It is Now Official: Say Goodbye To Your Windows PC As You Know It

NOTE: This article is not about genealogy, but I suspect many Windows users will be interested in it. If you are looking for true genealogy-related articles, I suggest you skip this one.

In the July 30, 2018, edition of this newsletter, I predicted:

“Huge changes are coming from Microsoft. A new rumor is going around that claims Microsoft is switching from SELLING Windows to RENTING it instead. Some users think it will be an improvement while others believe it will be a major step backwards to computing in the way it was done in the 1970s when very expensive mainframes did all the computing and all data input and output by humans was done by using remote ‘dumb terminals.’

“Microsoft is getting ready to replace Windows 10 with the Microsoft Managed Desktop. This will be a “desktop-as-a-service” (DaaS) offering. Instead of owning your own copy of Windows, you’ll “rent” Windows by the month.”

Microsoft made my prediction come true this week. Microsoft has now rolled out Windows Virtual Desktop (WVD). If you have a fast internet connection, you can run your desktop off WVD today.

Starting now, you no longer need to own a PC with Microsoft Windows installed. Instead, you can “run” Windows 10 on a Macintosh, Chromebook, Linux, iPad, or Android tablet.

calibre 4.0 is Released with New E-Book Viewer and New Server Capabilities

I have written a number of times about calibre (start at to find the past articles). calibre (always spelled with a lower-case “c”) is a popular and FREE app for reading and even editing ebooks. It does for electronic books just what iTunes does for music, allowing you to manage your digital book collection while offering excellent support for converting books to different formats and editing their metadata.

With calibre you can take an e-book in one file format and convert it to another that is supported by your e-book reading device and, if you’re not happy with the result, you can tweak the conversion settings and even manually edit the book’s contents and formatting. For instance, you can convert a PDF file to ePub format or to any of a number of other file formats. The result can be read on a Kindle, an iPad, on Windows or Macintosh or on most any other computer that has a screen large enough for reading ebooks. The calibre software is available for Windows, macOS, and Linux.

As described on the calibre web site at

TMG to GEDCOM Version 1.00 Released

If you are a user of The Master Genealogist (TMG), you will want to read about John Cardinal’s program, called TMG to GEDCOM. It exports a TMG dataset to a GEDCOM file. It is designed to maximize the transfer of data from your TMG project to any program that reads a GEDCOM file.

You can read more at:

The Proposed GEDCOM 5.5.5 Standard is a Better GEDCOM

I frequently mention the acronym “GEDCOM” in this newsletter. In short, GEDCOM (GEnealogy Data COMmunications) is the language by which different genealogy software programs exchange data between dissimilar programs without having to manually re-enter all the data on a keyboard.

For background information, see my earlier “GEDCOM Explained” article at For a more technical explanation, go to the GEDCOM 5.5.5 web site at:

GEDCOM has been available since the mid 1980s but the GEDCOM specifications have not been able to handle all data transfer requirements. The last widely accepted update to the GEDCOM specifications was released in 1999.

Later GEDCOM alternatives have been announced but have largely been ignored by the genealogy software developers. The genealogy program you use today probably adheres to the 20-year-old GEDCOM version 5.5.1 specifications. A lot has changed in genealogy data storage requirements in the past 20 years! We certainly need an update that everyone can agree upon.

Proposed Solution:

Announcing Genea – Your Personal Genealogy Notebook For Apple’s iOS and iPadOS Devices

Vertical Horizon has just announced the release of Genea, a genealogy notebook app for iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch systems. Quoting from the announcement:

Genea is your personal genealogy notebook, specifically written for genealogist.

Genea allows you to keep your notes organised and separated from your own family tree. When you find a family connection, you can easily export the note to import the information in your family tree.

Gramps 5.1.1 Released

Gramps is an abbreviation for Genealogical Research and Analysis Management Programming System. It is a free and open source software (FOSS) project – a genealogy program that is both intuitive for hobbyists and feature-complete for professional genealogists. It also is available in multiple languages. Gramps is a community project,  not the product of a commercial corporation. Instead, Gramps is created, developed, and governed by volunteer genealogists.

Gramps gives you the ability to record the many details of an individual’s life as well as the complex relationships between various people, places and events. All of your research is kept organized, searchable and as precise as you need it to be. Gramps is a free competitor to Family Tree Maker, Roots Magic, Legacy Family Tree, Family Historian, Reunion, Heredis, MacFamily Tree, and almost all other genealogy programs of today.

