This week I had a chance to use a new genealogy program for Windows. Actually, it was new to me but has been around for a while. I found that it is a very powerful genealogy program and yet it is also very easy to use. You might ask, "This is a powerful genealogy program that is user friendly? How much does it cost?" You may be surprised by the answer: it is free. In fact, the program has no advertising, no "nag screens" asking for payment, and not even a registration process. How does the producing company make money? Read on.
Family Treasures was originally developed by a U.S. company called Family Technologies. In 1992, it was released as the first Windows genealogy program to support digitized photos. It also was sold under license through other publishers under the names Family for Windows, and My Family Tree. In 2002, Embla AS of Norway purchased the rights to the software, and Family Technologies has worked with Embla to produce Version 5, which was released in Norway at the end of 2003 and in the UK in January 2004. The program is being released in the U.S. on June 6, the same day as this newsletter.
The producers of Embla Family Treasures kindly gave me a late beta test of the program a few weeks ago, and I had a chance to use it at some length. Installation was a snap, about the same as any other Windows program. The installation did seem to pause for a long time with a message on the screen about updating files. However, I went off and did other tasks, and eventually that screen was replaced with a new one that said, "Installation complete."
Upon launching Embla Family Treasures, I was prompted for my name and e-mail address. Once the main screen appeared, I found a very "clean" and simple user interface. As I experimented with the program a bit, I found that there are almost never any pop-up screens that appear on top of other information. The company's developers have worked hard to ensure that the program never confuses the users. Part of this design effort was to always display information in a side-by-side display, not in a pop-up window. This doesn't sound like much of a difference, but after using the program for a while, I began to appreciate its simple appearance. I mentioned that it "almost" never displays a pop-up; there are a few simple exceptions that should not confuse anyone.
While the user interface is simple, you should never believe that this is a low-powered program. In fact, Embla Family Treasures has all the items that one expects in a modern genealogy program:
• Database Storage for unlimited individuals and families per family project
• Unlimited number of sources in each family project
• Templates for various types of sources are built-in to help you get going
• Any source can be used in an unlimited number of source citations.
• The last citation can be reinserted with a hotkey.
• Sources can be printed in list form, sorted by title or grouped by repository.
• See all uses (citations) of any source with one click.
• Each source can have unlimited text notes.
• Unlimited biographical and medical notes per individual and family. Medical notes can be tagged as private to prevent them from being included in reports.
• Unlimited number of events, places, sources, multimedia objects, and action items per individual and family
• Address, telephone and email contact information per individual and family
• Handles marriages between relatives
• Handles unusual relationships for children such as Adoption, Fostering and Special
• Unlimited children per family
• Unlimited spouses and marriages per individual
• Marriages and child births automatically maintained in date order
• Unlimited number of events per person and family
• Any number of custom event types can be added.
• Events can contain attached objects including multimedia or documents.
• Events can have an unlimited number of source citations and witnesses.
• Events can contain unlimited free text notes.
• All events in an individual’s life, or associated with a family, are automatically maintained in date order.
• Each event has a default sentence definition which is used when producing book style reports.
• Events sentences can be completely customized by the user.
• Unlimited number of place objects in each family project
• Places can contain photos, geographic coordinates, and descriptive text.
• Places contain up to six sub-parts with default or user-specified prepositions for each part.
• All places in the project can be printed in list form.
• All usages of each place can be seen with a single mouse-click.
• Multimedia objects can include scanned images, digital photos, sound, video, documents or any other type of file.
• Photos for individuals can be tagged as Primary or Child.
• Any number of photos can be attached to an individual, family, place, source, or event.
• Multimedia objects can have free text or captions attached which will automatically be included in book reports.
• Images can be added directly from a scanner into the software, or they can be dragged and dropped from Windows Explorer.
• Sound recordings can be made directly into your project if you have a sound card and microphone.
• A built-in editor lets you crop or change brightness and contrast of digital images.
• Thumbnails of all images can be viewed or printed.
• Various ancestor and descendant listings and tree charts in single sheet or wall charts
• Comprehensive charts containing all data for an individual or family
• Empty individual or family sheets designed to help you collect new information or fill-in-the-blanks for missing information
• Book style reports for ancestors or descendants
• Book style reports exported to RTF or DOC file format for complete user control over all text and formatting
• Listings of any primary data type with various sorting options; including individuals, families, places, multimedia, sources, action items
• Reports can be printed or exported as PDF files, JPG images, HTML web sites, or WMF vector images. Note: Some reports cannot be exported in all formats.
• Various photo charts including single family groups or ancestors of an individual
• Calendar charts with birthdays and anniversaries
• Lineage charts showing the relations between two arbitrary individuals
• Background images and borders can be added to all non-wall chart reports.
• Many customization options for fonts, colors and content are provided.
• Attractive, colorful and customizable Birthday and Wedding announcements
• Wall chart and single sheet hourglass charts
• New report types produced every month or so, as optional plug-in GEMs (Genealogy Expansion Modules). If you see one you like, just click on it, download it, and start using it!
• Action Items can be either attached to individuals or families or not attached to anything.
• Action Items can be printed by due date, or by location.
• Clicking an Action Item will open the item to which it is attached.
• Searching can be done by specific field or globally across the entire database.
• Complex, logical, AND/OR searching can be performed including age comparisons.
• Search results can be printed or viewed in spreadsheet form for quick access for editing.
• Change languages on-the-fly.
