While World of Warcraft's default interface is pretty good -- certainly good enough to get the job done -- you might find that addons take some of the tedium out of tedious tasks (like crafting or selling things on the auction house) and make it easier to see information you want (like how much energy you have or when one of your party members has a harmful effect on them that you can dispell). If your curiosity is piqued, we'll show you what addons can (and can't do) as well as walk you through finding and installing addons to boost your playstyle.
Just what can addons do?
If you're not familiar with the idea of addons, your first thought when you hear all the wonderful things they can do may be "But isn't that cheating?" The answer, straight from Blizzard, is no. Blizzard allows and even encourages players to develop addons that modify the game in Blizzard-approved ways -- if an addon is trying to do something Blizzard isn't okay with, the game simply won't let it and you'll get an error message instead. This means that while addons can do a lot to change the way the game looks or show you extra information, they can't play the game for you and definitely aren't cheating.
However, a word of warning! Plenty of scammers are interested in getting into your World of Warcraft account, so when you're hunting for addons, be sure that you only download them from trustworthy sources. If an addon makes a promise that seems too good to be true (like saying it will pick herbs or kill monsters for you) or asks for your account or credit card information, back off! These are almost certainly scams and the easiest way to avoid them is by downloading addons from a trusted site.
Curse also offers the Curse Client for Mac and Windows, which makes finding, installing, and updating addons a lot simpler -- this application will automatically download and install the addons you want and let you know when there's an updated version of an addon to download. It's hardly a necessity, but if you find yourself using a lot of addons, it can make it much simpler to keep your addons up to date.
Again, we have to add a word of warning: while some addons may have installers, most addons are not executable files of any kind -- they'll just be folders that you put in your World of Warcraft directory for the game to use. If you've picked up an executable file that isn't from a site you trust, be careful, because it might contain a virus or something else you don't want.
How do I install an addon?
So, you've found something you like and need to know what to do from there? Fortunately, addons are simple to install. Both Curse and WoW Interface will have a link on the addon's page that lets you to download the file for the addon. Once you have, you'll have to unzip the file (which usually just means double-clicking on it), which should give you a folder (typically with the same name as the addon): just move this folder into the /Interface/AddOns/ folder in your World of Warcraft directory. Now, once you start up WoW, you'll see an addons button in the login screen for managing your new addon and once you start up the game the addon should be active.
What do I do now?
Every addon works in its own way, so you may find settings or options for them in different places. Your best bet in finding how an addon works is to thoroughly read over its information on Curse or WoW Interface, where developers will usually offer you a little bit of how-to. Some more complicated addons will even have their own webpages with detailed instructions.
If you're at a loss, there are a few in-game places to look:
- Check the AddOns tab under Interface in the settings menu -- though not all addons will have configuration information there (and there's no need to panic if you don't find yours).
- Keep your eyes open for a new icon (frequently around your mini-map) or other visual element that you might be able to click on for options.
- Some addons are accessible by typing slash commands in chat -- and some will even show instructions in your chat window when you first log on. If you don't see any instructions, try typing /addonname (where "addonname" is the name of the addon you're trying to use) and pressing enter.
Unfortunately, patch day can be a mess for addon lovers. Whenever Blizzard rolls out a new version of the game, they update the version number in the game's code and when the game loads, it checks to see if any addons you have are compatible with the new version. Since you probably downloaded these addons before the patch was out, the game will think they aren't compatible and not load any of them. The best thing to do is to update your addons to the latest version (if a newer version is available), but for a quick fix you can click the AddOns button on your character select screen and click the Load out of date AddOns checkbox. The game will now load your addons and, often they'll keep working as well as they ever did.
However, sometimes changes to the way World of Warcraft works will break your favorite addons and you have to get an updated version. Though you can do this by hand, the Curse Client we mentioned earlier makes it a lot easier -- especially if you've become an addon fiend!
I want to know more!
We've given you a taste of the basics, but if that's not enough, there are lots of resources for the lover of addons. Try:
- World of Warcraft's UI and Macro forums for help from your fellow WoW players
- WoW Insider's Reader UI of the Week for addon inspiration
- WoW Insider's Addon Spotlight for all kinds of addon recommendations
Just because you're a newbie doesn't mean you can't bring your A-game to World of Warcraft! Visit the WoW Rookie Guide for links to everything you need to get started as a new player, from the seven things every newbie ought to know to how to get started as a healer or as a tank.