Sunday, March 22, 2009

Raid frame challenge: an in-depth view of Healbot

This is the third installment in my "Grid vs Healbot" series. I had planned this to be a multi-part experiment and feature the other raid frame heavyweights such as Pitbull, XPerl, and so on, but really it's such a massive job to look at them carefully that I don't think I can commit to doing another one - not for a while at least.

But the most important challenge, I think, is definitely Grid vs Healbot. So many people ask, on a weekly basis, "Which is better, Grid or Healbot?" The answers given are often incorrect (due to people not understanding the capabilities of the other mod) or simply, "Try them both and see which one you like best" which is actually probably an excellent answer, but not what a lot of people want to hear.

So, without further ado, here is my attempt at giving those people are more definitive answer. This entry will be about Healbot's features; then I will follow with another to compare the two mods directly (I need to separate the two posts because of their length, I don't want to overwhelm people too much).


Once again, here are the symbols that I will be using to show what each mod requires to get them working to my satisfaction (legible, useful, and attractive, etc).

Note that the green check marks come in two flavours: ready to go, and ready to go (but you can adjust the display).

Some features are ready to go by default, but are usually set up in a way that isn't very attractive or just isn't quite what I want. For example, poisons will show up, by default, as an icon in the center of the frame, and a corner square also. I don't like that - I prefer my frame to turn green to indicate poisons. I could certainly get by using the icons, but I prefer to use different display options. So, technically I could install Grid and have poisons showing just fine - but the options are there if I want to make things a little more attractive or to suit my tastes better.

A plain check mark, on the other hand, means that the feature is ready to go and presents in a way that is nice and easy to read, and doesn't need tweaking to be attractive, and can be left as-is.

Remember - the final goal will be to be able to assess whether I could disable Grid and be satisfied to use Healbot instead. That, as a druid, Healbot can show me all the things I need to see in a raid, in a way that is both easy to interpret, and aesthetically pleasing.


1. a bar-style raid frame addon displaying target health, buffs, debuffs and other information.
2. Informal. a healer who follows his/her target around and acts as their personal healer:
Keeva is my healbot for PvP.

3. Informal. to act as a personal healer:
Keeva healbots me in PvP.

Old Healbot
Healbot has been around since vanilla WoW; unfortunately, while being very useful, it gained a bit of a negative reputation because it would actually choose the "correct" rank of spell according to how much health your target was missing. This was obviously quite handy, but it did give the mod a bit of a bad name for "playing the game for you" - which is why I never used it. I don't like mods that make decisions (such as spell ranks) for me. Your opinion on this may vary.

Healbot: Simple, beautiful
But, that nasty business aside, Healbot is well-known for being simple to use "out of the box", meaning that as soon as you load it up, you can pretty much run with it. This makes it perfect for people who want a solid raid UI but perhaps don't know much about customising UIs - with Healbot you can just install and run, with minimal tweaking.

Life is really simple, but we insist on making it complicated. ~Confucius

Healbot does have some pretty nifty bells and whistles, but its biggest sell point, I believe, is this simplicity - that you can use it immediately with almost no knowledge of addons or UI customisation. If you want to load a raid UI mod and run, Healbot is definitely a great choice.

Alright, let's get started on the nitty gritty.

1. Aesthetics

So, how is Healbot when you first fire it up? Pretty darn... well, pretty. The bars are a fairly good size, text is good.. and it has a really cool tooltip that shows you what your buttons are bound to, and what your heals should land for (how cool is that - especially if you're like me and don't run with any spell buttons on your UI).

Healbot when first loaded - showing tooltip

So if you wanted to walk into a raid right that second, your frames would be a decent size, legible, and attractive, even without tweaking them or personalising them to taste.

Let's rate things in the same way that I assessed Grid.

There's really not much to fault here. In terms of basic aesthetics, Healbot is excellent, and it is excellent with very little initial tweaking.

Despite its simplicity, Healbot does have a lot of options for changing its appearance. For example, some people prefer the green bars (that change colour gradually according to health deficit). I personally prefer my bars to be coloured by class, so at a glance I can see the class of person taking damage, and make split-second decisions - ie, triage.

Contrary to popular belief, Healbot doesn't have to be green bars and only green bars - you can set it up to be coloured by class (like Grid), if you want to, although I think many Healbot users will call me a heathen for doing this :)

Healbot and Grid, both set to display frames by class colour. Please don't hurt me.