• Built-in comprehensive Help system explains each screen and control.
• Protect your data.
• Automatically backs up data each time you close the software.
Actually, the above is an abbreviated list. You can view a longer list of all the features of Embla Family Treasures 5 at http://www.embla.us (click on "Detailed Feature List").
I imported a GEDCOM file containing information about more than 3,000 individuals into the program. As with any GEDCOM import, there were a few "errors." The GEDCOM format is somewhat inexact, and no genealogy program I am aware of will ever import all data from all GEDCOM files perfectly. However, Embla Family Treasures did create an error log that shows all the data that it did not understand. I was able to view that log in one window (with Notepad) and then correct the errors one by one within Family Treasures.
You can see sample screen shots of the program in operation at http://www.embla.us (click on "Overview / Screen Shots"). You will note that the primary screen has a tree editor panel. To the left of center is a box with a thicker border around it. This is the placeholder for the Root Member. To the right of the Root member are placeholders for up to six generations of that member’s ancestors. Immediately beneath the Root member is a placeholder for that member’s siblings. The spouse (or spouses if that member was married more than once in their lifetime) will appear slightly above and to the left of the Root member, and beneath them is a placeholder for the children of the Root member. In short, the program displays information in a logical manner.
Entering information about any individual is easy: click on that person's box to make that person the "root person," then click on "Member Editor." A new screen appears (not a pop-up) that allows for entering data about that person, source citations, biographical information, and even for importing pictures of the person. Already have a picture available elsewhere on your computer? Double-click on the picture icon and then navigate to the image you already have. You can also link to existing multimedia files on your hard drive, copy an image from the Windows clipboard, import a picture directly from a scanner or digital camera, or even record a new sound clip from a microphone connect to the computer's sound board. This last option is an excellent method of adding commentaries on the fly.
The program has excellent help files. In fact, the help files display in a Web browser. A printed user’s manual reportedly will be available soon although I question why anyone would purchase it. The program is so easy to use and already has excellent built-in help. I cannot imagine why anyone would need a user’s manual.
Family Treasures started out as a program developed in the U.S. although Embla is a Norwegian company. The program is now developed and supported by people in Norway, the United Kingdom, and the United States. As you might expect with any program created by this international group, it supports multiple languages and even has two different versions of English: United States and England. The user can switch languages at any time. The advantage of this is that reports will be printed in the appropriate language for all wording created by the program's developers. For instance, the words birth, death, marriage, buried, christened, etc. will be printed in the language selected. This is an excellent method of printing out data and sending it to distant relatives in "the old country" who may not be literate in English. All data the user enters will obviously remain unchanged, however.
While Embla Family Treasures is a very powerful program, there is always room for additions. In fact, Embla offers additions, and therein lies the tale of how the company expects to make money.
Embla offers GEMs, or "Genealogy Expansion Modules." GEMs extend the functionality of Embla Family Treasures in some way. For example, a GEM may add a new wall chart plotting tool to the program, or perhaps a tool to help you make professional looking web pages of your family history. GEMs available now include:
a graphical monthly calendar, showing anniversaries (with photos if available)
a list showing all anniversaries in a year.
a member sheet with colorful icons and titles
a four generation ancestor report with photos
Both reports can be enhanced by the addition of frames and a background image.
A “Power Pack" that adds more fields to reports, more printed reports, different methods of displaying data on-screen, and more.
In my conversations with the Embla Family Treasures developers, I heard plans for future GEMs, including:
• Hourglass wall chart
• Colorful membership forms
• Export to RTF (to allow for customizing and printing reports in Microsoft Word and other word processors)
• Birthday report
• HTML home page generator
• A full tree printed report with an image of a tree in the background that adjusts the size and number of branches, depending upon the data to be printed
As you can see, none of these GEMs are critical to the program's operation. All the powerful features described earlier are fully functional, even if you never obtain any GEMs. Also, it is doubtful if anyone would ever purchase all the GEMs. The theory is that each person will purchase only the individual GEMs of interest to him or her.
Embla charges money for the GEMs, with prices ranging from $5.00 to perhaps $25.00 (U.S. funds) for each one. However, the company also offers a one-year membership that allows members to purchase GEMs at significant discounts. When you join, you get a one-year membership to the Embla club and 100 GEM Points. Each point is the equivalent of $1 and can be used for buying things such as GEMs, books, and enhanced support. So, for the annual membership fee of $39.95, you can get $100 of Embla Family Treasures goodies of your choice. Club membership has other benefits: as a club member you get to vote on new GEM development, so you have a real say in how the program gets extended. There will be private members-only discussion boards, where you get to speak to the developers as well as other club members.
Embla promises that future updates and bug fixes will be available free of charge to anyone who wishes to download them online.
Even in this lengthy article, I have only covered a few of the features available in Embla Family Treasures. A full review would fill an entire newsletter.
Embla Family Treasures is available free of charge. At the time these words are being written, it is not yet available for download from the company's Web site. However, I expect that to change within the next few days. You can also purchase a CD-ROM version of the program for $10.00 (U.S. funds).
This is an excellent genealogy program with an excellent price: free. I can strongly recommend Embla Family Treasures for all beginners, and I bet that many "old timers" will like it as well. You might want to try it out. After all, the program is free. Once you have some experience with it, you can decide for yourself if you want to purchase some GEMs.
To learn more about Embla Family Treasures 5, go to http://www.embla.us/