Running Genealogy Programs and Storing Data on Different Operating Systems

A newsletter reader recently wrote and asked if she could run her favorite genealogy program in a server. I thought I would answer here in public in case others have the same question.

Question: “Can I operate my [program name deleted] genealogy program on a server?”

My answer:

Yes, but only if the server is running the operating system that the program is designed to use.

The program you mentioned is a Windows program so it will work on a Windows server but will not work on Linux servers, Macintosh servers, or on other operating systems.

That is one of the reasons I now keep all my genealogy records and genealogy programs in the cloud. They work on ALL operating systems, even with “smart” cell phones, Android handheld devices, iPads, or Chromebooks.

I no longer have to worry about which operating system is in use or worry about installing software. I can even use a public access computer in a local library to access my records, if necessary, without installing any software in the library’s computer. I also plan to someday purchase a new, cheaper, and probably more powerful computer without worrying about operating system compatibility.

The Best Mobile Scanning Apps

I have long trusted the reviews published on the Wirecutter web site. The site tests all products carefully and appears to publish unbiased reviews. I have always had good luck following the Wirecutter’s advice. I have no idea why it is called “wirecutter,” however.

Genealogists seem to have lots of uses for scanners, converting paper documents into images that can be stored in a computer or in the cloud. Census records, deeds, wills, and even old family photographs are among the favorite items for genealogists to digitize. Even better, a cell phone camera can serve as a scanner of sorts when used with a good app designed for the purpose. I use my cell phone as a scanner more often than I use the expensive scanner that sits on my desk. With that in mind, I noticed a recent article by Ben Keough published in the Wirecutter web site:

“This may seem shocking, but unless you’re an accountant or archivist, you probably don’t need a traditional scanner—today’s smartphone scanning apps are simply that good. After spending more than 35 hours researching 20 scanning apps and testing seven of them, we’ve determined that our favorite is the lean and efficient Adobe Scan (for Android and iOS). It’s dead simple to use, capable of beautiful scan quality, and equipped with excellent text-recognition capabilities. Best of all, it’s totally free—even for iPhone owners.”

Adobe Scan

Google Photos just got an Awesome Feature that makes it a Must-Have for Android, iPhone, and iPad Devices

This article isn’t about genealogy but it is about a new software tool that will be valuable for genealogists and for millions of others.

From an article by Chris Smith in the web site:

“Google Photos is easily one of the best apps you could have installed on your phone, especially if it’s an Android device, and especially a specific type of Android that comes with unlimited storage. Even if you prefer a different cloud or storage device for your photos, you should still consider getting the Google Photos app on your Android or iPhone right now, because the service is about to get a super convenient feature.

“That’s optical character recognition (OCR), a feature that allows Google to read the text in photos and turn it into text that you can search for, and even copy and paste into documents. That’s a handy feature to have on a phone, especially if you find yourself taking lots of photos of things that contain plenty of text that you’d want to be able to access later.”

MacFamilyTree 9 and MobileFamilyTree 9 are Now Available

Synium Software has released major new releases, both in the Macintosh version and in the iPad/iPhone version of the company’s genealogy software. It is reported to be the most comprehensive update in MacFamilyTree’s 21 year history. You can learn all about it at

I was going to list all the changes until I found the MacFamilyTree already has an excellent list available at If you use a Mac, an iPhone, or an iPad,  you should take a look at that list. Indeed, it is a very long list!

Perhaps best of all, MacFamilyTree 9 is now available with a 50% discount for everyone – regardless if you own a previous version or not. If you own a previous version of MacFamilyTree, your data will be automatically migrated to version 9. This offer is only valid for a short time – after that, no update with a discount will be possible. See for the details.

Vivid-Pix Announces Adding Metadata Zoom/Transcribe Feature to its RESTORE Software

I have written several times about the very powerful Vivid-Pix image editor software. (See for a list of my earlier articles about Vivid-Pix.) Vivid-Pix RESTORE provides fast and easy ways to improve your images and add metadata that adheres to international standards. The software will improve the color, contrast, and clarity of your images. In announcing the latest version, Rick Voight, CEO of Vivid-Pix, stated:

“Up until now, this has been a tedious and difficult chore. With a couple of mouse-clicks, users can improve document legibility, zoom into the image to read important facts, notate these facts into the image metadata, tag key words for searching, and save this improved image quickly and easily.”

