NOTE: This is the third in a series of articles I have been writing about genealogy programs for the iPhone and iPod Touch. The first two articles were "Shrubs: a Genealogy Program for the iPhone and iPod Touch" and "FamViewer, Genealogy Software for iPhone and iPod Touch."
GedView by David Knight is another viewer for your genealogy database. The program runs in an Apple iPhone or an iPod Touch. It reads any GEDCOM file created by any modern Windows, Macintosh, or Linux genealogy program and displays the information in an easy-to-understand manner. You can carry your genealogy data with you all the time. To view your information, simply take the iPhone or iPod Touch out of your pocket or purse, touch the appropriate icon, and then view your data. All the iPhone genealogy programs have search capabilities, and some of them will display pedigree charts. However, not all of them contain charting capabilities.
The advantage of using a program that reads GEDCOM files is that you can use it in conjunction with any desktop or laptop genealogy program, including Windows, Macintosh, and Linux programs.
NOTE #1: The same is true for Shrubs and for FamViewer, two programs that I reviewed earlier. You can find other programs that only work in conjunction with specific desktop software, and I do plan to review those in the future. However, all the programs I have written about to date work with any Windows, Macintosh, or Linux genealogy program through the use of GEDCOM files.
NOTE #2: For an explanation of GEDCOM files, see my earlier "GEDCOM Explained" article at http://blog.eogn.com/eastmans_online_genealogy/2008/08/gedcom-explaine.html.
Downloading and installing GedView is done in the same manner as all other iPhone programs: touch the iPhone's App Store icon, touch SEARCH, and then search for "genealogy" or "GedView." When the program's information is displayed, touch the price ($3.99) and everything after that is automatic. The new application will be ready for use within a few seconds.
In fact, the most difficult thing I found was the very first required step after installation: importing your existing GEDCOM file. Before using GedView for the iPhone, you must first create a GEDCOM file with your existing desktop or laptop genealogy program. All modern genealogy programs have the capability to create GEDCOM files.
Next, you place that file either on a computer that is on your in-home wi-fi network or on a web server someplace. Then you go to the iPhone and have it retrieve that GEDCOM file from your in-home computer or from the web site. Instructions are included with the program.
Copying from your in-home wi-fi sounds like the simplest solution; but, for many users, this is not all that simple. It means configuring network software on a desktop computer to share certain files or folders with other computers on the same network. The instructions for doing this will vary, depending upon the operating system you use (Windows XP, Vista, Macintosh, etc.), but the process is never trivial. If you already have access to a web server someplace, you can upload the GEDCOM file to that server and then download it to the iPhone. I copied my GEDCOM file to the www.eogn.com server as I already know how to send files to that system by use of FTP (File Transfer Protocol). If you do not have access to a web server, however, you will need to use the in-home wi-fi method.
NOTE #3: The process for transferring the GEDCOM files has been loosely similar on all three iPhone genealogy programs I have written about so far.
Once the file is downloaded, the method of importing it was automatic and only required a second or two for a file containing information about 3,000 individuals. The program does support multiple databases; you can switch between databases more or less instantly.
I found the navigation of the database in GedView to be simple. In fact, most things about this program can be described as "simple." That is both an advantage and a disadvantage: the advantage is that this program is simple to use. On the downside, this simple program did not have as many features as did the two other iPhone genealogy programs I already reviewed.
With one exception, GedView is purely text based. There are no charts or diagrams in the program. You can see that in the several screenshots shown in this article. I'll describe that one exception later.
NOTE #4: You can click on any of the images shown in this article to see a larger version of the same image.
If you have ever looked at the contents of a GEDCOM file with a text viewer (such as Windows Notepad), you will understand the process. The GEDCOM file contains text: names, places, locations, etc. The GedView program imports that text, reformats it to make it easier to read and display relationship links for each individual, and then displays the text on the iPhone screen. The program will display the data in both Individual and Family views. It also displays text notes that were in the GEDCOM file. It supports all standard GEDCOM event types and will display Sources and Notes for events and facts. The program will display all text in both portrait and landscape mode.
Browsing or searching for individuals is as simple as the other functions already described. The search seems to be very fast, nearly instantaneous when searching through 3,000 individuals. You can browse information via either (1.) a surname index, which then opens an index of individuals with the same surname or (2.) a family index, which then opens a list of the parents and children for the selected family, along with family related events.
GedView focuses primarily on individuals, not on couples. This is the format that I prefer although that is strictly a personal preference. Some other programs always display couples on the screen and then surround that couple with information about their parents, children, and possibly siblings. My genealogy research focuses on individuals, not couples. Therefore, I prefer the format used by GedView and several other programs: the primary screen shows information about one person, surrounded by links to his or her parents, children, siblings, and spouse(s). It is a subtle difference, but I am much more comfortable with the focus on individuals as used by GedView. In contrast, both Shrubs and FamViewer, two competing genealogy programs for the iPhone that I described in recent weeks, have a default display that shows information about a couple.
Once a person or a family is found and the information is displayed on the screen, you can set a "bookmark" on that person or family so that you can quickly return to it by first touching BOOKMARKS and then selecting the individual or family you previously bookmarked.
GedView works with rather large GEDCOM files. The largest file tested by the software producer was a 38-megabyte file containing information about 70,000 individuals. That's a lot of data that you can carry in your shirt pocket! However, the producer also states that the program works best on files of 2,000 individuals or less on an iPhone 3G while the 3GS can support much higher numbers. I tested 3,000 individuals on an iPhone 3GS and the speed was essentially instantaneous on everything I tried.
I found GedView to be a very limited program. It only displays text and all the screens look a bit simple. I especially missed the pedigree charts. However, GedView does have one "dynamite" feature that I have not found in the other iPhone genealogy programs that I have reviewed to date: the ability to display maps. This is the "one exception" to the text-only screens that I mentioned earlier. You can touch any location in the database, and that location will be shown on a Google Map. Click on the image to the left to see an example. You do not need to enter any latitudes or longitudes; Google will look up that information for you. However, the program does not use the iPhone's GPS to calculate your distance from that location.
Perhaps the best thing about GedView is it price: $3.99 US, £2.39, €2.99, or $4.99 AU. It is the lowest priced genealogy application for the iPhone and, as such, warrants consideration. If you do not need pedigree charts, GedView may well be the best program for you. Its text-only screens produce a sort of "Plain Jane" display, but I find this in keeping with its barebones pricing. I do prefer GedView's focus on a single individual at a time instead of displaying couples.
When comparing the three iPhone genealogy programs reviewed to date, I will admit that I prefer FamViewer with its pedigree charts and other "bells and whistles." I do wish that FamViewer would focus on individuals, not couples. However, anyone who is just looking for the basic functionality of carrying genealogy data in a convenient, tiny package, the lower-priced GedView at $3.99 US may be preferable.
I will rate GedView at "two stars." It performs all the basics well but does not have as many features as the other two iPhone and iPod Touch programs that I reviewed earlier.
You can learn more about GedView at http://www.ritter.demon.co.uk/Projects/gedview.html. To download the application, pick up your iPhone or iPod Touch and touch the "App Store" icon.