Friday, June 3, 2011

MapTool Look and Feel

There are somethings that really bother me about MapTool. I really want a more immersive experience. There’s too much crap on the window,” Matt said at a recent game. Matt is a long time MapTool user.

You know you can unpin the window and they’ll disappear until you need them,” Bryan said.

You’re Sh**ing me! I didn't know it could do that. Still, we're stuck with these colors. Why can't I make MapTool purple if I want?”

"You can," I said. "You just need to change the default theme."

Thus the conversation went a few weeks back during an Old School Hack game with Matt, Bryan, Alessandro, Rob, and myself. I have some sympathy for Matt. MapTool is a simple program to launch and use but it has many features that aren’t well advertised or understood. Part of this has to do with the fact it was developed with a lot of input from it’s user base. Group think is sometimes hard to document. This article attempts to let MapTool users know a few of the intricacies of the MapTool User Interface (UI). 

First I'll discuss themes. MapTool uses the JIDE docking framework for the SWING UI libraries. That's a lot of alphabet soup to say it uses some standards that are pretty easy to find on the web.  I'll quote the irrasible Phergus concerning changing window color.

Oh for gnu's sake. You've always been able to customize the MT color scheme. TinyLaF - the look and feel manager used by MT - can load the theme of your choosing. 
This may be familiar to some of you.
TinyLaF v1.3.04'Default.theme' not found - using YQ default theme.
Download the zip file version of MapTool. Extract it. Go into the lib folder and double-click on the tinylaf-1.3.04.jar file. The TinyLaF theme designer will open. Experiment with horrid color combinations to your hearts content. Save it as "default.theme" to your home directory. Start MT and glory in your l33t neon green and royal purple design.”
So, following Phergus' instructions, run the TinyLaF jar. This brings up the window below.

As an experiment I changed the background color and saved it as the default theme (File->Save as Default). This places a file in your home directory called Default.theme. Now, when I bring up MapTool I see

So, yes Matt, you can have a purple MapTool.

The other complaint I hear is that there's too much stuff on the screen. In MapTool's default window configuration you see the following windows:

  • Resource Library
  • Map Explorer
  • Chat Window
  • Global Macros
  • Campaign Macros
  • Selected Token Macro
  • Impersonated Token Macro

That's a lot of windows. Luckily they all have the same window controls. In the screen shot to the right you'll see the controls for each window which include toggle floating, pin/unpin, and remove.

A floating window is undocked from the side and floats freely on the map window. This can be useful when you need to see a window and the map at the same time but want to maximize your viewing area by moving the undocked window around.

Pinning and unpinning allows you to hide a window in the border until it's needed. In the screenshot above you'll see the Map Explorer collapsed into the border while the Resource Library is pinned in place. As the GM I have a tendency to keep the Chat, Map Explorer, and Macro window visible at all times while, as a player, I tend to keep only the map visible (everything unpinned).

The other nicety of the MapTool docking framework is the ability to dock windows to other windows to declutter your screen. Thus you can have one window visible with a lot of tabs allowing access to different function on each tab but still only covering one part of the map. To accomplish this just drag on window to the upper left of another window. When a tab outline appears in the second window you can release the mouse. Now you have a tabbed window.

Below is a short video of demonstrating some of this functionality.

Good luck and good gaming.


Related Links: forum post about TinyLaF


  1. There is a RPTools forum post about changing the TinyLaF default theme found here:

  2. For us macro coders its also nice to change the textbox font to a monospaced font of your choice.

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