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Reader UI of the Week: We've come a long way, baby


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A little while back, I put out the call for UIs with a bit of history, a bit of evolution to them. I love seeing how my UI has evolved over the years, starting off with the basic Blizzard UI, until I realised that I could tinker with the overall scale, and then began adding unit frame addons, then action bar addons, castbar addons, and the whole thing got completely out of hand and escalated to the point where I started writing addon and UI columns for WoW Insider! And it's always interesting to see how others' UIs have developed, too.

Today, we're delving into the past and present of Alphabot's UI. He's sent over several pictures, of both his current UI and his UIs past. So here, in chronological order, are UI shots one, two, three, four and five, and his current UI out of combat, in combat, and with everything on -- in test mode, so to speak. Let's move into Alphabot's email.

First off, let me say that I have been developing this UI for a while now and have slowly been making it more streamlined. My motto, if you will, when developing this was to keep it simple while maintaining effectiveness and keep it (mostly) symmetrical. Below I have listed all the addons I use grouped by what's required, what's not, and what is irrelevant to the UI.

- Typical action bars.
- Used to track cooldowns as well as track debuffs/DoTs on the target.
- Used to skin Bartender/SUF.
Masque Skinner: ShadowedUF
- Allows you to use Masque with SUF.
- Displays incoming/outgoing damage and healing in an arc around the player.
- Removes chat frame, sets font, fades text, and lots of other nifty things.
- Tracking your spells, your pet's spells and your target's spells.
- Restyles the minimap and allows you to hide certain aspects of the minimap (clock, zone, etc).
Shadowed Unit Frames (SUF)
- Replaces Blizzard's default player/party/raid UI.
Tidy Plates
- Replaces Blizzard's nameplates and allows you to track your debuffs/DoTs just by looking at them.
- I use this to move all the tooltips to where I point my cursor.

Not required
- Great for aligning elements (only supports 16:9).
- Displays cooldowns numerically on the action bars.
- Used here for mounts, Pet-related skills (feed, revive, etc), and Hunter Aspects.
- Only use this because my main is my hunter and is useful in my opinion.
Skada Damage Meter
- Just used for damage, recount works as well though I prefer Skada.
- Although not heavily used here (only slightly moved quest tracker), it's a great little addon.
- Not seen here but it allows me to track events and when major cooldowns are ready.

One thing I appreciate from Alphabot's email is the inclusion of the secret little addons, the ones that don't immediately show themselves off when you're looking at the finished article. Two of my favorites, ignoring weakauras although I adore it, are eAlign, and MoveAnything. For those of us who have a fixation on symmetry, like Alphabot, and indeed me, eAlign is just fantasitc. It provides both a grid to align your UI elements to, and positioning information to enable you to make informed choices about your positioning. Can't tell if that frame is a few pixels off because you've been staring at it for five hours? eAlign is here to help. And MoveAnything does exactly what it says on the tin -- with a few exceptions, it allows you to move anything, any part of your UI, anything at all. It also works with other addons, and even UI replacements in many, though not all, cases. If you're using the standard UI and just want a bit of a reshuffle, MoveAnything might be all you need.

Good things

I really like the out-of-combat look of this UI. There's something excellent about exploring the world with a clear window, looking out and enjoying what's around you, but then having your UI reappear like a sentient HUD when you're making with the stabby. Alphabot's UI appears, from the retrospective, to have long focused on such ideas, and does a great job of fading out the un-necessary. I would love, in my minimal way, to see the quest tracker fade out to, say, a 50% alpha, but then, of course, you would have a far harder time reading what you were supposed to be up to!

The symmetry is also very pleasing, although I do have some minor nits to pick with the frames -- which I'll get to later -- the overall shape of the UI, the bars, the player, pet, target and target-of-target frames is excellent. Alphabot has clearly put a lot of effort into the positioning of other elements around the main combat-focused cluster, too, with the space being neatly filled with debuff bars, debuff icons, player, target and pet castbars, and a linear cooldown timer, courtesy of ForteXorcist, all of which tie together nicely in a central column. Alphabot has also done pretty sterling work in one of my main pet peeve areas -- fonts! He's got great font consistency, with one or two exceptions, but I'll let him off, since he also includes a YouTube link to how to set up consistent fonts across a UI! Good work, Alphabot.

Not-so-good things

I do have a few minor quibbles, but they're minor indeed. Firstly, the frame spacing in the party and raid frames. This is best viewed on the shot which shows everything off, but you can see there are large gaps between each group member's frame, which has the net effect of unnecessarily increasing the area they occupy on the screen. Particularly as a DPS, and Alphabot's characters seem, from the images, to be mostly DPS, it doesn't seem necessary to have the frames taking up such a prominent and large zone. Perhaps the 5-man frames are different, given that there's more onus on everyone to make sure nobody else is dying, but they still seem very large on the screen. In my opinion, in fact, all the unit frames could be scaled down a little, much as I like the general look of the UI.

There is also a little repetition in the debuffs, with them appearing as timed bars, in the middle, icons on the frames, and on the nameplates. This is not necessarily a bad thing, given that there's usually situations where several displays are useful, but Alphabot advertises this as a minimal UI, so I'm looking at it from that perspective.

As time goes by

In a change from our usual schedule, I thought it might be fun to take a look back through Alphabot's generously provided UI history. As a reminder, we had UI shots one, two, three, four and five, and his current UI out of combat, in combat, and with everything on. Which one is your favorite? And, of course why? I actually really like the very first one's main layout, I assume the target would have filled the space mirroring the player frame. But I am not a fan of the round buttons, nor of various other elements! What's your take on the history of Alphabot's UI?

And please do email your UIs to!
Interested in getting the most out of your user interface? Come back once a week for more examples of reader UIs. For more details on individual addons, check out Addon Spotlight, or visit Addons 101 for help getting started.

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