However, with the many features constantly being added and improved upon, it would be too much work for me to keep updating the post as each addon evolves. Much like my "How to get 50 mounts before WotLK" it will be fairly static; it won't be a dynamic, evolving "guide", but a comparison of the addons in their current forms.
(This is basically to prevent comments in 3 months' time telling me I'm wrong because Grid CAN do XYZ and Healbot CAN do XYZ... which I bet will still happen!)
Also, once again - these are my personal opinions of the various features and drawbacks of each addon. I have endeavoured to be as fair and objective as possible. Please do not take any negative criticisms against your preferred addon as an insult to you and your choice! Any nasty comments will be deleted. Feel free to disagree - but be constructive, please.
Also, I'm going to have to say it before I hit post: Yes, I do know about VuhDo and I may give it a try sometime - I just haven't had time to have a look. :P
So - in the category of:
"Out of the box" functionality
Out of the box functionality - meaning how quickly after installing the mod you can jump into healing with it - is a huge factor for many people when deciding between different addons. Many people are happy to spend hours tweaking their UI to be perfect, but others prefer to hit the ground running with addons that are ready to go as soon as they are installed. You can have the most super awesome mod in the universe, but if the default looks terrible and it's difficult to set up, then many people will steer clear.
It's very cut and dried between the two addons in this case: for a healer, Grid has limited functionality out of the box - at the very least you will need to change the size of the boxes to be able to fit names properly and see health information. Fine for DPS/cleansing classes, but not good for healers. In fact, I think the addon would benefit greatly if the author was to add a couple of pre-packaged layout frameworks, one for DPS (similar to the current default) and one for healers, with the bar-like format that many healers prefer. This would make it much easier for healers to use "out of the box", and prevent a lot of people from being scared off by Grid's overwhelming customisation options.
Healers need to tweak Grid a fair bit in order to have an easy-to-read frame display.
On the other hand, Healbot comes out of the box looking pretty darn shiny; and while there are a bunch of things that I personally would want to adjust to suit my own personal style (can't stand the way it fades bars - I only like faded bars for people who are out of range), I could easily use Healbot in its default state and do a respectable job. I wouldn't be able to do the same with Grid in its default state.
Healbot's appearance when you first unpack it, showing tooltip
Grid wins in this category, but not by as great a margin as most diehard Grid users might think.
Grid does have options that Healbot doesn't, for example corner dot indicators, extra icons, extra texts, and of course the flexibility to change the placement, size and colours of each. Healbot really has everything you need to build a good frame display, it's just that Grid goes further and gives you many more options so that you can truly customise the display to suit your own personal taste.
However, for many of these options, you will need to install additional Grid modules. While this makes for a far more customisable set of frames, the downside to this, obviously, is the need to find and install the modules you need, and keep them updated. As Healbot's options are all built-in, you only ever have to keep one addon up to date to have them working.
Some of the additional Grid modules available at Curse.com
The big benefit here is that if you have some kind of catastrophic UI failure (we've all been there), you're more likely to be able to get back on the horse as a Healbot user, because you won't have to spend time doing the simple things like changing the size of the bars to make the raid's names visible. From running with Healbot users and listening to them, there seem to be a few random minor problems with the addon, whereas Grid seems to be more stable on a daily basis; but if you lost everything, it's going to be much easier to recover Healbot than to recover Grid, particularly if you rely on a lot of the additional modules.
Basically, Grid gives you tonnes of display flexibility in exchange for a bit of hassle setting it up and keeping it running. Healbot gives you all of the basic things you need to see - health, buffs & debuffs, heals, HoTs, and so on - and you can customise these to a point - but you don't get all of the extra bells and whistles that Grid gives you.
But Healbot has definitely come a long way and is surprisingly customisable. I think a lot of die-hard Grid fans would be shocked at what you can do with Healbot - it's definitely not the clunky, boxy, rigid set of frames that I expected.
