Framed! (Part 3)
Healium is astonishingly lightweight for what it offers. It is the smallest of all the tested addons in this review, while offering some unique features others do not. Interestingly, it fulfills probably 90% of what you need from a unit frame replacement, period, even though it is aimed squarely at healers.
There were a few things that I found not to my liking. For example, it would not turn off the default unit frames that it was replacing, making one go into multiple configuration UIs to set it up. I was also not happy that the power bar could not be reoriented from its default vertical (which was hard to read) to horizontal (easier to read).
Fortunately, the plusses far outweigh the minuses.
A key feature for Healium is that it lets you set up buttons for all the unit frames, tied to specific abilities. For example, on my Hunter I set it up for Misdirect, so I can quickly click a button next to a character’s unit frames to MD to them. In many ways this reminds me a lot of Decursive.
One oddity is that all unit frame types are active at all times. However, the individual frames for the group frames do not fill in unless you are in a group, so that’s not as obtrusive as it sounds. Also, if you disable the “caption” bar, they will fade out as you might expect them to.
The pet frame serves as both the player pet frame and, in groups, the group pet frame as well. New pets just get added on at the bottom. After you think about it a bit, you realize this works out pretty well.
Finally, there is the “Friends” frame. This is a unique feature for Healium which allows you to create a frame of people that you designate “friends” to Healium. It doesn’t work off your friends list or anything, but requires you to inform it who you want to track.
Perl Classic Unit Frames
So, what’s the relationship between this addon and X-Perl? Is there any? I mean, what are the odds that Perl would figure in the naming of both? Especially since Perl doesn’t actually have anything to do with either?
No matter. What I do know of this addon is that it’s stable, flexible, doesn’t support raid frames, and has what I consider the second-best look of all of them (third-best if you count Deep, which I don’t).
While it is in many ways underpowered compared to others in the field, it still supports a few unique and interesting features. For example, you have a choice in how it scales with your UI scale.
- While configuring the software is easy enough, the layout of the config panel is often confusing, though you can see some attempts at using a standard idiom between the various unit frames.
- While Profiles are supported, they don’t appear to affect positioning. Using “Load Global” gets around that, though why that should be the case escapes me.
- The Combat Display will not go away even when disabled. Well, I think that’s what it is. There’s something that pops up in the middle of my HUD that belongs to Perl.
- Player buffs are handled via an additional module which I cannot find anywhere.
- You can have an XP bar, or a rep bar, but not both and not live-switchable. You can only select one in the config, and that’s what you’re stuck with.
Pitbull Unit Frames 4.0
One of the first things you notice is that this sucker’s modular, and by which I mean mOdular with a capital O! Everything is a module. There are a few core functions in a core module, but everything else can be completely disabled from the addon control panel. In all, there are 45 or more modules (I lost count).
The second thing you – well, I – notice is that the addon comes up with all of the frames piled up in the middle of your screen. I don’t know how hard it would be to make reasonable assumptions about initial layout, but it would start things out on the right foot. This is, of course, a once-per-character event, and I’m sure that the author(s) “have better things to do”, but, hey. There’s an old chef’s saying, “the first bite is taken with the eye.”
Where this really becomes painful is the first time you Party or Raid, but only because Configuration Mode only supports solo layout. As such, you’re going to need a patient friend to party up with you, and five more to join your raid, in order to get things laid out proper. On the plus side, most people that like Pit Bull probably have this sussed already.
Other than that, configuration is, as one might expect of a full-featured addon, involved if you want to get all you want out of it. Fortunately, most defaults are reasonable, except for position (Really, Grimm? Again with that? I’m not bitter.) The snap-to-grid feature makes for an enjoyable experience.
The ability to define master frame layouts to replicate a look and feel for various frame types is also very nice. In this, you define one or more “templates” and then for each frame type, you associate it with that template.
