Framed! (Part 4)
So far, we’re two-thirds of the way through the list of contenders! This will be the last of the list. Sit back and have a look!
Stuf Unit Frames
Touted as a more configurable replacement for Stellar Unit Frames ((About which I can find nothing.)), this unit frame replacement is a complete rework from the ground up, according to the label on the tin.
Let’s start with look and feel. It’s a rather modern-looking package, in many ways resembling Pit Bull or SUF, at least on the surface. But when you look more deeply, the seams start to show. In many ways it looks and feels like it’s still a work in progress – well, I suppose most addons are, but this one more so.
As an example, the act of setting up a unit frame. Many addons allow you to control what bars and other elements are part of a unit frame, and Stuf is no different. Most of those, however, tidy up behind you. Stuf does not, so, for example, when you turn off the character portrait, there’s a big gap left behind and you need to shuffle things around to cover it. True, you could leave the big gap there, I suppose. Not that I’ve seen that as a favored idiom.
Let’s look at the positives.
First of all, it offers any number of unique and useful features in a very small memory footprint (second-smallest overall!). There’s a config mode, which is always useful. Then there’s the ability to link frames, so that dragging one also moves the other (ala the default interface’s pet frame), which is pretty much unique.
Another unique feature is “premade elements“. For those which were not initially available, you can select from a constellation of presets that speed you towards completion. To further improve matters, you can copy settings from any unit to another, or, from any one element to its counterpart in another unit. This is a very nice feature and promotes a consistent UI design on the part of the player.
Finally, the countdown timers are very nice, clear, easy to read, yet, unfortunately, expensive in terms of real estate. But, if you got it, use it.
Raid frames were another matter altogether. Maybe the reason raid frames are in another module (as are the config settings for it) is that somebody else designed and implemented them. The two halves of the addon just don’t seem to take much in the way of design cues from the other.
And the raid frames are where I have the most issues. I attempted to use these in an active raiding environment and found it to be nearly impossible. We’ll start with the config mode, in which it took me a few days to sort out that I had to drag the raid frames around by a little tab, unlike the normal frames. Pet frames and raider frames are separate and are not linked. There are no raid target frames, either, but that’s a common omission for this sort of addon, so I won’t give it too much grief for that. I was also not agreeable with how the raid frames were laid out, or that it seemed impossible to alter that layout.
I will not go so far as to say that this addon is unusable. It is not. But I will say that it needs a lot of work before it comes in to its own. Given the small footprint and the large number of useful features it offers, I can only hope that that will in fact happen. I’ll be watching, with hope.
If Grid’s weakness is that its plug-ins cannot be relied upon from patch to patch, does this make Vuhdo the perfect counterpoint? Vuhdo is another addon that is widely considered a healing addon, but has the capacity to replace your raid and party frames completely. Best thing is, it does not rely in any way on external plug-ins for its feature-set.
This means, of course, that it’s huge. Short of Pit Bull, this addon is the biggest one I evaluated, and if you remove Pit Bull’s reliance on Dog Tags, it is the biggest!
On the other hand, just look at that config panel. First of all, very unique look and feel. While I have no objections, is it really worth the time, effort, and (likely) memory footprint?
I would be far less concerned if it were for a good cause, such as implementing a more straight-forward way of doing things. Unfortunately, that’s not the case. The config interface is often confusing and non-intuitive. I am embarrassed to say how long it took me to find out how to change the health bar color to that of the owner’s class – and I almost wrote up that it was impossible to do so, before I stumbled across the right thing in one last desperate bid to find something to do so.
Another example of the config panel’s inscrutability is how some flags work. Instead of “show this” and “show that”, for example, you get “don’t show this” and “don’t show that”. That’s just bad design. It probably makes perfect sense to an engineer, which is why you don’t let engineers design UIs.
Something it has in common with Pit Bull is that at first invocation, all frames and panels are piled up on top of each other in the middle. Again, I have to wonder how hard it is to deduce useful defaults from the saved preferences of the existing UI. Maybe it’s a real pain. I do note that quite a few others, DO come up with suitable defaults.
