There's a kind of magic about "top" lists. For one, they give you a humble look inside of the author's mind, a taste of what he or she values and holds as tent poles of the subject matter at hand. For two, I just like Top 5 lists.
A confession -- this is my first "top" list. I've never had to choose 5 things and put them into a list format. So, while my banana bread bakes, I will attempt to whittle down my favorite addons into a convenient list and describe the aspects of what makes each of these addons great, from their purpose to their execution. So, here we go -- my top 5 addons.
Player, target, and unit frames are one of the most important parts of the user interface, and I've never had a better experience than my time with Shadowed Unit Frames (Suf). Suf is one of those addons that, if it went away, I'd feel really bad and probably go cry in a corner for a few weeks. It's simple to configure and works like a charm.
Shadowed unit frames is my fifth favorite addon because of its simplicity, ease of use, and the way it doesn't intimidate.
Check out my Addon Spotlight on [Shadowed Unit Frames].
As I documented a few months back, my first experience with TidyPlates was a pain in the butt because of some interface issues that I was having. As my issues resolved themselves, TidyPlates came back into my life in a big way. Blizzard's name plates were lackluster for me and always managed to get in each other's way. As a tank, especially during Wrath, AoE threat was a huge deal, and having to tab-target through a set of mobs to check my threat level on each was truly a pain.
TidyPlates and ThreatPlates changed all of that. All of my threat was now displayed on the name plates and even gave a variable visual cue based on the amount of threat that I had on any particular mob. I was set free of the tab-targeting nightmare. As Cataclysm rolled around, AoE threat became less important, but the benefits of TidyPlates lived on in its excellent configuration and complete overhaul of the Blizzard system. Finally, I could have direct control over this UI element and make it useful again.
So, for #4, TidyPlates and all its amazing friends takes the spot. This addon turns a relatively mundane UI feature and brings it to life in a million ways you would never have thought to use it. It's all about taking what's there and making it better.
Check out my Addon Spotlight on [TidyPlates].
As I've said in the past, the chat addon has been and probably always will be one of the most important addons in my arsenal. Back in the day, chat addons provided untold functionality to the Blizzard chat interface that one could only dream about. The standard chat box was barren and lacking in key features that players wanted for a long, long time. Item linking in custom channels was only accomplished through addons for a while, as were class color names and other key features that are now standard. Over time, Blizzard's own chat box became much more self-sufficient.
However, as far as the chat box has come, it stil does not allow the range and plethora of functions that Chatter or Prat, the two leading chat addons, can bestow upon the mild-mannered chat box. For me, being able to move the edit box away from the chat box itself is invaluable, as it makes for neater rectangles, nesting the chat box next to other addons and not worrying about the added girth of the oft-hidden edit box.
Chatter has been my addon of choice, but both Chatter and Prat are so feature similar that both do the job well. Chat addons would be my #1 addon if it were not for the default Blizzard chat box's gaining so much functionality because of the success of these addons and the demand of the player base. I couldn't play WoW without these chat options, to be honest.
Check out my Addon Spotlight on both Chatter and Prat in [Chataclysm].
A relatively new addon to my interface scene, SLDataText comes in at #2 because of how damn useful it is. There's something to say about minimalism and simplicity, but SLDT takes that to an almost anachronistic degree. Plain text seems like such a backward step in terms of interface element evolution, but some information just works better and can be more streamlined in a plain text fashion. Armor durability, latency, framerate, and the clock are my core examples, as large displays for these elements just add clutter opposed to do anything relevant or change the information in any way.
After swapping in SLDT and doing a little bit of interface arrangement, I was happy to find that hidden beneath the plain text was a world of options and depth. Hovering over your friends counter displayed a comprehensive list. Everything existed in a neat little package underneath the simple facade. SLDT lives close to the top of my list because of its very nature, the principle that the addon lives by -- to be simple and informative while giving the user as much depth as he or she wants.
Also, that little armor dude will never get the last laugh on me!
Download SLDataText at [Curse] or [WoWInterface].
It all comes down to this -- my #1 addon. It's a shame, then, that you already knew the answer to this question before you even began reading the article. So what? I like being predictible sometimes! ButtonFacade is my favorite addon ever, and you already know why.
Have you used ButtonFacade? Have you ever seen ButtonFacade? You sure have. In fact, I don't know many user interface setups that don't use ButtonFacade. Back in my Cosmos days, the dark days of interface management, the action bars were pretty much static. Not many people were changing around those sacred bars because, frankly, Blizzard had a pretty good setup. You could addon on a ton of extra bars in the default interface, including two above the center UI and some on the sides of the screen. Things were good.
Over time, the action bars became ... vulnerable. This vulnerability set people off in all directions, changing their action bars in crazy ways. Button shape was no longer taboo. Bongos (remember Bongos, kids?) had the option for round buttons. Time stood still.
ButtonFacade made so many different user interfaces come together becuase of how effortlessly users could change the shape and texture of their buttons. Everything from buffs and debuffs, action bars, and even other addons could be augmented with this UI common denominator, the great equalizer.
ButtonFacade is my favorite addon because it does a simple job simply. It's basically perfect. You can even play around with ButtonFacade and its built-in setups, or go out and download one of the multitude of ButtonFacade addon packs and just try something new. You'll be amazed at how different your UI can look when you tweak just one little thing like buttons.
Download ButtonFacade at [Curse] or [WoWInterface].
So there's my top 5 -- what's yours? Next week, I want to showcase readers' own top 5 favorites, so either leave your lists here in the comments with an explanation on why you love those 5, or send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org. Next week, we'll put together a fun reader profile of the community's top 5, and that'll be awesome.
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 email@example.com.