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Making Your UI Work For You - A Guide To Addons

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This is a guide on how to use addons to make your UI work for you, so that you can optimize your gameplay. Now, this is meant to help, not shame. You don’t have to feel bad if you don’t want to use addons, even if lots of people say they’re great. If you like these ideas, and the idea of putting in the time to learn them appeals to you, great. If not, don’t let it ruin the fun you’re having. Got it? Then let’s begin!

The base UI you’re presented with when you first start the game is... sufficient. You have all the information there that you need. Your health, your target, your buffs and debuffs, members of your group or raid, your action bars, your minimap... And you can customize it to an extent. You can make it show target of target, buffs/debuffs on target or group members, extra action bars, etc. Some people get by just fine using the base UI; some even excel with it. But I am of the strong belief that customizing your UI can give you an edge, and if the huge selection of mods (a.k.a. addons) out there indicates anything, I’m far from the only one!

Of course, having your UI altered takes getting used to. You have to unlearn reflexes and train yourself to take input differently. For many people, that’s a turn-off, and something they just don’t want to bother with, though there are rewards in the end. Mods also require learning how to actually implement them – how to install them, what all the terminology means, and how to configure their options.

But fear not! I’m here to help! And you can start off small, and add things over time. Or, you can go for a mod pack, which are collections that overhaul the UI entirely for you, and which are designed to take the strain of learning how to configure mods off. Let’s talk about both options.


Mod Packs

There are several highly recommended mod packs out there. One of the most popular is ElvUI, which several very skilled players I know use (such as my husband, after grudgingly giving up the vanilla UI after some 8 years). Mods packs generally have all the addons preconfigured in a pleasing and helpful way, and some, such as ElvUI, even walk you through a couple of options you can set yourself.

If you want to dive right into a fully customized UI, an option that is surprisingly easy and pleasant, I would recommend starting with ElvUI ( Another popular option is SpartanUI ( if you want to check out how both look.


Individual Mods

Alternatively, you can tweak one thing at a time in your UI. A lot of people like to start out with one change – improved unitframes, for example. Those would be the player icon, target icon, party member icons, etc. You can make them look much cooler, such as with 3D models and nicer borders. Or maybe you want to have more action buttons, and in a more compact style. You can do that with an action bar mod. In this fashion, you can slowly add things to your UI as you get comfortable with them, and build a custom UI exactly to your liking.


The rest of this guide will cover individual mods. If something piques your interest, try it out!

Edited by Xaraphyne
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Mod Categories


In the simplest terms, mods generally fall into these categories:

- Changing the interface’s appearance
- Giving you additional information
- Providing direct play assistance
- Organization/tracking

The last category is things that are simply very handy. It can include things like bag addons, which combine all your bags into one screen and lets you sort and categorize your items intelligently, as well as keep track of your inventory in the bank and even on alts; addons that tell you which weekly stuff you have and haven’t completed yet; addons that smartly pick out parties for you for your class hall missions; addons which give you a better UI for professions; and addons that help you manage guilds and loot systems. Just for starters! I won’t go into details on those, but there are a lot of options out there.

Meanwhile, the first three are what are going to really give you an edge in PvE and PvP, and this is a guide on optimizing your gameplay. So let’s talk about each of these categories at a time.

Edited by Xaraphyne

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Mods That Change the Interface’s Appearance

The UI can be broken down into several separate things. As mentioned before, you have your unitframes, and you have your action bars. You also have your scrolling combat text, nameplates, and a few other things like castbars, minimap, buffs & debuffs, chat, and tooltips. But those first four are really going to be the foundation for your UI, and you can alter them one at a time to make it easier to get used to the changes. I’ll go over multiple parts of the interface, but the first four are the best ones with which to start, in the approximate order I’d suggest.


- Unitframes

Unitframe mods can give your unitframes a really slick, cool appearance. This is basically the biggest motivation for getting one! But it also lets you scale them and move them around easily. Some also incorporate options to modify other aspects of the interface, like buffs/debuffs and castbars.

I recommend Z-Perl ( to start. Shiny!


- Action Bars

The greatest advantage of installing an action bar mod is that it simply gives you more buttons than the vanilla UI does. The second greatest advantage is that it lets you scale down the bars and get rid of those ugly gryphons. It’s a massive decrease in screen real estate and you’ll be amazed at how much better you can see! They also provide an easy interface for keybinding: just select keybinding mode, then hover over the button and press the key you want to use.

I recommend Dominos ( though Bartender is very similar and also beloved by many (


- Scrolling Combat Text

This is the text that pops up when you take damage or hit (or heal) things. By default it just sort of pops up all over on your screen, and other than giving you the chance to say “Oh yeah I just crit that guy for 1mil!” it doesn’t really help you play. A scrolling combat text mod lets you display that information much more clearly. You can have, for example, all outgoing damage/heals show up in one certain place, and all incoming damage/heals in another. You can set misses or immunities or reflects to really be obvious. You can even make it show you other things, like when you enter combat, something procs, you get debuffed, or something comes off cooldown. Also, it can look really really cool, which, you may come to realize, is at least half the appeal of mods. Who am I kidding, it’s at least 75%.

I recommend Mik Scrolling Battle Text (


- Nameplates

If you don’t play with nameplates on, you don’t know what you’re missing. If you do, you can make them even better. Nameplates can show you the health of every enemy in front of you without having to target them, and, even better, which ones are casting. (And they work with mouseover macros... If you don’t know what those are, don’t worry about it, but if you do, omg use nameplates.) So, for example, if you need to AoE down a group evenly, you can very easily spot which mobs aren’t going down fast enough and switch to them. They can also be color coded by threat, which, tanks, should have you jumping out of your chair. Spot immediately which mobs you don’t have aggro on? Yes please!

I recommend KuiNameplates (

Edited by Xaraphyne

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Onto the more peripheral or specialized UI-appearance-changing addons. These are also presented in the order I’d recommend trying them, though again, you’ll probably want to start with one of the above.


- Minimap

The best part of installing a minimap mod is that it lets you move it anywhere on your screen. The next best part is that it lets you change the shape of it (say make it square to show more area) and otherwise make it look a lot cooler. It’s a small difference in your gameplay overall but it’ll probably make you happy, and what else do you really need.

I recommend SexyMap (


- Chat

The very first thing I suggest doing if you want to optimize your chat – which actually does have gameplay implications, as things you need to know can get lost in spam – is to make a second window just for actual chat. You don’t even need a mod to do this. Just create a new window, and put /s, /y, /p, /ra, /rp, etc. in there. In the main window, uncheck all those, and leave it for junk like loot, creature chat, general/trade, and system messages. Ta-da! You have optimized your chat!

But if you want to do a little more... there are mods to format your chat even better. You can shrink down the channel names so that for example. [1. General] becomes [Gen], and [Party] becomes [P]. You can shrink down players’ names so that Katelle-Ravenholdt becomes Katelle-Rav. You can add timestamps. You can make it highlight when someone uses your name. There’s a lot of cool things you can do to make chat more legible.

I recommend Chatter (


- Tooltips

A tooltip mod can make the tooltip look sleeker, and let you move it to another position on your screen. It can also, interestingly, show you additional information, like a player’s spec, who they’re targeting, and guild rank (why not?).

I recommend TipTac (


- Castbar

A specialized castbar mod can give you more information. You can do things like see your GCD and auto-attack timers, or show your exact cast time (total and remaining) within your castbar, not to mention position any castbar anywhere you want and give it several different appearances and sizes.

I recommend Quartz (


- Buffs & Debuffs

This is one of the trickiest things to configure, and the most complex thing I’ll discuss here. You may be best off using the options that come with a unitframe mod; they can more than adequate that way. However, if you delve deep enough to want more out of your buffs, a buff mod can let you do some truly remarkable things.

You can show buffs as bars or as icons. And you can create separate buff “groups” that you can filter to show only certain things in different places on your screen. I, for example, have three different groups just for my own buffs/debuffs: a basic row of icons, to show long-lasting buffs on me; a column of bars to show short-term buffs (procs, HOTs, etc.); and a column of bars to show debuffs on me (quite centrally placed). On my target, I have one group just to show my own effects (my buffs/debuffs) on the target, and two more to show the rest of the target’s buffs and debuffs.

I recommend Raven (, but again, this is only for advanced users.

Edited by Xaraphyne

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Mods That Give You Additional Information

Still with me? Great! So the next category of mods, now that we’re past those that change how your UI looks, are those that give you information that’s just not available (in any practical sense) otherwise. The most popular of these, and actually the most popular addon in the entire game, is of course DBM, which informs you of boss encounter mechanics.

Other mods can provide information that helps you in other ways. For example, there are mods that can show you who in your group has used interrupts, stuns, and big cooldowns, so that you can more intelligently use your own. And of course there’s the super popular damage meter, which you can get and then stop whispering people to ask for your DPS on that last fight. Not that I'm talking about anyone in specific in that last example, of course not. (You know who you are.)

I’ll make a list here of some of the most popular types of mods that give you additional information, again in the order I’d suggest trying them out, though you should pick the ones that sound most useful to you.



- Boss Mods

Boss mods tell you when raid boss abilities are about to happen, and what to do when you need to do it. You can get by with a little knowledge and the indicators Blizzard has built in, but boss mods make it, well, brainless. That may not be a selling point for some people, but if you get off your high horse, it will help you play more effectively without having to extend as much effort. Plus you can see pull timers.

A lighter-weight alternative is a mod that just alerts you to highly personal stuff, such as when you’re standing in fire. The two can actually complement each other pretty well, because why not have something yelling at you that you’re in fire extra loudly on top of the rest?

I recommend Deadly Boss Mods ( and GTFO ( is very popular for those who want something simpler or a backup alert.


- Damage Meter

A damage meter of course tracks how much damage you and the people around you have done. It can show you overall data for the entire instance, as well as performance for specific fights. Though it’s called a damage meter, it can also show healing, interrupts, and other things (though those are somewhat less helpful pieces of information as raw output is not necessarily the best measure of effectiveness for those – not that it entirely is for damage, but for other things, even less so – but anyway).

I recommend Recount (


- World Guides

World guides can help you find things out in the world more easily. They can add things to your map and give you detailed information on how to find them. Blizzard reluctantly started adding their own indicators on the minimap for a lot of things when they acceded that players really wanted it, but there are a lot of mods that still provide more information than that and are very helpful.

I recommend HandyNotes ( and a lot of people like Gatherer ( for helping gathering professions.


- Pet Battles

This one gets its own special category! There are tons of mods out there to help you with the pet battle aspect of the game. They can give you information about breeds, where to find rare pets, which pets have which abilities (including what abilities the enemy team has and their current cooldown status), and more.

I recommend PetTracker ( although I barely use all the functionality it offers. If you love pet battling, though, jump on this! It’s a game changer!


- Stat Weights

Some mods let you assign “weights” to particular stats on gear. This can help give you a nice total value for each piece of gear so that you can compare it to other pieces. You can delve much more deeply into this, but to start, there are some basic setups that will give you a general recommendation when you have to make loot choices.

Popular options are Pawn ( and CrucibleWeight (


- PvP Aids

There are mods that give you information on targets in PvP, like showing the enemy team in battlegrounds or arenas, or pointing out healers so you can target them immediately. Actually, those are pretty much what the two mods I was going to mention do, so I’ll just leave them here, but there are a variety out there specially designed to give you sharper focus in PvP.

BattlegroundTargets ( and Healers Have To Die (


- Detectors

There are mods that can alert you when someone is nearby, even tell you their class and level. Avoid getting jumped! Well, somewhat. There are also mods out that that “scan” for rare mobs and other things near you and can alert you to their presence.

I recommend Vanas KOS ( for being alerted of nearby players (though it also has other functionalities), and a popular one for mobs is NPCScan (


- Cooldown Tracker

There are several mods that you can set up to show when other people have used certain abilities, like interrupt or big cooldowns. This can be very useful so you can use your own more intelligently (“whoops, everyone else blew their interrupt right then, I’d better be sure to pick up the next”). It’s also how I can always tell exactly how long until the next battle rez is up!

I recommend oRA3 (, which is actually a raid management mod that offers a few different functions, but which can be used for this purpose.