But enough complaining. Let’s look at the bright spots. Besides being an outstanding healer UI – I mean, it supports everything and then some! – it is also an excellent UI for raiding and partying. It even provides raid target and target of raid target information, something sorely lacking in others and extremely welcome here. In fact, it does such a good job that I am considering it as a total replacement for my raid frames, full time, memory footprint be damned.
X-Perl Unit Frames
This is one of the oldest unit frame addons, or, more properly, one of the most mature. But you may find that some of the more modern idioms are nowhere to be found here. Things like a unified profile manager, for example, were unheard of at the time, and now it would be a major effort to implement the same profile manager that other addons use. On the other hand, I do like how the unit frames look. Not as out of place as more modern addons, but not too retro, either.
The addon IS modular, and a number of features may not be of use to you, either if you do not raid (Raid Monitor, Raid Helper), or if you do not raid lead (Raid Admin). These are, however, not load-on-demand.
Configuration is a mixed bag. The various config pages are very cluttered, and show their maturity, to put it kindly. A lot of stuff gets crammed into corners, and then spills over because it overgrows the corner. Still, there are a lot of nice touches, such as how each frame and element highlights when you are configuring it.
Frame scaling is unusual, in that you have a scale setting, and a width setting, but no height.
Raid frame configuration has a few issues. First, you cannot turn off the groups you’re not interested in, and the extra groups get in the way sometimes, since they seem to be top strata. Each group is individually controlled – there’s no snap-together feature here. Main Tank and Main Assist frames are not natively supported in the addon, but it will tie in to other addons such as ORA or the native Blizzard MT frames.
At one time this addon sported a functional HUD, but it was dropped in the past few months. It’s hard to tell why, whether it was because there were so many good ones already out there, or because they were having problems getting it to work right.
- What amounts to aura filtering: custom highlights of unit frames based on what debuff they have, based on raid zone. You can also add new ones yourself. Basically it turns the entire frame into a buff warning.
- The Range Fader is really detailed, and allows very fine control over the fade distance. It also allows you to select elements to fade, or the whole frame, as needed. This level of control is global, not per frame type.
- Seemed light and nimble under most circumstances, except for the pet issue causing lag (below).
Among the issues we have the following.
- It still supports pet happiness, but the error handling is suppressing any issues but one. I have experienced low frame rates with this addon, and word on the street is that that is directly linked to the pet happiness leftover code.
- The addon contrives to hide the default player buff frames, but does so in such a way that is difficult to undo. I still don’t know how I hid mine, and I’m not quite sure how I got them back, either.
- The Player Cast Bar feature has similar isues, except in this case it enables the default bar even if you have it turned off via Quartz or a similar addon. That, too, can be overcome with some difficulty. and, again, I’m not sure how I pulled it off.
- There is no automatic default configuration, so expecting the changes you make on one alt to propagate out to the others will result in disappointment. However, it is very easy to copy one alt’s settings to another, and you can designate a default.
One of the first unit frame addons I ever used, this addon has gone from a full unit frame replacement to a unit frame extension. As such, it falls outside the scope of this overview. I’m mentioning it here since, if you’ve been around a while, you’ll eventually ask “Hey, what about …”.
Deep Unit Frames
I had high hopes for this one. In much the same way that CircleHUD altered the paradigm of the HUD, this addon does similar things with the Unit Frame. Just look at the screenshot (given that my own UI clashes with it). It’s just gorgeous! Imagine if my button bars and stuff weren’t there.
Alas, it hasn’t been updated since Patch 3.3.3, and it appears that that is something it really needs, as it threw Lua error after error. As such, it is unusable, and doesn’t really belong in the running against the others.
It’s a shame. If that memory footprint is to be believed, this would be the all-time lightweight of them all. I personally think that the LUA errors kept everything from loading properly, thus giving a smaller than accurate measurement.
I dearly hope somebody sees this and picks up development.
In the next, and final, installment, I will come up with some conclusions, discuss the memory footprints you may see, and make a recommendation or three. Not sure if I’ll get this done by the weekend – if not, see you next week!