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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.

Genealogists Be Aware – Desktop Software and Web Applications are Converging

Saturday, 29 Sep 2007 | by Mark Tucker

All users of genealogy software should be aware that desktop software and web applications are converging in exciting ways that will soon affect the applications they use. One way that they are converging is through something called Rich Internet Applications (RIAs).

Are there any genealogy Rich Internet Applications today? The answer is yes. At least a few. Currently, they all are created using Adobe Flash.

It might surprise you that FamilySearch Labs is on th leading edge of genealogy Rich Internet Applications with these prototype applications:

Pedigree Viewer
panning, zooming
direct-line highlighting
ancestor/descendant view
search
GEDCOM import

FamilySearch Labs - Pedigree Viewer

Life Browser
add artifact (photo, record)
edit details
associate artifact as evidence
image representing potential timeline feature

FamilySearch Labs - Life Browser

Other genealogy sites using RIAs include:

Geni
panning, zooming
enter details, support for single birth, marriage, death date
intuitive interface for adding parents, spouse, siblings, and children
appealing design

Geni

MyHeritage
2D/3D perspective, animation to help flow through tree
enter details, support for multiple facts (birth, marriage, death, many more)
intuitive interface for adding parents, spouse, siblings, and children
appealing design

MyHeritage

(more…)

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.

Family Tree Maker 2008 is ready for future, built with Microsoft technology

Saturday, 18 Aug 2007 | by Mark Tucker

Family Tree Maker 2008 was released this week as completely redesigned software built with Microsoft technologies.  The redesign starts at the user interface but doesn’t stop there.  This version of Family Tree Maker is built on Microsoft’s .NET Framework and uses the Composite UI Application Block(CAB) and the Smart Client Software Factory(SCSF) .  I am familiar with these technologies as I use them daily as part of my responsibilites as a Senior Software Architect building a client framework for application teams within my company.

A few weeks ago when I installed Family Tree Maker 2008 RC1, imagine my surprise when I discovered that it was built with the same frameworks that I use at work.  I can run the software and understand how it is composed at the same time.  I find myself thinking, this is the Shell, and these are Workspaces and the SmartParts. 

The following CAB terms are useful for this discussion:

  • Shell – the main window of the application that contains menus, toolbars, and Workspaces
  • Workspace – a user interface container that holds SmartParts
  • SmartPart – a section of the user interface devoted to a specific task
  • Module – a deployable unit of code that can contain SmartParts or business logic; the Shell loads one or more Modules

ftm-cab.jpg

Some of the benefits of building an application with CAB/SCSF are:
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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.

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