Saturday, 13 November 2021

SVG Family-Tree Generator (v6.1)

The release of SVG-FTG V6.0, back in March, has been very successful. There was an article in the UK Family Tree magazine, an online interview with me, and a significant increase in membership of the Facebook support group.

It is now time to release V6.1. The major feature in this version is an "album" of all your images that can be browsed or searched from your web browser. This feature was actually deferred from V6.0 because of the enormous number of other features and improvements already in there.

Although an experienced software developer, I am also a genealogist and a user of this software. Hence, new features are usually added because I have a genuine need for them, and the software is made freely available both because it was never written for commercial gain and because I expect many other genealogists to have similar goals.

One of these goals relates to images. SVG-FTG V6.0 supported thumbnail images in the person-boxes, and arbitrary images in the biographical or historical notes for either persons or places; however, I needed something more than this. Expecting all images to be relevant to a specific person, or even to a family, would put SVG-FTG in my own firing line that criticises other software. I have images that relate to groups (e.g. weddings or parties) and some that relate only to places. I wanted to be able to catalogue them such that I could search for people and/or places, and view associated textual notes, or simply to browse them. I wanted this to be possible on my local computer or on a website. But most importantly, I didn't want my images modified, renamed, copied, or moved in any way from my originals — a requirement that all responsible genealogists will immediately understand.

Image Album

SVG-FTG 6.1 provides a tool to maintain distinct groups of images (termed "galleries") and add meta-data to the individual images. This can include a caption, a place description, associations to persons in the current tree, and general textual notes. The images can be of anything you want, including groups and document scans, and so are not constrained to be of specific persons.

At a point of your choosing, all the images in all your galleries can be indexed for presentation and searching using a Web browser; this indexed set is termed an "album".

NB: None of your images are moved or modified in anyway. Separate storage records all this meta-data, but it is indexed so that your images can be viewed using a typical filmstrip tool, and searched from an interactive application added to your family tree.

There are two separate pieces of software that benefits from this meta-data:

  • The first is a small tool for displaying the properties of image files in a Windows directory. It is called MetaProxy, and was described previously at MetaProxy V3.0. It is a free tool that requires no installation, and it links images and their meta-data properties so that they are automatically displayed together. MetaProxy is not an essential tool, but it provides a very simple way of capitalising on all the information you would have added for each image, effectively making your Windows directories a bit more sophisticated than simple groups of named image files.
  • The second bit of software is a new SVG-FTG interactive application, called 'Image Album'. The application talks to an album filmstrip — displayed in another tab — so that searches can be performed and results displayed in the filmstrip. For instance, I could request that all the images showing my old school be presented, or just the pictures of my school with me in them, or pictures of my school with either/both my brother and me in them. Selecting one of the images from filmstrip shows any textual details you may have added for it.

When the interactive application is added to your tree, you will usually get an extra 'Album' button in the bottom-left of each person-box. This button supports the following operations:

  • Click: Selects (or deselects) the current person so that they can be referenced by a subsequent search.
  • Ctrl+Click: Clears all the highlights for currently selected persons.
  • Shift+Click: Launches the search box.
  • Alt+Click: Tells the album filmstrip tab to present all images, from all galleries (i.e. ignoring any search criteria).

The search box allows you to include any/all/none of the selected persons, a specific place description, and a gallery name. For instance:

 


When you press the 'Search' button then the meta-data is searched in the current browser tab. If there are no matches then you will see a message, otherwise the album filmstrip is asked to present the matching images. The album filmstrip is automatically launched in a separate tab, and if you are using viewpoints then they will all communicate with the same filmstrip tab.

The image filmstrip shows how many images there are in total and which of those is currently shown in the main panel. There are buttons to the left and right allowing you to cycle through the current images. Alternatively, you can click on a specific image in the strip of images in the lower panel.

 


In response to a search then the list of images is reduced to just those matching the search criteria. Clicking on the main image will show (or hide) a panel of text showing the notes that you created for the image.


The full list of images can be restored by clicking on the album title, or from your tree by using the search box or Alt+Click operations.

Help Text

All of the forms that have a menu bar will now show an extra option: Help. Selecting this will display a simple page of help relevant to that particular form.

GEDCOM V7.0

After a very long hiatus, GEDCOM 7 was released by Family Search this year. The goal has been to create a more precise and unambiguous specification, and to provide a more solid foundation for the representation of family trees.

SVG-FTG V6.1 imports both GEDCOM 7 and 5.5(.1), and offers a choice of exporting as GEDCOM 7 or 5.5.1. This will not be of much use until other companies support the new GEDCOM specification.

Image Scaling

In response to a question from one of the SVG-FTG users, I've had to look at image scaling. In V6.0, when expanding a thumbnail image into another browser tab, it was scaled to fit the window size, but if the image was a small low-resolution one then this could result in a very blurry presentation.

The low level function that handles this (su_showFile) has now been modified so that an image will be displayed original size if it will fit, otherwise it is scaled down to fit while retaining its aspect ratio.

Non-Standard GEDCOM Dates

By far, the biggest issue with importing GEDCOM files has been the near-ubiquitous inclusion of non-standard dates by the software that generates them, i.e. date formats that clearly do not conform to the GEDCOM specification. It is too early to tell whether GEDCOM 7 will help, or how databases of stored dates — especially those held by online genealogy software — will be made compliant.

SVG-FTG V6.1 now accepts many of the most common date variations in order to make the import a smoother operation, and lessening the need to manually "cleanse" the data before loading.

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