I am a huge fan of diagramming applications. As a coach, I spend countless hours diagramming. X’s and O’s are much more than people think. Not only do we draw plays and defenses to explain to our athletes, but they are used heavily in planning. Football is a game of leverage and numbers. As a defensive coordinator, it is my job to devise a plan to out leverage the offense and get at least one unblocked defender to the point of attack according to the tendencies I have. The way these theories are tested is through diagramming. I spend hours every week drawing opponent formations and marking their favorite run holes and passing zones and test adjustments that put my players into the best opportunity to stop them. Coaches will draw on anything, paper, clip boards, dry erase boards or even napkins when socializing with other coaches. I am constantly on the lookout for apps I can use for this seeing that I am also a geek. I recently took a look at Instaviz for the iPad and iPhone. It is an awesome, beautiful application, but I needed something with more freedom in drawing diagrams so I looked at The Chalkpad. Lets take a look and see how it fared.
The Chalkpad presents users with a blank slate ready to draw a diagram. Virtually any shape or line combination is available along with text. Simply drag the shapes or lines from the bottom menu onto the board for a perfectly drawn item. Resize, adjust and change colors to your heart’s desire. One of the big differences between this app and Instaviz is the ability to add more customization. The shapes are able to move literally anywhere on the screen and can be just about any size.
Once the diagram starts to be built, everything may be customized. Double tapping an object reveals a pop up customization menu. From this menu text can be added and the item can be cut, copied, cloned or deleted. This feature alone makes this app perfect for my uses. While drawing the football plays, I am able to make one player representation, then clone it so that all of the items matched. My only complaint was moving the symbols. Maybe my finger was too big for them, but when I tried to move them on the screen I usually highlighted and changed size rather than move it. Large shapes are easy to use, but smaller items pose a problem.
Virtually all items can be adjusted to your preference with a double tap. There are multiple color combinations and font size is set with a slider. The UI is smooth and all of these controls work well with the iPad interface. Creating your diagram will be simple and fast even with plenty of custom needs. The background may also be changed with a simple tap as you can see from the screen shots. A nice choice of colors along with simple black or white.
Once a diagram is complete, several options are available. Saving the diagram will allow it to be opened later for editing. In theory, I could make a template with players already created and save that version. Then each defense or offensive play I want to work with could be opened and ready to be drawn. The Chalkpad can also be emailed straight from the app. The diagram arrives as an attractive .png file. The file size of the play I drew came out to 91k, so the files are simple to work with. To save a diagram without using a screen shot, save it to the photo album. This is a great way to save the picture as a finished product.
The Chalkpad has proven to be a wonderful solution to my diagramming needs. The ability to customize and move objects around the screen not only make it simple to use, but also a powerful tool. The interface is perfect for the iPad allowing for a seamless work experience. To me, this is much better than drawing on paper because the diagrams come out so precise and attractive and are easily saved and shared. I recommend taking a look at The Chalkpad for the iPad if you have any diagramming needs. Go get it here in the App Store for $2.99.
What I like: Simple intuitive interface and the customization possibilities make this a powerful tool.
What could be improved: I would like to see a “Save As” option, so Chalkpads can be saved leaving the original in its previous state.