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Web Publishing with Chess Assistant
keywords: HTML, DHTML, Export, Web
Robert Pawlak
Monday, August 28, 2006
Producing web pages with Chess Assistant is quite easy to do. There are two output formats: plain HTML and dynamic HTML. You can exercise more control over DHTML output, but extensive modifications require rudimentary knowledge of HTML.

Chess Assistant (CA) offers a few ways to put games up on the web. This article will outline how these features are used, along with an explanation of how some of the HTML export options should be set. The article is in two sections. In the first, I will talk about the easiest method for getting a game up on a web page. In the second, I will make use of some of the more advanced HTML export options.

First Method

To start, let's examine the simplest way to create a web page that contains games and commentary for a single game. For the purposes of this example, we will look at the game Belevanets vs. Botvinnik, Moscow, 1934. Before we make a web page out of this game, let's set make sure the appropriate options are set in the print options dialog. This dialog box controls the export of games to paper/RTF and HTML formats. So select "Print" from the main menu, and the "Print and export options". Click on the "Web export" tab, and make sure that you make the settings appear as shown on the screen below:

This is the default for producing HTML output from CA. The output is in it's most fundamental form, and you can see the results here. Essentially, you've got very basic HTML output in a single web page. This is ok for quick examples, but is not what you want for displaying a large number of games. However, if you want people to be able to print out your annotated games from the web, then this format might be a good choice.

The other drawback with the way the output is produced is that it assumes the person reading the page has Chess Assistant, or other Convekta programs installed on their computer. This is because special chess symbol fonts are used to display characters in this web page. If you want to make it so that your pages are viewable by everyone (even those without CA), you should enable the option called "Use gifs instead of CA Chess  font". The results of setting this option can be viewed here. If you've got CA installed on your computer, you shouldn't see much difference.

This option tells CA to substitute tiny graphics in lieu of each the symbols for the chess pieces. By the way, if you want, you can also set a subdirectory for storage of piece graphics (this is the setting at the bottom of the dialog box).

Another way to address the font problem is to use a different chess "Language". If we set the option called "Use different notation settings", and the select "Short" and "English", the output will use the letters K,N,R, etc. to represent the pieces.

Second Method (more advanced)

Now let's take a stab at creating some better looking web pages. Here, we will use something called "Dynamic HTML", or DHTML for short. Preparing DHTML output is a two step process. First, let's make sure that all the web export options are set properly for DHTML output:

One setting that you might want to modify is "Use HTML 4". The output produced will then be HTML 4 compliant (as opposed to leaving it unchecked, which will result in HTML 3.2 compliance). Once again, this is a factor if older browsers are being used to view your pages. If you don't know what these settings mean, then I would just leave this checkbox unchecked.

For this example, let's print out a whole set of games for viewing. You can view the results of this process here. Incidentally, these games were taken from Convekta's CD of annotated Botvinnik games; you can find a review here. You'll note that all of CA's HTML output uses relative addressing, which means that you only need to preserve the basic folder structure when you copy the files to your web server. For example, the screenshot below shows the folder structure created by CA for the Botvinnik games. You would simply copy all files, folders, and files within the folders to your web server (in this case: bot_html_files, common, and bot_dhtml.htm). Then you would simply create a link to the file called bot_dhtml.htm.

[botvinnik directory structure]

Now, there are a couple of important options that you need to know about for DHTML output. To access these, click on the "Options..." button, which is enabled when you clicked the "Dynamic HTML" checkbox. The first of these is called "Replace chess font literals with string". This setting controls whether plain English should be substituted for Informant symbols. In some earlier versions of CA, not all symbols were supported, later versions (ver 8/9) seem to have all the symbols. Another important option is the Page title. This tells the browser what to display in the title bar of the browser window.

Another set of important format controls is under the tab labeled "General". Here you can set the color and layout of the DHTML. The only major restriction is that you need to stick to the three frame layout that is shown in the dialog. If you look at the output (shown here), and compare it to the dialog, you'll see that each frame has placeholders for data. These are indicated by HTML comment tags (prefixed with <--!). If you compare the output with the placeholders, you'll soon figure out what they mean.

The one important gotcha that you need to be aware of, is that the basic layout of HTML elements within each frame is done using tables. If, for instance you'd like to change the color of a particular element (in my example, I've changed the background color of the the game moves to be light yellow). Then you need to edit the corresponding table element. This is separate and distinct from the background element of the page. Anyone that has dealt with HTML design in the "bad old days" before the advent of CSS, recognizes that this is a common trick for formatting elements on a page (that is, ensuring proper placement).

If you have chosen to use Convekta's HTML editor, make sure you select "Save to sender and close" from the main menu, when you've finished with your edits.

Conclusion

In this article, I looked at several methods for producing HTML output from within Chess Assistant. Each one has its attendant strengths and weaknesses, as I outlined in the article. You'll quickly find that the DHTML method can produce some beautiful pages that are highly customizable. Dadi Johnson, who has alot of Icelandic chess coverage uses Chess Assistant in this fashion.

 







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