By John H. Mongle
For a couple of months I have planned to write a review of William H. Dyche's great chess recording program, Filemate v. 4.1c. I have been excited about this little program (under a meg) since a friend suggested it to me. But the secret is out. I am a bit late. Ziff Davis, the large magazine and web publisher just named Filemate as a runner up for top gaming shareware of the year. Quake (are you surprised?) came in first. .
The fact that a chess recording and viewing, not even a playing or database, program was even mentioned impressed me. Here's what they said: "Designed for those interested in the game rather than in computer expertise, Filemate is a slick and easy-to-use program. Choose one of the sample databases and pick a game. Watch the game in animated self-running mode, following each move sequentially, or analyze one move at a time." You can read the complete review and download the program at ZD's HotFiles site. Oh yes, the folks at ZDNet are quick to point out that Filemate is for the "serious" chess player, which, I assume, includes everybody reading this.
Added to the praise of the popular press, IECG Archivist Bill Brown uses the program extensively to check games that are included in the club's databases. With those kinds of recommendations, there's not much I can say so I'll try to tell a little about the look and feel of the program.
What it does first and foremost is read and record pgn files. But, it also reads .ntr, .nic and, yes, cbf (ChessBase) files as well. The best thing about the program though, it is more forgiving than almost any other I have used in reading sloppy pgn files. And, as you all know, there is a lot of games on internet that "look" like pgn until you try to import them. When Filemate does balk it gives the user the option of bringing up a text editor within the program. The changes are made in a few keystrokes, the score is reposted to the clipboard and the import is done. With other programs you end up with fragrments of games and no way, other than entering the moves manually, to get the game into a graphic readable form.
Filemate's desktop is attractive. It breaks down into three windows with a color customisable graphic board (with beautiful pieces, claiming fully half of the screen. To the right, the screen is split between a file index and a data window showing the moves, comments and so on. You can load several games at once, each with its own graphical board and data window, and switch between them. Filemate is very generous in that it is very well behaved on almost any windows system. In the course of preparing this review, I ran Filemate on everything from a 386/25 with a piddling four megs of ram to a Pentium Pro with 32 megs of ram. It runs perfectly on all of them. If you machine runs Windows fairly well it is also going to do fine with Filemate. There is no special version for 95 or 3x. One size fits all.
Figurine fonts are supported and there is a utility for sending scores to the clipboard for correspondence chess. There are algebraic abreviations for 17 languages and two font maps. Font can also be made larger or smaller as you wish and the score can be presented in traditional pgn or a database type format. Editing games with Filemate is, in short, a pleasure. The pgn header editor includes every possible kind of information you may want to include. Commentary, moves and alternate lines are all portrayed in different colors.
Control of the board is accomplished by arrows and dragging with a mouse. There is an autoplay button for hands free review of games and there is a blindfold button to aid in visualization training. On a clean mate, Filemate even topples the losing king!
An ECO utility gives you an idea of the ECO of any given game even though that information is not supplied in your raw data. I say give you an idea because Filemate and I do not always agree on what classification is correct for some games. However, that is as likely to be a shortcoming of mine as it is the program's. At the top of the board a running record of the last move and a rough numerical estimation of strength is displayed.
Downloaded from Pitt the program has a 200 game limit. Once registered ($29.00 US) the game limit is 10,000. For all it does right off the net you may be tempted not to register it. However, once you've used it for a while, you'll want the full blown program.
Author William H. Dyche says that v. 4.1c will be the last version of Filemate. He is at work on revising the interface, slimming down the code and adding more database functions. But, if you register Filemate, you will be upgraded to the new program for free once it is released. When I corresponded with William in May he said that work on the successor was about half done. Watch this space for an early review of that product. For all that Filemate 4.1c does and does so well I am anxious to see William's latest effort.
My apologies to all for not getting a column out in June. Just before this article was going to be prepared and just after starting 16 new email games, my computer crashed.
The crash meant, among other things, an involuntary upgrade to Windows 95 so I will be taking a closer look in coming months at a couple of programs I've mentioned earlier that no longer port to Win3x. Specifically, Tim Mann's excellent WinBoard. If anyone has any comments or hints regarding WinBoard please contact me via email
ECTool which was the subject of my first column is now shipping in v. 3 with full email support and a number of editing features requested by IECG users. Andres Valverde just keeps improving that gem. It now has IECG and IECC guidelines in help section, supports the ICCF international numeric notation scheme and exports the board to a bmp file if desired. Andres is currently working on email compatibility with the popular Pegasus mail program. Check out the latest version on Andres' web site.
Tim Hardings' excellent cc magazine ChessMail published my review of three chess programs (ECTool, Chess Recorder and DBS Chess) in its 6/97 issue. That is also now available on the web at Tim's site.
Until next time, good chess to all.