Software

Announcing LibreOffice Online

I ditched Microsoft Word several years ago and started experimenting with different word processors. I eventually settled on LibreOffice, a FREE suite of programs that includes a word processor (replacing Microsoft Word), a spreadsheet program (replacing Microsoft Excel), a presentation program (replacing Microsoft PowerPoint), a drawing program, a database creation and management program, and a formula editor that can be invoked in your text documents, spreadsheets, presentations and drawings, to enable you to insert mathematical and scientific formulas. LibreOffice is available for Windows, Macintosh, and Linux.

NOTE: The LibreOffice programs are similar to, but different from, Microsoft Office. It is not 100% compatible. For instance, macros in LibreOffice’s spreadsheet program are different from those in Microsoft Excel. Even so, the LibreOffice suite of programs meets the needs of hundreds of thousands of computer users, corporations, and non-profits around the world.

Best of all is the price tag: FREE. LibreOffice never asks for payments although the sponsoring organization will accept donations. Most of the articles published in this newsletter, including the article you are reading at this moment, were created with LibreOffice.

Branches for iPad adds Several New Features

The following announcement was written by Sherwood Electronics, the producers of Branches for iPad:

Sherwood Electronics releases an update to BRANCHES FOR iPAD that provides access to LDS FamilySearch™ data and ordinances, plus support for DropBox and email GEDCOM downloads.

Sherwood Electronics Laboratories, Inc. announces an update to Branches for iPad that allows users to access the vast FamilySearch™ database and download family tree information onto their iPad. Downloading of GEDCOM files using DropBox and email has also been added. GEDCOMs can be created, and emailed, from downloaded data.

The new and expanded features of Branches for iPad make Branches even easier to use, and more powerful. Email and DropBox transfer of GEDCOM files has been added and is easy and fast.

The FamilySearch™ features support downloading of pedigree trees directly from FamilySearch™, which is a free service to everyone. Explore relationships and search back into your family tree.

Progeny Genealogy’s Charting Companion now includes Scalable Vector Graphics

One of the more attractive genealogy products available is Charting Companion, produced by Progeny Genealogy. I am always amazed that this great charting program isn’t better known. Charting Companion is a Windows program that creates great looking charts, including giant wall charts, from GEDCOM files or directly from Ancestral Quest, Family Historian, Family Tree Maker, Legacy Family Tree, Personal Ancestral File or RootsMagic. Now a new option has been added that can create family tree charts in SVG (Scalable Vector Graphics) format, or embedded in an HTML page. This means genealogists can display their charts in a better, more compact and Web-friendly format than ever before.

How to Print to PDF

A newsletter reader asked today, “How can I save an image on a web site, such as a census page image, as a PDF file?” I decided to answer here in the newsletter in case someone else has the same question.

The short answer is, “there are several methods of saving images to PDF files.” However, I will expand on that with longer answers below. First, you need to save the image to your computer’s hard drive in almost any format. With most web pages, that means saving it in the same format that is used on the web site. Then you need to convert it to PDF. In many programs, that is called “print as PDF.”

Sophos Antivirus for Macintosh

For years, Macintosh owners felt smug with the statement that “Macs don’t get viruses.” Indeed, that was true for years but times have changed. Viruses and other malware (malevolent software) have appeared in recent years that will infect a Macintosh. Admittedly, these new threats are rarely seen. They don’t seem to spread as quickly and easily as the Windows malware. Nonetheless, Mac owners today can only claim, “Macs rarely get viruses.”

Most Macintosh owners have never installed anti-virus software simply because they never saw a need for it. In fact, that was a successful practice for a long time simply because most Macs never encountered a problem. New problems are appearing these days and I would suggest the prudent Macintosh owner now should install anti-virus and anti-malware software.

Luckily, there are free anti-virus programs for Macs that have an excellent reputation for preventing problems.

Famberry Launches “Famberry Search” and GEDCOM Upload

Famberry has been mentioned in this newsletter a number of times in the recent past (see http://goo.gl/T7QtoH). Now the company has announced a significant new update:

London, England (February 27th, 2015) Famberry (www.famberry.com), the private collaborative family tree builder, is pleased to announce the release of “Famberry Search”, an interactive search facility that uses key indicators from your family tree to give you the most relevant search results and an opportunity to connect with related family. The more you add to your family tree the better the Famberry Search results.

Blue Crab for Macintosh Downloads Entire Web Sites

An interesting Macintosh application will allow anyone to download part or all of a web site and then browse the site offline. This is a great application for making backups of a web site you own. I just made a backup of the eogn.com web site, then did the same for the Encyclopedia of Genealogy at http://www.eogen.com. Blue Crab also can be used to take a web site with you on your laptop to peruse when traveling without a wi-fi connection, such as on an airliner or a train. It is also useful for creating a snapshot of a website for historical archiving as well as for checking a website quickly for broken links, or to generate a site map.

