Announcing: ORA, the Online Repository Assistant

This is very interesting. Here is a new offering created by John Cardinal, a well-known software developer who focuses on creating software tools for genealogists. His past accomplishments include Family History Hosting as well as companion programs for use with The Master Genealogist (TMG) (from Wholly Genes Software), Second Site, and the TMG Utility. Now John has created a new product that looks like it will be a very useful tool. Here is the announcement from John:

Narragansett, Rhode Island, June 17, 2020 – Family History Hosting is pleased to announce ORA, a web browser extension combined with a Windows program to help you extract data from the web pages of your favorite online repositories and capture the information in your preferred genealogy program. ORA has several features that will save time, reduce errors, and increase the consistency of your data entry.

ORA works with the Chrome, Edge, Firefox and Opera browsers when used under Windows and supports these online repositories: Ancestry.com, FamilySearch, Find a Grave, Findmypast, General Register Office (UK), Newspapers.com, and Nova Scotia Genealogy. More repositories will be added with each update.

ORA’s Record Status feature helps you keep track of which records you have reviewed so you do not waste time reviewing a record that you have already processed or rejected. If you mark a record Pending or Questionable, ORA will add it to a list so you can easily return to it later.

There are several Clipboard-oriented features that simplify copying data to the clipboard. If you’ve ever pasted data only to discover it includes unwanted HTML formatting, newlines, or punctuation, or found it hard to select the text because of the way it is presented on the repository page, you’ll love how ORA simplifies this essential process.

At the heart of ORA is a data extraction engine that finds the data on a repository page and gathers it into the ORA Control Panel. The data fields can be copied to the clipboard, as described above. With ORA’s powerful Text Templates facility, you can combine field values into your preferred source or citation format and use the template output with ORA’s Clipboard feature. ORA’s Text Templates are similar to the sentence and citation templates found in RootsMagic, Family Historian, TMG, and other programs, but with special features for transforming fields as they are inserted into the output of the template.

For more automation, you can use ORA’s Auto Type feature where you define templates to send keystrokes and other control sequences to your genealogy program to do automated data entry!

For more information about ORA, see its Introduction at https://www.ora-extension.com/en/intro.htm?v=1.01 as a slideshow. The Introduction includes several videos that show ORA in action.

ORA is sold as a subscription service, $24 USD per year. ORA is not affiliated with any of the repositories it supports. ORA does not do any searching for you; it evaluates pages you visit during your normal use of a repository and makes it faster and easier to extract the information you find. For Ancestry, Findmypast, and other fee-based repositories, you must have an account with that repository.

23 Comments

Loved your MyHeritage program the other day. I’ve read your newsletters for years, but I think this is the first time I have seen you. I have a question about ORA. Is it only available for Firefox right now? It appears that way. Thanks. Bobby Jacobs Genealogy and Computer Help Special Computer Services Young Living Essential Oils Member Id 16228327 bobbyyl.com Imperfect Produce http://imprfct.us/v/bobby_19
On Wed, Jun 17, 2020 at 8:25 PM Eastman’s Online Genealogy Newsletter wrote:
> Dick Eastman posted: “This is very interesting. Here is a new offering > created by John Cardinal, a well-known software developer who focuses on > creating software tools for genealogists. His past accomplishments include > Family History Hosting as well as companion programs for u” >

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I’m running my copy under Chrome and getting far more work done!
The instructions I followed were:
“For Chrome, you install ORA from the Chrome Web Store.
For Edge, you install ORA from the Microsoft Add-ons site. You must use version 80.0.361.111 or greater: ORA is compatible with the Chromium-based version of Edge only.
For Firefox, you install ORA from the Firefox Add-ons page.
For Opera, you must install ORA from the Chrome Web Store. Install the “Install Chrome Extensions” extension, then visit the Chrome Web Store and install ORA from there.
How to Buy ORA
ORA is sold as a subscription service, $24 USD per year. You may purchase it here.
After purchasing a license, see the Installation help page.”

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Linda Morgan Clark June 18, 2020 at 1:40 pm

Did you try installing this before you recommended it? I’ve never had so much trouble installing anything before. My virus checker definitely doesn’t like it, and various components needed to install the installer can’t be accessed because AVG has to OK the .exe installer first. I’ve worked at getting all the prerequisites taken care of for more than an hour now and still not been able to start the extension. The PR piece doesn’t even begin to cover how complicated the installation is.

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    Linda,

    Did you get ORA installed? Given ORA includes both a web extension and a dekstop program, its install has more steps than other programs. Anti-virus programs are also a factor for new programs because many systems assume that new programs are not to be trusted.
    Despite that, when people follow the installation instructions, the install should go smoothly IF they can get their anti-virus programs to allow it.
    John

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I did not see this to be an easy tool.

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I’m waiting to see other reviews as well. It’s a shame they don’t let you try it first. With something so new, I admit I’m leery of paying out money for something I’m not even sure will survive. Costs about $10 more for me here in Canada.
All that said, I’ll certainly earmark it to look at again – if it really does work as advertised with the GRO site, that would be amazing! However, the comment above about difficult to install is a little concerning.

