* Possible Research Note enhancements

For existing requests please see The Wish List
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ColeValleyGirl
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Possible Research Note enhancements

Post by ColeValleyGirl » 24 Jul 2022 11:57

In 2019, a discussion was underway (A simple to-do list (16751)) about how to plan and track research activities in FH6, addressing:
Beta testing for fH7 interrupted progress and moved the goal posts with the introduction of Research Notes, but now we've had some time to understand their capabilities, it seems appropriate to consider how they could be enhanced.

I'm not considering integration with third party applications here, as it's an option that Calico Pie are unlikely to pursue, given they've started down the Research Note route. Any such integration is more likely to be achieved via a plugin.

I'm also not considering solutions that don't involve Research Notes, because this is a request for enhancements to CP -- however, some of the enhancements required are more generally useful and are noted if such (ditto if they're existing entries in the Wish List).

For those worried about portability of Research Notes, they can be exported if necessary as Shared Notes using the Export Gedcom File plugin... optionally tagged in some way to differentiate them from other Shared Notes. This should also be something that CP include in their export routine and I've covered that below.

Consolidated requirements (from the original discussion, and some more recent additions on the subject, plus stuff off the top of my head because this is one of my major hobby-horses :lol: ):

Basic Notepad

This is the ability to create a single Note with:
  • a single free-text note with all to-dos in one place, each one having a text element and a field for Completed
  • the to-do list readily visible when FH starts up
Simple To-Do List

This is the ability to create and update simple notes for multiple tasks (about research or other tasks, at whatever level of detail satisfies a particular user), with (everything optional except the Title):
  • a Title,
  • some editable free-form content (as much or as little as the user wants for a particular item)
  • Date(s) -- Created/updated and Due
  • a Status field for Completed
  • a link to a FH record of any type (or more than one record of the same or different types )
  • the to-do list readily visible when FH starts up
  • a facility to remind users about (over)due items
Structured To-Do List

As well as the capabilities of the simple list, this could include:
  • the ability to link to facts for individuals and families
  • the ability to link to queries, reports, and diagrams (so that work in progress can be readily resumed)
  • the availability of to-do specific fields for tracking such as priority and status, and one or more flags/tags; these should be user-definable, including any restrictions on content
  • the ability to link to a webpage
  • the ability to auto-populate a note when creating it
  • the ability to restrict field contents to a predefined list (and select from a dropdown)
  • the ability to group to-do items to create a 'project' or 'plan' or 'hierarchy' of tasks
General Requirements

All approaches, and in particular the 'Basic Notepad' and 'Simple To-Do List' should be easy for users to apply, especially FH novices. (I'm battle-scarred enough to know that the 'heavyweight solution will have limited appeal :o )

The Simple and Structured approaches should deliver:
  • a To-Do menu item
  • a visual indication that one or more (outstanding) to-do item exists (in the Focus Window, the Property Box, the Records Windows and Diagrams -- i.e. all the starting points for navigating data
  • the ability to query, sort, filter and report on all aspects of the to-do items based on standard fields and fields defined by the user (including for example to-dos associated with a set of sources or repositories).
  • example queries should be provided, so that novice users don't have to start from scratch, and can produce customised versions more easily if required. (Documentation should be enhanced to cover such customisation, for queries and for the relevant Records List Columns).
  • the ability to export to-do list items within a Gedcom export as Shared Notes (marked to indicate that they are to-do list items)
Of course, not all these facilities would be used for every to-do item, depending on how users choose to work.

Solutions already in the Toolbox

I would characterise CP's approach to implementing To-Do lists as building from a set of Lego -- fine for experienced users, but not so much for newcomers -- a starter kit is required.