But, in general, the config process fails to live up to the expectations that the rest of the addon establishes. This is a real quality addon, so to see the config interface so muddled and difficult to use is a real shame. It tries so hard and yet ultimately fails to establish a clear sense of order around this hugely complex addon. For example, turning on or off portraits requires you to look in places you would not expect. Oh, it’s not unusable. But it does have a remarkably steep learning curve.
This addon does sport quite a few nifty features. The click-through flag makes it possible to have a unit frame that won’t react to mouse clicks – in an odd way, it could be used as a HUD display (I believe I’ve seen TankSpot’s Ciderhelm using that feature in his vids). Unique to this addon is the means to swap layout profiles based on your spec, which would probably be a great boon to hybrid classes that support multiple roles.
Among things that I dislike (other than the above) is that setting up something like “Raid targets” and “party pets” is completely manual. The addon simply does not recognize that one frame type is subordinate to another. All the layout work is yours. On the plus side, there ARE raid target frames, missing from most other addons. And also, there were a few unpleasant surprises, such as how it overrides some Blizzard frame elements. In my case, I found out at the worse possible time, that the Atramedes “sound” value was gone, and after some frantic looking about, found it tucked into my player frame. I guess it’s a good thing I had it out.
A word about memory. This addon is massive, but since practically everything can be turned on and off, you can disable any module you don’t need to get some of it back. Oddly, the config module is not one of them, so this makes my memory footprint analysis a little odd looking. This addon does use the Dog Tags library, and that itself consumes a whopping 1.15 MiB. It also supports the LuaText library, which is better maintained and quite a bit smaller.
At the end of the day, I look at Pit Bull and appreciate the rich feature-set and modular nature, but, having seen others that offer what the average person wants in a more kind form, I have to ask myself why anyone would want to use this over most of them. My suggestion to the developers would be to focus on usability above all other things for a couple of months; iron out some of these little inconveniences (if you need a FAQ to essplain it, there’s a hint), at which point this addon will more than justify its heavy footprint. Right now, though, I have my doubts. I’m sure that Pit Bull has a huge and loyal following, and I hope you don’t take any of that personally.
Shadowed Unit Frames
Shadowed (SUF) is touted as a lightweight alternative to others without sacrificing features. Given it’s longevity on my own machine, I think that that’s a valid statement. I have been using this one for several months and have experienced very few issues with it.
Of the list of features you would expect for such an addon, you will not be lacking. When this software was planned out, the author appears to have been quite aggressive at getting as much as possible packed into the software. So much that it is hard to find a feature that would inspire you to look elsewhere.
Configuration has very few gotchas. Positioning unit frames is click-and-drag, though sizing and scaling are still slider-based. There is a config mode but it is limited to one ‘scenario’ – or rather, it has no concept of different scenarios such as ‘solo’, ‘party’, and ‘raid’ – and ‘raid’ seems to have gone walkabout.
There is a unified ‘master frame’ configuration feature that is really cool. Basically, you select the frame types you want to affect, then configure the ‘master’ frame – the settings you configure will propagate out to all the selected frame types. For example, selecting player, player pet and target, then configuring the portrait, will make the same settings take effect for all three frames.
Support of Blizzard’s native code is minimal. You can turn off things you’re replacing, and that’s about it. It does not use Blizzard’s configuration framework, nor does it support Blizzard’s recent unit frame improvements such as “unlock frame” on the frame’s menu.
Overall, though, this is an excellent addon that has done me well over time. Light in weight, functional, versatile.
I do have a reservation. First of all, as of 4.1 or 4.2, I am seeing a lot of Lua errors, to the point that BugSack gives up and suspends trapping for a few seconds periodically. It seems to be related to the raid frames calling a protected function. Activity on the WoWAce and WoWInterface fora ((The author elected to turn off comments on Curse.)) give me pause as to how long this addon will continue development. “Shadowed” – the original author – has retired from WoW, but is still present as a developer, while his co-developers manage as best they can. I’m not sure how long that can be sustained.
That’s it for now! The next installment will finish up with the list of contenders, as well as go over the near-misses. See you then!