Jan 062016
 

Mastering the UI Layout
If you are the type that only plays one character, you probably don’t have very much trouble managing your screen arrangements. You have one, sometimes you need to adjust it, but since you are only playing the one character you probably know where everything is quite well.

Or you could be like me and play 19 characters (on one server alone), characters that are by design each unique, each containing capabilities that are as variant from each other as I can make them. Meaning, they may need different windows arrangements too.

Nineteen completely different arrangements would never work; I would never be able to find anything. Ever.

So instead, I’ve come up with just one generic layout, and I make them all play within it. Thank the gods for the ability to save and recall layouts. More on that below.

Look at the user interface in the image at the top of this article, and then compare it to this user interface:

Mawry fights a green dragon

If it helps, here are the full size versions of each image: hezrou, dragon. Notice that both of the ui layouts are essentially the same. The characters are very different – in the hezrou image, Mawry is a FeyBuckler, a warlock with a bard swashbuckler splash. In the dragon image, Mawry is a Dexterity Commando, a mostly-Ranger designed to hot-swap between melee and ranged attacks.

The characters are very different. But the bars remain the same. Mostly.

How To Save Layouts
A “UI Layout” describes the way that you have your hot bars, hit point bars, chat window, and other elements of the user interface arranged. “UI Layout” is just another way to say “windows arrangement”

Once you have your windows arranged exactly the way you want, you can save that arrangement and re-apply it later. To save your arrangement, in your chat window type “/ui layout save layoutName”, except use your own word instead of layoutName.

This creates a file (in your documents\dungeons and dragons online\ui\layouts folder) that identifies where you put everything on your screen and saves it all.

You can restore everything to the same place that you saved by loading the saved layout. To do this, type “\ui layout load layoutName” in your chat window, but use your own word for layoutName again.

Examples of use:

  • You can come up with one generic layout, save it, and then easily apply it to all of your characters
  • You can save a layout right before you TR, and the load it back on your character when it has been recreated
  • You can have one saved layout that you use for all your characters, or you can save a different layout for each character

Caveat:

There is one element that is not saved in your layout. Your status indicator icons will always appear along the top left of your screen. If you would rather they be on the top right, follow these steps. The UI layout save feature does not save status icon locations.

The key, for me, is to create “zones” where specific types of things are allowed to appear, and then consistently use those zones no matter the character.

I sort of evolved this approach. I started by having my best healing ability always in the same place on every character – there is no other capability that I am more likely to need under stress. You don’t want to be jumping and shucking and doing a serpentine dance while at the same time trying to scan through all your hot bars to find a heal.

Soon my best heal was in my second hotbar, in space 10, on every character. No matter who I am playing, I can always access a heal by hitting my alt indicator key (which I have mapped to the quote key “‘”) and 0. ‘0 = heal. Very handy.

Over time I found myself applying the same principle to other abilities. Eventually I began divvying up the screen into specific zones, not just the fast heal key, but everything.

UI layout by zones

My generic layout, by zones

There will always be some variance between characters; casters have so many spells available on top of everything else. But even so, even my casters start with this template and when they do add bars, they add them in the same general zones.

Breaking it down in greater detail:

My general-purpose user interface layout in detail

Hotbar details

There are zones within zones. For me, it is easier to find things that are on the left or upper outer edge of a zone, rather than items that are muddled in the middle. So the things I am most likely to want in a hurry are out on the edges, probably on top or on the left.

In the keyboard zone, the items I hit the most often are essentially sorted numerically from 1 to 10. And then ‘1 to ‘0. And then ‘F1 to ‘F10.

Situational gear is sorted similarly, although I keep types together, for instance all the trinkets in one place. I prefer situational gear that has unique, easily identifiable art. As an example, I prefer the easily-findable Bottle of Air over the generic-belt-looking Bubble Belt or the identical-to-other-bracers Aquatic Bracers, even though the belt and bracers are both better than the bottle.

The equipped bar contains everything I am wearing, making it easy to swap back after using a piece of situational gear.

The mouse click zone is made of vertical bars and has the most zones within zones. It also differs the most from character to character. On the other hand, it is also full of things that – at least for the most part – I expect to have time to find when needed.

  • Feat and stance toggles always go on the right-most bar
  • Mnemonic potions go along the top somewhere
  • Buffs are on their own bar. If I also have group buffs, they are on their own bar too. Buff bars are in the middle of the vertical zone
  • Hirelings are generally in the left-most bar
  • The Spider Cult Mask is special because all of my characters have it and none of them like to leave it on once used. It always goes in the upper left area, and so does whatever cosmetic helmet a character may have to reapply once the Cult Mask has been used
  • The Harper Pin is lower left
  • Teleport/Greater Teleport and Dimension Door spells or scrolls or rods, and the Key to Eveningstar go lower left

The Harper Pin, mnemonics, and possibly Teleports are the only thing in the mouse click zone that I expect to need in a hurry, and because of the zones-within-zones approach, I can always find them.
 

