While the Blizzard UI has improved tremendously, healers for the most part still find healing addons useful for the variety of options available to improve their experience. When talking about healing addons, the big four healing addons that you always see mentioned are: Grid, Healbot, Healium, and Vuhdo. However, to a new healer, understanding the difference between them and actually configuring them to meet Cataclysm healing needs are a monumental task. As you can see below I’ve taken the time to download and perform a minimal configuration with a level 10 druid character to provide a visual point of reference for the rest of my discussion.
Comparing Addons: Which addon is right for me?
Treebark Jacket once again instigated my blog post interest several months ago with a post comparing Grid and Healbot. In her post she provides many of the comparisons that any healer should make when deciding on the right addon for their style of healing. Based on this post and my own experiences, there are at least five distinct categories of information pertaining to the unit frames that are needed for healing. Using these categories of information I’ll compare the addons at a high level to give new healers and idea of the strengths and weaknesses of the addons and what the categories mean to their healing style.
Health and Mana (or power, energy, rage, etc.)
The most important information you need to know as a healer is the group’s health remaining and mana (resource) remaining. With most healing addons this is displayed as a colored bar (or square) similar to your normal player unit frame. In the image I’ve shown the player’s health as a green bar with a health percentage overlaid and their mana as a blue bar below the health frame (except for helium, but we’ll get back to that shortly). This display is almost all aesthetics as you can display the health bars according to class colors, have them turn a different color at a certain percentage of health, and change the size and orientation of the health bar and the mana bar. From the image, it is clear that I was easily able to similarly customize the health and mana bars for grid, healbot, and vuhdo. However, healium does not provide an obvious option for changing the way the health and mana is displayed. You appear to be limited to what you see in the image.
[Grid, Healbot, Vuhdo provide the best flexibility and configuration, while Healium provides almost no flexibility.]
HoTs (Heal-Over-Time effects)
My most played healer is a druid and as Keeva pointed out, HoT display is probably the second most important information that we need in our UI. As you can see in the image, rejuvenation is represented in the displays as a purple-pink box or icon, usually in the top left corner. Now, while it is helpful to identify if you’ve casted a HoT on someone in your group, it’s particularly important with the Cataclysm healing model to know when the HoT is about to drop so that you can refresh it or apply a new one. For this reason, adding text counters to your HoTs is important to your healing efficiency. Additionally, being able to define a set location for the icon to appear within the frame each time it is cast is important for scanning a 25-man raid to see if rejuvenation has been applied to a certain subset of players.
Grid: Provides such an advanced configuration for HoT tracking, that it is one of the more complicated tasks during set-up. Also, requires a 3rd party plugin to achieve text displays and additional placement options of the HoT icons.
Healbot: Provides text on top of the HoT icons, but does not define a set location for the icon to appear each time it is cast. This can be inflexible for an advanced user that needs that scanned information.
Healium: Displays the icon with a text countdown next to the health frame, but does not define a set location for the icons to appear each time they are cast.
Vuhdo: Provides the best of both Grid and Healbot, but is slightly limited compared to Grid in terms of the additional placement options of the HoT icons.
[Of the big four addons, Grid has the most flexibility for tracking them, whereas Healbot and Healium are the least flexible, with Vuhdo somewhere in between.]
Anyone that’s been following my blog probably recognizes the importance of debuff management for the Ozruk fight in Stonecore. As a healer, recognizing and reacting (or not reacting) to debuffs on the party and especially the tank can make a run infinitely smoother. Furthermore, clearing a debuff was once so simple with an addon called Decursive that the UI mechanics were changed because of this. In today’s discussion, the standard debuffs (curses, diseases, magic, and poisons) are basically identical in terms of display options with all four addons. However, Grid, Vuhdo, and Healbot allow the user to add custom/special debuffs that you may want to be made aware of in certain boss encounters.
[All handle the standard debuffs, but configuration of special debuffs is more flexible with Grid or Vuhdo.]