Navigation and ease of use
Ease of use ties in with the previous category, logically. Grid's extensive customisation options mean you also have to navigate.... extensive menus. Depending on what you prefer, of course, I found Healbot's tabbed windows to be much easier to navigate than Grid's drop-down style. But then, I think this is due in part to the fact that some of Grid's options (to me) seem to be put into the wrong categories, and I often wish I could get in there and rearrange things a little.
Once you've been using Grid for a while, you'll know where to find each option in the menus; but even as a seasoned user, I still often find myself getting a little lost in the long list of options in each section. With so many options to customise, it's only natural that there are lots of boxes to check and fields to fill in, but I do think that Grid's menus may need a bit of a tidy up so they are less overwhelming. I'd love to see give tabbed menus a try. Whether or not they would be just as overwhelming if they tried to cover the same options, I'm not sure; but surely a whole tab devoted to say, HoTs, would be a nice logical way to customise your frames.
I feel that Grid wins this category because it just gives you so many more options to customise the look of your frames, meaning that you can have a really slick looking setup according to your tastes.
BUT Healbot has come a long way, and does have quite a few customisation options. It has a couple of options that Grid doesn't: the ability to display your frames in a single column (old-school style on the left or right of your screen), and the ability to show health bars as green progressing through to red according to health deficit, as a slow colour change. Grid allows you to set thresholds for the health bar to change colour and warn you (eg 85% or below = yellow, 50% or below = red) but many Healbot users enjoy that gradual colour change.
Overall though, Grid just has more bells and whistles, more options to change fonts, colours, icons, indicators, and other layout elements, making it more flexible and giving it the potential to be as attractive as you want to make it.
Both mods display their information nicely, but I think Grid edges ahead, both because of it's level of customisation, and because it has the ability to present more information in the same space.
Grid can show various triggers as:
- frame colour
- border colour
- corner indicator (and with extra modules, extra indicators on the sides and more in the corners)
- icons (and with extra modules, extra corner icons and side icons)
- texts (up to 3 texts, I believe)
It also has a better custom debuff system but I will go into that later.
Healbot does frame and border colour, two texts, and icons, but doesn't have any corner indicators or as many options for changing colours etc. As far as I'm aware it has no options for adding extra texts and icons.
I'd like to stress that both mods will show you everything you want to see; they both display all of the important information that you need. Grid just gives you more options to display it in a way that you want, meaning that if you react faster to colours, you can set it up so that colours are one of your main triggers. If you work better with icons, Grid has the standard center icons but also corner and side icons. Grid makes it very easy for you to set up your frames in the way that YOU will interpret the information fastest - which might be completely the opposite of how someone else likes to see information - but you get the flexibility to choose.
In the past, the general opinion that I heard about Healbot was "fantastic healing addon.. Although probably not so great for druids." During my time experimenting with Healbot, I found this to be true, for one main reason - the most important thing that druids should look for in a UI, in my opinion - HoT tracking.
I have to say that if I had to list what was most important for me to see in a frame mod, the health bar/deficit would be first (obviously), and HoTs would be second.
Grid's HoT Trackers (GridStatusHoTs and GridStatusLifebloom) do a brilliant job. They allow you to put numerical, coloured counters in the center, sides or corners of the health bar, so that you can track each HoT. The timers can be a set colour, or can be assigned to change colour as the timer runs low; in the case of Lifebloom, you can also assign colours to stack numbers, so a single stack might be a red timer, and 3 stacks a green counter.
All of this information is displayed clearly, but does not obscure the rest of the information on the frame. This is where Healbot falls down in its HoT tracking; in my experience I found that trying to display the HoT icons on the bar meant that the name and health information was obscured. Making the icons smaller (to be able to see the bar) results in not being able to identify the spells very well (as the icons get smaller) and trouble reading the timers, as the texts of the counters are ultimately linked to the size of the icon. Similarly, if you increase the size of the font, it can also obscure the icon itself, making it hard to see if you're looking at Regrowth or Rejuv, for example.