Here is the official announcement written by Vivid-Pix:

Vivid-Pix announces adding metadata zoom/transcribe feature to its RESTORE software at Allen County Public Library

Vivid-Pix launches update at largest public library genealogy center in America

Alpharetta, Ga. and Ft. Wayne, Ind. – Vivid-Pix, the inventor of easy-to-use image-improvement software, announced the latest Vivid-Pix RESTORE software enhancement – Zoom/Transcribe – will be launched July 9, at the Allen County Public Library, home to the largest genealogy center in a public library in America.

Another Method of Sending Large Files to Others

Sending large files, pictures, or videos to someone else or even to your yourself (for copying a file to another computer) has often been difficult. Sending files by email often is limited by the size of the file(s) to be sent. In the past, the only method of sending large files was by FTP file transfers or by questionable P2P (peer-to-peer) programs. Luckily, technology has moved on and today it is easy and cheap to send large files, such as family photographs, large GEDCOM files, and even videos of your grandchildren you want to share with other relatives.

Sharing files has long been easy for smaller files but with limitations. For instance, the various methods of sending files often have maximum file size limitations.

Next, sharing files by Dropbox is exactly that: sharing. While you can technically share files hosted on Dropbox, any edits or changes affect the file for all users. If someone uploads a file and a recipient then deletes it, the file is deleted for everyone.

A better solution has just been announced, called Dropbox Transfer.

GRAMPS and Other Genealogy Programs in the Cloud

GRAMPS (an abbreviation for “Genealogy Research and Analysis Management Programming System”) was originally developed as a rather full-featured Linux genealogy program and later was ported to Macintosh, Windows, BSD UNIX and Solaris. GRAMPS is always available free of charge. (You can find my previous articles about GRAMPS by starting at

GRAMPS also has been available as a cloud-based program for some time. 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 in your computing device is required. Best of all, GRAMPS is available FREE of charge.

ScanBee: A Scanner and Copier in Your iPhone

UPDATE: The article stated that “ScanBee for iPhones was a $3 US app. However, the price recently was dropped to zero.” A number of newsletter readers reported installing it as a FREE app. However, the new price of FREE was a short-term promotion that lasted for a few days. The price has since reverted back to $3 US (£2.99 in the UK, $4.99 in Australian dollars, $4.99 in New Zealand, $3.99 Canadian). Even at that price, I would consider it to be a bargain.

Your smartphone is one of the greatest tools available today. You can find thousands of apps that will perform all sorts of tasks. For genealogists, one of the more valuable tools is that of converting the smartphone into a scanner.

While I always think of genealogical uses for smartphone apps, the fact is that a scanner app in your phone can be used for dozens of other purposes. I scan all sorts of things: receipts, insurance documents, children’s report cards, menus from local take-out restaurants, automobile registrations, eyeglass prescriptions, recipes found in newspapers and magazines, and much, much more. I also have digitized my driver’s license and passport as well.

Numerous scanning apps are available for both iPhones and Android phones. A quick look in the phone’s app store will show several apps that convert your phone into a handheld scanner.

For the iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch, my favorite scanning app is ScanBee. ScanBee reportedly has been downloaded and installed more than 100,000 times. Users have rated ScanBee at 4.8 stars out of a maximum of 5 on the Apple App Store.

RSS Newsfeeds Explained

NOTE: This is an article I published five years ago. The subject recently arose again and I realized that many newsletter readers are unaware of the simple way to read this newsletter, other blogs, and many other web sites that publish new articles more-or-less daily. In addition, the RSS technology and business offerings have matured a bit in the past five years so there is now more information available than there was when this article was first written. I decided to make some additions to the original article and then republish it for the benefit of those who are not familiar with the advantages of RSS:

You may have noticed that this newsletter and several other genealogy Web sites are available via RSS news feeds. So are thousands of other Web news sites covering a wide variety of topics. This article will hopefully explain what RSS feeds are and what they can offer you. RSS is an abbreviation for “rich site summary” or “really simple syndication.” Most people don’t need to remember this definition any more than they would spell out “ATM.”

As to the word “feed,” this simply describes the way information gets to people: web servers “feed” information to those who ask for it.

