Thursday, September 08, 2005

Adding Java Applets to Your Chess Site

Based on my own experience and conversations with others, I think many chessplayers these days look at more games on their computers than they do with an actual set and board. That means that fewer and fewer players are likely to print out a game they find online or set up a board next to their computers to play along. There might be exceptional cases, such as the excellent annotated games at Chess Cafe, which I regularly print out to play over (though, frankly, I probably print out three for every one I actually find time to play through). But for the most part, speaking now to my fellow-chessbloggers and chess site managers, unless the games you post are in an electronically accessible format, they are unlikely to be played over by most visitors to your site. The most likely to be played over are those that appear with java applets for online viewing, since anyone who can click a link can look at them almost immediately.

So how do you get those java applets? Well, it's really not that hard. And if you already have a blog or website, you likely have all the basic knowledge needed to learn how, with one caveat: If you are a blogger who is reliant on Blogger or some other free blog-space, you will need to establish some web space for posting your java applet HTML files (since you cannot post files to Blogger). You can find some advice on that at my links pages on Web Publishing and Computer Chess. There are many inexpensive and free web servers out there. The one thing I'd emphasize, though, is "you get what you pay for": free web space is not always a good deal.

You will also need to pick a good java applet or pgn viewing program and master it with the aid of their help files. I don't intend to offer an exhaustive list of free java applet programs. That seems to have been done already at the wonderful long-standing page from En Passant on "Chess Diagrams and Java Applets" which lists the best freeware and shareware programs. Rather, I've tried to create a simplified listing for chess bloggers and those new to managing chess websites, along with some links to how these applets are actually being implemented.

Here is a selection:

1) Palview
http://www.enpassant.dk/chess/palview/index.htm
I have found this to be a wonderfully robust FREE program for creating java applets. I have also used it extensively at the Kenilworth Chess Club site (see here, here, here, and here for example) and at my Urusov Gambit website (see here and here). It is an extremely versatile program as you can see from their Demo Pages and Palview Links. I cannot speak highly enough of this excellent program. Be sure to also get the indispensible Palmate program which makes using Palview fast and easy.

2) ChessBase 7+
http://www.chessbase.com/shop/
There are so many free java applet chess programs out there that I think you'd be crazy to buy ChessBase9 just to make webpages. But if you already have the program or you have other good reasons to buy it (and there are many), then it will make your life easier to some extent. It is the method of choice for The Chess Mind, ChessBase (of course), and many others on the web. I especially like the way the Spanish-language Inforchess site uses it. There is a lot of help that comes with the program and you can find more online from Mig Greengard and Steve Lopez.

3) PGN2Web
http://pgn2web.sourceforge.net/
This program is free and comes with lots of help files. It is the progam that DreadPirateJosh uses to post his games. It looks easy to use and appears to deal very well with annotations.

4) LT-PGN-Viewer
http://www.lutanho.net/pgn/pgnviewer.html
The preferred method of Der Alter Goniff, who has also written a useful piece titled "The Quick and Dirty Method of Using LT-PGN-Viewer." Der Alter Goniff posts his games at a website but then embeds them into his blog using an I-frame. The idea is attractive since it does present your game to your readers for immediate viewing (zero-clicks away). However, this method introduces several problems of usability. For one, the page will be very slow and quirky since Blogger itself has a slow server, but on top of that those people who access your page may be using a Mozilla-based browser on which I-frames do not work or they may have a slow connection. So I would not recommend imitating Der Alter Goniff on the way he uses it. But the program itself looks good.

5) ChessViewer 2.1 by Andrew Gove at the Internet Chess Club
http://www.chessclub.com/chessviewer/
Preferred viewer of J'adoube. It's not clear to me whether or not the program can show annotations but it seems perfectly usable for posting games.

6) Misty Beach PGN Viewer
http://www.mistybeach.com/products/PGNViewer/index.html
One of the first PGN viewers and still quite usable for those with either the knowledge or the time to master it. Its chief advantage is that it is small and therefore quite usable for readers with only dialup access. A good example of this classic PGN vewer in action is available at Sarah's chess blog featuring Morphy's Games. Its chief drawback is that it is no longer in active development and therefore could easily develop compatability problems that go unrepaired, and its help files require some computer knowledge to use.

Let me know what you would add to this list-or if you want to recommend any of these to readers.

9 comments:

DreadPirateJosh said...

Nice post, I'm going to check out Palview myself. As you noted pgn2web works pretty good and is easy to use once you upload all the files.
Are you familiar with the JavaScript tool that King's Gambit wrote to help post diagrams? It's in his July 26, 2004 post here: http://kingsgambit.blogspot.com/2004_07_01_kingsgambit_archive.html

I don't think you've seen it yet and you may want to add it to your collection. I think it works similar to pgn2web.

(Information for your readers since I'm sure you are aware of it: my games page is loaded on a free geocities (yahoo) site which not only creates ads on the page but has annoying pop ups, not very pretty but it is free).

Michael Goeller said...

Thanks Josh. I think the java applet adds a lot to your site. I'll have to check out the link you sent about KG's program--I missed that one. Also, thanks for the info for readers. As I say, "you get what you pay for." I always think of Bill Wall's great site, which regularly exceeds the traffic allowed by Yahoo's free accounts....

Chess Patzer said...

Well you can also use this free online tool that will make a flash playable game just by cutting and pasting PGN code. It's easy and works in blogger and any other major blogging platforms. What's more, flash is lighter than Java and runs faster.

You can find it at:
http://chess.maribelajar.com/chesspublisher

Shameless plug (because I wrote it myself!)

ChessGenie said...

You may not know heard about me but I can display Chess diagrams, puzzles and view PGN games as well... see ChessGenie at www.rootyhillchess.org.

Trevor said...

Hi, thanks for a very interesting site....I just wanted to say that I am also trying to use Palview for displaying games. I'm trying to do a blog on the 1972 Spassky Fishcer chammpionship. I have managed to generate game 1 in Palview...and it looks excellent...but when I try and add a page element to my blog (I use Blogger)..., I go to add HTML, copy the palview html and it only displays the text and a vertical line where the board should be....please, does anyone have any suggestions as I can see you have managed to do it....I am using Firefox by the way...I'm sure it works somehow, I just can't see where the problem lies...thanks in advance,

Michael Goeller said...

Trevor --
I am not sure the problem you are having, but my guess is that you don't realize that the java applet needs its dependent files (including all of the images associated with the diagrams for instance) in order to display anything. The HTML code alone is insufficient. The easiest solution is to post your java applets at some webspace you have and then simply link to them from blogger or embed them into your site. But you have to create the html separately.

Trevor said...

Hi Michael,
Thank you so much for your comment and for taking time to reply to me.
Im not sure I understand exactly what you mean, as I am not really a computer expert...but I just wanted to get Palview to show in my blog just exactly how you do...by the way, I have Wordpress also now...do you think I could be able to do it now ?..sorry for sounding such a nerd...

Michael Goeller said...

I recently published a piece titled "Chess Publishing, Web 2.0 Style" that really updates all of this and presents much simpler methods available now for posting applets.

Anonymous said...

What about a playing free applet with fen embedded setup position? I have to let my pupils train in endgame positions online ...
Any help?

Thank you very much,
Willi.