Again, this is a topic that I’ve lightly touched on a while ago with my post on To Keybind or Not to Keybind in which I discussed the advantages and disadvantages of clicking your spells. In this case I’m referring to the common practice of mapping all of your heal spells to your mouse buttons, that when clicking on a frame will activate the mapped spell.
Grid: Does not have built in click-to-cast configuration so you will require another addon (e.g., Clique) to provide this functionality, or use mouseover macros with the traditional keybinds.
Healbot: Has a built-in configuration for click-to-cast spells.
Healium: Drag-and-drop layout of your healing spells next to the unit frame as seen in the image above, that works the same way as clicking your buttons on your action bars.
Vuhdo: Built-in configuration for click-to-cast spells, addon unique keybinding configuration, and an additional configuration for click-to-cast spells for hostile targets (i.e., shackle).
[Best configuration options for Vuhdo and Healbot for out-of-the-box users. Healium is a click-to-cast alternative and Grid requires another addon for this feature.]
Range and Threat display
Most of the incidental information like range, location, warnings, and threat displays are built in and turned on by default (or require a quick check mark or slider bar adjustment). Again, Healium has limited configuration for these settings or doesn’t contain a setting at all. Grid, Healbot, and Vuhdo however, provide additional configuration for things such as aggro alert, low mana alerts, and an offline warning. Vuhdo additionally has recently added a directional arrow to indicate the direction of any out-of-range group members making it easy to get back into range.
[Vuhdo provides the most "bells and whistles", but Grid and Healbot provide additional flexiblity. Healium again trails the pack.]
Some additional advantages/disadvantages that I’ve found with these four addons that might play a role in choosing the best option are:
Dungeon Roles: Grid requires two different plug-ins (GridStatusRole and GridIndicatorSideIcons) to display Dungeon Finder roles (so you can identify the tank from the dk and warrior). This information is displayed automatically for healbot, with click on vuhdo, and not at all for Healium.
Text Display: Healbot allows two lines of text appear on each raid bar (but you can’t specify what is shown on each line). Grid and Vuhdo provide extensive configuration of each of 2-3 lines of text (I just didn’t download the plugin for Grid in the image above). Healium does not provide configuration of the location or options for information compared to the other three addons.
PvP: Healbot provides an option to alert you if casting a helpful spell on one of your group members will cause you to be flagged for PVP. Not available in either of the other three addons.
So which one should I choose?
Only you can really decide that for yourself, but based on the healing task, character, and configuration requirements. As one forum commenter indicated: “Healbot is the easiest to configure of the three, but also has fewer advanced options. Grid has the most configurability and most optional modules, but it is the hardest of the three to get setup the way you want it. Vuhdo is kind of in the middle of the two extremes.” Having a clear idea of what I want my healing frames to look like, Vuhdo has provided me with the best balance of simplicity to configure and advanced options. Granted there are still features that I feel it’s missing, but overall it has proved to provide the best selection of features for me and new ones are added periodically that improve on the list of current features.
Configuration: Where? and How?
So if you’re ready to choose a healing addon, there are a two main sites which you can visit to get the latest version of an addon. Keep in mind that addon authors tend to favor one site over another, so updates may only be available in a single place:
Now that you’ve chosen the healing addon, you are probably overwhelmed with the configuration options and the various tabs available for this task. Fortunately, there are plenty of bloggers and sources available to assist with the configuration process; I’ve listed them below:
Murloc Parliament has gathered all of the posts together into a single Guide that links the topics of these 22 posts and a list of other sources for grid configuration.
Twig Heals has an updated visual 3-part Guide for HealBot 3.3.0 configuration.
Healium is still new enough to the scene that very little additional attention has been made to configuration, although it doesn’t really require much configuration. However, a good overview video is available at Youtube (not the original author) and a video by the original author of the addon.
A good introduction to Vuhdo has been done by Matt Low over at Wow.com. Unfortunately, the best resource for configuring Vuhdo was done by Tamarind, in his 5-part Guide, which has since disappeared from the internet (but I’ve since created a replacement – see my own VuhDo guide). Finally, the creator, Iza, is the moderator over on the PlusHeal.com Vuhdo Forums if you have any technical difficulties.