Tuesday, May 24, 2005

Making Diagrams

Steve had me over his house the other day to show him some computer programs so that he could make diagrams for chess materials he is working on. I realized after we met that I should write up a little tutorial about how to make chess diagrams, since he is not the first person who has asked me.

Of course, if you have one of the ChessBase programs such as Fritz, you can easily make diagrams for a Word document by (1) setting up the Fritz board the way you want it for the diagram, (2) going to Edit-->Copy Position, and (3) pasting the diagram into Word. If you don't have Fritz, you can use any number of other programs. But a tool that makes it all very easy is SnagIt (available to download for a free 30-day trial or pay $40 to use it for years). SnagIt is a screen-capture software program that allows you to easily capture screen views or portions of them (including chess diagrams) and save them as image files (such as .bmp, .jpg, or .gif -- the latter of which is best) or copy them to the clipboard to insert into a Word document. That way you can use any graphical user interface (including the familiar ICC interface) and then copy the board images with SnagIt for use with your writing. One big advantage of SnagIt is that it allows you to create images for the web as well as for print publications without having to buy Photoshop or another image editor.

Of course, if you are just interested in making diagrams for print, you will get a lot more out of Fritz or Shredder or one of those for about the same price.

Those in search of free programs should check out ChessPad (or download direct). It downloads quickly and sets up in a flash, and then the diagrams it makes are pretty good, especially for Word documents. It is also good for making PGN files.

To use it to make a diagram, simply use the graphical user interface (the chess board -- GUI for short) to set up the position you want. Then choose Position-->Copy As...-->Bitmap (or use Control+D as a shortcut -- or the little Copy as Bitmap button).

Then simply go to Word and use Edit-->Paste (or the shortcut Control+V) to paste the diagram into the body of your text wherever you want it. The diagram looks like this:

This works great for diagrams in Word documents. To make diagrams for the web, you will need to take a few different and more complicated steps, so maybe I'll save that for another lesson....

You can also use ChessPad to generate PGN files -- into which you can insert symbols:

...or insert written commentary:

By the way, I used SnagIt to capture those screen views.... Pretty useful.

With ChessPad you can make all sorts of adjustments to get things right. You may have noticed that I changed the board colors from the pea-green default colors to something more resembling the Kenilworth blue. It's a pretty cool. And it's free. You can't beat that.

Steve should be generating some interesting chess materials for the club in the coming months. I look forward to reading what he comes up with.

Meanwhile, you might like to know what Steve displays proudly on his mantle: the Kenilworth Chess Club Championship trophy. "It goes nice there" he said.


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