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    Teresa,
    You can see how ORA handles the GRO UK repository via the screenshot video for repositories: https://www.ora-extension.com/en/intro.htm#/Repositories-mp4
    The GRO UK section is about 4 minutes and 40 seconds in.
    I am wrestling with providing some kind of trial. The challenge is that some new customers require a lot of help no matter how well designed the software is. If those new customers are trial users, that means I will spend a lot of time supporting people who do not become customers because they really aren’t serious about using it, they’re just “kicking tires”.
    John

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I like it! And even better, my husband really is enjoying using it, and has done more research in the last 24 hours than in the past year! I hate to even ask this, but is there any chance that “the large company whose name shall not be written here, but whose name starts with an “A” and has been threatening other companies lately” (whew!) might take offense to ORA? I don’t care, I’ll use it on everything else.

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    Pat,
    ORA does not contact the server of any repository directly. It operates on data you have already downloaded to your PC via your normal use of the web site that the repository provides. That’s different from software that fetches data from a repository’s servers. The ORA model of operation does not place any additional burden on the repository’s servers and only accesses data in a way that is supported and authorized by the repository.
    For that reason, I don’t see any valid reason for a repository to object to visitors using ORA. Some repository may object, but if they do, they won’t have a valid reason to do so. They will essentially be complaining that some users visit using browsers that are better than the browsers the repository expected them to use. (As a browser extension, ORA enhances the browser you use.) The repository won’t be able to claim any harm is done to them because there is no additional and/or unauthorized traffic to their servers.
    Sometimes companies do things that are unexpected and not in the best interests of consumers, but I don’t think that is likely in this case. There’s really no motivation for them to object.
    John

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    thanks so much, John. That is really reassuring because it is an excellent research tool. Brilliant!

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I’ve watched all the demo videos and have to say I am very impressed with the product. And since the subscription price is not much more than what I spend on a couple of bottles of wine :-), I’m fine with that too. The one point I’m a little concerned about is that the product is (apparently) fiddling with the original HTML of the target site to insert those additional controls and scraping the contents to fill the control panel. What happens when the target vendor changes the user interface, even slightly? How easy or difficult will it be to adapt to those types of changes? Other than that, the product looks like it could be incredibly useful.

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    Laurence,

    I am a little late replying, I hope you see it.

    You are correct that ORA has to react to changes by the repositories. That’s one reason why it is a subscription product.

    ORA uses some general-purpose components that are driven by repository-specific “services”. When a repository changes, its ORA service must be updated. So far, that model has worked with some wildly-different repository implementations (ORA works with Ancestry which is very different from FamilySearch which is very different from Findmypast, etc.), and I think that bodes well for ORA being able to adapt to future changes by repositories. In the end, they have to present the data to their users with HTML and unless they expend time and effort to deliberately obscure the content, ORA will be able to read the content in much the same way that an end-user does.

    John

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    Thank you for the very prompt answer. I find your information very helpful.

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Love the program, but he is using a technical site for his programs by the name of Solucija. This site is located in Croatia and this makes me nervous. In addition, to buy the program he uses an online marketing program called Open Cart which is located in Hong Kong. This makes me really nervous.

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    Peter Frederick Thorne June 22, 2020 at 7:46 pm

    Just to let you know, I may have been in error about Solucija. When trying to find the connection a second time, I couldn’t find the connection.

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    Peter,

    You were wrong about Solucija and you are also wrong about OpenCart. You knew that before you posted this comment, but you posted it anyway.

    My web store uses an open-source shopping cart solution called OpenCart, but that is not affiliated with any “marketing program” from Hong Kong or anywhere else. The OpenCart developers claim there are more than 300,000 sites using OpenCart. I can’t vouch for that number, but it is certainly one of the more popular open source shopping cart systems and it has plug-ins provided by several major credit card processing companies. See: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/OpenCart.

    I have been using OpenCart since 2016 with no incidents. I have configured the software to NOT store credit card numbers permanently; they are passed to the credit processing software and then discarded. This means I cannot offer automatic re-subscriptions, but it also means my customer database does not have any credit card data.

    John

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    Peter Frederick Thorne June 24, 2020 at 11:48 am

    I apologize for the comments made about Ora. It is a fine app.

    However, I did see that Open Cart is based in Hong Kong, but I missed the reviews by PayPal, and other market leaders. While I did see a reference to Solucija, I couldn’t replicate my search.

    Internet security has been on my mind and I tend to be very cautious about any connections with China and Russia and it’s former satellites. I am sorry for the comments. I have posted retractions to both you and Dick Eastman’s blog.

    Peter Thorne

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    Peter Frederick Thorne June 24, 2020 at 11:54 am

    I sent a retraction to Mr. Cardinal.

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I’ve been using ORA since it was released, about a month ago. Installation was problem-free. I find ORA to be a very powerful tool for extracting and recording data from services I use, such as Ancestry, Find A Grave, and Newspapers.com. Some investment of time is needed to understand ORA’s features and set its optional templates to match personal preferences for recording data in genealogical software. Once that’s done it makes the most tedious part of documenting research much faster and less subject to error. I’ve also found that it allows ORA-recorded data formats to be customized so that they match the manually entered data formats I used before ORA was available.

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    I wonder if anyone is using ORA with Legacy Family Tree? I’m just beginning with ORA and I’ve used Legacy to organize my genealogy data for years, so hoping they play nicely together. Thanks.

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    Pat,
    ORA should work just fine with Legacy. Contact me via email if you run into any issues.
    John

    Like

Peter Frederick Thorne June 25, 2020 at 1:04 am

Thanks for the update.

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