Dropbox is a great tool for genealogists and most everyone else. It has been mentioned in this newsletter dozens of times. (See https://goo.gl/nx4GnP for a list of my past articles about Dropbox.) However, if you are a Macintosh user and you just upgraded to the new macOS Sierra version of the operating system, “strange things” may happen. Luckily, there is a fix.
GRAMPS (an abbreviation for “Genealogy Research and Analysis Management Programming System”) was originally developed as a Linux genealogy program and later was ported to Macintosh, Windows, BSD UNIX and Solaris. (You can find my previous articles about GRAMPS by starting at https://goo.gl/gVUE9d.)
GRAMPS is now available as a cloud-based program. In theory, you should be able to use the cloud-based version of GRAMPS with any Android, Apple iOS (specifically iPad), Chromebook, Windows, Macintosh, or Linux computer. Since it runs from the cloud, no software installation is required. Best of all, GRAMPS is available FREE of charge.
I find GRAMPS to be a very powerful genealogy program. Perhaps the most attractive feature is its price tag: FREE.
GRAMPS is a community project, created, developed and governed by genealogists. Dozens of programmers have contributed to its success. Now the folks at rollApp have ported GRAMPS to an online version, accessible to everyone in the cloud. One unique feature is that the online version of GRAMPS will save your data files in your choice of Dropbox, Google Drive, Box.com, OneDrive, or Yandex.Disk.
You probably can find dozens of reasons for creating a blog. In addition, you can probably find dozens of companies that will host a blog for you. Given the choices and the reasons available, trying to decide on the best blog hosting service for you can be an overwhelming decision. How do you find the best one for your use? I will suggest there is no easy answer, but I will suggest that WordPress should be one of the services you evaluate.
NOTE: I will quickly admit that I am biased. The words you are reading right now are hosted on a WordPress blog. I have used several different blogging services over the years to host this newsletter. I switched to WordPress several years ago and am very happy with the company’s services. I have no plans to switch to anything else.
Why would you want a blog?
There are a number of reasons why a genealogist might want to crate a blog. Here are a few ideas I can think of:
I have written before about Twile. See http://goo.gl/jVVbaw for a list of my past articles about the company. Now Twile is introducing a new upgraded version. The following announcement was written by the folks at Twile:
Twile have today released a new feature allowing users to merge multiple GEDCOM files into one family tree and keep it updated with future changes.
The new feature means that family members storing their research independently in different family history sites – such as Ancestry or Findmypast – can now bring all of their findings together in one private family tree on Twile and import newer versions as they further their research. As well as building their tree, Twile will use the data in the GEDCOM files to automatically add events to the family timeline, such as births, marriages and deaths.
Warning: this article contains personal opinions.
I recently exchanged email messages with a newsletter reader who is looking for a replacement for his favorite genealogy program, the now-defunct program called The Master Genealogist. He raised some good points about today’s available genealogy products, and I responded with some of my views and predictions. I decided to write an article based upon our “conversation” and to also expand our comments as I imagine many newsletter readers also are interested in finding new and (hopefully) better programs.
First, let me write specifically about The Master Genealogist.
I have written several times about the advantages of OpenOffice and LibreOffice, two free alternatives to Microsoft Office. (See http://goo.gl/qtpYC3 for my most recent article about free replacement programs for Microsoft Office.) Now a volunteer vice president of OpenOffice says OpenOffice could be shut down if more developers can’t be recruited to support the project and keep the software secure. The immediate problem is that, according to Dennis E. Hamilton’s email, the team now consists of only about six core members and they are overwhelmed.
You can read the details in an article by David Z. Morris in the Fortune Magazine web site at http://fortune.com/2016/09/04/openoffice-possible-shutdown/.
I have written several times about Evernote (see https://goo.gl/RXq5Ez for a list of my past articles about Evernote). I use Evernote more often than I use a genealogy program although I have to also add that I use Evernote for all sorts of things, not just for genealogy purposes. However, the producers of Evernote recently increased the price of the program and also reduced the capabilities of the free version. A number of Evernote users have now switched, or are contemplating switching, to other note-taking applications.
Probably the second-most popular note-taking application is Microsoft’s OneNote. While more complicated to use, OneNote has a great price: FREE. See Microsoft’s Office Blog at https://blogs.office.com/2015/02/13/onenote-now-even-free/ for details.
How safe is your computer? If it runs Windows 10, it is not safe at all according to the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF). The EFF accuses Microsoft of “blatantly disregarding” user choice and privacy, and says that by default, Windows 10 sends an “unprecedented amount of usage data” back to Redmond’s servers.
The EFF further states that while it’s possible to opt out of some of Microsoft’s data hoovering, this is “not a guarantee that your computer will stop talking to Microsoft’s servers”. Indeed, you’re forced to share at least some telemetry data with Redmond unless you’re running an enterprise version of Windows 10.
You can read the Electronic Frontier Foundation’s report at https://goo.gl/IY3TX5.
What should you do if you are presently using Windows 10?
I have often written about the benefits of going paperless. (See https://goo.gl/dq0QCo for my articles concerning going paperless.) Instead of printing things on paper, I suggest using your computer to create PDF file of the documents instead. PDF files are easy to create, require less space, are easier to send by mail (by using email), are easier to copy, are easier to find in the future, and, if you really need something on paper in the future, can be printed at any time.
Macintosh users have had the capability for years of creating PDF documents from any application. Strangely, Windows did not have that capability until recently. Windows users have always needed to install third-party software in order to create PDF files. Now that has changed. Windows 10 lets you print directly to PDF from any application.
Dropbox Paper Challenges Evernote, Google Keep, Zoho Notebook, OneNote and Other Cloud-Connected Note-Taking Products
Evernote has long been one of the best note-taking apps for use by genealogists and by millions of others. I have been a big Evernote fan for years and still am. However, Evernote recently increased the prices of its Plus and Premium versions. Evernote Basic remains available free of charge but is now limited to two devices per account, like a computer and a phone, two computers, or a phone and a tablet. Bummer! (See my earlier article at https://goo.gl/n0v4qa for the details.)
Many Evernote users were disappointed by the news and have since looked for replacement programs. See my article about one possible replacement at https://goo.gl/EwKVFN while others are switching to Microsoft’s OneNote (see https://goo.gl/deGfCZ). Now a new candidate from a well-known vendor is entering the marketplace.
Dropbox has long been a very popular cloud-based file storage service. Most Dropbox users find it is an excellent service for making backup copies of files as well as copying (or “replicating”) those files amongst multiple computers, such as keeping the same files at all times on both your your desktop and laptop computers. The same files also can be retrieved on an iPad, iPhone, Android device, Windows Phone, or even on a Kindle Fire. Now Dropbox is adding a new trick that appears to be aimed at enticing Evernote users to switch to Dropbox’s new service.
I wrote about Family Book Creator last year at https://goo.gl/kO7kp1. Now there is an update to my earlier article: the program is now available in both French and Spanish. Here is the announcement from Stefan Harms, the program’s author:
Now with French and Spanish
Family Book Creator is a plugin for Family Tree Maker on Windows which turns research results into detailed personalized books with just a few clicks. Different book types and languages are supported. A free trial version is available. Go to www.FamilyBookCreator.com for more details about this Family Tree Maker plugin, download the free Trial Edition and try the plugin with your own data.
If you already have a word processor installed in each of your computers and are happy with your present choice, you probably will want to skip this article. However, if you do not have a good word processor, or if you want to look at other possibilities, this may be the article for you. If you are presently using Google Docs or Microsoft Word Online or some other cloud-based word processor and are frustrated by your program’s lack of some features you want, this is the article for you. If you need a better word processor for sharing documents with co-workers or with family or even with genealogy society members, this is the article for you. If you want a good word processor for an iPad or Android tablet computer, this is the article for you.
Oh, by the way, this article describes a word processor that is FREE for personal use.
Zoho is an online Web service that lets you do almost anything online that you can do on a desktop computer, from creating documents to building a spreadsheet to managing a database, plus conferencing, project-management, chatting, and a dozen other functions. Zoho also duplicates many applications that Google offers with sophisticated calendars, spreadsheets, presentations, email and chat. In some cases, Zoho’s products may be more powerful than Google’s; but, in other cases, the opposite may be true. For this article, I will focus on one product called Zoho Writer.
Zoho Writer is an online word processor that is very easy to use. Yet it has most of the bells and whistles of an expensive, traditional word processor. I also find it to be much more powerful and useful than the word processor available with Google Docs.
Handheld devices grow more and more powerful every year. Now the mobile device in your hand can not only create digital images of documents and pages from a book, it also can even perform OCR (optical character recognition) that converts the printed words into computer-readable and editable text. This should be a very useful tool for genealogists, historians, and anyone else who does a lot of research and needs to save much of the information found.
A scan from the Redbook. Click on the image to view a larger version. Your image viewing program in your computer should allow you to zoom in or out as needed and also to print.
I have written a number of times about Chromebooks, the low-cost laptop computers that boot up quickly, are simple to use, never get viruses, and perform the computer tasks that many computer owners want. (Go to https://goo.gl/TsSWQ5 to find my earlier Chromebook articles.) These $150 to $300 laptop computers have become very popular. Now they may become even more popular than ever.