Cool Location Explorer on Google Maps – a Tool for GeoGeeks

Randy Majors is well known for the software tools he creates for genealogists. He adds additional tools to Google Maps that were not invented by Google. Start at to find the earlier articles in this newsletter that describe some of Randy’s inventions.

Randy now has created a new tool that is a bit off-topic for genealogy. However, it undoubtedly will be very useful for many people, genealogists and non-genealogists alike. It’s kind of a location “drill-down” that shows a bunch of different topics (see the image below).

Press Release: Vivid-Pix adds Image Metadata Creation and Artificial Intelligence Image-Improvement Capabilities to its RESTORE Software

I have written about Vivid-Pix’s very impressive photo restoration and preservation software. See for the past articles. Now the company has added major new enhancements to the software. The following was written by Vivid-Pix:

Alpharetta, Ga. – For centuries, people have written on the backs of photos and made notations on pictures and documents to retain knowledge, like date, time or location, about the image or record. This was an easy way to provide insights to future readers. In the digital world, adding information – known as “metadata” – to an image was difficult, but Vivid-Pix just made it easy with its updated RESTORE software for Mac and Windows.

How does it work? Imagine scanning or finding an old record or photograph about an ancestor. By selecting this image in RESTORE, you improve the color, contrast, sharpness and lightness in 1 click with Vivid-Pix patented software and then, with one more click, you can type in any information you wish about that image. The improved image and information are automatically saved as a new file that does not affect the original image.

Firefox Announces Send, Providing Free Encrypted File Transfers while Keeping your Personal Information Private

NOTE: This article is off-topic. That is, the article has nothing to do with genealogy, DNA, history, or any of the other topics normally discussed in this newsletter. However, the article contains information that I believe every computer owner should know so I am publishing it here. It describes how to SECURELY send files to another person in such a manner that nobody else can read them if you enable the password option and if the recipient knows the password unlocking key. (Don’t send the password in email!)

I just tested this and found that it also works with Chrome and I suspect it will work with other web browsers as well. The sender and the recipient can be using either Windows or Macintosh. Additionally, Send will also be available as an Android app in beta later this week. Best of all, it is very easy to use. Not bad for FREE software! The following is an extract from the Mozilla Blog. (Mozilla is the organization that produces the free Firefox web browser):

“Imagine the last time you moved into a new apartment or purchased a home and had to share financial information like your credit report over the web. In situations like this, you may want to offer the recipient one-time or limited access to those files. With Send, you can feel safe that your personal information does not live somewhere in the cloud indefinitely.

MyHeritage Adds Automatic Clustering of DNA Matches for Insights on Common Ancestors

The following announcement was written by MyHeritage. (However, I converted several key phrases into BOLD TEXT.)

TEL AVIV, Israel & LEHI, Utah–MyHeritage, the leading global service for genetic genealogy, announced today the release of AutoClusters, a new feature that automatically clusters and visualizes shared DNA Matches.

In the past few years, millions of consumers have purchased DNA kits in order to find relatives based on shared DNA. However, the DNA results typically do not describe the exact relationship path between two matching people, and only cite the likely connection (for example, 3rd cousins). AutoClusters are helpful in shedding light on the relationship paths, by grouping together DNA Matches who likely belong to the same branch and have a common ancestor. Reviewing their family trees can allow users to piece together the entire branch.

Zoho Office Suite now uses Artificial Intelligence to Provide a FREE, Powerful Alternative to Office 365

I wrote about the Zoho Office Suite more than two years ago in an article entitled Zoho Workplace: My Favorite FREE Replacement for Microsoft Office. Zoho Workplace is a competitor to Microsoft Office, OpenOffice, LibreOffice, Google Docs, and similar office automation products. It also can read and write documents that were created with Microsoft Office, OpenOffice, LibreOffice, Google Docs, and similar office automation products. (Some minor changes to fonts and formatting may occur when using files created by other programs.) Zoho Workplace works well with a Chromebook, a Windows system, a Macintosh, Linux, or even with an iPad or Android tablet.

Zoho Workplace is still my favorite free word processor, spreadsheet, and presentation suite of programs. I no longer use Microsoft Office. Instead, I prefer Zoho. Now Zoho has made major upgrades to the programs. My earlier article is still available at:

Quoting an article by Mark Hachman in the PC World web site: