Latest in Gaming

Image credit:

4 robust UI replacement packages to streamline your screen


The original Blizzard UI is great. It's what came with the game, and I'd hazard a wager that it is used by the vast majority of players. And it works. It never has a hissy fit after expansions or patches because it wasn't updated by you or by its creators. It is already there, faithfully waiting for you to use it. But it can be slightly inflexible and not enormously attractive -- and that's where UI replacements come in.

I'm not talking about individual elements here. No, this column deals with programs that totally replace your UI, reworking it from top to bottom. If this were an interior decoration show on TV, it'd be the one where they knock your house down and hide it behind a bus and everyone cries a lot.


The first addon I'm going to talk about today is TukUI, created by the wonderful Tukz. I feel like it's probably the most well-known of UI replacements, but of course that could just be because it's the one I know the best and the one I heard about first. I also think it's by far the prettiest, but it has its downsides.

TukUI is available from Installation is a breeze: Simply pop the folders into your addons folder, make sure when you log in that everything else that alters unit frames, chat, or action bars is switched off, and fire up TukUI. I tend to switch off everything but TukUI the first time I log in with it on a new character so I don't mess it up!

It will lead you gently through a login process as you log in on each character, and once it reloads itself, it's ready to go. You can then go through the process of reactivating your deactivated addons; TukUI is usually smart enough to know when you're using an addon that replaces an element of it.

DNP Trial
As you can see, TukUI reskins pretty much every element of your interface. It also reskins many of the best-known addons such as Recount, Skada, and the like. It also redesigns the loot roll pane and redesigns the chat pane and map.

Many might think that in order to use TukUI, you need to have competency in .lua coding. Let's dismiss that myth right now -- it simply isn't true! Type /tc within game, or hit Escape to bring up the main menu, and you'll see a full configuration screen. Of course, there is limited customization available within this menu compared to what could be achieved with .lua, but it certainly allows enough for the majority of users. Furthermore, pretty much every addon could be further customized with .lua coding, far beyond what the developers can offer.

You want to change something about your TukUI interface? You've installed the basic TukUI, but you don't see that option in there? Well, for more common requests such as different unit frames, the website is your friend. If your request has been requested by a few others, chances are some kind soul has coded it already. If you are able to work out how to add the code to your own version of tukUI, further customization becomes easier and easier as you get used to the code system. Things like changing or replacing fonts can be done without any coding knowledge at all.

In addition, a few TukUI users have created what are called edits of TukUI. What this means is that they have done the coding work required to customize TukUI to their own preferences and then released their files online for others to use. If you see one you particularly like, it's no harder to download and install it than the main version of TukUI.


This talk of builds leads me nicely into TukUI's little brother, ElvUI. Originally a build of TukUI, ElvUI has now evolved from being a subsection of TukUI. The basic function of ElvUI is pretty much exactly the same as TukUI; it replaces and reskins your entire UI as well as many well-known or widely used addons. ElvUI has recently almost leveled with TukUI in prominence; some might say it has overtaken it. ElvUI offers more complex customization options than TukUI, with an /ec config menu that's immediately far more in-depth than that of TukUI. ElvUI is also available from

You can alter much more of the basic look and function of ElvUI than TukUI with no requirement whatsoever for .lua coding knowledge. I am often asked about my unit frames when I post pictures of them over on my other home, the Blood Sport column, and while mine are the result of my dear David's help (along with my own obsessive adjustment), ElvUI has these unit frames within its standard settings, if you want them.

TRIAL Addon Spotlight UI Replacements ANY  Delete if unwanted
ElvUI also seems lately to have far more people writing code for it, so as we were discussing before, if you want to have some option not available within the standard options, it's simply a matter of checking out the forums to see whether someone else has posted it already.

So given that ElvUI is a more customizable, more regularly updated version of TukUI, why do I continue to use TukUI? I just like it; I prefer the simpler overall look and the more lightweight memory usage of TukUI. And it's not so hard to fix the little preferential issues in the code. So which is better? That, as you may have gathered, is principally a question of personal preference. I found ElvUI too border-heavy and clunky-looking, while the clean lines and uncluttered look of TukUI immediately appealed to me. You may think differently!


But which UI addons may be other pretenders to the thrones of Elv and Tukz? RealUI, an ultra-minimalist UI replacement that takes some bold steps, also seems to have fallen by the wayside, although its supporters assert that it is still stable in patch 4.3. I sincerely hope this is picked up by some brave soul for Mists -- it's always a shame to see someone's work fall away.

I tried RealUI for this column, and I can tell you the installation process is quite scary! You need to replace your WTF and Interface folders with their own -- and while of course you would back them up and are indeed instructed to do so, it's quite a big step. Of course, this also means that if you have addons you want to re-incorporate into RealUI, you have to jump through some fairly serious hoops in order to do so, recopying addon folders and settings from within your backed-up WTF and Interface folders and the like.

RealUI, for me, strays too far from the standard look and function. The IceHUD elements just aren't my style. I found the unit frames unclear and cluttered, but your opinion may vary. I found the health bars and their dark color too hard to see at a glance and the buffs and debuffs confusing.

TRIAL Addon Spotlight UI Replacements ANY  Delete if unwanted

Like the previous UIs mentioned, FreeUI is current and updated. Unlike the others, there is no talk of its creator abandoning it come Mists. Unlike RealUI, it doesn't stray so far from the standard look of the Blizzard arrangement. It insists, like RealUI, on moving the map to another part of the screen, but that is a regular feature of many a reader UI, so I shouldn't complain!

FreeUI is super-minimal and very pretty, in my opinion, without the cluttered look of RealUI. However, its major downside is the options -- there are none! If you don't have a handle on your .lua editing, at least a little, and you don't like the standard look of the UI, you're in trouble. FreeUI's developer has done his very best to make it really easy for you to edit the .lua files, though, so if you're someone looking to get into .lua editing who doesn't want to take on the clunking fel reavers that are ElvUI or TukUI, this neat little UI package may be a great place to start.

TRIAL Addon Spotlight UI Replacements ANY  Delete if unwanted
It's far easier to reactivate your old addons with FreeUI. It is installed simply by dragging and dropping into your addons folder, just like any ordinary addon. It's similarly easy to switch on and off. An addon manager like Addon Control Panel makes playing around to see how FreeUI interacts with other addons a breeze. While FreeUI is less complete at re-skinning others than the three previous addons I've mentioned, its look makes up for it. It really is incredibly minimal, using no unnecessary additional screen area, and the unit frames, party frames and castbars are well-designed.

Addons are what we do on Addon Spotlight. If you're new to mods, Addons 101 will walk you through the basics; see what other players are doing at Reader UI of the Week. If there's a mod you think Addon Spotlight should take a look at, email

From around the web

ear iconeye icontext filevr