My goodness but DrawShield is annoying! You've learnt blazonry, designed your arms, typed the blazon into DrawShield and what do you get? A mess of stuff all over the screen and cryptic error messages, "unexpected this", "missing that". So you make a few changes and it gets even worse! Makes you want to put your fist through the screen!

Well, I can't magic the errors away but I can give you some hints about how to construct your blazons, and there is a minor new feature that can help in a very small way...

When I first started developing DrawShield, I approached blazonry as if it were a programming language, and I still think this is a useful approach, especially when it comes to laying out your blazon. I find it very helpful to split the blazon into different lines, one for each "clause", and for even more clarity you can indent them. Let us look at a recent example, remember the dexterous line that I posted recently on Twitter? Look how I have organised the blazon in the text area:

The advantage of having each part of the blazon on a separate line is that we can comment things out easily. DrawShield supports several different types of comment but perhaps the most useful for developing blazons is the C++ style comment, in which everything following a double slash // is ignored until the end of the line. So in the example above, the words "and much larger" are ignored. We can try the blazon with and without this line to see if it gives the effect we want.

Even better, there is a shortcut key, Control-/ (the control key and the forward slash key pressed at the same time). This will comment out whatever line the cursor is currently on, or if the line is already commented out, it will uncomment it. Great! We have a quick way to test individual parts of the blazon.

And, if we make a selection of lines in the blazon (by holding down the mouse button and dragging) and then press the control-/ keys all the highlighted lines will have their comment status reversed.

If, for some reason you can't type control-/ (it may be perhaps be intercepted by your operating system, or you may beusing a tablet device) then you can use the button marked "Comment" instead.

So, now you have a new workflow - by all means put your whole blazon into the text area, but break it into lines. Highlight everything except the field and press control-/ to comment the rest of it out then draw the shield. Does the field render as you expect?

Now uncomment one of your major features and draw again - how is that working out for you? Keep on commenting and uncommenting parts of the blazons looking out for errors and building up the complete image as you go along.

And don't forget that you can save your work in progress - just click the "Save" button at the top of the text area and your blazon will be downloaded as a plain text file called blazon.txt (if there is already a file with this name your browser will usually rename it blazon(1).txt or something like that). You will not be surprised to find that the "Load" button allows you to put the blazon back in to the text area so you can carry on at a later time.

I can't guarantee that following this process will remove all the annoyances but it might turn that urge to punch the monitor into mild cursing under your breath instead.

And maybe one day I'll turn the simple text area into a full-fledged heraldry creation workbench...? What do you think? Buy me a coffee and let me know!