- Threat Meter

This used to be mandatory, when exceeding threat was no joke. These days, you don’t really need one, except maybe for Mythic+ with Skittish. Even then, YOLO, right? But if seeing where you are on the threat table is of concern to you, you can try one out.

The gold standard is pretty much Omen Threat Meter (

Edited by Xaraphyne

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Mods That Provide Direct Play Assistance

These are the mods that, basically, tell you when to hit what ability. This is another thing people might scoff at, but rotations/priorities can get very complex with procs and who knows what else, so it isn’t unreasonable to use these. Do keep in mind, though, that they’re only as good as the thought process of the person who wrote them! They are the most applicable to DPS, but healers and tanks can really benefit from receiving certain cues as well.



- Class-Specific Play Assistance

These types of mods are designed for certain classes, to give you clear indicators of which abilities should be used next. They're mostly targeted toward DPS, though tanks and healers can benefit from some as well.

The most popular one is TellMeWhen (, for which you can get certain class/spec profiles. Another more specialized one is Decursive ( which notifies you about debuffs that need dispelled and how to react to other things (like telling you to CC a mind-controlled party member).


- General Play Assistance

This kind of mod is pretty much like writing your own cues. You decide what conditions trigger an alert and what kind of alert it is. These are also often called “aura” mods after the original mod that came up with this idea, which really led to the more specialized ones above, but the original less specialized concept persists. Auras can be a challenge to configure, but I personally love figuring out how to “program” it and being proud that I can pick out exactly when I need to do what and then make it easier for me to recognize and therefore do. Luckily, for those who want the advantages but don’t want to spend a lot of time writing auras themselves, auras can be shared and many can be imported from the web.

I recommend WeakAuras ( And I will gladly talk your ear off about it if you want to try it!

Edited by Xaraphyne

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Miscellaneous Suggestions

These are mods that don’t fit neatly into an above category or are too highly specialized to not be set apart. You might find something here that intrigues you!



- Better Ability Cooldown Timers

You can get a more exact countdown of when your cooldowns are up, such as showing seconds, including down to the first decimal point, directly on the button. This is nice when a big cooldown is down to sliver but you can’t really tell if that means 5 seconds or 15.

I recommend OmniCC (


- HUDs (Heads-Up Displays)

WoW finally implemented a very basic one of their own (you’ll notice that’s a theme with Blizzard), but HUDs have been a mainstay of the mod scene for a long time. You might have seen something similar in a shooter game where your health and resources are displayed in curved bars in the center of your screen, like you’re Iron Man in the suit. I personally don’t use one, because I prefer to use my unitframe for that function, but you can try one and see how it works for you. You can end up even eliminating your player frame.

IceHUD is a popular one (


- Announcers

You can get mods that will automatically announce when you’ve used certain abilities, like interrupts. This can be very handy for coordination. You can also get mods that detect and announce when someone has put down a feast or repairbot, or even one to tattle on people who have pet Growl on or blew Bloodlust. If you’re into that. I just go with the first personally!

I recommend Raeli’s Spell Announcer ( which I use to indicate when I’ve used interrupts and big healing/tanking cooldowns (you can choose exactly which abilities it posts about).


- Raid Frames

While most unitframe mods will give you improved raid frames, there are actually mods dedicated specifically to raid frames because of the highly specific and demanding needs of raiding. DPS and tanks don’t really need this, but for healers, it can elevate your gameplay considerably, and raid leaders can benefit from it as well.

I recommend Grid2 (, which can be a challenge to configure, but which you can do some truly amazing things with.


- Keybinding

You can get mods that make keybindings more intuitive and add additional functionality like switching keybinding sets on the fly. I haven’t used any of these myself, as basic keybinding is sufficient for me, but some people swear by them.

By far Clique ( is the most popular one.


- Whispers

There’s a popular mod that makes your whispers into AIM-like windows (RIP) that are devoted to individual people, can be scaled and customized, and of course moved anywhere on your screen. I can’t live without it personally, even though Blizzard did add their own version of individual whisper windows; it’s just nowhere as good.

