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:

Collectionaire Launches at RootsTech 2019

I suspect there will be lots of new product announcements in the next week or more in conjunction with the RootsTech conference. Here is one announcement from Collectionaire. I saw their product at last year’s RootsTech and was impressed. However, the company obviously has been working on the product even more since then, adding more value to the app.

Here is the announcement from Collectionaire:

New web app uses cloud technology to bring a unique approach to organizing, preserving and sharing one’s “best memories”

Unlike other family archiving programs there is no need to move photos – it links users to treasured memories and collections in any cloud site

San Diego, Calif. – Feb. 8, 2019 – Collectionaire today announced the launch of its new cloud-based web app created to help organize, preserve and share a family’s most cherished photos, videos and digital keepsake memories. Unlike other photo organizing solutions, users do not move photos and videos to the Collectionaire site. Instead, the app acts as a hub, linking users to their photo and video collections stored in other cloud sites.

Free Genealogy Programs

A newsletter reader wrote recently and asked if there are any free genealogy programs available today. I thought perhaps others might have the same question so I will respond here in the newsletter where anyone interested can read the answer.

In fact, there are many free, full-featured genealogy programs available for Windows, Macintosh, Chromebooks, Linux, or even for installing in a web server you control. The various programs do vary widely in features and capabilities.

In addition, the handheld systems that run Chrome or Apple’s iOS operating system also have many free genealogy apps available although most of them are somewhat limited in capabilities. I would not describe any of the genealogy apps for handheld devices as “full featured” programs that compete with the desktop genealogy products for Macintosh, Linux, and Windows. However, even that is changing.

The following is a list of free genealogy programs that may meet your needs. However, the paid programs usually offer more features.

GenSoftReviews Users Choice Awards for 2018 Announced

The following announcement was written by Louis Kessler who writes many genealogy software reviews:

Genealogists use as a site to rate and review their genealogy software and to look for new software based on other people’s reviews. The site opened in 2008 and has received over 5,200 program reviews and ratings for the over 1,000 programs that are listed.

January 1, 2019

The 10th annual Users Choice Awards have been tabulated and awarded at the GenSoftReviews website.

During 2018, there were 410 new reviews given to 83 of the programs listed at GenSoftReviews. Along with the review, users rated the programs from 1 to 5 star, with 5 being best. Programs with at least one review in 2018, ten or more all-time reviews, and a cumulative user rating of at least 4.00 stars out of 5 receive a GenSoftReviews User Choice Award for 2018. The award is indicative that a program is well-liked by its users.

The 24 programs awarded a GenSoftReview Users Choice Award as a Top Rated Genealogy Software for 2018 are:

The 2019 Version of Heredis is Now Available

Heredis is a vary popular genealogy program, available for both Windows and Macintosh. I believe most of the Heredis customers are in Europe although the company has been gaining new customers in North America and elsewhere. Heredis can display its menus in many different languages.

I have written before about Heredis. To see my previous articles, start at:

Now the producing company has released a major new update to the program, called Heredis 2019. Here is a list of some of the new features:

rootstrust and Exotic Languages

The following announcement was written by Atavus, Inc.:

The GEDCOM 5.5.1 specification allows for romanized and phonetic variations of personal and place names. Name variations allow for a phonetic representation of a language whose symbols have no intrinsic phonetic value, like Chinese characters. Romanized variations use Latin letters, whereas phonetic variations use non-Latin alphabetic or syllabic symbols. Students of Chinese often use Pinyin to learn the pronunciation of the characters they are learning. Pinyin is one of numerous romanization systems for Chinese.

The Chinese of the Peoples Republic of China, Singapore and Malaysia write using simplified Chinese characters, whereas the Taiwanese and the people of Hong Kong and Macau use traditional Chinese characters. Written Japanese contains Chinese characters called kanji along with symbols from two different non-Latin, phonetic, syllabic symbol sets called katakana and hiragana making it, arguably, the world’s most complex writing system. Kanji can be represented phonetically using katakana or hiragana. Korean also uses a syllabic writing system called Hangul which is used in conjunction with Chinese characters call Hanja.

Some genealogists who have exotic ancestral personal and place names prefer to maintain them in the original language and provide a romanized variation as a comment. Others rather record names in a romanized form and document the original language and spelling as a comment.

How to Download an Entire Website for Offline Reading

NOTE: This article has nothing to do with genealogy. If you are looking for genealogy-related articles, you might want to skip this one. However, the article describes some very useful methods of storing information from web sites onto your local hard drive. That can be useful for genealogists and for many other people as well.

It is easy to save individual web pages for offline reading, but what if you want to download an entire website? Would you like to download part or all of a particular web site and store the information on your computer’s hard drive? There are several different programs for Windows and Macintosh that will let you do just that. Some of the programs are available free of charge.

Joel Lee has published an article in the Make Use Of web site that describes four such programs. He even describes my favorite one, called SiteSucker. He writes:

Keep Loved Ones Digitally Close with Family Locator

Disclaimer: Despite the name, “Family Locator” won’t help you find your long-deceased ancestors.

Every time we have a disaster, I think of the cell phone app called Family Locator. I am in Florida at the moment, and news about this week’s Michael hurricane certainly reminded me of the need to find and even track the whereabouts of family members. This app answers an age-old question: “Where are you?”

The Family Locator app for iPhones, Android phones, and even BlackBerry phones lets you know where some or all of your family members are located, plus or minus a few feet. This can be critical information when they have been evacuated to a storm shelter of some sort in advance of a hurricane or forest fire or tornado, or if they are simply stuck in a blizzard. Setting up alerts in the app will also allow you to know when family members have made it safely to their next destination.

In order to function, both you and all family members you wish to locate must have the Family Locator app installed on everyone’s cell phones, and each phone must be turned on and communicating with cell towers or wi-fi hotspots.