Framed! (Part 2)
Now that the front matter is covered, let’s look at our first four candidates: ag_UnitFrames, the standard Blizzard frames, Grid, and Healbot.
Aside from Healium, this is by far the most compact working unit frame replacement that I know of. This compactness comes without sacrificing much in the way of features..
Right off the bat, there is a bit of misfortune. The addon was rewritten a while back, and features deemed nonvital were left out for later. For example, a unique feature, “Frame Style“. Very intriguing, but since it only supports one style (“ABF”), impossible to evaluate properly.
I encountered a number of Lua errors while testing. One is tied to Pet Happiness, making it clear that a 4.1 update is necessary. There was also a typo in the Reputation Bar routine. I fixed this myself because I am awesome that way ((Simple fix: “self” was mis-spelled “slef”. I corrected a typo. Any suggestions on how to check it in?)). When attempting Raid and Party config modes, there was another error thrown.
The only other issue I found here was that the raid pet frame did not keep up with changes to hunter pets very well ((By which I mean, when I dismissed a pet and called up a different one, the raid frames often continued to show my old pet.)), making it unclear to me how well the addon is at updating information in a timely and meaningful manner. This could be linked to the pet happiness bug, however.
I’m also not sure how well it supports some class-specific stuff. There were a number of irregularities with the display of DK runes – eventually, they worked, but starting out, I was afraid it was overlooked.
Still, for all those minuses, the small size and near-complete feature-set make this addon very tempting, indeed. It’s almost worth a look if you feel adventurous. And if the defects ever get fixed, it’s totally on. And if you’re not a hunter, you’re probably going “What bugs?”
The only caveat is a big one for Hunters – because of the happiness bug, the pet frame’s health value never updates, so you need to have another way to track your pet’s health – or get another addon.
There is an old engineering saying, “A good engineer knows that the job is done, not when there is nothing to add, but when there is nothing to remove.” The native UI exemplifies this concept.
Over the years, Blizzard has implemented little features here and there to enhance the native unit frames. The most recent additions – movable units, raid frames – make it almost viable against the full-on replacements ((I realize people tend to accuse Blizz of “copying other addons”. I really feel that is a ridiculous claim. Blizz doesn’t re-implement addons. They implement features that people want and are willing to use an addon for. See: movable frames. How many people got X-Perl just so they could move the player frames, eh?)). In 4.2, even more has been added. For example, you can now tie a frame layout to your spec, which is no doubt very handy for healy types that also have DPS or tanking specs.
As far as I can tell, every unit frame is now re-locatable with the exception of Party unit frames (yo, Blizz, get on that!), although subordinate unit frames – player pet, target of target, focus target, etc. – are firmly attached to the parent frame.
The party frames are currently the least well-behaved. When another addon turns off the party frames, for example, the background behind them still sticks around. And, as mentioned, you can’t move them.
There are already a number of plugins for the raid frames.
A brief anecdote: I had a nasty scare on my mage when I tested this addon – the default frames just up and disappeared! I don’t know what caused this, but it only happened on my mage, so I am going to cast my gaze at mage-only addons, and the only such addon I have ever used is Cryolisis, so I’m giving a wag of the finger in that general direction ((OK, it happened to my warlock sometime during the past week, too, so Cryolisis is off the hook.)). A tip of the hat, however, to the forum poster that suggested deleting WTF<REALM><CHARACTER>LAYOUT-CACHE.TXT – that solved the problem ((But not for the warlock 😦 )).
Most people view Grid as solely a healer aid, but when you look at it closely, you realize that it is more than that. In fact, it is a fully functional set of replacement unit frames for party and raid frames.
As-is, it offers just about everything you need for basic raiding (non-healer). However, it’s plug-gable nature makes it really shine. With dozens of plug-ins providing everything from mana bars to custom debuff icons, there is little lacking for anyone. On top of that, it is very lightweight, though that does not include the plug-ins.
Plug-ins are also its Achilles Heel, though. So many have gone bad (not updated or maintained) that it is difficult figuring out which ones are causing a particular problem. It’s also possible that you will become so dependent on a plug-in that losing it will make it hard to raid at all.
The only other downside to this plugin is that it does not do well with vehicle fights. Your UI may get eaten by Grid when fighting bosses like Loot Leviathan.
For the longest time this was the primary competitor to Grid. I had never used it when I was doing my healy thing, but no comparison would be complete without it.
What I just said to the contrary, however, the resemblance between the two is not even skin-deep. They don’t look or work alike. The only thing I can really see in common is that they are both designed with the healer’s task in mind. Each takes a drastically different path to get there, however.
The configuration panels and idioms are somewhat confusing – but keep in mind that it is not intended to be a unit frame replacement, and more a healer aid, thus it’s not intuitive when you have unit frames on the brain (that’s me). Grid itself has the same sorts of issues, though the recent overhaul of the config panel yielded up huge improvements.
Having said all that, I had a difficult time getting anything set up to look the way I wanted it, and after several failed attempts, gave up using it for raid frames.
For a raid frame enhancement, this addon does well. I had no issues using it as a healer. As a full-on replacement, it doesn’t do anything for me.