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Addon Spotlight: Tidy Plates


Addon Spotlight focuses on the backbone of the WoW gameplay experience: the user interface. Everything from bags to bars, buttons to DPS meters and beyond -- your addons folder will never be the same. This week, Tidy Plates makes its long-awaited spotlight. You can stop emailing me about Tidy Plates now.

Addon Spotlight truly is fueled by users just like you, considering how many emails I get about Tidy Plates. "Why haven't you talked about Tidy Plates yet? It's absolutely amazing." There's a reason I haven't talked about this particular mod before, and I'll get to that explanation, but for now know that I am happy to introduce Tidy Plates to those who don't know of its existence and reintroduce the 'plates to the already faithful.

What is Tidy Plates?

Have you ever pressed the V button while playing World of Warcraft? Heck, remember pressing and holding Alt during Warcraft III? What would appear were health bars above your enemy's and your units, easily allowing you to survey the battlefield for units harmed or on the verge of death. World of Warcraft continued the trend of their health bars above creature's heads with "nameplates," a name and a health bar floating happily above mobs, enemies, creatures and other assorted objects.

Fast-forward to the time of addons, when everything is malleable, Lua flows like wine in ancient Greece and the world is good. Tidy Plates took the nameplate API and turned it into something magical, creating a customizable and theme-able nameplate experience.

Why I didn't talk about Tiny Plates sooner

Tidy Plates and I had a bad first date. The reasons are still up in the air, to be honest. Was it me? Was it Tidy Plates? Who knows. When Tidy Plates showed up at my door wearing what appeared to be a beautiful dress, she turned out to be sluggish and unresponsive, sadly pushing the metaphor of my first dates too far into the realm of reality.

Finally, the mystery was solved. The version of Tidy Plates I had originally downloaded was having problems with other addons that were conveniently still on, despite needing to have been disabled a long while back. Still, the taste of dirty plates lingered in my mouth, until the constant reader email about Tidy Plates urged me to reevaluate.

Reevaluate I did, friends and readers. Tidy Plates is customizable, clean and fairly straightforward. In addition, the entire addon is theme-able, creating the possibility for some of the best functionality in the game from an addon (which I will get to in a minute).

I started compiling a little list of whys for my currently in progress mini-series Addons 101, and I think that might be a cool concept to move over into Addon Spotlight. Why would I want this addon? Here's a little list of reasons you would want to replace your nameplates with something more robust:
  • Nameplates are underutilized by the Blizzard UI, only giving the player a health bar, elite or non-elite status, and a name.
  • You want more robust information in front of you and above your enemy, as opposed to having to look at a unit frame.
  • You want to have a customizable nameplate that matches the look and feel of your user interface.
Tidy Plates does all this and more. The customization options alone make this addon a treat. There are tons of themes available, from hearts to different fonts to bars big and small. Addon creators have been making some phenomenal theme packs for the basic Tidy Plates -- the addon's biggest strength is its openness to themes and ease of change. Where Tidy Plates absolutely shines, however, is in a genius theme to the addon, Threat Plates.

Threat Plates über alles

Threat Plates is one of those modifications that does one thing simply that changes your life. As a tank, you have enough to worry about. Group threat doesn't have to be one of them. What one, simple thing amongst all of the awesome things that Threat Plates does truly sets it apart? If set in tank mode, Tidy Plates shows the threat you have on a mob relative to the size and transparency of its nameplate. You can set it up however you wish. Here's the example.

You have a pack of ghouls to tank. You begin to hammer on them with your AoE threat abilities, and because you have the highest threat, the bars dwindle to a smaller size. As the jerky mage in your group begins to grab aggro on one of the ghouls, he creeps up on the threat meters. That ghoul's nameplate begins to get larger and red. Now you know to tab over to that particular ghoul and get some extra threat. It's brilliant, it works and it changed my life. Here's a video showing it all off!

Threat Plates is even more customizable than its addon parent Tidy Plates. You can customize all the transparencies and scales depending on your own preferences and even use an inverted DPS mode that shows when you're gaining too fast on the threat meter by changing the color of the nameplate. Finally, the addon sports low CPU usage and really saves a lot of space, if that's your thing.

So there it is. Tidy Plates and its happy companion, Threat Plates. Now you can stop with the emails -- I covered it. For the comments, if you're already a Tidy Plates evangelist, speak up! I want to see some awesome configurations with the nameplates. It's always been one area of the UI that I never really cared about until Tidy Plates actually started working for me.

Download Tidy Plates at [Curse] or [WoWInterface].
Download Threat Plates at [Curse] or [WoWInterface].

Speaking of emails, how about a quick reader email from the ol' Addon Mailbag?

Dear Addon Mat,

I am reading and very much enjoying your Addons 101 series. Even though I am already an addon aficionado, I do like going back and reading over this stuff, to remember why I am using this stuff in the first place. My question, though, is something for you: how many addons do you really think are necessary? A lot of people feel like the default UI is good enough.

Thanks for the columns and recommendations,

Thanks for the email, Abe. I'm glad people are enjoying Addons 101; I've been getting some great feedback on it. As for whether addons are necessary, in light of the default UI doing its own thing, I have a short, simple answer to that. Addons were not allowed in WoW by accident. The interface was designed to be a malleable, changeable and improved-upon piece of the World of Warcraft experience.

The game has been designed with addons in mind since the beginning, and Blizzard constantly changes its encounter designs to cope with addons. Talk to any vanilla WoW player and ask about the old Decursive, how the original Naxxramas was built around players' effectively using the addon.

Blizzard also gives addons feeds of data and information now straight from the source, meaning addons like DPS meters and other types of addons that parse game information do so with the explicit sanction of Blizzard. Your DPS is not measured in the game -- the addon does the work. And for everyone who rails against DPS meters, it is still one of the better ways to tune encounters effectively and to monitor a player's ability to press the right buttons in the right order.

Addons are here to stay, and many of them are essential to the WoW experience. Just ask any healer in beta right now who has been healing with the default user interface. It's not fun.

See you guys next week!

Addons are what we do on Addon Spotlight. We did broker addons? Again!? Mat, what is wrong with you? Two broker Addon Spotlights? I never said I wasn't crazy! And remember, Addon Spotlight is fueled by viewers like you, so if you have a mod you think we should take a look at, email

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