elkanos Buff Bars/Raven

2011 was the year of buffs and debuffs for me. After Elkanos went mysteriously belly-up near the beginning of the year, my search was on for the best replacement I could find for my beloved buff/debuff mainstay. On April 28, my replacement was found. Raven is a slick, sexy buff/debuff tracker that allows you to customize a million and one ways of letting you know that you've got some time left on a Searing Seed or whether it was time to unleash DPS hell when the right buffs align.

Then, out of the blue, like a forgotten ex-girlfriend or the one that got away, Elkanos returned to the world. As someone who had made Elkanos a part of my very being, you could say that I was very happy that my favorite buff and debuff tracker was being updated once again. Raven and Elkanos now live on the top five list because of how they worked together at a very important time in my WoW interface life. Raven was there for me when I needed her, and Elkanos returned more beautiful than ever.

Treat these two addons right. They will never let you down.

Download Raven at [Curse] or [WoWInterface].
Download Elkanos Buff Bars at [Curse].

2. AdiBags

AdiBags is my new darling. Bag addons are one of those addons that got me into the world of interface mods. My bags sucked, and I hated having to separate my items in their individual bags. Likewise, the one bag mods that were so popular at the time did not appeal to me either, because I wanted smart grouping and my own parameters being met.

ArkInventory showed me how amazing a smart grouping bag system could be. After a few wipes and bad interface problems, my ArkInventory parameters and rules were lost to the nothingness, and I was devestated. As I searched for a replacement for Ark, it dawned on me that most of what I was using ArkInventory for was not living up to the addon's potential, and there had to be something out there that did the basics without the hassle. AdiBags was that addon.

Seriously, it's the best bag addon I've ever used. The thing was installed for an Addon Spotlight article and its never left. You'll dig it.

Download AdiBags at [Curse].

1. Minimap Button Frame

My 2012 resolution is to find a way to build a better minimap. I want to revolutionize the way minimaps are done in MMOs because frankly, they are getting a little stale. Even The Old Republic's brand spanking new minimap is still a relic from a time long lost. Whatever.

Sexymap and other addons of its ilk are responsible for making the minimap manageable, in my experience. Without a minimap addon that whole neighborhood of your screen is just a mess of addon buttons and crap floating around an already crowded circle. There's nothing fun about the minimap.

Minimap Button Frame is a giant leap forward for keeping your minimap organized and clutter-free. All of those little buttons that accumulate on the rim of your minimap now have a happy little home to live in, rather than giving you grief, getting caught in front of your Dungeon and Raid Finder queue button or obscuring your PvP indicator. No, now you're free to keep all of that in its separate own window, never to bother you again. MBF is my favorite addon from last year because of the utter, perfect peace of mind.

Download Minimap Button Frame at [Curse].

Next week, I'll talk a little bit about my biggest 2011 disappointments as well as where I believe the WoW interface will go and grow with some 2012 predictions. See you guys next week.

Addons are what we do on Addon Spotlight. If you're new to mods, Addons 101 will walk you through the basics; see what other players are doing at Reader UI of the Week. If there's a mod you think Addon Spotlight should take a look at, email mat@wowinsider.com.

Filed under: Add-Ons, AddOn Spotlight

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