If a genealogy society’s web site looks interesting to you, the entire site can be downloaded with Blue Crab and you can then browse the site at your leisure later. This is especially handy for use on slow Internet connections. You can download an entire site at slow speeds in the middle of the night when you don’t care about speeds, then later peruse the site as fast as your computer’s hard drive can supply everything. Of course, it also works with non-genealogy web sites.

Dropbox adds a Major New Feature to iOS App

I know many readers of this newsletter use the free Dropbox service. If you are one of the Dropbox users and you also use an iPad or iPhone or iPod Touch, your device just gained new functionality. The latest update to the Dropbox app for iOS adds the ability to save files directly to your Dropbox storage from the apps that you use through an Action Extension. However, this new feature will only work on devices using Apple’s new iOS 8 version of the operating system.

Many iPhone and iPad applications will now display an icon to “Save to Dropbox.” The new functionality already exists when saving photos. Most third-party apps need to be updated to work in this new sharing system, so it will take some time for the new feature to be added to all apps.

Windows 10 Will Let You Say “Goodbye” to Passwords and “Hello” to Fido

Passwords are perhaps the biggest security problems in computers. Short passwords are easily guessed by hackers. Long passwords are more secure but are difficult to remember. The longer and more complex the password, the more likely it is to be written down someplace by the user. Of course, writing a password on paper or in a computer file increases the odds that it will be found by a hacker. Therefore, long passwords probably are as insecure as the shorter ones.

Catch 22.

Apple partially solved the problem by incorporating fingerprint readers on the latest iPhones and iPads. Still, that is not a total solution. Now Microsoft is adding support for the Fast Identity Online (Fido) standard to Windows 10 to enable password-free sign-on for a number of applications.

Kindle Convert will Convert Paper Books to Kindle

Kindle Convert is a new application from Amazon that will convert scanned images of your personal printed books and documents into Kindle eBooks. Kindle books can be read on Kindles, of course, but also on free Kindle reading apps for iPad, iPhone, Android smartphones, and Android tablets. (See my earlier article at http://goo.gl/YeIe0e for details.) Once converted, your book can be uploaded and digitally preserved in your worry-free Amazon Cloud Drive.

Anyone using Kindle Convert can either elect to leave a scanned page as an image, or run the image through Amazon’s OCR software and convert it to text. If you stick with the image, you can crop the image, rotate it, center it on a page, and perform other basic image editing tricks. The text generated via OCR can be edited to remove errors, and styled.

Genealone 1.5.0 Has Been Released

I have written before about Genealone, a product that easily allows you to build your own genealogy website. You can read my earlier articles by starting at http://goo.gl/5CGSQG. Now a new version of Genealone has been released. I received the following message from David Nebesky of Genealone.com:

I am pleased to announce that Genealone 1.5.0 has been released.

New features:

The Sims 4 Adds Genealogy

Millions of people have played The Sims, a life simulation video game series, developed by EA Maxis and published by Electronic Arts. It is one of the most successful video games series of all time. As of September 2013, the franchise has sold more than 175 million copies worldwide. A new version of The Sims will soon be released and it features a genealogy game along with numerous other changes.

The Sims is updated more or less monthly. The February update should be available soon and will include story telling through generations of a particular family. One The Sims 4 player posted the following on the official The Sims forums:

Magnifier Flash Apps for iPhone and Android

These have to be the neatest smartphone and tablet apps available for genealogists and for many others. They are also great for anyone who has difficulty reading smaller text in old documents, news articles, restaurant menus, nutrition labels and more. They can also be helpful while searching for objects in the dark.

The concept of a smartphone’s magnifier and flash is simple: it is an app that converts your iPhone, iPad, iPod Touch, or Android device into a magnifier and a flashlight. It uses the mobile device’s camera to view a document or other object and displays the image on the screen of the device. The user can zoom in to magnify the image up to six times the normal size.

As an option, the user also can click on an icon and the camera’s light is turned on, illuminating the object being viewed. Touch the icon again and the light goes off.

Simple.

How to Read Kindle eBooks on non-Kindle Devices

In the recent newsletter comments, a couple of readers have expressed displeasure that certain ebooks were available only in Kindle format. Actually, that shouldn’t be a problem for anyone. Anybody can read Kindle books—even without a Kindle device—with the FREE Kindle app for smartphones, tablets and computers.

The free Kindle apps are available for most major smartphones, tablets and computers. With the Kindle reading apps, you can buy a Kindle book once, and read it on any device with the Kindle app installed. In fact, with most computing devices, you can read the first part of a Kindle ebook on one device, turn the device off, then later pick up on the page where you left off, even if you are using a different computing device.

