Challonge.com is an online bracket management tool that makes it very easy to create, manage and share basic tournament brackets. I've used the site for almost every tournament I host because it's easy to share a link in a post. An online bracket is much easier to read than a photo of a paper with my chicken scratch on it. Not to mention, you have a very accessible archive of brackets.
This is not an exhaustive how-to on using Challonge.com but it should be plenty to get you started with the site. I encourage you to do a trial run of your own before using the site for actual results. I think you'll find it's very easy to use, so just play around and get comfortable with it. It will make your bracket handling a lot easier.
1. Sign-up at Challonge.com - Pretty straight forward. You need an account. It's free.
2. Create a new tournament. After you log in, just click the big orange button to get started. Give your tournament a name and configure it however you want. I recommend making the URL for your tournament the same name with a "rld_" prefix to make it easy to find.
3. Advanced opens. On the new tournament form, open the Advanced Options link and you'll see a few checkboxes. I recommend using the same settings as shown below to keep things simple and easy.
4. Add participants. After you create your tournament, you'll need to add people. Follow the links on screen to start the process. You can add people one at a time or you can do so in bulk, which I often find easier. Just click the Add in bulk link.
6. Seeding. We usually have random seeding for tournaments, so you can hit the Shuffle Seeds button to make that happen. But you can also drag entrants around if you want to make adjustments.
7. Review and print. After you're happy with the seeding, go back to the Bracket section and you'll see the bracket itself with all the match-ups. You can still make changes by dragging around the names. Once you're happy with everything, you need to print your bracket.
Click the printer icon in the toolbar that is located on the right side of the page right next to the advertisement. It's not very obvious but it's important.
It's important that you print the bracket from Challonge rather than use some other source. I tried to use Challonge for sharing but printed my own bracket from another web site. I discovered that not all brackets follow the same order for match-ups.
8. Start the tournament. Once you have your bracket on paper, you can start the tournament. You don't have to start your tournament until you're actually ready to record results. That could be same day or in the future...doesn't really matter, but you can't record wins and losses until you start the tournament.
9. Do your racing! At this point, you can run your race whenever you want. I don't suggest recording your results using Challonge in real-time. Track your bracket on paper while you're running things and just go back to Challonge once you have the final results.
10. Log the final results. Once your racing is done and everything is on paper, load up your Challonge bracket and fill in the results. You can do this using the visual bracket tree, which is pretty nice. Just click the edit icon next to each match-up and pick the winner. The web site will do the rest and fill-in all the spaces.
If you've done everything right, the online bracket should match your paper bracket. And then once you've filled in all the results, the web site will ask if you're ready to end the tournament. Confirm that and then Challonge will show the final results and so on. And then all you need to do is copy the web address and paste it into your mail-in thread so everyone can see it.
And that's that. I know that looks like a lot of steps but it's really not once you see it in context to what you're doing. Challonge is very easy to use. It's nice for those of us managing brackets and for people following them.
Here are a few examples of Challonge brackets I've made for past mail-in
I haven't used any of Challonge's fancy features or paid features. I'm sure there is a lot more you can do with it if you want to explore but you don't need to spend a lot of time to take advantage of it.