20
Jul
09

Furious addons – Bartender4

So Bartender…what to write about it that hasn’t been written before. It is, alongside with a few others, basically a staple of the addon cloud these days. Of course, there are alternatives to it, as there always has been, but Bartender is probably one of the best known action bar addons there is. It’s simple to use, and it functions mostly without fail, most of the time.

Setting up Bartender is nearly self explanatory, so a “how to” post or a review style post will mostly just rehash the same thing that has been repeated over and over. Instead of doing that, it could be worthwhile to examine something related to the concept of action bars; how many buttons do you actually need as a warrior? And how many functions need be visible?

The answer is that there is no definite answer. It depends so hugely on your playstyle (are you a clicker or keybinder), preferred UI layout (are you a minimalist or do you need absolutely every button visible), and of course…personal taste. So why even discuss it. Well, partially, it fills out the page, and partially because its an interesting study in ergonomics to see how people lay out their UI. It’s interesting since Bartender essentially is an addon that allows you to manage your UI real estate, so as to make your UI efficient.

Originally, when I installed Bartender, it placed my action bars down in the left corner. I was used to having two bars in the bottom left corner (from the standard UI) so it didnt feel out of place at all. It was only later that I moved the bars to the middle of the screen. And why? Mostly because of looks to be honest, but part of it was to cut down on mouse travel time between the buttons and target selection. Some take this concept to extraordinary heights by placing their main action bar just below their character on the screen.

Wait woah woah. Buttons slap bang in the middle of the screen? Atrocious looking! ‘Tis true…buttons in the middle of the game world don’t look awe inspiring, do thy? “I’m sorry mister Varian Wrynn, but your face seems to be a big clickable button with a fireball on it.” But they don’t take your eyes off the action, so you could argue that they’re in the most convenient place. Thankfully Bartender has a setting to show bars in combat only, so you can have the best of both worlds.

Most of the visibility and paging options in Bartender are for people who like to click. In fact, it’s very much a clickers addon, however keybinders can find a use for seeing their action bars even so. Bartender comes with handy indicators for when you’re out of power for an ability as well as out of range of your intended target. If you furthermore use OmniCC or another countdown addon, you will have an at-a-glance overview of your current combat situation.

bartenderThis is my Bartender configuration. I have a sidebar along the bottom right for mounts, but this is essentially it. The bottom bar pages with stance, although it is very rarely used these days. OmniCC figures prominently (the white and yellow numbers on the bars). The Shoot button, Intervene and Intercept buttons show the “not usable” red colouring.

Roughly, its divided into three categories. 1)Commonly used abilities (bottom bar), 2)Stances, shouts and CD abilities (top bar), 3)The rest (middle bar). The middle bar is where most of the clicking goes on since it isn’t keybound to anything. It consists of semi frequently used abilities, things that do have CD’s but are still used nearly every time they come off CD.

Close observation reveals quite a number of abilities that aren’t on the bars. More buttons take more space however, and increase the clutter level in the UI, especially when buttons are arranged in a grid. While a grid saves space, it is easier to lose sight of a particular button somewhere in the middle. One solution is to subdivide a larger grid into smaller sections, so that instead of say an 8×16 button grid, you would have a small separator along the middle to create two distinct 8×8 grids. This is probably a subject all of its own, so I’ll refrain from further discussion and instead just say that based on my experience in WoW, a 3 row grid gives the right balance of easy overview and number of buttons.

More close observation will reveal that instead of Bartenders limit of 12 buttons per row, I only use 10. Although I’m a clicker, I still use the number keys on my keyboard for hitting abilities on the lower bar. And I’ve found that hitting keys to the right of the 0-key takes my attention away from the onscreen action for too long. For the same reason, the mostly used abilities are placed on the 2-5 keys as they are the keys closest to the WASD keys. At this stage, it should be said that my setup may not work for you. It touches upon ergonomics, where the external factors are as important as the game-factors. How big is your hand, how is the keyboard shaped, which keys do you use, etc etc. There’s no right and wrong here, only what works for the individual. It’ll take a bit of fiddling with, but in the end, getting the right setup will make playing easier and quickers, as well as reduce the risk of straining your hands and wrists unnecessarily. It may not seem important at first, but with a bad setup your hands may well start hurting after 4 hours of raiding.

Bartender is a workhorse of an addon. Rather like Lego, it’s a set of building blocks that you can push around your virtual real estate until you find a setup you like. While there are limits to what it’ll allow you to do, the possible number of combinations that can be achieved is near endless.

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