by Steve Lopez

A little-known feature of ChessBase 8 is the ability to configure the database display. When you start CB8, you'll see an initial screen containing two panes. The left-hand pane works in a similar manner to Windows Explorer, giving you access to databases in any folder on any drive:

You just click the "plus" sign next to "Drives" to expand the view to show all the drives on your machine. After you've expanded this view, clicking the plus symbol next to your hard drive will show you the folders on it. Clicking on a folder name will display (over in the right-hand pane) any databases in that folder. In other words, the left-hand pane works exactly like Windows Explorer (and, if you'rte not familiar with Explorer, please consult your Windows documentation -- it's your most important tool for file management [or manglement, if you don't use it right]).

Clicking on "My Databases" in the left-hand pane will display your ChessBase databases over in the right-hand pane. Again, as in Windows Explorer, there are a number of ways to change the display of these databases. Go to the View menu at the top of the screen. Pull down this menu. The first section of the View menu looks like this:

This section of the menu gives you the three choices affecting the way your databases will be displayed in the right-hand pane.

As you can see from the graphic, I use "Large icons" as my preference in the right-hand pane. I do a lot of dragging and dropping in ChessBase 8; using the large icons makes it easier for me to "grab" an icon. I also do a lot of right-clicking on icons (to get a popup menu of commands) and this is also easier when large icons are used (it makes it easy to click a large icon dead center).

The "large icon" display will look something like this:

I've truncated the display somewhat for space considerations. In my full display, I have eight rows of icons in the right-hand pane. However, you can change the width of the right-hand pane by using the mouse to grab the border between it and the left-hand pane and dragging the border to the left. This will widen the pane and give you more icons per row of the display. Conversely, dragging the border to the right narrows the pane and gives you fewer icons per row (and, obviously, more rows).

A possible disadvantage to this display occurs when you have many (i.e.dozens of) databases. Although the right-hand pane scrolls up and down, you won't be able to see all of your databases displayed at once if you have a lot of icons.

Another display option (useful for getting around these display problems associated with having a ton of databases) is to use "Small icons". When you select this option, you'll see a display that looks something like this:

The advantage to using small icons is that you can get a lot more icons into the display without needing to scroll to the one you want. The disadvantage is that it's harder to accurately right-click on an individual icon. Also, if you do a lot of dragging and dropping from one icon to another, you have an increased chance of a mouse slip causing you to copy games into the wrong database. However, if you're careful to read the information in the "Copy games" dialogue, you can stop these accidents before they happen. If you see that the target database isn't the one you want, you can just click "cancel" and bail out of the whole operation.

Another disadvantage to this display is that some of the longer database names get truncated -- the ends get cut off and replaced by ellipses (although you should still see enough of the name to be able to tell which database you're looking at). But users who have hundreds of databases will find this display very much to their liking. The databases are all accessible and neatly organized by database type.

The third database display is called "Details" and provides a wealth of technical information about the databases themselves:

This display is very much like the "details" display in Windows Explorer, but instead of file sizes, etc., the ChessBase Details display provides information that's much more relevant from a chess database standpoint.

The "Title" column shows the name of the database -- these are sorted by database type (openings, Internet, nationality, etc.) as determined by the actual icon selected for the database. The "Games" column displays the number of games in the database. "Format" tells you the data format of that database (.CBH, .PGN, or .CBF). "Path" shows you the location of that database -- the drive it's on, as well as the folder path to the database.

"Date" displays the date on which that database was last modified (games added, deleted, or modified by adding commentary, for example). "Usage" displays the number of times that database's game list was opened.

Note that each of the column headers is also a button that allows you to sort the databases in the display. For example, clicking on "Games" will sort the databases from smallest number of games to largest. The databases with the fewest games will appear at the top of the display, the whopping great databases at the bottom.

You also have many sorting options available for the "Large icon" and "Small icon" displays. Go to the View menu, select "Sort", and choose an option from the submenu. The database icons in the right-hand pane will be re-sorted by the option you select. Note, though, that you can't re-sort database icons manually by dragging them into position.

Until next week, have fun!

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