I have tried to write my own simple addon for WoW. There are many tutorials about creating addons. But, many of them are deprecated or not give you the full understanding about addons structure. I would like to write my own experience.

It will be a very simple addon, even without buttons. This addon will show coordinates, azimuth and pitch in a small window. Addon you can find here.

Also there are some libs for developing. And next tutorial will be about Ace3 library.

Addon structure

As you know addons store in “World of Warcraft/Interface/AddOns/”. Addon folder contains TOC file, LUA and XML files.


TOC - (Table Of Contents) required file, must be the same as directory name, provide information about your addon to the game (files, SavedVariables, Version, Tittle, etc.)
LUA - the code
XML - interface

Of course, you can create directories in the main addon folder. Actually I doing it, I have lua/ and xml/ folders. But main xml I store in root directory.


Create a ColorEncode.toc file, with this content:

## Interface: 60100
## Title: Test Addon
## Notes: Addon for testing

## Interface: 60100 version of the game where your addon should work, if it less than last version, in the game you will see warning about out of date addon.
## Title: Test Addon title of your addon, can be more readable
## Notes: Show your coordinates, azimyth and pitch description
main.xml files, actually you can write here only your xml file, because it include another lua files.

This parameters enough, here you can find more.


We create one simple xml file which describe an interface of our addon.

Begin with the base of xml file:

<Ui xmlns="http://www.blizzard.com/wow/ui/"

  <Frame name="TestAddon_MainFrame"

name="TestAddon_MainFrame" must be unique, because you will interact this in lua code
parent="UIParent" means that your frame child of main frame
hidden="false" actually it false by default
enableMouse="true" your frame will able interact with mouse
movable="true" and it can move, but that not enough to move frame, we talk about it later

Real frame of our addon you can find here. You should place all your elements under this frame.

More about <Frame> you can find here.

Next, set the size and position:

<Size x="63" y="50"/>
  <Anchor point="TOPLEFT">
    <Offset x="20" y="-90"/>

There was two type of size dimension: absolute and relative. By this notation it will absolute sizing also it works with <Offset> more.

Now let’s make our window more attractive.

<Backdrop bgFile="Interface\Tooltips\UI-Tooltip-Background"
    <AbsValue val="16"/>
    <AbsValue val="16"/>
    <AbsInset left="4" right="3" top="4" bottom="3"/>
  <Color r="0.2" g="0.2" b="0.2" a="0.7"/>

bgFile="Interface\Tooltips\UI-Tooltip-Background" texture for background
edgeFile="Interface\Tooltips\UI-Tooltip-Border" texture for border
tile="true" tile textures, not resizing

Now more functional part of xml file, layers Layer info.

I made just one layer for our information that enough, mostly it matter of architecture, you can make several layers and there is no any wrong about this.

My layer contains several FontString, this is just an element for text. I will describe first two. And open main.xml from github to easy understand

<FontString name="$parent_xString"
            text="x = "
  <Size x="0" y="10"/>
    <Anchor point="TOPLEFT">
      <Offset x="5" y="-5"/>
  <Color r="1" g="1" b="0" a="1"/>
<FontString name="$parent_yString"
            text="y = "

  <Size x="0" y="10"/>
    <Anchor point="TOPLEFT"
  <Color r="1" g="1" b="0" a="1"/>

I think you can understand most part of this xml. I just would like to say aboutAnchors in the second FontString.

As you can see there is new attributes: point, relativeTo, relativePoint. They needed for positioning your string on the frame. Ok lets try to clarify that, TOPLEFT point of your FontString will be positioning relatively to BOTTOMLEFT point of $parent_xString (or TestAddon_MainFrame_xString, see the name of the <Frame> in main.xml)

So, in other words $parent_yString positioning just under the $parent_xString.

This FontStrings will show only text x = and y = . FontString where will be real coordinate you can find in the bottom, example name: $parent_yCoorNum

Actually that enough with XML, but as I promised lets make the frame draggable.

In the end of main.xml there is:


That’s it, really, your frame will be draggable.


Most interesting part. First of all we need not just create lua script (it is obvious), but mention it in xml. So put this strings just after UI tag:

  <Script File="lua/cli.lua"/>
  <Script File="lua/main.lua"/>

I like store many small scripts than bigger one, so if you want you can include all your functionality in one lua script.

main.lua has several declared functions:

onload(self) calling when addon is loaded
onupdate(self, elapsed) calling when frame in the game updating
updateCoor() print all info what we want

For onload() and onupdate() worked we need call it, and that also must be declared in the xml:

  <OnLoad function="onload"/>
  <OnUpdate function="onupdate"/>

onupdate() func is quite dangerous for memory, if you not implement simple timer your small addon will consume all cpu time. I will not describe that timer, you can just copy that. This part mostly the same for many projects.

colorencode_updateInterval = 1.0 means your code in the timer will compute each one second.

updateCoor() function, using WoW API to get x, y coordinates, azimuth and pitch. Coordinates in raw format will be 0 > x > 1, for us more attractive it 11.1111 format, so simply calculate it.

After all, set the text of your FontString, by simple call:


Addon is done, place in AddOn directory, restart your WoW. I would like to mention, when you start the game, WoW load all file which you mention in the addon, to change something you can simply change the file and write /reload in the game. Your UI will be reloaded and changes applied, for both - lua and xml files. But if you add or remove files you need restart WoW.

Thanks for reading.

Here you can find my addon which I use, it decodes several params about character to color, for what look that :)

Useful links/books

http://wowprogramming.com/ - very good reference

Daniel Gilbert, James II Whitehead - Hacking World of Warcraft
James Whitehead II, Rick Roe - World of Warcraft Programming: A Guide and Reference for Creating WoW Addons
Paul Emmerich - Beginning Lua with World of Warcraft Add-ons