I found Healbot's HoT timers made it hard to see information beneath them;
if made smaller, then the icons and texts become hard to see.
This means your frames overall have to be quite large to accommodate
the HoT counters and show the player's frame clearly.
Healbot's HoT icons look great. But in practice, they make the health information difficult to see (on a moderate sized UI), and scaling them down makes the HoT hard to see. You have to try to find the happy medium between icons that are large enough to see which spell they are (in turn allowing for decent sized timers), and still being able to see the person's frame under those icons. With Regrowth, Rejuv, Lifebloom and Wild Growth all up on someone's frame at once, I found it difficult to see the health bar, and this would make me very nervous in a raid. Grid's timer information never obscures health information, so you can still make judgments on when to throw an extra emergency heal.
Comparing Healbot and Grid HoT displays when
both mods are set up to have similar sized frames.
As you can see, Grid's HoT timers do not obscure the rest of the information in the frame. I found Healbot's timers to either be so big they obscure the frame, or too small to read the text. The alternative then is to increase the size of the frame to allow for good sized icons without obscuring the other information - but this ends up making your raid frame quite large. I like my frames to be neat and compact.
Also, Healbot lays down the HoT icons in the order cast, not in a specific placement, which means that you can't even get used to Regrowth being say, the one on the left each time - you still need to rely on being able to see the icon properly, as the icons will be in random order on each person's bar. I find that Grid's layout, with set positions for HoTs (that you choose according to your own prefences) makes it easier to interpret timers because you can rely on each spell always appearing in a set position. You can use icons if you want, or simply use colored dots or texts, plus the option to have these colors change over time. You can use the standard green/yellow/red, or choose any colour you like; you can also choose the time thresholds for these color changes to occur, to allow for your own style. Healbot does not have this depth of customization.
If I had to pick one major fault (for druids) with Healbot, HoT tracking would be it. I can honestly say that I could manage swapping from Grid to Healbot if the HoT tracking was improved. It's definitely on the right track, but needs some changes so that HoT information is better displayed. Because we have 4 different HoTs at our disposal, often on many people at once, we need to be able to view and interpret tracking and timer information extremely quickly, to be able to make snap decisions. If the icon is obscured, the display order is random, and the text is difficult to see, then this reaction time suffers. This is a big problem. You don't want your HoT displays to slow down your reaction time.
Any HoT tracking is better than no HoT tracking; but I strongly feel that Grid's tracking options give you a much clearer view of your spells at any given time, they don't detract from the rest of the information, which allows you to process the information faster. A druid with no HoT timers can perform well; but a druid with great HoT displays can really maximise his/her output and fine-tune their timing down to miliseconds.
Basically - if you're serious about excelling as a healer and you're doing difficult content, then you need a really good HoT timer to streamline your performance and improve your reaction time. Healbot is almost there - but Grid just does it better.
This is another category where both mods can show you what you want to see, but in this case, Healbot has some cool features that Grid doesn't.
Both will show you buffs present and buffs missing, depending on what you prefer to see. For example, I prefer to see a pink dot on every frame, denoting Mark of the Wild, and if someone is missing a dot, they need the buff. It's just what I'm used to seeing. Other people prefer to only have a dot showing on someone who is missing the buff, which you could argue is more logical, since it is easier to see one person out of 25 who has a bright pink dot, compared to one person with no dot, out of a sea of 25 people. It's just personal preference.
But Healbot goes further and has alerts for when a buff is about to run out - including sounds. I thought that was a really cool little feature. Most of the time I buff by default, and don't need a reminder, but perhaps there are shorter duration buffs like Thorns that you forget to rebuff. Or it's a special fight and you need to remember to give people Amp Magic or Shadow Protection.
Of course, Grid does have a little more customisation in that you can assign buffs to corner icons and whatnot, but I don't think this is particularly noteworthy in this case. If your frame can show you a buff (or a missing buff) it probably doesn't matter too much how it does it.
