ELECTRONIC T-NOTES


CHESSBASE USA'S WEEKLY ON-LINE NEWSLETTER


FOR THE WEEK OF JULY 8, 2001


CREATING DATABASE TEXTS IN CHESSBASE 8 -- PART 3

by Steve Lopez

In last week's thrilling cliffhanger, we discussed e-book structure. This week, we'll conclude that discussion and look at a few database text tricks and tips.

If you're writing a whole chess book in electronic format (as opposed to a short article or tournament report), it's really helpful to create an outline of the e-book in advance. You can start with a very rough outline and fill it in as you go. For example, I recently completed an e-book on chessplaying computers. The book is divided into sections, which in turn are subdivided into chapters. When I started, I had no idea exactly how many chapters would be in each section, but dividing the book into sections helped me organize the work before I ever typed a word. I sat down and made a list of each section (in order). Then as I came to each section during the writing process I listed the chapters that would go into that section.

This procedure is almost required when writing an e-book as a ChessBase database. If you're three sections into the book and you suddenly realize that you left a chapter out of Section One, you'll can't just insert it into the database in the proper location. You'd have to create a new database, copy all of the texts and games (up to the point of insertion) from the old database into the new one, add the new database text, then copy in all of the remaining games and database texts. Then you'd have to go back and redo all of the hypertext links to games and texts that occur after the point of insertion, because the old links will be "pointing" to the wrong items. So it helps a great deal to organize your work in advance. Trust me on this -- it'll save you from much grief and embitterment later.

I know one e-book author who used to write "dummy" files when he started his e-book. He'd create empty texts (containing just the chapter titles) at the start of the project. He'd even create empty games; for example, if he knew he needed a game showing doubled pawns at a certain point, he'd save a game with no moves in it and title it "Doubled pawns". Later, as he was writing, he'd find a good illustrative game and replace the "empty" game with the sample game he'd found. Now I'll be honest here: you need to be super organized to write an e-book this way. I was never overly fond of the approach myself, but I understood the benefits. Instead of writing a separate outline at the start of the project, he made the database itself the outline and just filled it in as he went along. It's a smart method but, as I said, you need to be very, very organized to use it.

Many ChessBase-format training CDs use an interesting method of organization. All of the database texts typically appear at the beginning of the database, with hundreds of games following them. As the authors write, they just type in a reference to a particular illustrative game at the point in the text where the hypertext link should appear. Then, after they finish writing the texts and add the games to the database, they go back and drop in the hypertext game links one by one. This has the advantage of showing everything in "blocks" in the database's game list: there's a "block" of texts at the start of the database, followed by the huge block of games. The disadvantage is that the author has to do a lot of work at the end of the writing process.

Some other training CDs (including mine on computer chess) use a different method. If a chapter contains links to several games, those games immediately follow that chapter in the database. For example, if my chapter on Kasparov-IBM appears as the 20th entry in the list, the 14 games from the various matches appear on the list as games 21 through 34. Then the next chapter appears as entry 35 in the game list. The advantage to me as an author is that the database is much easier to organize -- I just add the games (and links) as I write. The (slight) disadvantage is the lack of a visual "block" setup in the game list -- the texts and games are interspersed. However, in the case of my CD, it's meant to be read like a book -- so not too many readers will be accessing texts or games straight from the game list anyway.

The choice of approach is up to you, of course; there's really no right or wrong way to organize the database (other than this: it doesn't make sense to have database texts out of order in the list. It's possible to do this, of course, since the hypertext linking will guide the reader through the book, but it's going to be really hard for you to edit the thing once it's finished). The important point is that you should have some idea of how the book/database will be organized before you start writing it.

Here are a couple of "stupid text tricks" for you. If you want to have an illegal or incomplete position as an illustration in your text, you can do this with a graphics editor and a little know-how (and it's ridiculously easy to do, too). I mentioned this in last week's ETN; this week we'll see how to do it.

In ChessBase 8, start by going to the File menu and selecting "New", then "Position" from the submenu. This brings up the dialogue in which you can set up a board position. Set up your illegal/impossible/incomplete position (for example, a pawn structure with no Kings on the board). If you try to click "OK" here, CB8 won't let you do it. So how do you make a diagram out of this?

Hit ALT-PRINT SCREEN on your keyboard. This sends the active window (in this case, the board setup dialogue) to the Windows Clipboard. Open up a graphics program and use the "Paste" command to drop the image of the dialogue into the work area. Use the editing tools in the program to cut out just the board itself and then copy that to the Windows Clipboard. Then just paste it in as a new image. Save this new image in BMP format. Then go back to your database text in CB8 and, at the point in your text in which the diagram is to appear, go to Format/Mutimedia/Picture and drop it in to get something that looks like this:


That's all there is to it!

But (there's always a "but") the image will be dropped in along the lefthand margin. You might want it centered instead. That's brings us to another stupid text trick. To center the diagram, just highlight it with the mouse, then go to Format/Alignment/Centered and zap that pup over to the center of the text screen. Easy!

By the way, you can also reposition other elements (such as video and audio buttons) the same way -- just highlight them and center or right-align them.

Finally, a word about copyrights (specifically about annotated chess games for purposes of this article, but it applies to any material, written or graphic, that you didn't create yourself). The basic rule of thumb is that if you didn't create it, you can't use it. There are obvious exceptions, such as using graphics from commercial packages designed for the purpose of providing you with ready-made graphics (you know the ones -- those 158,000 Clipart Images packages). But as far as chess annotations go, you can't use somebody else's work. It's OK to quote someone (for example, "In ChessBase Magazine 81, Grandmaster Soandsoevich says that 15.Nd4 is the proper continuation") but you can't just cop an annotated game out of a book, magazine, or disk and put it in your e-book without permission. If someone sends you material and gives you permission to put it in your e-book, that's fine. But it's illegal, unethical, and just plain wrong to "borrow" someone else's work for your e-book, even if you attribute the source.

And, flipping the coin to the other side, it's a good idea to put your own copyright notice somewhere in your e-book, usually on the title screen or table of contents screen. The proper way to do this is by using the word "copyright" or the symbol for it (if the High ASCII character is available in the font you're using). You can see the symbol at the bottom of this page. The correct form for a copyright notice is "Copyright [year], [author's name]. All rights reserved", just as you see it at the bottom of this web page.

By the way, the proper spelling of the word is copyright. Using the word copywrite makes you look like a doofus. Copywriting is what journalists and admen do and has nothing whatsoever to do with you protecting your work. It's not usually necessary to go through the whole legal process of officially copyrighting your work. Placing the notice in your e-book is an indication that you're aware of your rights under copyright law and, in the event that someone tries to rip you off, certainly helps you if you decide to take the infringer to court. For more on copyrights, consult any good book on professional writing (such as the annual Writer's Market books).

In a nutshell, unannotated chess games can be freely used. But game annotations can't be used without the author's permission, except for the occasional quote (i.e. a line from ECO or a variation given in a magazine) -- just remember that you can't use the whole annotated game.

Of course, once your e-book is created and you want to distribute it, it's best to compress it into CBV format. See the ETN issue for April 29th, 2001 for details.

Now you know everything necessary to go forth and produce wonderful e-books in ChessBase format (except for advice on how to be a good writer. I can't help you with that one -- I'm still trying to figure it out myself). Until next week, have fun!

You can e-mail me with your comments, suggestions, and analysis for Electronic T-Notes.