To finish my series on action bars and buttons, this week I'm looking at "Group Button" style addons. Group Buttons was an addon made by the venerable Lozareth of Discord Mods fame. Group Buttons attached action bars directly to an unit frame, making the frame the default target for the action or spell placed in the bar. A look at the original addon can be seen in this Addon Spotlight. Unfortunately Lozareth hasn't updated the addon for WoW 2.0 compatibility. However multiple other authors have stepped in with their own take on a group buttons style addon which has provided the community with several options ranging in complexity. Let's find out which suits your needs!
One aspect of UnitButtons I liked is rather than attaching to an actual unit frame, the target button bars are free floating and can be dragged anywhere. This allows compatibility for any user frame addon you might use, as well as the freedom to place the buttons wherever works best for you. A shorthand label helps remind you which target the button bar is assigned to, like P1 for player, T for target, P2-P5 for party, and R for raid members. Unfortunately bars for pets, target or target, focus, and party's target are missing, again showing the beta-ness of this addon. (Is beta-ness a word? It is now!) UnitButton's advanced features are found on the "Dynamic Button" tab of the config panel. Here you have instructions to select the button you want tinker with. The options presented are a little cryptic; a tooltip with an explanation would be handy. I was able to figure out that you can make buff buttons blink if your target is missing the buff, or fade when it has it. The fading is nice, but even nicer would be to completely hide the buff's button if the target has it active. You can however hide a buff based on your target's class, handy so you can ignore non-mana using classes with your Arcane Intellect button for example. All of this can be applied to debuffs you cast on an enemy as well; they can flash when you need to cast it and fade when it's active. Buttons that you designate as heals or dispellers like Remove Lesser Curse have another set of options that can make them blink, fade, and hide based on the target's health percent.
That's about everything for UnitButtons. It's pretty easy to setup and has some nice features. Once the author adds support for target of target, pets, and focus targets and spruces up the config panel UnitButtons will be hard to beat. Oh, one thing I should mention, UnitButtons uses Blizzard default 120 action buttons, so when used with other action button addons it may conflict a little. Not a deal-breaker but something to be aware of.
Unit Frame Action Bars
Next up is Unit Frame Action Bars, which is a long title to type each time so hence forth I'll refer to this addon as UFAB. UFAB is configured through mostly slash commands; however it has one window that contains sliders to adjust each bar's size and check boxes for hiding the party bars in raids and to make the raid bars be aligned vertically. UFAB has an action bar for every unit frame you can think of, even going as far as target of target's target. (Isn't it neat how in WoW lingo target of target's target actually makes sense?) UFAB can attach its bars to a unit frame if it supports the unit frame addon you're using; otherwise the bars just float where ever you put them. I like how it puts the choice on the user with this option. UFAB is compatible with the default unit frames along with Perl Classic, X-Perl, ag_UF, and CT raid frames. It might be usable with more, but those are the ones I saw noted UFAB's download page. UFAB is missing features such as fading and blinking of the buttons, however it does track rather your target is hostel or not.
All in all UFAB gets the job done admirably if you don't need options such as fading and flashing icons. Its wide range of targets is commended, as it's distinguishing of friendly/enemy units. Adding more options to the config panel instead of relying on slash commands would be nice, as I feel any WoW 2.0+ addon should offer alternatives.
eXtreme Unit Buttons
Last but certainly not least is eXtreme Unit Buttons (XUB for short). I expected this addon to come with a lightning bolt on the front and maybe a warning label of some type signifying how extreme and hardcore it is. Well I don't know about extreme, but it's certainly hardcore. When I noticed that this addon comes bundled with a .pdf manual I knew something was up. Of course I promptly ignored it and went directly to exploring XUB in game. XUB has 4 main windows you cycle through to set it all up accessed by /xub. The Options window handles how the bars of buttons are displayed. Details like size and spacing of the buttons, rather tooltips are show or not, and where the bars are anchored to a frame. The next window is the Unit Frames window, which is where you tell XUB what unitframes you're using. It natively supports the default, Perl Classic, X-Perl, ag_UnitFrames, and Discord Unit Frames. If you use a different unit frame addon you can create a custom setting by entering the names of each of the frames. However to find out exactly what a frame's name is you'd have to use another addon such as Visor. These windows are pretty straight forward to use, it was when I got to the final configuration window that I began scratch my head. See setting up the actual bars isn't a simple matter of drag and drop like the other addons, no you have to make your action bars through a complex scripting syntax. Time to bust out the manual. I won't go into eXtreme (hah) detail here, but needless to say you have a wide range of options when making your unit frame buttons react to different events. For example you can make a bar showing renew when a party member is missing 10% health, and then showing flash heal when missing 30% health, etc etc. occasion. XUB makes its own buttons so it won't interfere with other addons.
XUB has so many possibilities but its learning curve is really steep. For those who want precise control and have the patience to learn XUB's syntax language you won't be disappointed. That being said, its syntax input system could be replaced with a graphical one, making the complexity easier to handle for the average user. In fact the original Discord Group Buttons was also very configurable but handled it all graphically.
The one that's right for you
All of these addons are pretty similar and the only real difference between then is customization complexity. UFAB is great for those new to group button addons, as long as you're ok with a few slash commands. UnitButtons adds more features and once it's out of beta status would be my pick for the average user. Finally eXtreme Unit Buttons offers a multitude of options for those not afraid of its scripting process. Well that's all she wrote on group button style addons and this also marks the end of action bar addon reviews. I'll revisit the topic when new features and addons are made down the line. Next week I'll be taking a look at compilation addon packs so that should be fun and something different. As always thanks for reading and for your feedback!
Matthew will continue tinkering with his interface in the hopes of spreading usabilty enlightment to all.