 
Everyone is different. Some people prefer the mouse all the time, others prefer the keyboard. There are probably as many ways to arrange the hot bars as there are players in the game. In fact, there have been entire Hall of Fame forum threads devoted to the topic.

But this is how I do mine.

How do you do yours?

🙂 😀 🙂

p.s. If you want to post an image showing your hot bars or whatever, please do, but it may not appear correctly when you post your comment. Never fear, I will come behind and correct HTML code to display your image. Just make sure it is a good link that is on a page that is publicly view-able.

p.p.s. Get your nominations in!

Enter your nominations for the 2015 Gamey awards!

  12 Responses to “How To Manage Your User Interface”

Comments (12)
  1. Whenever I create/reincarnate a character, my stock UI layout saves me so much time/sanity/etc =)

    Throw a few extra bars out, rotate here and there, /ui layout load … huzzah!

    I really should create a couple more layouts, for caster builds, and, somehow I always feel I want to add another quickbar, or spend 5 hours making everything line up pixel perfect.
    (And if I could remember how I used to lay out my clerics’ UIs, so I can at least pretend to heal the right people at the right time, by the right amount!)

    Come to think of it, I think I only have 1 character with split chat windows, it works really well… Why isn’t that in my stock layout?

  2. I have always tried to figure out a “better way” to lay these things out too. I never had a great way before, and I have used some of the same techniques as you, but I believe that your way is a MUCH better way to run your toon’s UI layout. I am going to take a look at this in more detail, and attempt to copy as much as I can and see if it works out better for me. I hate dying because I don’t know where I put my heal pot. I have also accidentally transported myself to Eveningstar in the middle of a raid, because I hit the wrong key, which totally sucks.

    • I also have a question, how big is your playing screen, and at what resolution do you play at? I think that might help me too, so that I can get the space I need to see the “action” and have room for the UI bars…

      • The monitor is 3840×2160 but I can’t read my hot bars at that resolution and instead have to play at 2560×1440.

        Details here

        • Thank you very much! I don’t think I have that much in resolution, I am running with a moderately sized laptop, but I will try my hand at running at the best (read smallest) resolution that I can run it at.

        • Geoff, your resolution is still impressive to a pleb like me.

          I was quite satisfied when I stopped playing DDO on 1600*900, I have no idea how I used to play on my 1024*768 tablet-thing (it is a shame one of the updates upped the min. reqs. for the game, else I still might at least do character admin on my tablet).

        • I am stuck with something like 1300*800, so I am pretty much screwed for your UI solution. I might get 4 across, but nothing going down, without getting something better to run the game with… I don’t see myself plugging in to my TV via an HD connection anytime soon, unless the Mrs. decides to get another 42″ flat-screen…

  3. Geoff, it looks like you may need to post a sequel for people with smaller screens.

    Since I can’t display all the bars at once, I have some on-screen at all times; the rest I keep in the “rotating” bar and call them up as needed.

    Bars that are always visible include:
    – Hotbar 1 (F1-F10) and Hotbar 2 (bound to keys 1-0). These are the buttons the character uses the most often: favorite weapons, favorite spells, favorite stances and special attacks, his best healing spell, etc.
    – Healing: Spells, wands & potions of cure, repair, remove blindness, neutralize poison, restoration, Siberys cakes (the ultimate heal!), mnemonic potions (healing my spellpoints), etc.
    – Equipped bar: just like yours
    – Situational Weapons: Metal types, specific banes,

    The latter bar includes:
    – Ctrl-B brings up the “Bag” bar: Ingredient bags, Collectible bags, quivers, and (for casters) spell components (to easily see if I’m running out.)
    – Ctrl-U brings up the “Undead” bar: Ghostbane and Disruption weapons, anti-Undead spells, Turn Undead. If in a quest where undead are omnipresent, I can pull this bar out to keep on screen.
    – Ctrl-T for the ten destinations of the Teleport spell.
    – Ctrl-E for my secondary Equipped bar. (I tend to swap a lot). I also put long-duration clickies here, like Power Attack, so I’m aware if it gets shut off for some reason.

    One note about arranging hotbars and other windows: try to keep them off the lower part of the screen, so they don’t obscure monsters in melee with you.

    • Sounds like you have a good system down, a nice balance of quickbars and extra key binds, without going crazy. 🙂

      I’ve always wanted to play more with the bindings, but I change computers too often and I’d confuse myself… I’m reminded of when mouse gestures were super popular, and people would try to their familiar gestures on unfamiliar computers, hehehe.
      (Rebinding the function keys would certainly mess me up, I often use them for hard targeting party members.)

      Someone that still stocks situational weapons, woooo, a player after my own roguish heart.

    • I forgot to ask, with your rotating bars, do you ever get the mouse wheel bug?

    • Impressive organizational skills, Shawn!

What do you think?

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