by Edward D. Collins


Note: I've switched interfaces. (WinBoard 4.1.0)
But I'll leave this page up as a tribute to the interface I used for so long.



I believe at some point I've tried every chess server interface that exists and for three consecutive years, the DOS based ZIICS interface (version 1.31) written by Andy McFarland was still, in my humble opinion, the best one available.

Many months ago I came across this web site

which I just found out today (9/13/98) no longer exists. If you had seen it, it showed a screen shot of ZIICS which I did not think gave the program any justice at all. I put together a much nicer screen shot and e-mailed it to the author of the page but alas, he never bothered to replace the old one.

So I thought I would take the time to devote a page on my site to the
interface I feel is still the best -- ZIICS version 1.31.

(Note that if you are viewing this page at a resolution of 1,024 by 768, which I recommend, then this and the other screen shots can be seen here in their entirety, that is, without having to scroll.)

This is one of my favorite color configurations. Each of the colors you see (the color of the pieces, the color of the board, the text, the buttons, etc.) can be configured to your own liking. (I think the colors of this board are very close to the standard roll-up boards most of us play on when we play in tournaments.) And I strongly believe the size of this board and the design of these pieces you see here has yet to be surpassed. It is a delight to play on.




Here is another screen shot with the same chess font & size but with different colors. I enjoy playing with this color configuration too.





I'm also rather fond of this board size. This is the board I use when I'm watching a game, especially a popular tournament match, for it not only allows me to watch the game but I can also easily read the kibitzes, whispers, shouts, etc., from the other players who are also watching it.




And yet another board size (still the same chess font) I enjoy playing with.




In all of the above screens shots, I've been using the Chess Assistant font for the pieces, which happens to be my favorite. However, the program comes with many other different chess fonts and sizes to choose from. Here are partial screen shots of just a few more:










The beauty of this interface lies with its simplicity -- it has but two screen modes. With a simple right-mouse click, the chessboard screen disappears and this "chat mode" area appears. This mode is very convenient if you're not playing a game but reading someone's finger notes or chatting with someone or reading the help files, etc. A further right-mouse click will display the "board mode" again. Simple... and elegant.



It almost goes without saying you can configure these text colors to your individual style and taste too. My shouts are currently red, my chess shouts are pink, challenges to me are green, other player's seeks are blue, etc. Occasionally I change these colors just for variety. Note that at the top of the screen are my customized buttons. I currently have 40 of them. (I think many players are probably content with just 20, though.)

Each and everyone of these buttons can be configured for often-used commands... whatever command you want! I cannot stress how wonderful and convenient this is. For example, this first button below, titled "Inficad," connects me to my local Internet provider. After connecting, I then choose one of the next four buttons. The first one, FICS, will connect me to the FICS chess server under my registered handle. FICS-unr is for when I wish to sign on to FICS and play unrated games under a different handle, etc.


The "Greeting" button is simply a friendly hello I occasionally issue after just starting a game.

"Sought" will display a list of seeks that match my current formula. "Sought All" will display a list of all the current seeks.

I find myself fingering my friends a lot, checking to see how they've been fairing. So I set a few buttons to facilitate this.

I periodically read the on-line help files, many of which are more than one page in length. Here is where my "next" button comes in handy.

Altogether, you can configure 40 different buttons if you so desire!


Other wonderful options and features of the program are:

  • The program will, if you so desire, save the games you play (and/or observe) in a text file.

  • If you're playing the game, say, at work on a little laptop and do not have a mouse available, you can use your keyboard to move your pieces, control your buttons, etc. (I mention this because a friend of mine has this limitation where he works.)

  • You can configure the program to flash the last move played for a length of time you specify.

  • The program offers the option of Click-And-Click or Click-And-Drag to move your pieces.

  • The program is compatible with timestamp, timeseal, accuclock, etc.

  • The program will connect to ALL of the chess servers! You may be a paying member of ICC and enjoy using their BlitzIn interface but what if you wanted to visit another server? What do you do if...

    ...there's a tournament on another server you're interested in participating in? wish to play some Suicide Chess which some servers do not offer? wish to watch a championship match and your connection to one server has too much lag?

    I'll tell you what happens... you can't! At least not with the BlitzIn interface. I'm sorry, but if you're favorite interface will only connect to one server, that's like owning a television set... which only has one channel! Shoot, it's worse than that! It's like owning a television set which only is capable of receiving one program!

There are dozens of other options and features. You'll have to read the enclosed documentation file for more.

Is ZIICS the perfect interface? Alas, no. If I could add just a few options / features to it, here is what I would start with...

  • A "doskey" type feature. After submitting a command to the servers, there is no way to recall that command if I wish to send it again. For example, if I'm chatting with two people at the same time, and I accidentally type a long message and submit it to the wrong person, I'd like the ability to recall that message, edit it, and then send it again.
  • During a game (or immediately after) I quite often find myself 'fingering' my opponent. I'd like to facilitate this process with a button. I'd like to see the option for a button to be set up which would finger "current opponent." (Ideally, one could be set up for history "current opponent" as well.)
  • I wouldn't mind having the option for the program to notify me in some way (via a sound) when another player "tells" me something. At times, especially while playing a game, I may miss the message they send to me if I'm concentrating too much on my position.
  • Although one can configure the colors to your own liking, one must exit the program and do this within a text file. One must then re-launch the program for your new colors to take effect. This is not really a problem with me, but yes, it would be convenient to be able to change the colors on the fly.
  • Ideally, the program could have some of those VCR-type controls to page forward and backward in a game. This would allow one to review a game afterward without having to use the server's "examine" mode.
  • Although the program can save your games to disk if you so desire, they are saved in, what I believe is known as, the "oldmoves" format. (After playing a game, type "oldmoves" and you'll see the format I'm referring to.) Ideally, the program would save them in a PGN format. (Note: A workaround - I wrote a conversion program to convert this oldmoves.log file to do just that. Here's a screen shot and short description of my program. I wrote this program because all of the other conversion programs I found contained too many bugs and often converted my files incorrectly!)
  • Although you can configure your button colors to your own liking, all of your buttons must be the same color. I think it might be beneficial to have the option of certain buttons being different colors if you so choose. (Wow! Now I'm starting to really get picky! <grin> )

Alas, I do not expect to ever see these or any other changes. I do not believe Andy is supporting this version of the program anymore. I believe he has moved on to his Windows version for the majority of users that have TCP/IP, PPP and SLIP connections. This is unfortunate since this DOS version of ZIICS is still an absolutely wonderful interface. My friends and I, as well as many other players I know, still prefer it. The amount of time he put into this program can clearly be seen! If it is true he is no longer supporting it, maybe we can convince him to release his old source code into the public domain for the many of us who still prefer it. Shoot, I wouldn't mind working on it myself, and I don't even know Pascal!

Happy playing everyone!


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