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The Creamy GUI Center: Big bag blowout Part II

Matthew Porter

Each week Matthew Porter contributes The Creamy GUI Center, a column aimed at helping you enhance your WoW experience by offering an in depth guide to addons, macros and other tools we use to play WoW, along with commentary on issues that affect how we all play.

Welcome readers to this week's The Creamy GUI Center. It looks like I stumbled upon an addon topic that, judging from your comments, a lot of people view as a cornerstone of their UI and addon experience. This week, thanks to reader feedback, I'm going to extend our look at inventory addons to three parts instead of two so that we can take a look at a couple of fan favorite bag addons that I missed. I did indeed hear your cries of wanting more in the comments, so let's get down to it with a look at ArkInventory and TBag.

I want to take a second and thank everyone who takes the time to comment, rather it be a constructive criticism or a much appreciated "good job". I value your opinion so please be aware your voice is being heard. Last time I got a lot of comments Is this worth its hefty price tag?asking why I didn't cover such and such addons, and I doubt it'll be the last. There are a few reasons an addon may not be reviewed, such as time and space constraints, too similiar to another addon, or just plain ol' not knowing about it. However, when an addon I missed seems to be a top contender in its category, be assured I'm reading your comments notifying me to such, and that they'll be looked at in depth the next time we visit the subject. Having said that, I decided to extend our look at inventory managers to three parts so that we can look at the fan favorites I missed.


ArkInventory's main window

The most requested addon talked about in the comments was ArkInventory, and after trying it I can see why it's a fan favorite. ArkInventory uses the one big window divided into sections approach to bag management. It accomplishes this by dividing sections, or "bars" as the author describes it, into user defined categories. On the surface ArkInventory doesn't seem much different than other addons of its ilk, but first impressions can be deceptive. ArkInventory separates itself from other alternatives with an extensive rules system that lets the user have complete control. However, this control does come at a price, as the rules system is complex and could be daunting to new users. ArkInventory has all the features you'd expect from a high end inventory addon; movable and resizable windows, options on if you want ArkInventory to replace the default bags, rather or not to show at the bank, auctions house, or mail box, and the ability to show the contents of your bank, guild bank, and alts' inventory. Features such as these may not be exciting and seem standard, but they are often taken for granted and aren't noticed until you find yourself in a position without them. Now that we got the basic features out of the way let's take a look at what makes ArkInventory so special.

Setting up how you want ArkInventory to sort and organize your belongings can be as in depth and detailed as you want it to be. First you enter the edit mode where you'll see numbered sections. The author refers to these as "bars" so we'll do the same. Each bar can be assigned rules to determine what items are displayed in each bar. You can technically make unlimited bars, but you'll be hindered by your screen size. Clicking on the number of the bar opens a window with the options to edit the bar's contents. You can give it a name, select its position, and most importantly define which items you want this bar to display. There's categories you can assign such as equipment, comsumables, and trade goods just to name a few. There are even categories that filter items usable by class and trade skill type. For example, set up a bar to only show items usable by druids with leather working. The downside to all this are that the categories are generalized; "equipment" instead of narrowed down to "weapons" or "armor." This is where ArkInventory's rules system comes into play.

Writing an ArkInventory rule.

By writing rules for the bars, you are able to define the bars' content down to the finest detail. ArkInventories' greatest strength is also its greatest weakness. These rules enable you complete control over sorting your inventory, but are written in a precise, programming like syntax that can be daunting to learn. Explaining it is beyond the scope of this article and is best served for a more in depth look at another time, but for the curious you can find documentation here. I can already hear your rant forming in your head, "whatever noob, you're just an idiot who didn't take the time to learn it." However, your every day player wanting an addon to help them manage their inventory isn't going to want to learn rule syntax just to accomplish their goal. Do you need to learn how to write the rules? No, but then you're not getting all ArkInventory has to offer and are better off served by another addon. For the people willing to put in the time though, ArkInventory is a dream come true to the advanced user.


TBag's main window.

The other requested addon I heard in the comments was TBag. Its new author, who recently took the project over, was gracious enough to stop by and leave a comment. He summed up his design philosophy behind TBag saying,
"The primary reason I took over TBag was to have a useable default config.I didn't really want to spend a ton of time configuring it. I didn't like the idea that everytime I'd come across a new item I'd have to categorize it possibly. TBag had rules that are generally written to catch items even ones that are brand new to the game."
I like the fact he had automation in mind when writing TBag, as having to take a break from the action to teach your inventory addon how to organize your new treasures can be a pain in the neck. (Fortunately, most of the addons covered during this week and last have an equivalent features.) TBag handles all the basics that we talked about, like bank and alt inventory management, and even seems to be inspired by ArkInventory as its sections are divided into bars that you apply category filters to. I'd almost go so far as to say TBag is "ArkInventory Lite" as they seem to be cut from the same mold.

TBag in edit mode.

Upon entering TBag's edit mode, you're able to see how the bars are divided up and are able to assign the categories that will decide the bar's contents. TBags built in categories are extensive, so the main hurdle of configuring TBag is deciding the layout of the categories. You can create your own, but unfortunately the documentation as to how was a little vague, and all in all you shouldn't really need to. I'd recommend TBag to the intermediate addon user who liked the look and feel of ArkInventory. as TBag offers a lot of the same features in a slightly easier to use package.

I think (hope) that covers it

Like last week's bag addon reviews, it's hard to pick a clear winner as each of these addons do a great job at what they do while still offering a unique user experience. ArkInventory has an extremely powerful system for dividing items into user created categories, but may be daunting to some people TBag is a little easier to set up but still offers an extensive sorting mechanism. I know I say this a lot, but try these and the addons mentioned last week to find which suits your needs best, and if none of these do, tell us what you use in the comments section. Next week we'll wind down our look at inventory addons with outfit managers. And in the coming weeks I have a surprise topic in store, so be sure to stay tuned!

Pet BomblingMatthew will continue spending more time building the ultimate UI than actually playing his Hunter and assorted alts in his quest for usability nirvana. Need more for your addon and interface fix? Check out my past columns in The Creamy GUI Center's archives and our other addon features Addon Spotlight and Reader UI of the week.

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