The Lego bricks we have to hand in FH7 (and which I would expect to be leveraged in any enhancement) are:

• One or More Research Note records
• Text formatting, including tables
• Embedded links to other records and external URLs
• Autotext templates
• Named Lists (can be used to group to-dos)
• Hashtags (can be used to group to-dos)
• Labelled text for user-defined fields (e.g. Created Date -- Updated Date is tracked automatically, Status, others as required by users)
• Queries for items by status (and other filters) using GetLabelledText function

Exploiting these could be addressed by content in the Knowledge Base, but we have to acknowledge that many users never find their way there, relying only on FH help and the obvious facilities.

Assessing the requirements against the toolbox:

Basic Notepad
  • a single free-text note with all to-dos in one place, each one having a text element and a field for Completed -- supported by a table in a single Research Note not linked to anything
  • the to-do list readily visible when FH starts up -- not supported
Simple To-Do List
  • a Title -- supported by Research Notes
  • some editable free-form content (as much or as little as the user wants for a particular item) --supported by Research Notes
  • Date(s) -- Created/updated and Due -- Updated is standard; Due would be labelled text in a Research Note, but could be improved with a date picker
  • a Status field for Completed -- supported with labelled text but could be improved with a dropdown and predefined valid values
  • a link to a FH record of any type (or more than one record of the same or different types ) -- can be done easily from the 'other record' but not from the Research Note.
  • the to-do list readily visible when FH starts up -- not supported
  • a facility to remind users about (over)due items -- not supported
  • a visual indication that one or more (outstanding) to-do item exists (in the Focus Window, the Property Box, the Records Windows and Diagrams -- i.e. all the starting points for navigating data -- not supported
Structured To-Do List
  • the ability to link to facts for individuals and families -- not supported
  • the ability to link to queries, reports, and diagrams (so that work in progress can be readily resumed) -- not supported
  • the availability of to-do specific fields for tracking such as priority and status, and one or more
    flags/tags; these should be user-definable, including any restrictions on content -- Supported via GetLabelledText and #hashtags except for restrictions on content
  • the ability to link to a webpage - supported
  • the ability to auto-populate a note when creating it -- supported via autotext templates
  • the ability to restrict field contents to a predefined list (and select from a dropdown) -- not supported
  • the ability to group to-do items to create a 'project' or 'plan' or 'hierarchy' of tasks -- supported via #hashtags and named lists but could be improved if there's a groundswell of demand (unlikely?)
General Requirements
  • A To-Do menu item to easily access the to-do list is needed -- not supported
  • a visual indication that one or more (outstanding) to-do item exists (in the Focus Window, the Property Box, the Records Windows and Diagrams -- i.e. all the starting points for navigating data -- not supported
  • a visual indication that one or more (outstanding) to-do item exists in the Focus Window, the Property Box, the Records Windows and Diagrams -- i.e. all the starting points for navigating data
  • Add Due Date to filter in Records Window to identify overdue tasks -- not supported
  • Documentation and standard (example) queries and reports, to cover customising the Records Window, and standard Queries -- needs improvement
  • for portability, the ability to export to-do list items within a Gedcom export as Shared Notes (marked to indicate that they are to-do list items)
New Wish List Items

Based on the above, I think we need the following Wish List items. Some of them exist already, but should be highlighted as requirements to improve this area. Some of them have more general utility, so should be raised as separate items, but ditto highlighted. And some of them are only relevant to this area. Other solutions may exist for many of the items, so we should allow CP some latitude... to conform to their (unknown) development direction.

In no particular priority order:

1. Existing item: To-do List readily visible when FH starts up:

Could be addressed by existing Wish List items Allow Workspace Layouts to be saved and restored and Preserve all Workspace and Window Characteristics, which are more widely useful.

2. New item: a visual indication that one or more (outstanding) to-do item exists (in the Focus Window, the Property Box, the Records Windows and Diagrams -- i.e. all the starting points for navigating data

3. New item: Reminders on startup for overdue items

Could be addressed by existing Wish List item Run Plugins via Expressions with the added ability to run nominated plugins at startup (do we have a relevant Wish List Item?) but possibly better addressed by core implementation... combined with the ability to select dates in Notes via a Date Picker

4. New item: Ability to export to-do list items within a Gedcom export as Shared Notes (marked to indicate that they are to-do list items)

5. New Item: The ability to link Research Notes to Facts for Individuals or Families

6. New item: Restricted contents for a field in a Research Note (and also elsewhere) combined with a dropdown selection box. Generally useful, not just for this purpose. Should include restrictions on #hashtag contents to ensure consistency.