I recommend WIM (


- Logging

If you want to be able to see what someone said last week, or if you want to save that in-game RP forever and ever, you’re in luck. There’s a way! There are addons out there that capture your chatlog and display it in a super user-friendly way, and even let you export it.

I recommend Elephant ( and have written a guide on how to use it here.


- Deletion


Easy Delete (


- And last but not least... RP Addons!

There are two main RP addons out there, one with a little more functionality than the other. The main advantage of having an RP addon is, of course, being able to spot other roleplayers who have an RP addon. Spotting one in the wild is exciting, and you might have never known otherwise! Then, you can use it to really enhance your RP by seeing details about other characters you might not have known, like the fact Siané is supposed to have blonde hair on the nelf model, or that someone has a wicked facial scar, without them having to specifically mention it.

I recommend MyRolePlay ( to start, though I use TotalRolePlay ( as it has a few additional functions that I like.

Edited by Xaraphyne

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How to Install, Update, & Maintain Addons

All right! So you’re ready to try addons? Then here’s where to find them, how to install them, and things you should be aware of when it comes to maintaining your addons.


Installation & Updating

- Addon Websites

As you may have noticed, I’m a fan of However, there is another popular WoW addon website, Plenty of mods are hosted on both sites, pretty much all of the popular/common ones are, but tends to have some of the more esoteric or cutting-edge mods. In any case, always ensure you have an adblocker up when visiting these sites, as these and other WoW fan sites can get infected with malicious ads that can compromise your WoW account, if not other personal information.


- Addon Clients

For a long time I distrusted the “Curse Client” that kept trying to push on me, but one day I tried it, and now I wish I had sooner. It’s recently been rebranded as the “Twitch Client” because I guess they got bought out or whatever, but it still works just fine, slightly better actually. I highly recommend installing it and using it to search for and install addons. Just search, click to install, and then check it every few days and click to update any addons that have been updated. So simple!


- Manual Installation

If you decide you’d rather do it yourself, here’s how. When you download a mod, what you get is a zip file. When you unzip it, you get a folder (or several folders). This/these need to be put in the Addons folder, which is in the Interface folder, which is in your WoW program folder (C:\Program Files\World of Warcraft\Interface\Addons). If you choose to install mods in this fashion, you will have to go through this process whenever there is an update for a mod.


- Picture Guide has an excellent picture guide with both of the above. See it here:



- Enabling/Disabling & Configuring Addons

Once you’ve installed an addon, when you run the game, by default it will be enabled for all characters. To turn it on/off per character, or for all characters, use the “Addons” button on your character select screen. In game, you’ll often be presented with a new popup; otherwise, look for a button on your minimap, or look in your Settings menu for the Addons tab (note: not the Addons button on the main menu, but under Settings, there’s an Addons tab).


- When Addons Break – Patches

Unfortunately, addons are capable of “breaking”, usually when WoW gets a new patch. Blizzard often changes how the game code works, or decides to block access to a functionality that an addon used, so the mod author has to correct their mod. Therefore, almost every patch will require maintenance on your part to update your addons. Also note that addons get turned off by default when a new patch arrives to avoid problems, so ensure you turn them back on once you’ve updated them.


- When Addons Break – Because ???

Sometimes, rarely, an addon just stops working correctly. Something gets fudged up. You may have to uninstall and reinstall the mod, which will entail more than just deleting the folders in the Addon folder for the mod – every character will also have data stored under their profile for that mod, and there’s a general store accessible by all characters for each mod as well. It can get to be a bit of a pain to figure out how to solve an issue and sometimes you end up having to just clear everything and rebuild your UI from scratch. So, just be aware that using a lot of addons, or highly complex addons, can up the technical proficiency and time required to make the game work. But, in the end, it may be worth it to you. Otherwise, having just a couple mods that you can easily redo from scratch if you really have to certainly can be!

Edited by Xaraphyne

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Would you like some examples for inspiration? Allow me to present some!



Stage 1: Spiffing Up A Bit


This is an example of UI which has only done a couple mods – looks like an action bar mod, a minimap mod, and a mod called “Titan Panel” that gives you a bar across the type like you see in your class order hall. As you can see, it’s just slightly spiffier, and the buttons are more conveniently condensed. Cool, right? Start there and see how you like it! The first hit is free.



