Map & Navigation Addons for World of Warcraft

For some people, they might find the in-game map for World of Warcraft perfectly fine and see no need to change it. I, however, am not one of those people. When I’m installing my addons after a fresh (aka ‘vanilla’) install the first few addons are always dealing with my action bars, but the second batch of addons all have to deal with the map and navigation. To me, the default map is woefully constricting and lacking in some much needed features like mapnotes. Today let us go through and cover some of the common Map & Navigation addons as well as some possibly not as well known but I highly suggest.

 

Probably the first, and to some people ‘end all’, map addon is Cartographer. An ACE styled addon, it’s very modular (meaning it allows plugins to itself) and has quite a few options. Originally it was very lightweight, but after a time I found the sheer amount of ‘needed’ plugins to make the entire thing cumbersome. By far the best thing that Cartographer does is that opening up the world map does not hijack your entire screen and prevent you from doing anything else. Using Cartographer you now open up a smaller frame on your screen that contains the worldmap which you can adjust it’s size, position, and transparency. It also adds full maps for battlegrounds and instances. One of the features I like the most is removal of the “fog of war’”, meaning you can see the entire map without having to ‘discover’ the large blank sections. It also includes coordinates and allows you to add notes on your map.

Here are just a few of the many avaliable plugins for Cartographer:

  • Vendors – every time you open up a vendor screen it makes a mapnote at your location to show you the name and subtitle of the vendor.
  • Trainers – Open up the dialog box for a class or profession trainer and it creates a mapnote at your location with the name and type of trainer it is.
  • Mailboxes – Auto note the location of a mailbox after using it.
  • Quest Objectives – Makes mapnotes for locations where you complete quest objectives. Very good for dailies where you have to go get certain items from either drops or ‘gathering’.

There is also Cartographer 3.0, but don’t be fooled by the name. It’s a completely different type of map addon. I think with the release of WotLK ckknight, the author, tried to discontinue old Cartographer and only continue with Cartographer 3.0. This, however, did not go over well. The backlash was so bad that Cartographer 3.0 is now considered “experimental” and they have picked back up the old Cartographer.

With the announcement of old Cartographer being discontinued, I was desperate to find a new map addon that did everything cartographer did. After much searching I found someone who recommended Mapster.

Mapster is simple and elegant. It gives your map the same freedom that Cartographer does, but doesn’t come with all the bloat. It does not include Instance maps, but considering I hardly ever step foot on either that’s perfectly fine for me. (Also, the WoW 3.1 patch will add instance maps to the default map-set so this point will be moot.) It does include Coordinates and “Fog of War” removal, as well as adjusting your party/raid icons to better tell who is where. The one thing it does NOT have, however, is mapnotes. For those, we turn to HandyNotes.

Like Cartographer, HandyNotes is somewhat modular and has a few separate addons you can download for various purposes. HandNotes itself is a way to manually add mapnotes onto your map. The beauty comes in with the plugins:

  • Quest Givers – The author pulled all the locations for –all- quest givers and added their locations to your map. No having to visit them first, they are already there. It does not monitor to see if you have already done their quests, have followup quests, or are currently doing their quests, it simply displays their location and the rest is up to you. Perfect for those who are looking to do the Lore Master achievement.
  • Flight Masters – Adds very nice icons where flight masters are located. Hovering over the icon displays the connecting flight paths. Horde are in Red, Alliance in Green, Neutral in Orange. Again, comes preloaded without you having to go find them.
  • Mailboxes – Works like the cartographer plugin. Marks the locations of mailboxes after you use them.
  • Trainers – Displays class/trainer specific icons for each trainer you visit.
  • Vendors – Marks each vendor you encounter, even displaying which type of vendor with a unique icon (ie: repairers have an anvil icon, innkeepers have a hearthstone, etc)

There are a few more out there, so feel free to explore.

So, we have our map, our mapnotes, what else?

Waypoints!

There is really only one addon for this: TomTom (not to be confused with TomTomFu, the fubar plugin).

Waypoints can be added any number of ways:

  • Manual entry – If you type /way in the text box you will see the command usage displayed. Here are the examples from the download page:
    • Add new waypoint at 14.78, 23.90 in your current zone:
      /way 14.78 23.90
    • Add new waypoint in Nagrand at 45, 50:
      /way Nagrand 45 50
    • Add new waypoint with a description:
      /way 14.78 23.90 This is a waypoint!
  • Click on your worldmap – It might depend on what addons you have installed, but I think it’s either Ctrl-Right Click or Alt-Click.
  • Receive from another player – Both parties have to have TomTom installed. The person who already has the waypoint can right click on the waypoint and “share” it with party, guild, raid, or battleground.
  • Import from another addon – Other addons will often make it easy to create waypoints. HandyNotes allows you to right click on a mapnote and add it as a waypoint in TomTom. LightHeaded has coordinates from WoWHead.com and you can click to auto import into a TomTom waypoint.

After setting a waypoint you will notice three things. First there will be a large “Crazy” waypoint arrow on your main screen showing which direction your waypoint is located based on what direction your character is facing. This arrow changes colors based on if you are going in the right direction or not and is also moveable. Second, a green dot will appear on your world map where the waypoint is. Hovering over the green dot will give you any description for the waypoint, distance to the waypoint, and the actual coordinates for the waypoint. The last thing that happens is on  your minimap. If your waypoint is within range of your minimap, then a green dot will appear where your waypoint is. If it is not, the green dot turns into an arrow telling you which direction you need to go in.

TomTom also adds coordinates to both your main world map as well as a small coordinate block that you can move around your screen. If you have any other addons that add coordinates to the map, like Mapster, you’ll need to be sure to pick one to turn off. I personally find TomTom’s ability to be more precise coordinates more useful so I stick with it and turn everything else off.

Speaking of coordinate precision, let me explain a bit to those who are a bit new to waypoints in WoW. The X.Y coordinates do not exactly translate to latitude and longitude in the real world, but there is one similarity. A basic X,Y location is actually a very large area. When you get the coordinates for, say, a quest NPC, and all it says is 19,20.. don’t expect the coordinates to land you right on top of the NPC. Just go in expecting it to be in that general area. If you can, try to get more precise coordinates like 19.30, 20.90. This will practically land you right on top of the NPC. Also, just because you can go in a straight line doesn’t mean you should. Sometimes there are paths up mountains that you have to take in order to actually reach your destination. If you can fly, well, it also doesn’t tell you what height your waypoint is actually at. If it’s a multilevel area, you could be directly above or below your target and not know it. Keep all this in mind while playing.

Now, by now we have our map addon, mapnotes, and waypoints. What else could you POSSIBLY need?

Well, as I mentioned above, there is an addon called LightHeaded that is one of the best quest helpers out there. It adds a tab to your quest log that contains information pulled from WoWHead.com. It includes not only the common “who gave this and where”, but also comments from users that can be useful like coordinates on where to go or what to expect. Considering this is a quest addon, I’m not going to talk about it much here. I might do a Quest Addon article later and talk more about it there.

If you have a gathering profession like mining or herbalism, then  you might look at getting Gatherer. Every time you tap a vein or herb, it adds that information to your database and marks it on your map. There is a prepopulated database you can download, but frankly I find it overwhelming and unhelpful. I like being able to actually look at my own personal stats and know what did I get where, and the percentages of what I did get. Honestly this isn’t a ‘essencial’ addon by anymeans. I just find it fun and useful. It also does keep track of some other things like netherdrake eggs in Shadowmoon Valley and treasure chests everywhere.

I think this pretty much wraps things up. Here are my recommendations for people to try out:

What map and navigation addons do you like to use?

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