The developers of CrossOver, a utility that allows users to run Windows programs on Linux, have been working on an Android app that does the same thing, bringing Windows apps to the Android OS. Doing so allows Windows programs to run on Google’s new Android interface for Chromebooks. The official app hasn’t been released yet. However, the company has recently posted a video showing the Steam game client and Windows game Limbo running on an Acer Chromebook R11.
Evernote has long been a useful tool for genealogists. Indeed, I have written several times about the use of Evernote in genealogy research. It is one of my favorite programs. I use Evernote more often than I use a genealogy program although I have to add that I use Evernote for all sorts of things, not just for genealogy purposes. (See https://goo.gl/RXq5Ez for a list of my past articles about Evernote.)
Evernote disappointed many of its users a couple of weeks ago when the company announced a price hike and also a reduction in service for free users. (See my earlier article at https://goo.gl/iBShNp for details.) Even though the price hike is modest, a number of Evernote users are now looking for alternative programs that perform the same tasks as Evernote but are either more powerful or else free of charge or both. One product from a little-known company appears to meet the needs of many Evernote users although perhaps it is not a 100% replacement. Then again, a price tag of FREE and the ability to use it on as many computing devices as you wish is very attractive.
This is a follow-up to my article, Virus False Positives: How Can You Be Sure?, published yesterday at https://goo.gl/ydVT0i. Today, CBC News published an article by Emily Chung that says that anti-virus software is essentially useless. In fact, that software may be making your computer more hackable than a computer with no anti-virus software installed at all!
This week, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security’s Computer Emergency Readiness Team (CERT) issued a warning about popular antivirus software made by Symantec, some of it under the Norton brand, after security researchers with Google’s Project Zero found critical vulnerabilities. “These vulnerabilities are as bad as it gets. They don’t require any user interaction, they affect the default configuration, and the software runs at the highest privilege levels possible,” wrote Google researcher Tavis Ormandy in a blog post.
Heredis is one of my favorite genealogy programs. You can find my past articles about Heredis by starting at: https://goo.gl/oyX3b0. If you are thinking about switching to a different genealogy program, you might consider Heredis to see if it meets your needs. You can read more about the program at http://www.heredis.com.
The folks who produce Heredis are offering a big discount for a few days. The “Flash Sale” is for both the Windows and Macintosh versions of this excellent genealogy software. The offer ends on Sunday, July 10, 2016. I am not sure which time zone is involved in the offer so I would suggest not waiting until Sunday evening to order it.
MapMe is an easy way to create an interactive map with multiple categories. You can use it to show the location(s) of your ancestors’ homesteads or perhaps to show the migration paths of several generations of ancestors. MapMe is available free of charge. No coding required. No Photoshop required. Just create the map, add your locations and embed it on your web site or send it in an email message. It also has more powerful features like events, job vacancies and newsletters.
I especially like the ability to easily insert a map created with MapMe into a WordPress blog, such as this newsletter. For instance, here is a map from the MapMe web site showing what a can be accomplished with the service:
This is a map of the Top 10 Mountain Biking Trails in America. A larger version of the same map can be seen by clicking on the above image.
History Here is a fascinating cell phone app produced by the History Channel. It displays historical locations that may be hidden all around you, including architecture, museums, battlefields, monuments, famous homes, tombstones, and much more.
You can use it at home to learn what historical events happened near you. However, the History Here app will also come in handy when you’re traveling to a new city as it locates large and small museums alike. It also finds events, both famous and obscure. For instance, the first time I used History Here, it displayed information about the first National Women’s Rights Convention held in 1850 a few miles from my home. Who knew?
Besides historic homes and museums, the app also maps many graves of historic figures. Hit a spot on the map, and you’ll get a brief history lesson. You can save spots and later receive alerts when you’re walking near a mapped site.
History Here has recently added TOURS, a list of curated tours in various cities. The TOURS feature uses locations as a way to learn about historical themes and topics, such as Marilyn Monroe’s Hollywood, Civil War Atlanta, and Al Capone’s Chicago.
A newsletter reader read yesterday’s article of “Another Reason Why a Genealogist Might Want to Buy a Chromebook” and asked if Chromebooks can run Windows or Macintosh genealogy programs. I thought I would post the answer here in case other people have the same question.
The quick answer is “No.” Chromebooks do not run programs written for Windows or Macintosh or Linux or UNIX or other operating systems. Chromebooks today only run programs written for the Chrome operating system. As mentioned in yesterday’s article, a future release of the Chrome operating system will also allow most Chromebooks to run programs written for the Android operating system.
There are very few genealogy programs written for Chromebooks but many genealogy programs (or “apps”) are available today for Android, including apps from MyHeritage, FamilySearch, Ancestry.com, RootsMagic, BillionGraves, Find A Grave, and others. You can find a list of all the genealogy apps available for Android at https://goo.gl/EHvKPw. I assume that most of these apps will also run on Chromebooks once the new version of the Chrome operating system is released.