You can also change the size of the bars, number of columns (something you can't do in Grid), font type and size, border, background, group headers (and customise those as well). When it comes to displaying buffs and debuffs, you can choose between border and frame colours as well as the standard icons. Not as many options as Grid, but whether this matters to you will depend on the number of things you need to display on your frames at any given time. And.. I think we should pay attention to Mr Confucius' wisdom above - keeping things simple isn't a bad thing.

Healbot can show you 5, 10, 25 and 40 man groups. It shows pets, although I am disappointed that you can't force it to show pets coloured by owner type. I like to see hunter pets as green, warlock pets as purple, for example, so that I can prioritise healing. That is not a huge problem, only a slight niggle.

Another small problem is that there is no background to the individual frames (perhaps this is something I missed). Grid allows you to set a customised background colour (eg red or black) to make health deficits easier to see. If you use the green bars on Healbot this is not a problem, because the bar will change to red as the person loses health; but if you are like me and prefer class coloured frames, this isn't the case. I like to have a colour behind the bar to show me more easily how much health is missing. But - this is more a personal preference than anything.

2. HoTs and HoT tracking

HoT counters are now built into Healbot. They are shown as numbers on top of HoT icons on the target's bar. Very attractive and simple. My main gripe here is that the counter doesn't show up until the time remaining has dropped under double digits (ie, 9 seconds or less). This annoys me because I prefer to see exactly how much time is remaining, so that I know how many other things I can do before I need to refresh my Regrowth, for example.

I also found that the counters are quite cluttered on the icons; in order to make the counters legible, I had to increase the size of the icon and text, and this obscures the person's frame, meaning that if they have a health deficit, it can be difficult to see. This would not be an issue for someone who chooses to display the HoTs off to one side (not on the frame itself) but as I prefer to have my HoT counters inside the frame, it is a problem for me. I found that having several HoTs on a target made things very cluttered.

Left: Healbot, set up to my preferred frame size, and showing all four HoTs. Disclaimer: different frame configurations will make your HoTs easier to see; this is merely to demonstrate that on my chosen frame layout, the HoTs are quite cluttered.

I don't like that there isn't a set position for each HoT; they are just put up in order of casting.

The Lifebloom counter also doesn't count down with a decimal place; it only counts in whole seconds. If this is what you are used to, you will probably be quite efficient, regardless; but having fractions of a second display can make your Lifebloom rotations much cleaner and tighter.

As a druid, I think that the HoT display is possibly the most important thing on our UI, and as such, this is what I really focused on when I was looking at Healbot. I will go into this more in my comparison of the two mods.

3. Buffs and debuffs

Healbot shows missing buffs, rather than showing everyone who has a buff. You can choose a colour to display when someone is missing a buff, for example, red for someone who is missing Thorns. You can tell it who to check for these buffs - by class, by type such as 'healers' or 'ranged', and of course, the tanks. This is brilliant. Basically, you set it up to tell you when the tanks are missing thorns, and if they are, it turns them red. When they get their buff, they go back to normal.

And on top of that, you can have Healbot play a warning sound as well - in case you missed them changing colours.

I definitely give Healbot an 11/10 for "missing buffs display".

However if you want to display who has particular buffs, then it falls down a little. Again, this is personal preference - some people like to be able to see if there is a renew on the tank, or weakened soul, etc - not necessarily their own pre-combat buffs. A minor issue for most, but probably something that some people don't want to do without.

Custom debuffs, another important part of my UI, are also handled fine with Healbot. You can enter your own debuffs, such as Frost Blast, and have it display in a special colour (and again, a warning sound if you like!). The colour can be set to the border, icon or frame colour (but not to corners as with Grid). The only minor problem is that you can only choose one colour for all custom debuffs; if you want two different debuffs to display as different colours, you can't do that.

4. Other

Most of these things are built in and turned on by default (or require a quick check mark or slider bar adjustment). I can't find the low mana alert (if there is one) or feign death warning. Death is shown as an empty bar (zero health), but I prefer DEAD to show on the frame.


I'll go into better detail when I write the final installment comparing the two mods, but for now, my super brief summary would be that Healbot:

- is really attractive out of the box, has plenty of great features and requires little tweaking

- has pretty good HoT display options built-in (no need for extra modules)

- has quite a lot of options for changing the appearance of the mod - and would probably surprise a lot of die-hard Grid fans. Still not as flexible and customisable as Grid, but it honestly has all the main stuff that most people would need.