7. New item: The ability to link Research Notes to queries, reports, and diagrams (so that work in progress can be readily resumed)

8. New item: Improved documentation and standard (example) queries and reports, to cover customising the Records Window, and standard Queries for Research Notes

9. New Item: the ability to group to-do items to create a 'project' or 'plan' or 'hierarchy' of tasks -- supported via #hashtags and named lists but could be improved if there's a groundswell of demand

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ColeValleyGirl
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Re: Possible Research Note enhancements

Post by ColeValleyGirl » 24 Jul 2022 17:56

Please review the above and suggest changes/additions/subtractions (with reasoning). I'll give it 7-10 days for discussion before raising any Wish List items. I'm particularly interested in hearing from refugees from other products who will have a new point of view.

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Vyger
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Re: Possible Research Note enhancements

Post by Vyger » 25 Jul 2022 13:54

I fully support your well thought out presentation, as a user of Research Tracking in another program for many years I find the present FH implimentation disappointing and lacking.

This is especially evident terms of filtering and visibility of such valuable items in Properties etc.

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Genealogy Reviews - research methods for a more productive future

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Re: Possible Research Note enhancements

Post by fhtess65 » 25 Jul 2022 14:37

Vyger wrote:
25 Jul 2022 13:54
I fully support your well thought out presentation, as a user of Research Tracking in another program for many years I find the present FH implimentation disappointing and lacking.
I concur. FH is superior in most ways to RM, but in this, it's definitely lacking.

I like all your suggestions, Helen. Will have a think on which ones to prioritize.

Teresa
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Teresa Basińska Eckford
Librarian & family historian
http://writingmypast.wordpress.com

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ColeValleyGirl
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Re: Possible Research Note enhancements

Post by ColeValleyGirl » 25 Jul 2022 16:08

To be fair, they're suggestions pulled together from a number of discussions on the subject over the years, not just my suggestions. And you'll get to vote for all of them if you want, when they make it to the Wish List.

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kfunk_ia
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Re: Possible Research Note enhancements

Post by kfunk_ia » 28 Jul 2022 00:57

Thank you for asking Helen.

I am not quite a refugee from another program. I still use RM7 for all of my data entry work. I do use FH for certain tasks, but in general I have not fully moved over because FH doesn't do some of what I value. One of those things is what you are asking about.

I will tell you what I would like to see based on what I already have in RM7. I will also probably thrown in a few things that I would really like to do, but can't, even in RM7. Please note that I have no idea of how easy or impossible any of this would be to do in a plugin. I have not written plugins and I spent all of 30 minutes one day looking over that which exists in the Knowledge Base. I trust that you have the skill and experience to determine what is feasible and what isn't. My initial thoughts were that a lot of this would and should be in the core program. I have no idea where CP plans to go now that they have started down the Research note path.

For a little vocabulary so that you know what I am referring to: Across many programs, Todo Items(RM7), Tasks(RM8), and Research Notes(FH7) all seem to be used interchangeably. I will likely do that here, but I will try to only use ToDo items. Research Log would be a collection of ToDo items. Usually this would be items I have marked as 'done' but if one wanted to, they could have logs mixing status, some items don, some pending, some new etc. I will also mostly refer to the images that Vyger posted previously from RM7.

First off, creating a ToDo. I would like to be able to add a ToDo that is linked to a person, family or just a general task that is database level and not attached to anyone in particular. I want to be able to add the start date, the completion date and a last worked date as needed. I want to be able to assign it a status such as Complete, Open, Problem, and Closed. I would also like an editable field for the goal of the ToDo and one for the result. Another important option is a priority indicator since some items are more important than others. Another necessary thing would be the ability to add a place or repository to the item.

