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WoW Rookie: Add-ons for rookies


New around here? WoW Rookie points WoW's newest players to the basics of a good start in the World of Warcraft. Send us a note to suggest a WoW Rookie topic, and be sure to visit's WoW Rookie Guide for links to all our tips, tricks and how-to's.

Want to add high-powered functionality and high-octane style to your interface and controls? Add-ons, dear readers. You need add-ons. Also known as mods, add-ons can be such powerful upgrades to your gaming experience that some players consider them mandatory beyond a certain level of play. You can get add-ons that show you how much threat you've built as a tank, add-ons that show how much DPS you're doing relative to other members of the raid, and add-ons that show you who needs Dispel Magic now. There are add-ons that let you reconfigure and move your hotbars anyplace on your screen, add-ons that show you how much gold you have on each of your other characters, and add-ons that point the way to the area where your quest objective awaits ... Sweet stuff, indeed.

Are add-ons against the rules?

Add-ons are not only allowed by Blizzard - they're encouraged. A visit to Blizzard's add-on forum will confirm just how closely Blizzard works with add-on creators and users. Still, there is a strict policy governing what is and isn't allowable. Anything that "plays the game for you" is most definitely out of bounds.

How do I find add-ons I might like?

Spend more than five minutes on any of the big add-on sites, and you'll find yourself immersed in a world of amazing possibilities. Some of the most popular mod sites today include:

How do I install an add-on?

Download Once you've found an add-on you'd like to try, download it to your computer. Put it in a folder or location (even your desktop) where you can find it easily.

Unzip Most mods come compressed in a ZIP or RAR file. Depending on your operating system, you may be able to double-click to open it up; if not, you'll need a utility such as WinZip for PCs or StuffIt for Macs. Once you've unzipped it, you'll end up with a new folder containing mostly Lua and XML files. Those files are the mod.

Install The next step is to move the entire mod folder where WoW can find it. First, you need to figure out where your World of Warcraft game file folder is. If you're a WoW Rookie, you probably haven't changed the default install location, which is C:\Program Files\World of Warcraft\ on Windows; C:\Users\Public\Games\World of Warcraft for Windows Vista; or /Applications/World of Warcraft/ on a Mac. If you're lost, use your computer's search feature. (The picture below is non-standard; I've loaded WoW on another part of my machine. The list of folders, however, is typical.)

Find your World of Warcraft folder, and then look inside for a folder called Interface. If it doesn't exist, create it. Inside the Interface folder, create another folder called AddOns (unless it already exists). Now, move the folder(s) of the mod you're installing into that AddOns folder.

Activate It's time to fire up the game and log in. In the bottom left corner of your character selection screen, you'll notice a button called AddOns. Click it to open a menu that lets you control which add-ons are active for any or all of your characters. It's obviously simpler to use the same add-ons for all your characters, but you can set this any way you like.

Check the Load Out of Date Add-Ons box Every time Blizzard comes out with a new version of the game (in a patch), it assigns a new "toc number" to that version, which is then checked against all your add-ons to make sure they're not out of date. If any of your add-ons has a toc number lower than the current version (showing that it's been created to work with a previous version of WoW's code), it won't load unless you've checked the Load Out of Date Add-Ons box. Checking the Load Out of Date Add-Ons box will keep most of your add-ons working through most patches.

Occasionally, a patch comes along that changes things too drastically, and one or more of your add-ons may die. It may stop working correctly (or sometimes at all), or you'll get error messages in game. At that point, you'll need download and install an updated version. (Delete the old version first, to avoid mixups and mishaps.) Most major mods get updated fairly quickly – but fair warning, sometimes the wait could leave you without functionality you've come to depend on, and sometimes authors unexpectedly abandon maintaining their mods. Some sites offer services that update your mods automatically; buyer beware. Google around for reviews and user experiences before loading anything that installs things on your computer without your direct supervision and consent.

Now what?

Because add-ons are written by independent authors for the sheer love of WoW and modding, there's no cut-and-dry method for accessing and setting your mod of choice in game. The usual suspects include:
  • Some (but not all) add-ons are configurable through the game's Interface options; look for the Add-ons tab.
  • Look for a visible component (a box, a bar, a shaded area) and right-click it to see if it opens a menu.
  • Look for a new icon by your minimap.
  • Scroll up and read the text that loads up when you enter the game; many mods run configuration and access hints at load-in.
  • Try typing a slash command in your chat field, usually /nameofyourmod.
Most mod authors include basic instructions in a Read-Me text file that unzips along with the mod. The best place to find how-to's, though, are usually on the page where you downloaded the mod. For the most up-to-date information, look for a link to the mod author's web site.

Next week, we'll be back with a list of add-ons that most seasoned players consider to be "the basics," along with the team's recommendations and tips.

WoW Rookie walks you through all sort of new-player concerns, from game lingo for the beginner to joining your first guild as a mid-level player and on to what to do when you finally hit level 80. Visit's WoW Rookie Guide for links to all our tips, tricks and how-to's.

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