Sunday, July 23, 2017 08:38

Posts Tagged ‘PDA’

Tools of the Trade, Part 10 – eNotate!!

Sunday, January 3rd, 2010

The entry in a nutshell: eNotate by NACA is well worth the investment price for me, and a fine addition to any player’s tools. Additional review as of 1/9/09 at bottom on actually using eNotate in tournament, nutshell is eNotate is most excellent even though Windows 7 isn’t.

I’ve had my eNotate PDA for a bit over a week now. I’ve done testing with it, recorded actual games with it, uploaded those games to my PC, built my own case for it, and am about to use it for the first time in a tournament. It’s time to share my results so far about this great product with you.

Case open and ready, shot #2


Before I begin, let me state that there are some accesories that any PDA owner should consider also owning. I’ve detailed them in a post here. Also, while I’m getting better at taking photos of a PDA screen, some of the PDA screens below are tinted a little blue and the focus is what it is – those are my faults as a photographer.


eNotate is a program which belongs to a class of products called Electronic Score Sheets. (I call it an e-Scoresheet.) Instead of writing down the notation of your chess game on a paper score sheet, you record the actual moves played in the game on the electronic device. eNotate, along with the MonRoi product, are certified for use in tournament play through the United States Chess Federation.

eNotate runs on Windows Mobile 5 and 6 Personal Digital Assistants (PDAs.) It may run on a Windows based Smartphone, but it not certified for tournament use on them. You can either buy the program and install it to a PDA you have, or buy the PDA with the program pre-installed. Buying it with the PDA is one way to ensure it is fully compatible with the plethora of Windows PDAs out there.

I chose to buy the PDA and program, and the unboxing of the PDA can be found here. The PDA I received, a Dell Axim, runs the Windows Mobile OS.


Starting eNotate is the same as any other program.

Starting eNotate

Regular Windows Mobile Startup

When starting eNotate, there is a very professional looking “splash screen,” and then four options are presented.

eNotate Start Screen

eNotate Start Screen

“Profile” lists your profile as a player – your name, USCF ID, USCF rating, country, FIDE ID, and FIDE rating. (I have my name, USCF ID, and USA as my Federation listed.) “History” lists all games currently in the unit’s memory, and they can be replayed. “Configure” allows a shortcut for stylus calibration (important for PDAs!) and a shortcut to purge both games and existing tournament names.

“Tournament” is the meat of the program. This mode is where you enter the data about a tournament and/or record the moves of your game. I found it very intuitive and easy to use. The only “learning curve” was figuring out to enter the tournament data first, then enter the data about that game, then record the game.

One tip I will offer: If not playing in a tournament (casual games, for example,) you can still set up a ‘tournament.’ For example: when I play on Saturdays at Colley’s Chess Cafe, I’ll enter a ‘tournament’ of “CCC Saturday Open Play,” and then set the date to that day. ;)

The program icons and buttons are very intuitive and easy to figure out at a glance.

eNotate Main Entry Screen

eNotate Move Entry Screen

You record the moves of your game by touching the square of the piece that is moving, and then the square it is moving to. You can also review the game in progress, or look at the notation of the game so far. There are also icons for recording if you’re in check, or if a draw offer is made.


There are some design parameters set by the USCF certification rules that enter into play. First, the program cannot help you. This means several different things. It can’t indicate check – either given or received – or automatically notate that. It will not tell you your move is illegal. It will not guarantee that the piece you move was moved to the right square. However, there is no guarantee that if you are recording the moves on paper that you will get any of the above right, either.

I actually have had one game where I mis-set a piece to the wrong square. Correcting that was exceedingly easy, just find the wrong move and substitute the actual move – the scoresheet handles the notation correction and lets you go back to the current board position.

The more I use it, the more I realize an e-Scoresheet is better than recording to a paper score sheet. I still do advocate that one learns how to notate on paper first, and you should have a backup paper score sheet available to you just in case of hardware failure. However, it may actually make sense for children who haven’t learned to write yet to be able to actually record their games. I can’t judge that, but I can say that I enjoy using this more than writing my notation.

While you’re using the program to record moves, you will not be able to get out of that mode until you save the game as complete. You can’t switch to your address book, your calendar…. or the copy of Pocket Fritz or another chess playing program you’ve installed. And the last is why you can’t do that – a cheating countermeasure. But that’s good. When you’re recording a game, that’s what you should be doing with it. ;)


But recording a game is easy. Touch the piece moving, touch the square it’s moving to. The move is made. There’s a button for flipping the board orientation, also.

