There isn't a web site on the planet that loves it's readers more than WoW Insider does. So when Brenda from Florida wrote to us and told us how much she loved World of Warcraft, and asked us for opinions on what "essential" add-ons she would need to get started, there was no choice but to respond and offer up this recap of addons for beginning players.
There are hundreds of add-ons out there, and as your journey progresses through the game you will find new ones you like. This is just, as Baloo from The Jungle Book would say, the simple
bear bare necessities.
Lightheaded - Since they inflated the experience benefit in the last patch, using Lightheaded to quest brings experience so quickly it will make your head spin. Lightheaded adds quest information from the comments on the Wowhead.com database site to your quest log. All the information you would have to tab-out for is at your fingertips. I heartily recommend using Doublewide in concert with Lightheaded, which will put your quest log in two panes instead of one to make it fit more easily on the screen. It's like peanut butter and chocolate, two great tastes that go great together. If you want to learn more about Lightheaded check out this awesome article (with accompanying awesome screenshot) from our own David Bowers.
Cartographer - You need Cartographer. Cartographer is essentially "the" map add-on as far as I'm concerned, You'll find all the great features of Cartographer on the page I linked, but the most important Cartographer feature to a new player (who uses Lightheaded) is that when you click a set of coordinates in Lightheaded, it will show you a floating arrow on your screen that points the way to your destination. (As a free tip, I will also mention that you can ditch the arrow and clear all waypoints by typing /noway. Yes, I know you can do it with the mouse, but... I'm one of those weird keyboard people.)