by Steve Lopez

You can find the neatest stuff when you're not even looking...

The other day I was just messing around with Fritz6 and stumbled across a really cool feature completely by accident. I was looking at my standard board layout for Fritz6 as illustrated below:

For those readers who care about such things, this display is on a 17" monitor with 1024x768 HiColor graphics and alternate fonts selected, which is why it may look a bit different from what you're used to seeing on your own computer.

This is my "playing" layout. The board is huge while the other panes aren't particularly big. This allows me to see the board pretty easily. I'm not too worried about the notation or the analysis here, because I'd be using this layout when actually playing a game (perhaps with the analysis pane made smaller or even removed altogether). I wish the evaluation profile display was a little bigger, but if I drag it downward it makes the notation pane a bit smaller than I'd like. It would be ideal if I could just move the whole evaluation profile to a different spot.

Guess what I found out? I can move it. Hee, hee, heeeeeeeee...

Moving the mouse cursor to the "double line" near the top of the evaluation pane makes the arrow change to a hand (in fact, this is what first tipped me to the possibility of moving panes around the screen). I clicked on the left mouse button and held it down. The hand "grabbed" the evaluation pane and allowed me to move it.

Now keep in mind here that this is not an unlimited function like you'll see in some other Windows programs. There's no blue title bar at the top of the evaluation pane, so you can't just drag it to any old place on the screen. Fritz will show you where the pane is allowed to go by presenting you with an outline of a possible location for the pane:

In this clipped-out section of a screen capture, you can see a grey line cutting across the back rank (right through the Black Rook and Black King). It's actually the bottom line of a "phantom box" that runs right below the Menu/Tool Bar, down the sides, and across the last rank. This "phantom" box shows you a new proposed location for the evaluation pane.

It's devilishly hard to describe this, but as you move this phantom box around the screen, you'll see/feel it "lock" into place in certain positions. This tell you that this is a valid location, recognized by Fritz, for the pane that you're trying to move. I realize that my verbal skills are not up to the task of describing it, but once you try it you'll know exactly what I'm talking about. Basically, as you move the phantom box around the screen, you'll get it close to a valid location for the pane in question. The phantom box will suddenly seem to "jump" slightly up, down, or to the side, and you'll know that this is a valid location for the pane.

Once you feel that little "jump", you'll know that this is a valid place for the pane. Release the left mouse button and the pane will drop into place (as we see in the following illustration):

Tah-dah! We now have the evaluation pane located immediately above the chessboard! Ain't that niiiiiiiiice?

Now I'm having fun (it doesn't take much to amuse me, obviously). I decide to get a little creative. Hmmm, what else can I move?

The obvious candidate now is the clock. It's OK where it is, but I can't see the cool Fritz6 logo to the right of the clocks. (And, by the way, each of our engines has its own individual logo and some of them are pretty snappy looking. When you have a few free minutes, like when you're resting after twenty-seven consecutive losses to Fritz at speed chess, load a few different engines and scope out their logos).

After I've decided to move the clock below the chessboard, the rest is easy. I just grab the thing, drag it down to the bottom of the screen, wait for the phantom outline box to lock into place, and then release the mouse button. Bingo! The clock is now below the chessboard, and I can now see the swell metalhead Fritz6 logo, too:

Once you've hit upon a layout that you like, you can go to the Window menu and select "Save layout". Give the file a name and click "Save". Then, whenever you want to load this layout, go to the Window menu and select "Load layout". Pick your saved layout from the list, click "Open", and Fritz will load the layout you've selected. You can have as many saved layouts as you want (and, if you're like me, the problem you'll have is remembering exactly what "layout03.lay" looks like -- so consider being more creative than I am when you name your layouts).

Keep in mind, too, that Fritz comes with a batch of pre-installed layouts. You can go to the Window menu, select "Standard layouts", and select one of the pre-installed standard layouts from the list.

You can get fairly creative with your layouts, but keep in mind that you can't just stick a pane anywhere you want. There are standard places for each pane that Fritz will recognize and that's where a particular pane must go.

But there are some pretty neat things you can do with layouts. Here's a layout for the southpaws (or should that be southpawns) among us:

That's pretty slick. I've talked to a few people over the years who wished the chessboard could be on the right side of the screen in Fritz (that's "right" as in "non-left", not "right" as in "correct". [All riiiiiight, a semantics battle! Everybody lock and load!] Either way, if the layout works for you, use it!)

The best way to get the screen to look this way is to drag Fritz' analysis pane to the lower left corner. You'll immediately get a pretty funky-looking two column display with a teenie-weenie chessboard in the middle of the screen. Don't fret -- just drag the notation pane to the upper left corner, followed by the clock, and finally the evaluation pane. It'll look pretty similar to the graphic. Drag the border between the panes and the board to the left or right until you get a comfortably-sized chessboard; then just save the layout.

You could also do what I did earlier: drag the evaluation and clock panes above and below the board to get a mirror image of the earlier graphic, only this time with the chessboard on the right-hand side of the screen.

Here's an interesting layout for people who want to study the opening tree while replaying a game from the database:

In this layout, I've closed the evaluation profile pane, added the opening tree pane, and closed the clock pane. Note that the clock now appears in the lower right corner of the screen on the information bar. (And remember that you can open and close panes by selecting "Panes" in the Window menu). As you step through the moves of a game in this layout, you'll see the information in the opening tree pane change automatically to reflect the current board position. If the resolution of my graphic wasn't so cruddy, you'd be able to see that Black is about to go out of book on move four.

Note that the analysis pane is still open. That's so I can whack ALT-F2 to get Fritz' analysis anytime I don't understand a position (which usually happens on every second or third move).

This is some pretty swell stuff, and to think that I discovered it totally by accident! Well, accidents do happen -- once in a while they turn out to be beneficial ones.

Until next week, please to be having fun, yes?

You can e-mail me with your comments, suggestions, and analysis for Electronic T-Notes. If you love gambits and sacrificial play, stop by my Chess Kamikaze Home Page and the Yahoo Chess Kamikazes Club.