Game in Progress

An actual game I played, being replayed in History mode.

In game entry there’s also a shortcut button to calibrate the stylus again, as well as view the move list. The move list view is very cool – you can highlight a move pair and then select to see what the board looks like on black’s move or white’s. This is handy in demonstrating when a 3-fold repetition draw occurs, among other possible claims.

When done with the game, you touch the “Score” shortcut. You can enter the game result, use the stylus to add player and arbiter signatures, save the completed game (or go back to the game if you hit Score by mistake.)


After saving the game you can go back to the “History” shortcut and replay the moves of the game. You could also start recording your next game, if you’re in a tournament. Or you can exit the program.

All games are recorded in Portable Game Notation (PGN) format in an “eNotate” subfolder of “My Documents” in the PDA. The games are easy to find, being the last names of the players and the playing date.

The PGN file can be copied to a SD card – I will be buying a card reader and carry it in my tournament kit, so I can supply the organizer or TD with a copy of the game if necessary. It can be synchronized to a Windows PC by use of ActiveSync (appearing in your Documents synchronization folder.)

What I have done is beam the file via Infrared to my laptop – the Axim and my laptop both have IR ports. I have beamed several games to my laptop from my PDA. Eventually I will try beaming the file to an IR-capable printer (which I don’t have currently.) But for now, getting it to the laptop means it can easily get into my database.

Earlier Game now in ChessBase!

From eNotate to Laptop to ChessBase. Easy!

(Yes, that game is the one shown in the last picture above now in ChessBase, at the same point! Cool!)


To date I have experienced no problems with the device or the program. The only glitch I’ve experienced is when I tried to enter a tournament designation that had a slash in the title, “G/10.” But that cleared up when I titled it, “G 10,” instead. The program didn’t crash, just let me know it couldn’t, “create the tournament.” But I’m making a lot of stew from this – it isn’t a “problem” worthy of a paragraph. It’s literally the only problem I’ve yet experienced.

One thing I haven’t tested is battery life. I haven’t had a problem yet, but also haven’t used it in a full multiple-round tournament. But I anticipate no problems with that. The screen goes dark and the unit powers down in accordance with the Windows power settings. Bringing it back up is a matter of tapping the screen and/or pressing the power button.

The last non-issue… There was no manual for using the program when I ordered it – the NACA website was being updated. Currently the manual is available online here in PDF format. But honestly, I had no trouble figuring out how to use eNotate without one.

If I allow myself the conceit that I’m a very talented extreme technogeek with a gift for understanding technology and systems, I still can’t say that anyone who tries using it will find the learning curve challenging. In fact, in preparing this entry I turned my eNotate over to my wife, who is computer literate but not an extreme technogeek nor a chess player. She was able to figure it out and use it very rapidly.


Ready to record at Colley's Chess Cafe

Ready to Rock! Just add opponent! (In fact I was playing someone less than five minutes later with it....)

I am very pleased with the support I’ve gotten. I’ve gotten all the answers to questions I have had in rapid fashion. Customer service rating: Stellar.

I’ve saved what I consider the best for last: Price as of this posting. $135 includes shipping for the unit, including PDA. The program itself (if you already have a capable PDA): $25. It is available from the North American Chess Association. Even with the PDA, it is a third of the price of a MonRoi. And bonus: you get a full function PDA out of the deal also. :)

This purchase has already been something that has helped me to enjoy my chess. I can’t recommend it highly enough. I hope that, should you purchase it, it will also help you to

Enjoy your Chess!

9/20/10 Addition

eNotate continues to operate just fine for me.  I have used it in every tournament I have played since January (just doesn’t seem like it’s been that long!!!)  I’ve done 4 round G/80 tournaments where a couple of games went the distance, monthly 3 round G/20 tournaments, skittles play – you name it, it records it.

Dolloar for dollar, the best investment I’ve made in chess so far.  (And that includes my Chronos clock – which is a tall order to live up to.)  I can’t guess how much time I’ve saved have to bring up blank game slates and enter the moves from paper via mouse.  Yes, everyone should first learn how to notate chess on paper – that’s a given.  But I can say that after that stage, eNotate simplifies the process of game recording and then uploading to my database for further analysis.

I will offer one little caveat:  eNotate is not as well known as it’s cousin the MonRoi.  The rules of the USCF, as I understand them, should not allow a TD discretion to disallow the usage of an eNotate device.  However, I have read one report of a player at a larger money tournament being asked to discontinue use of it by a National Tournament Director.  The concern was that the Axim the machine was running on was Internet-Capable and thus a prohibited device in the playing hall.  Since eNotate while it is running is not capable of wireless communication, I have to disagree with the position taken.  Were it I, I would have protested.

