Sunday, February 17, 2008

READER'S FEEDBACK: Software suggestions for Newbies

NOTE from DearMYRTLE: Thank-you for passionately-worded responses from readers providing links considered missing from the "Newbies" lists posted last night. Ol' Myrt here is seeing that there are many experienced family historians out there with something to say. Maybe I should begin labeling blog entries "for beginners only" or "for advanced researchers only". :::giggle:::: At least we're talking about possibilities -- and I, for one, am grateful to be part of the conversation.

From: Adrians Desktop
Although I would not like to think of myself as a Linux evangelist, I do feel I should prompt when I feel people may be missing out.

In your recent blog post Software Suggestions for Newbies you omitted software for Linux users. There is only one main contender, and that is GRAMPS a far more professional system that the now undeveloped PAF. In the UK there are at least as many Linux users as there are Mac users, and it is growing. There is not another software group that allows any user of the software to have an active say in developing the system (such is Open Source). It has also been recommended many times in the past by Mr. Eastman.

Secondly, you may wish to mention platform independent systems. By this I mean software that is provided either by a web based genealogy group such as and or a software system you can load yourself onto a website and use for your recording, like PhpGedView .

With online and offline records I would always promote backing up your files.

The thing about online methods of data storage is that it allows much easier chance of collaboration with other people searching similar trees. My own method is to use GRAMPS as my main information system for adding data. I then regularly export a GEDcom file that removes all data on living relatives which I upload to both and overwriting the previous and I also export a complete website that includes images of relatives and a much more searchable format.

There is more for newbies out there!

My DearestADRIAN,
Yes, Ol' Myrt here purposefully omitted listing anything for Linux, but I did provide the link to Cyndi's List for additional software suggestions.

Remember, by definition, the newbie lists are purposefully SHORT and not all-inclusive.

We have to give newbies milk before meat -- and since 99.44% of the PCs for purchase have either Windows or Mac OS, I didn't mention Linux. Typical Linux users are more computer savvy than most other users in that they chose to reconfigure their computer with the Linux operating system. Linux helped me access and retrieve 4GIG of data files from my laptop, when my Windows XP spontaneously combusted and the backup CDs were corrupted.

I think we agree that every mainstream genealogy management program has now surpassed the options available in PAF (Personal Ancestral File), while the programmers at FamilySearch concentrate on newFamilySearch and FamilySearchIndexing.

However, the 4,000+ Family History Centers throughout the world have PAF installed on their computers, and staff is specifically trained to teach it. It is quite simply hard to ignore the value of this world-wide one-on-one newbie support. Later, folks can import their PAF files into the other, admittedly better, software programs when they have progressed to that point.

Notice I didn't include Family Tree Maker on the list? Users are describing problems too painful to list.

With regard to "platform independent systems" I believe newbies are thinking linearly, and are not yet ready to discuss online compilations, wikis, and such. We're encouraging them to use software to computerize all those documents and photos we know they will be continuing to collect as their research progresses. Ancestry has been upsetting genealogists of late customers because of "lost" customer online genealogy databases and the need for participants to move one type of online genealogy data to the new format. [See: "Ancestry to close down outdated Online Family Tree".] I object to Ancestry and/or Family Tree Maker “owning” our online databases with permission to repackage as they wish, for instance on CDs they might sell.

We don't want to overwhelm our newbie genealogists at the get-go. Creating GEDCOM files is easy for more experienced folks like you, but the thought of doing it to exclude living individuals is so overwhelming to newbies that they'll just plain give up if we talk about it too soon.

Yes, backing up is essential.

Yes, yes, yes. I knew you would write to me, kiddo!

By the way, do you live anywhere near London? I'd like to meet you before I step on the cruise ship with the Legacy Family Tree folks in July 2008. I'll be flying over to London a few days earlier, so perhaps Ol' Myrt could have lunch or dinner with other Linux users in the area? How’s that for extending a hand of friendship? We get by with a little help from our friends.

Happy family tree climbing!
Myrt :)
Your friend in genealogy.

© 2008 Pat Richley All Rights Reserved.

No comments:

Post a Comment