The buzz in healerblog land at the moment is whether or not addons are a bit of a crutch. Not a new topic by any means, but a couple of posts got people fired up, namely Matticus' and Vonya's at Egotistical Priest.
*drags soapbox out and hops on*
I disconnected in the middle of KT last night, and came back in with no Grid (as is the norm if you come back in and you're in combat). Frustrating.
Now, people who know me will know that I am the Grid Queen. Grid Grid Grid, everything Grid. Somehow, someday, I will find a way to have Grid's babies. So, when I lose my Grid, I get upset.
I logged back in and that corner of my screen was blank. BLANK! NO GRID! I couldn't see the tanks, I couldn't see the raid, I couldn't see who was being turned into little orc, undead, and troll-flavoured popsicles.
Sometimes when this happens (which is rare), I have time to do a quick UI reload, but in a pinch I can set the boss as my Focus and heal off his target using my mouseover macros. When the adds come out, I can target the add tank to heal, but also keep an eye on KT's target. The only problem is not being able to see if multiple people get iced - but I can drag the default raid frames out to top people off if necessary. It's ugly and clunky, but I can make do long enough to finish the fight and get my addons back.
Even when my mods have inexplicably exploded mid-raid, I can't recall a time that I have ever held up the raid to fix something. I just go with it, because I know that my mouseover macros are enough. But then, I have all of my abilities bound, and have absolutely no buttons on my screen normally anyway - so even if you took away my entire UI, I would still be able to heal (well, as long as I could see frames!). This is why I recommend mouseover macros so highly - because they don't "break" in the same way that addons can. And even if they disappear for some bizarre reason, you can just paste them back in again.
So if I stripped away every mod I have right now, I could still mouseover-heal the raid and use default frames.
I would HATE it like burning, but I could do it.
Following suit, here's a list of what I use to heal in raids.
Grid raid frames show me everything all in one spot. Aggro, health, mana, HoTs, debuffs, my buffs, range, who's dead, who's offline.. it's all right there in the one spot.
I use Grid over Healbot, Pitbull, etc. I used to believe that Grid was far and away superior to the others but I believe they are beginning to approach Grid in terms of the information they can display.
In my opinion Grid is still superior, mostly because you can pretty much display anything you like, in any way you like, where the others are not as flexible. Grid is definitely more complicated to set up and tweak to the way you want it, but I think it is worth it. If you want something that will do the job well but you're not very addon-minded, Healbot and Pitbull do better "out of the box".
I use Pitbull for my unit frames (me, my target, focus target etc). There are a few really good frame mods out there, I just like Pitbull. I think that as long as you have something to improve the default frames (and move them to a better spot), that's fine. The default frames are far too small.
3. Bindpad + Mouseovers
Bindpad is a mod that lets you drag & drop macros and abilities into a central window and then easily bind them to keys so that you don't need to have those buttons on your screen. I have all of my major abilities bound (but not things like tradeskills etc). I don't need bars on my screen because all of my abilities bound. This also means that if something goes wrong and I have to revert to the default UI, I can ignore the default bars on my screen because I won't be using them anyway.
By combining Bindpad with mouseover macros, you can react very quickly to incoming damage. If I see someone get aggro on Grid (their square gets a pink border), I can put my cursor over them and hit Rejuv "just in case" they take a hit that needs to be Swiftmended, for example. I don't need to change my target or click with my mouse - just hover my cursor over their frame and hit "4" on my keyboard (Clique does a similar thing to this; you bind particular heals to different mouse buttons rather than keyboard buttons).
That's it. I use a few other cosmetic addons to improve the appearance of my UI, but when it comes to healing, I just use Grid, Pitbull, and my macros.
Do you need Addons to be a good healer?
I believe that the game's default UI is lacking, and without *some* addons/macros, a healer cannot perform as well as someone who opts to use these basics. That is not to say that I think default UI users are in some way bad or lesser healers; I just truly believe that with a couple of basic addons, the information on your screen can be interpreted and acted on MUCH faster, in turn improving your performance. By no means do I look down on people who choose not to use mods, but I honestly believe that they could improve their performance (if only slightly) by using a better raid display coupled with either macros+bindings or something like Clique.
I was a good healer before Grid; I'm still a good healer now, but my performance increased dramatically when I picked up GridStatusLifebloom so I could see how much time was left on Lifebloom and when to refresh it. The default UI cannot show me this.
The default UI can show me poisons and curses and debuffs that I have to heal through - but in a very poor way. I can react much, MUCH faster if I have these debuffs displayed in Grid. At this point, decursing or reacting to debuffs is not something I even have to think about - it just happens automatically. I still have to make the decision and hit the buttons, but my UI lets me pick up that information and process it so much faster than the crummy default UI.
Could I decurse with the default? Definitely.. but I can do it much faster, and better if I have Grid.
These are two examples of how addons absolutely do make me perform better as a healer.
Can you survive without your mods?
I am vehemently opposed to any mod or macro that chooses actions for you because I believe this breeds bad habits and makes lazy healers.
We all rely on our mods to a certain extent, but if you are relying on them to the point that you can't heal without them, that's bad. If everything grinds to a complete halt when you don't have a particular mod, that's bad.
If Grid died tomorrow, I would be a very sad monkey - but I would just find the next best thing and deal with it.
Getting comfortable with our shiny custom UIs and addons is kind of like driving around in a car with the seat just so, the mirrors just how you like them, and the steering wheel at the right height. It's comfortable and you can see everything you need to while you drive along.
If your car broke down and you had to use someone else's, you should still be able to jump in and go without too much trouble. It might not be what you're used to and it might not be as comfortable, but you've got a steering wheel and pedals.
On the other hand, if you've been driving around in an automatic for years and suddenly you have to drive a manual transmission... you're boned.