I know in a couple of tournaments I have attended, players have asked the TD if what I was doing was legal.  Which doesn’t both me at all – I can see why a player may be concerned on the face of it.  It is up to the TD to know that eNotate is a legal device, and when used by in the manner it was certified as an e-Scoresheet by the USCF that it’s usage is allowed.  Period.  In summary, it may be advisable for eNotate players to check with the TD of an event ahead of time that they will allow its usage as the rules mandate.

‘Nuff said.  :)

Second/Third Tournament Usage Report, 2/1/10 Addition

eNotate usage: 4 rounds of G/45 with 5 second delay… Battery: 69%. Still impressive!
Also: 4 rounds of G/10 with 3 second delay. Battery not checked.

The main reason for this update is to say eNotate is still running *very* well. Plus, I have learned what to do about the docking problem I had with Windows 7. In Windows Mobile Device Center, there is an option in Connection Settings to “Allow automatic device authentication.” This is by default checked, and should be unchecked to allow usage with eNotate.

Once set up and synced, one’s games are found in the Documents Synchronization Folder in the “eNotate” directory. Getting them to the computer is a simple matter of drag-and-copy into the laptop. For ChessBase users, it’s then open the PGN database and copy the game into your regular database of your games. Easy!

So now I’m an even happier camper as far as eNotate goes!

First Tournament Usage Report, 1/9/10 Addition

eNotate usage: 4 rounds of G/70 with 5 second delay… Battery: 70%. Impressive! (I did reset the power settings to dim the display after 15 seconds and power the unit down after one minute. I think that certainly helped. Plus the fact that I never hit true time pressure in any of my games, and neither did my opponents.) I already got my games copied to an SD Card and then migrated to this computer.

Note: Windows 7 does not seem to want to connect to the Axim PDA at all – but I believe this is the fault of the Windows Mobile connection software and not the PDA itself or the cradle.* I have read a lot of problems with getting older PDA devices to work with the Windows software. Emphasis here is that I did get the games over to my laptop, but it took an SD card to do it at the moment. And double emphasis that the eNotate system is very good – still NO faults with using it, itself. Thumbs way up on it! I can say I am Enjoying my Chess with eNotate!

*In Windows 7 news, I’m also having lots of trouble getting it to recognize my near-new Sony MP3 player. (Sony says I can add music using Windows Media Player but they haven’t written a driver for the MP3 player for Windows 7.) I also had trouble installing the device drivers for the Targus Card Reader I just bought – though I can use the thing now. Although I like my laptop very much, so far Windows 7 is earning Epic Fail after Epic Fail in my book – I can’t see why Windows 7 is getting such impressive reviews. :(

Of PDAs and Steampunk Cases…

Monday, December 28th, 2009

I’ve been meaning to mention this for any PDA / electronic scoresheet owner… There are a number of essential accessories that a person who owns a PDA should have. And I retrofitted/built/homebrewed one accessory over the last 24 hours or so.

But first: Get screen protectors for your device. Without screen protectors your PDA’s touchscreen will have a limited life. (Especially if you’re using it to record Blitz games.) I know whereof I speak in this. Like the song that advises you to use sunscreen, this is an essential protection need!

As a professional, I have managed to take an iPhone screen protector and cut it down for my PDA – and it looks like it’s working well so far. (Time will tell, and I do not advise trying that at home!)

Other less essential items to have: A spare battery for the unit (if your unit’s battery can be replaced by user.) Mine can – and I intend to get a spare one. I may start using an SD external card – still thinking on that one. The Axim I have does have a CF slot, and I have an old CF based WiFi card – not as sure about that one. I will still have a backup manual scorekeeping method. My old equipment case is up to the challenge I have found, but one does have to account for that, also. Additional power adapters may help, as well, for on-site charging if necessary.

But there is one other essential: A case to carry it in. (This assumes that one doesn’t come with it.) The MonRoi does have a hard plastic screen protecting cover. My Axim didn’t come with case – though that might change with future runs, Sevan tells me.

So… what to do? Answer: Trip to Hobby Lobby! I spent an hour plus finding primary components to build my own box from. I had settled on an unfinished card box, some tools, felt, etc. to convert it. Then I found something that with some modding will work better.

My picture-intense solution after the cut!