- would be good for UI newbies and seasoned healers alike

Overall, Healbot shows you a lot of buff, debuff, HoT and healing information as soon as you load it. If you want to spend a little more time on it, you can pretty it up even more, but if you don't have that time, you'll still have just about everything you need as soon as you start.

Stay tuned for the final installment - Healbot & Grid side by side (dun dun dunnn).

Do you know of a great How-To guide for Healbot? There are a few out there for Grid but I had problems finding an up to date guide for Healbot. If you know of one, please let me know so that I can list them here to help out Healbot users.


Raaff said...

Very nice write up! Can't wait for the show down :)



Sydera said...

Impressive as always, Keeva.

When I switched from X-perl (I wanted to be able to see more when we were doing Vashj and Kael), I tried out both Grid and Healbot. I tried both, and I can say that the current incarnations of the mods are much more impressive. I'm going to have to update my Grid to what you've got. I did things a little differently than you did, but I had the same priorities. I am going to have to find that background color feature NOW. I've been using health deficit as my center text, though, and I don't know if I can give that up. I do find though, with class colors running, that the person's name isn't as important to see as their class. After all this time raiding with the same crew, I know who it is! I also adjust a macro to target the MT for each fight. I might not need/want that anymore (though the pig icon is precious) if I set up my bars more like you do.

Aleysha said...

Great read. I applaud your patience and how unbiased you are.

And not wanting to throw you off-topic but have you heard/checked the new VuhDo? It's like Grid and Healbot rolled into one. If your curious just drop by and check the UI's forum.

I know it's outside the scope of this project but might be worth a peak...

Zaralin said...

Very nice job with the evaluation. I am looking forward to the copmparison with grid (I am currently a Healbot user). One thing that I didn't see mentioned is likely something you didn't encounter. I have started to use Decursive along with Healbot. I have noticed that Healbot does not display all curses and poisons. Not sure why that happens. I never noticed (didn't matter much) until I got into raid bosses, like Noth, who constantly curse and it is critical to decurse right away.

Sylly said...

Great assessment of Healbot! I'm a Healbot user, myself. It's kind of funny because I've used it for many, many moons, and have only recently felt like I'm using it to its full potential, customizing it for my own preferences, and so forth. I've always been curious about Grid, though, so I, too, am looking forward to the showdown! Thanks for the meticulous work!

Hulan said...

I'm beginning to think I've downloaded a completely different addon. Errors galore and I can't get it to work at all ^^

Lorangriel said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lorangriel said...

Great rundown on healbot. I have used it for the longest time and have rarely had any issues with it. My main turn-off from Grid is how difficult it is to get exactly the way I want it. And frankly, since I have been using healbot for so long, I would want it to look like healbot!
Thanks again for a great writeup. I can't wait for the showdown.


Anonymous said...

Thank u Keeva for this in depth review!

As a long time HB user i have always been curious about grid. But the setup... ^^

Decimal LB timers and better custom debuff support would improve my healing a lot! Is there any way to set up grid to show hots in one row and custom debuffs in one row like HB does? I only found a way to set them up in the corners or in the middle of a given "row".
Especially in arena i need to know which rogue poisons are up and which are not. Cluttering the corners with teeny tiny icons for each debuff/poison so they all can be shown is simply not an option for me.

Vuhdo has the same problem, although it is easier to set up than grid.
Thank you for this helpful review.

Anonymous said...

this was realy nice reading :)
healbot hawe one major thing for me and it is that I can easy and fast switch from 1-->8 colums for my healing ...5/10/25mana raids I stil prefer one column 40manna ore bg I prefer 4 maby 5 colums

and Im lazy Grid with al smal extra addons :(and configuration for my HoT´s (shuld I get x-pearl with grid and huum al the other that let me put in timers and and and and match them al uuurf then I stil dont know ho is were and why take damage )

ok ok I got a extra addon with healbot ...smartDebuff I did not nead be eainstain with that one :D

I so hop see what u did find out :)
ty for al work u put in too this :)

Anonymous said...

Just one thing...

Grid allows healing with click on name as healbot?
THAT'S the MAIN feature of HB.
Not running around the screen to find the ppl who needs healing.
Rest is a matter of habit.