Transcript: A Windows Program for Transcribing Documents

Click on the above image to view a larger version.

Many times I have transcribed information from books and older documents such as wills, deeds, and other documents that genealogists often use. In this day and age, most of the documents are in electronic format. I may have downloaded an image of a document from the World Wide Web, or I may have scanned it or snapped a picture of a document or a few pages from a book with my cell phone while visiting an archive or library. Obtaining the image is easy, but transcribing later into a text file or into a genealogy program is a bit more tedious.

In the past, I would open two windows simultaneously on the screen of my computer. I would display the image in one window and the word processor or genealogy program in another window. That works although with a few minor frustrations. Keeping the two windows in sync with each other can lead to an excessive amount of mouse movement and clicking.

Transcript 2.4 is a Windows program that simplifies and improves the process. It doesn’t eliminate all the mouse movements and clicking, but it does reduce the tedious actions a bit. The program is available in two versions: free and a Pro version for 15 Euros, roughly $17.50 US. Luckily, you can pay with PayPal, so there is no need to obtain a check or money order in Euros.

Family Tree Builder for Macintosh, a FREE Program, is Now Available

MyHeritage has just announced the release of Family Tree Builder, a powerful genealogy program for Macintosh owners. I have been a beta tester of this program for the past few weeks and must say that I am impressed with it. Best of all, it is available free of charge. It is obviously the most powerful free genealogy program available today for Macintosh owners.

Disclaimer: MyHeritage is the sponsor of this newsletter. However, I believe I would write the same or similar words even if the company was not the sponsor of this newsletter.

GenSoftReviews Announces its Users Choice Awards for 2014

The following announcement was written by Louis Kessler of GenSoftReviews:

January 2, 2015

The 6th annual Users Choice Awards have been announced at the GenSoftReviews website.

26 programs were eligible having a minimum of 10 reviews and at least one review in 2014. Of those, 16 programs achieved a user-assigned average score of at least 4.00 out of 5, and were awarded a 2014 GenSoftReviews Top Rated Genealogy Software award.

  • The Winners include:
    9 Windows programs: Ahnenblatt, Clooz, Family Historian, Ancestral Quest, Brother’s Keeper, Family Tree Builder, Behold, RootsMagic and Genbox Family History,
  • 1 Mac program: Reunion
  • 5 Online programs: The Next Generation, Famberry, My Great Big Family, MyHeritage and Family Echo
  • 1 Handheld program: Heredis for iOS

Organize Your To-Do List with ToDoist

This probably doesn’t qualify as a genealogy article although I certainly do use ToDoist to organize my future genealogy research tasks. Of course, I also use it to organize many other things in my life as well. New Years Day is the perfect time to make resolutions. One resolution I suggest for many people is to organize your life with ToDoist starting today.

I realized years ago that I often forget things. I may think, “I really need to (insert task here) soon. It would be convenient to do that next Saturday.” By the time Saturday rolls around, I have forgotten the task I had thought of doing.

I started by keeping a to-do list: a list of tasks that need to be completed, typically organized in order of priority or in chronological order. In fact, the to-do list soon became my lifesaver. With a few exceptions, it reminded me of household tasks to be accomplished, bills to be paid, and even genealogy research tasks to be performed online or on my next visit to a library or archive. Life got better when I had a constant reminder available.

Start the New Year with a Clean Windows PC

Here is a great suggestion for Windows users:

“Undo a year’s worth of wear and tear

“Consider what your PC has been through in the past 12 months: Windows Update added dozens of patches to your operating system; you’ve likely installed some new third-party software, uninstalled other programs, and upgraded or patched apps and utilities; and you’ve probably altered, tuned, and tweaked various aspects of your system’s user interface and software settings. And you’ve undoubtedly created and deleted myriad new emails, documents, photos, MP3s, videos, spreadsheets, and such.

“All during that time, your hard drive spun hundreds of millions of revolutions and the system fans rotated for hundreds of hours. Heat, dust, and chemical degradation did their inevitable damage, reducing the remaining physical life of your system’s components. In short, just as we’re a year older, our PCs are not the same machines they were a year ago.

HSTRY – Create Multimedia Timelines on Your Laptop, Chromebook, iPad, or Tablet

HSTRY is a FREE multimedia timeline creation tool that will work on your laptop, Chromebook, iPad, or tablet. It is designed for classroom use by teachers and students. However, I think it is also a great tool for use in history and genealogy. The first application that springs to mind is showing historical events that happened during an ancestor’s lifetime. Another use is to record the births, marriages, deaths, and other important events within a family over a period of years, possibly over centuries.

HSTRY is free to use to create and share timelines. The company does offer some pre-made timelines for sale.

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