Raiders have a long list of addons that they are required or at least encouraged to have in order to participate in raids. But casual players who are still leveling -- perhaps on multiple alts -- don't need to know threat levels, nor are we likely to encounter a mob that can shift polarity or do anything else we need to be warned about. We also don't tend to have max spec systems that allow us to get frivolous with our UIs. There are a lot of addons out there, however, that can make casual play a lot more convenient. Following is a guide for choosing addons to enhance your WoW sessions.
Take precautions: Addons in and of themselves cannot give you viruses when you run them, but their install programs and the websites you get them from can. My last column covered some basic security measures, so read it if you haven't already done so for some simple steps to make sure your system is clean and safe before visiting unfamiliar websites and downloading new programs. Also, I highly recommend getting an Authenticator when they are available.
Bookmark addon websites: Curse is a good one. So is WoW Interface. Bookmarking the home sites of your favorite addons is also a good idea because they have updates and alternate versions before the directory sites do. A typo in your address bar can spell trouble, so bookmarking is a much better idea than searching on the fly.
Stay away from major UI changes: Maximizing your screen space can be very useful in both raiding and battlegrounds. It can even be fun to play with the real estate of your screen, using one of the many UI addons, but there are three things you need to consider:
- They take a long time to initially setup -- eating into your precious playtime sessions
- If they don't update in time for a patch, you have to readjust to the old UI while you wait for a new version
- UI developers often stop developing your favorite addon and you have to start again with a new UI
Look for minimalist addons: There are some wonderfully feature rich addons out there that offer far more than you really use. You really want to stick with the ones that only have features that you make use of, otherwise your memory will be eaten up by unused functions, affecting your graphics and gameplay. Also, these extra features can really clutter up your screen. For example, Cartographer is a great map addon with a lot of functionality. But I found after using it for a while, that all I was really using were the coordinates so that I could follow along more easily with Jame's Leveling Guides. So now I use Suki's Minimap Coords and I'm very happy with the small footprint.
Only get currently updated addons: If an addon hasn't been updated for a while, it's probably best to stay away. It may still work on the current version, but it's only a matter of time before the features you have gotten used to ceases to work. With Patch 3.1 looming on the horizon, you probably don't want to get used to an addon that will become useless with the new content.
Keep them up to date: I run Curse Client once a day to do this or you could check the individual websites you have bookmarked or run other programs (that you trust) to keep your addons up to date. No matter how you do it, you definitely want to have the latest version before the next patch hits whenever possible. Also, addons can be buggy, so you want to make sure you have the latest bugfixes.
Customize them per character: I don't need Outfitter on all of my characters, but I can't live without it on my Druid (at least until wardrobe changing on the fly is incorporated into WoW). Auctioneer is invaluable on my bank alts, but is such a resource monster that I don't recommend it on actual questing characters. And, of course, I only use MyRolePlay on my RP characters. Take the time to go into the Addons screen for each character and only load the addons you need. Pay attention to the dependancies so that you load the basic parts required for the addon to function.
Some addons I recommend: There are a lot of opinions about which addons are the best and we all have our own personal preferences. This list is just the ones I like, but I'd love to see your favorites in the comments. Also, check out Addon Spotlight for others to try out.
- Gatherer: For my characters with gathering professions, I find this invaluable. It puts icons on your minimap that show you likely places to find herbs, mines and chests. If you don't get one of the downloadable databases, you'll have to build up the info by having the addon turned on while you gather.
- Outfitter: I really only use this on my druids, but being able to automatically switch gear every time I switch forms is really useful.
- Auctioneer: While it does have some little pieces you can load up on your questing characters, the main functionality of this program is huge and should only be put on your bank alt. You also need to scan the AH on your server daily for the data in it to be worth much. But if you do keep the data current, you will make a lot more money on the AH by using its suggested pricing.
- Recommended with caveats: Quest Helper: This addon is a resource hog, causes you to load into game slowly and is only useful for leveling characters. However, if you are trying to speed level an alt, it has some great features. It orders your quests on your screen according to what zone you are in and what level you are. It also puts icons on your map as to where you should head to both do the quests and turn them in. The loading program has been rumored to have viruses in the past and it caused nasty problems in a recent patch, so this is not one to install lightly.