Standard debuffs (curses, poisons, magic etc) are basically identical in both mods, aside from (once again) a little more flexibility in display options with Grid. Both will show you debuffs as a centre icon, border, or frame colour. Grid goes a little further and lets you have corner/edge indicators and corner icons (with extra modules). But both mods will show standard debuffs fine.
Poisons & curses - set to display as frame colours (my preference!).
Note: both mods can display these as icons, which many people prefer.
Grid edges forward a little for me personally with its custom debuffs. Healbot still allows you to display custom debuffs (for example, by changing the frame colour or adding a border), but if you want to use frame colour as your indicator, you can only use one colour for ALL custom debuffs. Most people would probably say, "so what?" but this is something that I am particular about, so it stood out for me :)
I like to be able to colour particular custom debuffs particular things (and sometimes with a particular priority). This is especially important in fights where there may be multiple custom debuffs that I would like to track. For example on XT002, I might colour Gravity Bomb bright pink, and Light Bomb bright green. I need to know who has each, but I also need to be able to discern between the two very quickly. Of course, many people just use icons, but I ditched that method long ago when I found that some curse icons looked like poisons (and vice versa). I find it much easier to react to colours than pictures.
So really it is an extremely trivial and TINY edge that Grid has over Healbot - and it will ONLY matter to you if you like to use frame colour AND have separate colours for each debuff.
Apart from that it is basically a tie.
Mouseover macro/Clique compatibility
Both mods are compatible with click-casting and mouseover macros.
In the case of Grid, you will need to download and setup another addon, Clique, for this functionality. I have seen many Healbot users criticise this fact in the past. In reality though, many Grid users don't use click-casting, so this doesn't matter to them at all.
If you are a click-caster, then Healbot comes ready to go - with no extra modules or setup required; you simply have to assign your spells accordingly. Many people see this as a big plus.
Healbot was once considered by many to be an "ezmode" healing addon that chose ranks of spells for you, which earned it a bad name as a mod that created lazy healers. Things have changed. It is now a powerful, feature-packed frames mod that shows you all of the things that Grid can show you. It is far easier to use "out of the box", has easy to follow menus, and is easier to keep up to date. Its main failing for druids is the clunky HoT display; but I am confident this will be improved over time.
Grid simply offers many more options for customising your frames, according to how you want your information to be displayed. It has far superior options for HoT tracking, which is essential for druid healers to excel in their healing. It requires some setting up before use, and quite a lot of tweaking to suit personal taste; adding more modules will also mean more and more extensive dropdown menus, but this is the tradeoff for seemingly limitless options for customising the look and layout of your frames.
I think one of the most common arguments against Grid is that "you need to install so many extra mods to go with it!". In reality, I think I have 3 extra modules - which is hardly a big deal at all. You could potentially have hundreds of extra modules installed - which would be a bit of a nightmare to keep updated manually - but what non-Grid users need to keep in mind is that while it may seem like a pain to have to use addons for an addon, this is where Grid gets its massive level of customisation.
And on the flip side, I don't want a whole lot of non-druid addons included by default. Why would I need totem timers, or rune tracking? That would just be bloat, and extra options in my menus that I don't need to see. With Grid you can "build your own mod" by picking and choosing your addons accordingly.
Many non-Grid users see this as a negative. Grid users understand that it means that the mod only includes options that we choose to use.
Really, I could write about these mods all day - I've barely scratched the surface of both. But I do hope I've given people a basic idea of some of the main features of each. The best way though is to give them a try and see what suits you. I believe more druids prefer Grid for their frames, but many use Healbot and swear by it.
If you want a mod that requires only minimal setup and shows you all of the information you need, with click-casting built in, Healbot is great.
If you prefer to tweak and customise your UI to exactly how you want it, including HoT timers, extra texts and icons, and custom debuff options, then Grid excels.
There is no right or wrong mod to use - it's all about whatever helps you best.