Tag Archives: mac

New iPhone and iPad App from Ancestry.com

If you use Ancestry.com and you have an iPhone or iPod Touch, you might know about their Tree-to-Go app that came out awhile back. It was a very basic application for viewing the family trees that you had on Ancestry.com. Frankly, it wasn’t particularly useful, as it only let you view the trees you had uploaded to Ancestry.com and wasn’t very interactive. In addition, if you had an iPad with its larger screen, it was not optimized for that, and could not show anything more on the iPad than on the iPhone.

Ancestry on iPhone

That all changed yesterday with the introduction of a new app, now called simply Ancestry.

This new version seems much more polished, and adds some major features.

First off, it fully supports the iPad, and can take advantage of the larger screen. You can now see not only the trees you have on Ancestry.com, but those that are shared with you from other users.

Also, if you’ve attached records to people in your tree, such as a census record, you can now view those records on your device (see the picture on the right).

For those who use both Ancestry.com and an iOS device (iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad) this seems like a very useful application, especially if you share trees with other Ancestry.com users. They also announced that they are ‘carefully considering’ the creation of an Android version as well, although I wouldn’t hold your breath waiting for an Android version.

The interesting thing to me about this seemingly very polished application is the contrast this illustrates with the Mac application they also recently introduced. Why is their iOS app so much more polished than their Mac app? It might seem odd that the iOS app, which is free, has had more attention in its design than their Mac application for which they charge quite a lot. I suspect the answer to this question is that the development of their iOS app is done by a completely different team than the one that handles Family Tree Maker. I’m not sure either of these applications are developed in-house by Ancestry, but either way it seems the teams working on these are completely different.

New versions of MacFamilyTree and FamilyTreeMaker for Mac

In the past couple of days both MacFamilyTree and FamilyTreeMaker for Mac have received updates.

MacFamilyTree was updated to version 6.0.11 which offers some minor web-output related fixes and some localization updates. You can download the update from their website, and for those who bought it via the App Store presumably it will show up there soon.

FamilyTreeMaker for Mac was updated to version 19.2.1.241 (yeah I don’t understand their numbering system either) and fixes ‘numerous stability issues’ and adds support for the GEDCOM 5.5.1 draft among other fixes. I’m surprised about the GEDCOM update, by which I mean I’m surprised FTM for Mac didn’t already support the 5.5.1 draft which was released in 1999 and has some very important updates like support for Unicode. If you have the retail version, this update should pop up when you launch the program or select ‘Check for Updates…’ from the menu. If you have the version from the App Store, again this will probably show up soon.

I own both of these programs, but do not use them very much because of two factors:

1) It’s hard to switch from one genealogy program to another, no matter how well they support GEDCOM.
2) As outdated as the Reunion is, and how much I complain about it, I still like the general user interface of Reunion and how it displays families in the program.

I’ve written previously about trying to switch to FTM for Mac, but I was unsuccessful mainly because of the difficulty of importing all the media files, and my general confusion over the user interface which I find very cluttered. In addition, I find the Internet features, while appealing, to be very slow.

I haven’t given MacFamilyTree its due I suppose, and many people like, but as I received it as part of a software bundle and didn’t actually buy it directly, I guess it hasn’t gotten enough mindshare from me. One day I’ll have to put it through its paces.

GRAMPS 3.2.5 released for Mac, but not ready for primetime

I really like the idea of an open-source genealogy program. The only real open-source genealogy program that runs on the desktop seems to be GRAMPS. GRAMPS stands for Genealogical Research and Analysis Management Program System. Yeah, I’ll stick with GRAMPS. Originally developed for Linux, it now has versions that run on Windows and on the Mac. I’ve tried it in the past but never really gotten it to work. When I saw a new version released today I installed it and tried again.

Unfortunately, I ran into error messages right from the beginning. I suspect this has to do with running the program on a Mac, a platform they claim to support, but which is not supported very well. After I got past the initial error messages (which prompted me to submit a bug report, but the bug reporter feature led to an error as well) I tried to import a GEDCOM, but found that the Import function didn’t do anything.

I suspect GRAMPS run significantly better on Linux, but alas most people don’t use Linux. As with most open-source projects, the development of the project is directed by those developers who choose to do the actual work. In the beginning, all the developers of GRAMPS were on Linux, and the goal was to create a genealogy program for that platform. It is common sense that under such a situation Linux would be the focus. Over the years GRAMPS has added developers who have chosen to make GRAMPS work on other platforms.

In a recent blog post by one of the developers in response to a post in their own forum about a two-year old blog posting on GRAMPS for Windows, the general ideals of this (and many other) open-source project is revealed, that the developers decide what is best, and if you don’t agree then become a developer for the project and then you can’t have an opinion. In this case, the original two-year-old blog posting was recommending a very specific technical route to take, which I would agree if you’re not going to contribute to the development efforts, is probably a silly thing to do. Developers don’t listen to outside suggestions – they listen to inside suggestions, so even if a developer working inside the project made the same exact technical suggestion, it would be better received than from an outsider. Why a developer decided to bring this up two years later, when the technical issues being discussed are very different than they were in 2008, however, is beyond me.

I would agree with the original sentiment of the two-year-old posting, however, that if you are going to port your application to platforms like Windows and Mac, you should be prepared to use the interface tools available natively on that platform. The look of GRAMPS on the Mac, while familiar to a Linux user, is totally foreign to a Mac user. If I was going to make a suggestion to the GRAMPS developers, it would probably be to look at a cross-platform GUI toolkit like wxPython which lets one use native GUI widgets for each platform, so on Windows the buttons are Windows buttons and on the Mac they’re Mac buttons. If they really wanted to support the Mac natively they could look at PyObjC, but that wouldn’t help them for Linux or Windows, so wxPython is probably a better choice. Of course, I’m not a developer, and I am not offering to become one, so my opinion doesn’t really count here.

The hopefully good news here is that in that same developer blog posting, he says the forthcoming 3.3 version has the best support for multiple platforms GRAMPS has ever had. It’s planned to release in March, so I guess we’ll see then how GRAMPS has improved. When GRAMPS 3.3 is released, I expect to try it again, and post the results here.

Anyone reading this using GRAMPS? I’d love to hear your thoughts in the comments.

[June 27, 2011 – I’ve posted a follow-up to this post on a newer version of GRAMPS, 3.3.0, which is improved in terms of stability, but is not yet ready to use on a regular basis on the Mac in my opinion.]