Macros are an important tool in World of Warcraft: they can be a powerful instrument in and out of combat, automate repetitive tasks, or used for fun. The possibilities are endless.
However, choosing an icon for your macro or set is not that charming. There are countless icons to choose from, but finding "the one" you need is not an easy task. Most of the time, users just give up and choose the first they can find. Don't you wish there was a better solution?
Then I gladly present you AdvancedIconSelector! This add-on improves much of the icon selection interface, widening it, and providing a search box to filter the icons. It works both for macro and equipment set editing screens, and it's search mechanism is incredibly effective, built upon an extensive database of keywords.
Furthermore, the add-on provides additional information on toolitps:
- Where the icons are used by the game.
- Which keywords are assigned to the icon.
- Where the icon file is located - which can be quite useful if you are a developer or an artist.
We also had the opportunity to have a chat with the add-on's author, Darthyl:
How did you come up with the idea for this add-on?
You'd think that an addon like this would be conceived as I'm getting ready to throw my keyboard out the window after not being able to find the icon I'm looking for in that tiny, non-searchable icon selector that comes with WoW.
Oddly enough, this isn't how it happened. AdvancedIconSelector was actually born thanks to another addon I was working on, called ActionSwap 2.
Last August, I began planning an addon to address the tediousness of recalling an action bar / glyph setup after a talent spec change. I thought that it would be really cool if you could try out your 3rd talent tree without losing your old setup, and knew that some poeple, such as my brother, were even respeccing on a regular basis! I also knew, however, that such an addon just wouldn't feel right unless the user could attach an icon to their saved setups (a mage's fire setup should have a fireball icon next to it, for example).
Upon investigation, I learned that Blizzard's icon selector is hard-coded into the macro / equipment set dialogs, and isn't available for use by addons. Finding no other library to fill the need for one, I decided to create a library of my own. Eventually, the search features I added to it were helpful enough to warrant replacing the standard icon selector outright, and thus I decided to release AdvancedIconSelector as a standalone addon, in addition to being a part of ActionSwap 2.
How did you manage to create the database of keywords assigned to each icon?
Manually. Except for a small amount of data imported from the spellbook, I had to enter each of the keywords myself. It definitely took a lot of dedication and time, but it's not as bad as you might think. Since there were so many keywords to enter, I streamlined the process by developing a custom keyword editor that plugs into the addon's main window. With it, I was able to enter data at a rate of about 1,000 icons per 24 hours. Upon the initial release, I had actually spent more time developing the addon itself than entering keyword data!
What was the hardest problem you came across during development?
I'd say that entering the keyword data was the hardest problem I had to deal with, simply because the sheer number of icons is so intimidating.
Originally, there were only about 1,200 icons that could actually be used for macros and equipment sets, and upon the first release of the addon, I was proud to have entered keyword data for every single one of them. What drove me, I think, was the idea that through my small sacrifice, everyone could forevermore enjoy deliciously searchable icons!
In patch 4.3, however, Blizzard increased the number of usable icons to almost 8,000, and getting through them has been an ongoing process. I've offset the sheer number of icons a bit by going through the most important ones first - the ones you're most likely to search for. Many of the new icons are equipment-related, and I figure you're much more likely to want accurate results for "inferno ruby" than for some random sword with a blue hilt...
I'm still working hard, though, and plan to provide many more updates as I go. Despite increases in the number of icons, search results should be getting better and better with each release I make.
Could you tell us about any other mods you currently have in progress, or planned for the future?
As mentioned earlier, I've recently completed an addon called ActionSwap 2, which was released in February. It's a bit more esoteric than AdvancedIconSelector, but should be awesome for anyone looking to try out a 3rd spec without having to discard their old action bar / glyph setup.
I haven't started work on any new addons since then in favor of keeping the ones I have up-to-date, but new projects to me are both spontaneous and inevitable, so I wouldn't be surprised if I end up with another one someday soon. =)
Do you have any advice for others who would like to start modding?
Upon the first major patch after the release of AdvancedIconSelector, Blizzard decided to make significant changes to the way icons were ordered in the macro / equipment set icon dialogs. I hadn't been paying attention to the patch's release date, however, and didn't log into the PTR until the evening before the release. "My addon is simple enough - what could go wrong?", right? Well, I had to spend a frantic night re-designing the addon to fix all the stuff that had broken and to match the new functionality that was now being provided in the standard icon dialogs!
So... my advice is that if you're going to make an addon, you need to make sure to stay up-to-date with patch release dates (i.e., subscribe to mmo-champion.com via RSS) and frequently re-test your addon on the PTRs.
Also, addons may be fun to write, but they're a %@#$% to maintain, and the smallest patch will often break them horribly. "Release" is not the end of an addon's development, as shown by the number of abandoned addons out there. You have to stay dedicated to providing updates, often large ones, on Blizzard's release schedule - not your own. If you stop paying attention even for a moment, the deadline for a major update to your addon can sneak up on you, or even fly right by you! Most people don't bother to report problems they have with your addon, so if you're not on top of things (or making use of your own addon), you might not find out that your addon doesn't actually work until months after it breaks...
Thank you to Darthyl for answering our questions and developing this add-on.