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Did a Microsoft Sample Influence the Design of a Mac Genealogy Application?

Friday, 5 Oct 2007 | by Mark Tucker

I was reading Dick Eastman’s newsletter today and came across a post about MacFamilyTree 5 beta so  I decided to follow the link to the company site to see what the UI looked liked.  To my surprise, the main tree diagram looks a lot like Microsoft’s Family.Show sample application that I have blogged so much about. 

Compare the tree diagrams for yourself:

MacFamilyTree 5 beta

  MacFamilyTree 5 beta

Microsoft’s Family.Show

Family.Show

The latest updates to genealogy software appear to have at least a graphic designer (if not a user experience designer) on the team.

Innovations in Family.Show: Age Graph

Tuesday, 28 Aug 2007 | by Mark Tucker

The Family.Show genealogy sample application includes an Age Graph that shows the number of people in the database for different age ranges.

 Age Distribution

In the sample data included for the Windsor family the number for each range was:

  • 0-19: 3
  • 20-39: 13
  • 40-64: 17
  • 65+: 16

The graph doesn’t include the additonal 32 individuals that didn’t have a birth and/or death date.  I am not certain why the ages were grouped as they were.

This graph also acts as a filter for the people list.  Clicking on each bar shows those individuals in that age range.

It is interesting how they chose to include both statistics and navigation in the same control.

Innovations in Family.Show: Surname Cloud

Thursday, 16 Aug 2007 | by Mark Tucker

Included in the list of innovations found in the Family.Show genealogy sample application is the surname cloud.  Similar to the tag cloud that you find in many web application today (Flickr, LibraryThing, Technorati, etc.), the surname cloud lists the last names of all people in your database.  This surname cloud lists names alphabetically with those surnames appearing more frequently appearing in a larger font size.

surnamecloud.jpg

When you click on a name in the surname cloud, then the person list is filtered to only show those that have that last name.

I have yet to see a surname cloud in any other genealogy software.

Innovations in Family.Show: Family Tree Diagram

Monday, 6 Aug 2007 | by Mark Tucker

In July, I introduced the Family.Show genealogy sample application.  One of the first things that you notice when you start Family.Show is that it doesn’t look like other genealogy applications.  The black gradient background and rollovers show that a graphic designer has been at work here.  After creating or opening a file you notice the main window with its clear graphics and animation.  Selecting a person on the family tree marks them as the active person and the diagram updates to show spouses, children, siblings, parents as well as additional ancestors and descendants.

Family.Show Family Tree diagram

The selected person is marked with a star and includes name, birth year, death year, and age.  Any spouse is marked blue and is joined with a solid green line that shows the marriage year.  If the couple is divorced then the line is dashed and includes the divorce date.  This image shows that Charles and Diana were married in 1981 and divorced in 1992 with Charles’ marriage to Camilla occuring in 2005. 

 fshow2.jpg

 I like how this family tree contains a lot of information but is still easy to understand.  If the person is deceased, then the figure is outlined instead of solid.  If a person has one or more children entered then an arc with small figures indicates this.  Following the lines from a person shows ancestors and descendants.  All direct-line ancestors and descendents are shown in red while siblings and collateral lines show in yellow.  You can move the diagram around with the mouse and use the zoom slider in the bottom right to change the diagram’s size. 

One of the most innovative features is the Time Explorer. This simple slider controls the year that the diagram uses to show the family tree.  Moving the slider changes the age of people and dims marriages and births that haven’t yet occurred.

fshow3.jpg fshow4.jpg

These are the main features of the family tree included in Family.Show.  There are still more innovations in the application to explore.

Microsoft sample showcases new technology, innovation in genealogy software

Thursday, 19 Jul 2007 | by Mark Tucker

What started out as a sample application to showcase the latest UI technology from Microsoft called Windows Presentation Foundation (WPF) resulted in a sample to the genealogy community of innovation.

At the beginning of this year, the company I work for hired Vertigo Software to do a prototype application using WPF.  Part of the portfolio that Vertigo shared with us during the pre-hiring phase was an end-to-end reference sample that they did for Microsoft. The exciting thing about this sample is that it is a genealogy application. Family.Show version 1 was released in April in preparation for the MIX 07 conference and version 2 was released in July.

Family.Show application

This is not a full-fledged application and it wasn’t designed by experts in the genealogy community. But don’t dismiss it too quickly. This sample shows the imagination and innovation that can come when user interaction experts, software developers, and graphics designers work together. I especially like the different visualizations used in the application and will talk about them specifically in a future post.

Here is the feature list published by Vertigo:

  • Quickly build your family tree
  • Add photos easily via drag-and-drop
  • Create advanced family tree visualizations with pan and zoom support
  • See what your family tree looked like years ago using the Time Explorer
  • Tell your family members’ story using rich editing and formatting controls
  • Mine your family data with statistical filtering and sorting
  • Import and export family trees to GEDCOM 5.5, a standard genealogy format
  • Change the look of the entire application by choosing a different skin

Some limitations of the application are:

  • Supports single birth, marriage, and death events
  • No other events supported
  • Doesn’t support approximate dates (Abt. 1815, Bet. Jan 1707/08 – Jan 1708/09, Bef. 1931)

Links:

  • For those who want to see screen shots/videos or who want to install it, go to the Vertigo Family.Show site.
  • For software developers who want access to the source code, go to the CodePlex site.

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