Stage 2: Getting Adventurous


Here we have a UI where the player is trying out a few mods and combining that with other customization. As you can see, they’ve done a couple things which don’t even require addons – they’ve split their chat windows, and moved the player and target frames down. In addition, they’ve added a scrolling combat text mod, though it’s a little hard to see in this shot, and then they have a kind of play assistance mod which is the icons around center telling them when you use what abilities. Lastly, you have a damage meter in the bottom right corner... And I do spot an RP addon in the other bottom corner!



Stage 3: Getting Kind of Messy...


It’s okay, everyone goes through this stage. This is where you start realizing how useful addons can be and how much info they can tell you, and you just want it all! At this point your UI looks like an unintelligible mess to anyone else, and anyone who sees this is like oh heck naw why would I want addons if that’s what it looks like. You’ve got a mod here for unitframes, action bars, scrolling combat text, a threat meter, Titan Panel, DBM, and raid frames. And it’s messy and jarring but you’re figuring it out!



Stage 4: Cleaning Up


At this point, you’ve started determining that the clutter and noise needs to be cut down, and you start focusing on how to really fine-tune your addons to get exactly what you need out of them; no more, and no less. You start to view addons as a real passion, and find them vital. And you start looking at every single aspect of the UI and analyzing how to optimize it. (“That dang quest text is hanging down too low! I need a mod to move it...”) Mods shown here are unitframe, action bar, raid frame, cast bar, damage meter, minimap, scrolling combat text, boss mod, buff mod, nameplate mod, and chat mod.



Final Stage: Minimalistic


This is where most UI-modding enthusiasts end up – slightly full circle, ne? They end up going as minimalistic as possible, with only the information they absolutely, absolutely need to know on the screen, but customized so it’s exactly how they want it (and so that it looks hella cool too). Of course, most people showing off their “minimalist” UI do so at rest, and not in a group or even in combat, where you need to have more info on hand – but as you can see, they’ve obviously pared it down to the bare essentials, after determining what those were for them.



UIs in Action - Xara’s

I may as well show off where I’ve ended up with all my years of experience using addons. That was actually my UI in #4, if a couple years old now, and it hasn’t changed much fundamentally, but has gotten a little sleeker here and there. I do like having a lot of information on hand, as I’m very much a big-picture person after doing a fair share of raid leading and other shot-calling, so I haven’t gone down the minimalist route. It can still be a little much for someone used to the vanilla UI, but you might be able to see how it works. And once you’ve learned a few addons, it starts to make a lot more sense for sure!


- Healer:

This is what it looks like when I’m healing! Between my auras telling me when to renew what HOTs, and my raid frames showing me details about every person, including incoming heals, shields, & absorbs, as well as whether they’ve used a defensive, I can heal very effectively.


- Tank:

This is what it looks like when I’m tanking on my prot warrior. I’ve cleaned up my auras since this, but I still use them very heavily on my warrior, which has contributed to a very low DTPS.


- DPS:

A slightly older version of my UI (I hadn’t upped my buff mod/cooldown mod game yet, or cleaned up my combat text) but basically, all the same. I do go lighter on auras on DPS since I find it simpler, with less interrelating factors and things to track.



UIs in Action – ElvUI

Here’s what ElvUI looks like out of the box, and a guide to customizing it. If you don’t want to build a UI from scratch like I did, but you like the idea of having a completely revamped look, ElvUI can do a lot for you, as you can see in the first video. And if think you could handle a user-friendly UI customization interface to tweak it further, check out the second video!


- A basic ElvUI setup in action:


- ElvUI customization guide:


Edited by Xaraphyne

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I hope to have piqued your interest in addons, or, if you’ve already taken on a few, shown you how far you can go with them! As I said, you don’t need addons to excel at the game. But they can make the game more accessible, and some people enjoy UI-building as a pastime once they get into it. Like me!

If you need tips or suggestions, please feel free to post here, or ask me in Discord or wherever. I’m always down to help people out and compare notes. You can also show off your UI here, and/or ask for feedback on it! Go for it!

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