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Customizing the look and feel of Chess Assistant 7
keywords: Chess Assistant, Skins, Themes, Color, Font, Styles, Pieces, Background
Robert Pawlak
Saturday, March 06, 2004
While most of the methods discussed in this article are applicable to Chess Assistant 6, the use of styles are unique to Chess Assistant 7. The latter provides a way to change the appearance of a number of important visual elements, including the analysis pane.

Introduction

Chess Assistant offers a large number of ways to customize the appearance of its interface. Not only can you change the board appearance and piece set, but you can also modify background colors for various windows, as well as the appearance of the ICC window. This article will discuss some easy customizations that you can make to modify CA's appearance.

Installing Custom Boards and Piece Sets

It is possible to use other piece sets and boards with Chess Assistant (and other Convekta products as well). All you need to do is download and copy the files into the proper subdirectories. The first thing you need to determine is the location that CA is using on your system. For most computers, the default is something like: "c:\program files\chess assistant". If you have trouble finding CA's location, simply go to the windows "Search" function, and look for a files called ca*.exe. The directory that contains this file contains your installation of CA.

If you navigate to this directory, you should find a subdirectory called "Images". If you open this subdirectory, you will find two more subdirectories called "bgr" and "pieces", respectively. The "bgr" subdirectory contains the background files for the chess board displays. Thus, you could go to the downloads section of this site, and get the file called board_slate.zip, and extract it into this subdirectory. Likewise, piece sets (for example smart_piece_set.zip) would be extracted into the "pieces" subdirectory.

After you do this, select "Options" from the "Tools" menu. In the resulting dialog box that pops up, select the "Fonts and Colors" tab, then hit the "Advanced" button. The following dialog box should appear:

As shown in the screen shot, you want to select "From File", and "smart" from the drop down menu next to it. Then select "slate" from the drop down menu under "Board Background". Then you need to click "Ok" in this dialog box, and the settings dialog. When you're done, you should notice that your board will look something like the picture below. Also note that in this dialog, you can select the colors used for graphical board annotations as well.

Incidentally, there are two types of board display in CA. One is used for viewing games normally, and the other is used for small board views in things like the search dialog, and split views. You can control the look and feel of each of these boards separately. While I outlined instructions for making these modifications to the game view, the same settings can be changed for search dialogs, split views, and the like. These settings are accessed from the "List" tab of the options dialog.

Furthermore, you should also note that CA maintains a distinction between global and local options. For instance, you can change the appearance of a single board, without changing the default (global) appearance of the board. As an illustration of this, right-click over the board, and select the menu option called "This window's properties...". This allows you to modify the appearance of the board, without making the changes permanent. But if you do decide to make them permanent, you should click on "Copy to global options".

List mode customization

You can also modify the appearance of datasets if you so desire. This is accessed from the same dialog box that you used for changing the appearance of the board. This time, click on the folder labeled "List mode". On the right, you will see a couple of dialog boxes that can be used to set the foreground and background colors of list views. You can also change the background color of the moves list as well. In the screen shot below, I have chosen to make the font for displaying the list view bold, as well as changed the background color to gray. The setting labeled "Sheet color" changes the background color of the game view (the game view is part of the window where moves are displayed, right next to the board).

Font/game view customization

You can also modify the fonts used within the game view if you so desire. Unfortunately, there are a couple of ways to do this. One way is fairly simple and straightforward, while the other is a bit more complex. I'll look at the easiest method first. In the screen shot shown above, you can also click on the folder labeled "Game notation". From there you will see a tree display of individual elements that you can use to modify the appearance of the game view. This includes the color of different types of variations, the font used, the weight, etc. I won't devote any more explanation to this, since it is a straightforward process.

The second method for changing the appearance of the game view is to use styles. This particular CA feature is very much based upon the concept of styles as they are used in word processors. Thus you can think of them as a way to globally affect how certain types of moves are displayed in the game view. But they also have another important feature - you can search for any move that has a style applied to it.

If you look at the previous screen shot of the "Options" dialog, you will see a small button in the lower right corner labeled "Advanced...". If you click on this button, you should see the following window open up:

While this dialog may look quite complex, it is really fairly easy to understand conceptually. Each style can be applied to a move to affect its appearance in the game body. Through this dialog, you control how certain types of moves are displayed, by changing the font, font weight, color, etc. At several points in the above dialog, you see a checkbox labeled "Override global". Essentially, global settings are the settings that are defined back in the "Game notations" section of the "Fonts and Colors" part of the "Options" dialog. If you chose to "Override global" for a particular style, then any move marked with that style will not inherit that particular attribute from the global settings, but will instead use its own. My recommendation is to leave things like the font family unchanged for the move styles, since the resulting output can look a bit strange if you don't. Obviously, the small preview window gives you an indication of what the move style will look like when it appears in the game body.

The other settings in this dialog are well explained in the help file for CA. Make sure you have the latest copy, which can be downloaded from this link.

While most of the styles are there for the user, there are a few styles that CA will assign automatically when it performs analysis tasks.

There are also a few important styles that you might want to make use of as well, they are:

Incidentally, the search functionality that styles provide somewhat overlaps classes as well. In general, I prefer the use of markers for things like prophylactic moves, strategic play, etc. I think that styles should be used more for word-processing like functionality. The guidelines you adhere to are obviously of your own personal choosing ;-).

Changing the Appearance of  the ICC Window

The ICC window's appearance uses the same style paradigm that is used for modifying the appearance of the game view. These settings are accessible by right-clicking over the open ICC game window. Once there, you can chose to modify the fonts, colors, and background image for the ICC window, if you so desire. There is even an option for automatically selecting colors that are consistent with Blitzin's interface. As an illustration, I've come up with a fairly bizarre scheme to show you what you can do with these settings:

Conclusion

With the release of CA 7, Chess Assistant provides a large number of ways in which you can modify the look and feel of the program. The "Options" and "Styles" dialog boxes provide a way to accomplish this. If you want to change the piece set or board, there are some free downloads available, and all you need to do is extract them to the appropriate directory on your hard drive.

 







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