Tag Archives: mac

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.]

The Mac App Store Launches, with 3 Genealogy Apps

Today Apple launches an update to their operating system, OS X 10.6.6, which includes the new Mac ‘App Store’. The Mac App Store is accessible from the Apple menu, and like the App Store in iTunes for the iOS devices (iPod Touc, iPhone and iPad) you can search for apps by keyword or see lists of featured apps, etc.

The store is almost exctly like the iOS version in iTunes, allowing you to quickly buy apps you find. It helpfully knows which apps you’ve already installed (even not through the store) so when it shows me the listing for iPhoto, it says ‘Installed’ instead of listing a price.

A quick search for genealogy apps turned up three apps in the store when it launched. The three apps are MacFamilyTree, Family Tree Maker and Date Calculator. As I have all of these on my computer already, it wouldn’t show me the price of the apps which is strange. MacFamilyTree is offering a 50% discount for the next week through the App Store, but 50% off of what? I could go look at their web site to see what it normally sells for, but instead I’m going to follow the links Apple gives out for sharing each app, and on the web it doesn’t know I have the apps. So MacFamilyTree is selling for $24.95 (I guess normally it sells for $50), Family Tree Maker is selling for $99.99 and Date Calculator is $9.99.


Interestingly, Date Calculator is a utility that was created by the same company that makes GEDitCOM II for the Mac. I suppose that means GEDitCOM II is coming to the App Store soon as well. As Date Calculator is free to users of GEDitCOM II (who buy it from the company’s web site), I wonder how that will work in the App Store – will companies be allowed to bundle apps together like that? Time will tell. Also, I don’t remember exactly, but I though Date Calculator was free in the past. Did they possibly make it a paid app just for the App Store? Does anyone remember if Date Calculator was free?

Multimedia support in FTM for Mac – a bit lacking

Continuing my attempt to transition my family tree from Reunion to FTM for Mac, I wanted to discuss FTM’s handling of image listed in the GEDCOM file.

So first, I like the fact that FTM has a Media tab where you can view all images in your family tree file. That is something I’ve wanted from Reunion for a long time. That said, it seems FTM’s handling of the imported images is a bit sub-par. For starters, even though it has the correct path for each image file, it can’t seem to find them. Reunion exports the standard Mac (and UNIX) file path to each image, which in my case begins with a tilde (~) indicating that the file is in a sub-folder of my home folder. FTM doesn’t seem to know what that means. It lets you either search manually for the file or have FTM search for it. Either option works, but it would take forever for me to do this for each image.

Reunion has one very nice feature when a file goes missing (like if you move it to a different folder) where it lets you find the new location, and then it looks at all the other images that were in the same folder and updates them as well. This is a big timesaver and something FTM should emulate. THis in combination with the Media view that FTM offers would make a large task like changing all the image locations much easier to manage.

Truth be told, however, this task shouldn’t be needed at all by FTM – if it understood file paths properly this wouldn’t be an issue.

Taking a look at the GEDCOM file itself I can see that Reunion does something very nice – it exports the image cropping information. Frequently when using an image for a specific person you crop the image so it only shows that person. This is particularly true for the ‘primary’ image that one uses to represent the person in the tree. One can also use one group photo to crop out individual face shots of many different people. Showing the full image in a small window where you only want the head would be fairly useless. It’s not clear to me if the _CROP tag that Reunion uses is part of the GEDCOM standard or some kind of generally agreed-upon way to share that information, but it seems to me that FTM ignores the information. Worse, and the likely reason, I can’t figure out any way to crop photos in FTM at all.

I have a lot of complaints about Reunion’s handling of media. I think it should offer to keep a library of thumbnails or even web-resolution images itself, so that it doesn’t need to spend so much time doing image conversion when doing things like creating a web site based on your tree. I think it needs a central media view where you can manage all the images in your tree and make sure all the files can be located, etc. I think some integration with iPhoto would be nice. I think being able to tag photos with information on the people in them and the location information would be incredibly useful. Even with all of these complaints, FTM seems surprisingly inadequate when compared to Reunion in this area.