Ted's Bridge World Using Multiple Monitors
with ACBLscore -1

Nowadays, many clubs wish to display charts of Section Leaders or other information on a big remote TV that is easy for the players to see.  ACBLscore, however, is an antiquated program, written before the usage of multiple monitors became popular.  As such, some of its code is not Windows-friendly, and that creates certain problems that need to be circumvented in order to utilize remote screens effectively.  There is a way.

Some of ACBLscore's functions entail the display of dialog-boxes that request information such as a menu option or a board number.  In particular, when accessing any of the [score-edit] functions, the little box is programmed to pop up in the horizontal center of the Windows Desktop, whereupon the user has but two options: enter a meaningful choice, or press [Esc].  The text box cannot be moved, nor can it be closed down in any other manner.  This is fine, as far as it goes.

What many clubs do is simply to set up additional monitors which merely duplicate the console screen.  This is easily implemented and the method does work, provided that nothing else must be done on the computer while the chart is being displayed, and provided that it is deemed okay for everyone in the room to view all the computer activity.

Another common practice is to use two monitors at the desktop.  One is devoted to running programs, while the other can be duplicated around the room just for display purposes.

Obviously, however, there are limitations to both setups.  One highly desirable feature would be the ability to display discrete data on each screen, such as rankings for each of two or more sections.  One way to accomplish that would be to extend the Windows Desktop space over all monitors, which also is easily done.  The fun ends there, however, because now certain functions of ACBLscore cannot be used at all.

Consider this scenario:  Hypothetically, you have set up a big external monitor across the playing area as part of a Windows Extended Desktop.  At some point during the game, a scoring correction is in order.  You press [F2,Correct board]; but no dialog box appears.  What?  Actually, it has appeared, but on the monitor across the room, in what is now the horizontal center of the Desktop.  If you can see that far, you can mouse over there; but you still cannot move the dialog box.  After entering appropriate numbers into it, you finally are able to drag the bigger window back to the main screen, provided that you haven't misplaced the mouse cursor in the process.

That scenario clearly is unworkable.  Unfortunately, the ACBL staff programmers admittedly place a low priority on performing a very difficult upgrade of ACBLscore just for this purpose.

Another work-around utilized by a couple of clubs is to use two computers — one for running ACBLscore, and the other solely for managing the remote displays.  Data such as Leader Charts are saved to a text file, then moved to the other computer, either on a thumb drive or via a Wi-Fi connection.  The file then is loaded into another text editor and relocated to the desired screen.  Again, this method does work; but it is quite tedious and time-consuming, and is considerably more expensive as well.

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The good news is that it doesn't have to be that way!  The Sacramento Bridge Center now has a 4-monitor setup that works beautifully and with total flexibility — and on a single computer!  Every screen can display either the same or unique data, and getting it there is quick and easy.  Your club could do the same.

The key element is a program that actually can re-route a pop-up window from the center of an Extended Desktop to a screen of one's choice.  Several video-card manufacturers support that capability in one fashion or another; but for various reasons, those options did not work out despite exhaustive testing.

Additionally, none of the available third-party screen-management utilities could do it either — that is, until the advent of this 2017 program upgrade:

DISPLAY FUSION PRO, ver. 9.1

This latest version features a 'trigger' mechanism that can force a newly created window from any application back onto the main screen.  That is precisely what is needed, and it works!  The $30 utility can be set to run at Windows Startup, which means that after configuring the program, the user can pretty much forget about it.

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Another significant issue is that of Cursor Control.  If the Extended Desktop is set up so as to encompass the entire available space with no duplication, then the mouse is free to roam anywhere at all.  This means that an errant hand-movement could cause the cursor to disappear onto a space that might not be visible or might even be powered off; and restoring order can be problematical.  After the testing of numerous third-party apps that manage such things, this one was selected:

DUAL MONITOR TOOLS  (ver. 2.4)

This utility locks the mouse cursor onto the main screen, where it needs to be.  As with DisplayFusion, you can install it and forget about it.  The program is freeware (donations accepted).

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The combination of DisplayFusion and Dual Monitor Tools alone is sufficient to keep ACBLscore in line, and having all of those monitors is great; but there needs to be a way to transfer data among them.  Because the mouse no longer can move between screens, one cannot simply drag a window to a new location.  Something else is in order, and Windows provides a way.  Any Active Window can be moved to another monitor, in stages, by pressing [WinKey] together with an [Arrow] key three times.

One cannot simply move an ACBLscore Leaders window itself to another screen, however, because nothing else can be done in the program while that window remains open.  One solution is the aforementioned Text-File Transfer method.  There is a cleaner and faster solution yet, however, which is simply to perform a screen-capture of the desired data.  Of course, many utilities exist for that purpose; yet as usual, just one program was found to provide a critically important function that also is easy to implement, and it costs just $20:

FASTSTONE CAPTURE  (ver. 8.7)

Data are captured from the Active Window to an image file in a choice of formats.  What separates this one from the competition is its ability to accommodate large game sections by easily performing a Scrolling Screen Capture of an entire page, irrespective of its size!

When listing section leaders via [F8], a chart pops up.  Depending upon the number of tables in the section, choice of fonts, and monitor pixel-resolution, the result might be a window with Scroll Bars, because not all the data will fit onto the screen.  FastStone enables the capturing of the entire page — not just what is currently visible, with just two additional keystrokes.  This eliminates the necessity of a Text-File method of acquiring the data.  As with the other two apps, one can just set it and forget it.

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The remaining challenge is how to display the graphic itself.  By far the best available method for that purpose is to utilize this popular freeware utility:

IRFANVIEW  (ver. 4.3.8)

With judicious configuration of the settings, the captured data can be displayed without unwanted stuff showing on the screen.  If necessary, the Irfanview Title Bar and Menu Bar can be suppressed entirely from the final view.  Additionally, one can create and display any number of different graphics simultaneously.

FastStone can be set up to launch Irfanview, which then loads the new file and displays it.  The process is both fast and transparent to the user.  (IrfanView does not need to be launched at Startup.)

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I admonish readers not to be put off by the seeming complexity of the suggested system.  Remember that it needs to be installed only once, and no specialized training is required.

After that, with a little practice, a director should be able to post an appropriately formatted chart of Section Leaders to a screen of choice in 5-10 seconds, start to finish.

The next page details the precise configurations of the four utility apps, and suggests some additional functions that can make a director's life easier.

A real human would be happy to converse on this topic.

ted@tedmuller.us

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