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The Creamy GUI Center: Communications

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.

Let's face it, WoW without chatting to your party, guild, or friends would be pretty boring. One of the major reasons we log in sometimes is to see what everyone's up to. So when you stop and think about it, that little chat box is a cornerstone to the user interface. We spend a good chunk of the time when logged in looking at it. We might as well try to make it as functionally and aesthetically pleasing as we can. This week we'll look at addons that spruce up our chat box and help us communicate better. We'll also check out addons that help keep track of our whispers to other players, and addons that grab our attention when there's activity in the chat window. Let's get to it!

Sprucing up the chat window


The first addon on today's menu is Chatter. This addon was originally made as a light weight alternative to the feature rich but memory hogging Prat. As Chatter evolved it's become as full featured as Prat while still doing its best to be mindful about its resource consumption. Here's a highlight reel of Chatter's features which include but are not limited to:
  • Manipulating objects of the chat window
  • Custom aliases to people and channel names
  • Coloring of names by class
  • Adding a player's level next to their name
  • Custom background, border, and font
  • Mouse wheel scrolling
  • Ability to copy the window's content and URLs
  • Custom time stamps on each message
  • Can turn the word "invite" into a clickable action
  • Custom keyword highlighting
  • Chat logging options
  • Smart group say command (/gr) that will talk to your group, rather it be a raid, party, or battleground

So as you can see from that list, if it has to do with the chat window, Chatter has you covered. As you can imagine with so many features it does take some time to get things setup just how you want them. The good news is Chatter's options window is clean and straight forward to navigate and use. Its look will be familiar to anyone with Ace addon experience as Chatter behaves like any other Ace product. It conforms to the Ace design style with its configuration window and its use of profiles and fubar plugin. Because of Chatters goal to keep its system resources kept to a minimum, large variety of options, and ease of configuration, I recommend it over its competitors Prat and ChatMOD. This may change in the future as Prat is being rewritten, so it's something to keep an eye on.

Next up is ChatIcons. This is purely a decorative addon that adds icons next to people, spells, and items in the chat window. Sure this addon is just eye candy, but its effect adds that little oomph to an otherwise bland chat window. From my experience using it the past month the resources it uses are negligible. You can choose the size and location of the icon, along with rules for when it'll show. Sure a decorative addon like this won't be for everyone, but for anyone wanting to spruce up their chat window, this addon does the job well and plays nicely with Chatter to boot.

Tell Hell

You're in the middle of Magisters' Terrace and that pickup Rogue keeps breaking crowd control. You whisper to your buddy, "Dude, this Rogue sucks, wanna try to find another DPS? Or ditch him?" only to find out your tell went to the Rogue by accident. Even the best player in the world has most likely sent a misstell at some point in time. But fear not! Help has arrived in the form of two addons, WIM and Cellular. Both of these addons help keep track of and manage your whispers using a familiar instant messenger style interface.

WIM options window

WIM, short for WoW Instant Messenger, is the more feature packed of the two. The window really does capture the look and feel of an instant messaging client, and practically every aspect of it is customizable. It also has handy buttons to invite to your party or add to your friend's list the person you're chatting with. I'm not going to go into every configurable Tabbed chat windowoptions included in WIM, but two that caught my eye were the tabbed window option that lets you consolidate all your tell windows into one. Tabs at the top highlight the person you're talking to. Along with the big class icon, this makes it easy to visually see who you're talking to so you don't accidentally send a misstell. The second option I really liked was the ability to set WIM not to pop up while in combat. With this feature turned on, the tell displays in the regular chat window instead of the WIM window, and if you missed the tell while in the heat of battle, WIM's minimap icon flashes alerting you that you have an unread message. Alternatively you can use a fubar plugin. I like seeing simple and elegant solutions like this in addons. Finally, WIM allows you to keep a log of all conversations so you can refer back to them anytime you want. While WIM didn't affect my computer's performance any, all these features do eat up some resources.

That's where Cellular steps in.

If all you're looking for is an instant messaging interface for tells, Cellular is a less resource intensive alternative to WIM. While Cellular lacks some of WIM's features and eye candy, it definitely gets the job done in a streamlined fashion. That's not to say Cellular is bare bones. Like WIM, Cellular now supports tabs so your view isn't cluttered with windows of each conversation, and it records a log of what's said. Unique to Cellular is an anti spam feature. I suggest doing what I did and take both of these addons for a test drive. Both are great at what they do, but are different enough from one another to appeal to wide range of people.

Two for the road

There are a lot more addons that help you communicate in game than those shown here, but these are a good starting place. Here's two fubar addons I feel are worth mentioning. ChatAlertsFu I use to help get my attention when there's activity. With it you can assign a sound to a channel that will play when there's a new message, and you can also route a channel's output to a floating combat text addon like MikScrollingBattleText or Scrolling Combat Text. Finally, HeyFU tracks and keeps a list of who sent you a whisper. People who find WIM or Cellular too much may want to check it out.

That wraps up this week. I got a lot of positive feedback from last week's look at hardware, so next week I'll continue that with a review of another gaming keypad. Tune in next week to see which one!

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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