NGUI is regarded as one of the best UI frameworks for Unity. It’s constantly on the front page of the Asset Store, it has high reviews, and everyone I talk to swears by it. It’s good, but it has some serious failings. Let’s chat about it:

I put this first, because it’s a really glaring black mark on NGUI. It’s just not very well documented. Most ‘how to’ guides are in video form, which is not great if you want to get at information quickly. The small bit of text there is is… poorly written and confusing. The guide on UIGrid is a crazy mismash of information that leaves you more confused than enlightened. And 85% of the documentation is woefully out of date - they use the wrong class names, legacy workflows, or have just become plain wrong. It’s almost impossible to suss out exactly what your’e doing without painstakingly combing through examples or wildly guessing until you strike gold.

NGUI actually has a lot of stuff. It’s trivially easy (once you know how) to setup a table, make it scrollable, and rig it in such a way that it works across all resolutions. Complex widgets & interesting interactions are never terribly hard. In fact, I can’t think of a single widget I’d want that I can’t hook up in NGUI with a little effort.

I can’t speak a lot here - I haven’t dived too much into the localization system. But I do know at least one good thing and one bad thing. First the good: NGUI supports dynamic fonts as opposed to being exclusively bitmap font oriented, which is practically a requirement when you’re localizing to Asian languages. And the bad: the word wrapping for Asian languages is just wrong. They use a naive algorithm based exclusively on white space separation, and that’s just not good enough for most Asian languages. It’s a shame, since this is a pretty hard problem.

Unity 4.3 Integration
Unity 4.3 introduced 2D workflows as a first class citizen of Unity. NGUI quickly integrated it, but not in a particularly robust way - it’s impossible to use a Unity Sprite as a 9-slice. Which means if you want 9-slices, you’re forced to juggle NGUIs atlasing system & Unity’s. Not impossible, but not ideal. There’s nothing stopping them from doing this. I’ve dug into the code and seen how they render Unity Sprites, and the system could be extended to support 9-slices, but it’s not entirely trivial (NGUI has a system of complicated editors where setting up the right information is a little tricky).

That’s all I can talk about right now. I’d like to speak on performance, but I don’t know yet - I haven’t created a UI significantly complex enough to tax the system, and I’m unversed in Unity performance in general. So… let’s hope that doesn’t explode for me.

As of this writing, Daikon Forge looked like a decent competitor, but I couldn’t get the trial running on my system. There are certainly a few other solutions, and some of them might be good, I encourage you to explore them and let me know.