As I understand it, RM8 has also given the ability to add ToDo items (tasks) to other things, such as places, facts and the like. I can't bring myself to dig that far into RM8, so I haven't went so far as to test what they are doing there, but I can see it being useful to expand beyond persons and family and general items.

Another important bit is to be able to add the ToDo item to a research report and to have that research report reflect the current status if one were to bring it up an view it. The filtering of Research Logs as noted in Vyger's post above is also important to me. As for the research report, being able to print it is a must also.

Being able to print a plain ToDo list based on criteria such as repository, status and even priority is also helpful. I do realize that a Research Notes report can be muddle together from within FH, or at least I think it can. I have installed and tested so many plugins that I don't remember what is core and what I may have added. The problem with the Research Notes report is that there is no easy way to pick ones added to a person and you pretty much have to filter on a person's name.

I know that you mention the usage of named lists, which I assume would probably work similar to RM8's folders to replace the actual research report. I have not played with either named lists or folders enough to figure out how suitable they would be for me. However this part shapes up, a nice grid would be good to present a decent looking report. I am am not keen on any of FH7's stock report. I think they are rather ugly and have way to many fonts and font sizes stacked in them. One pretty much has to go through and heavily customize the stock reports to make them readable.

I probably shouldn't try typing stuff like this right before bedtime because it is a rather complicated process. If I read what you posted correctly, it would seem that you are already cognizant of most of what I would want. I will try to read through your post again tomorrow and try to make sure I understand everything that you said.

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Re: Possible Research Note enhancements

Post by davidf » 28 Jul 2022 09:50

I migrated a long time ago from FTM and am still getting to grips with what is available in V6 and associated plug-ins - the cornucopia of different methods is probably part of my troubles!

The other to be frank is age (or health?) which has changed the way I go about my genealogy. Fortunately I have a strong skeleton of my various ancestors (including my late mother's birth family - she was adopted, so I have 6 grandparents!) in most cases back to the beginning of English civil registration and censuses. I have also developed many cousin lines back down to the 1911 census and sometimes to the 1939 register which has put me in contact with cousins doing various levels of research or willing to offer stories or suggestions (which they kind of expect me to respond to moderately promptly).

This has changed my approach from "big projects" - e.g. "trace back my paternal line back to late 18th century and then further back" - to a more scatter-gun approach based on new record availability, ancestry "free weekends" (I subscribe at the moment to FMP), and comments and queries either from relatives or people who think they may be relatives. So I am not looking for a "project management" tool - although some way to keep track of dependencies "you can't do this task until you have clarified who that wife was" would be welcome.

I do need some way just to keep track of where I am with various mini projects and "itches" that I keep coming back to scratch. Distraction and "brain fog" is a major issue. Am I alone?

I have found working with diagrams a useful way to approach my work, with a custom diagram for each of these mini-projects/itches. None of the "Research Note" approaches that I have seen within FH (V6 by usage experience, V7 by reading this forum) seem to fit this approach. So I keep separate Zim pages for each which tend to be narrative notes about what I am trying to do, what I have established and where I am stuck, sometimes with explicit tasks. Eventually these Zim pages plus the FH diagram can form the basis of a blog post (now my major output method) - so the narrative in my Zim "research notes" is directly usable.

Can research notes as well as being applicable to Individuals, Families, Relationships (Spousal or Parental or Other), Places, Sources, Citations, Repositories also be applicable to "Scope" - such as a diagram?

So how might something within FH help - or is my situation "too unique" (I doubt it and hope not)?

Within my text schemes I have various items (which display according to which flags I have set). The bottom lines are the most relevant
Screenshot from 2022-07-28 10-03-28.png
Diagram Items with Diagnostics switched in
Screenshot from 2022-07-28 10-03-28.png (54.71 KiB) Viewed 410 times
My research status line is a summary of where I am with that person - within the note I have a more detailed checklist that I attempt to go through (as relevant) with each person. But this has to be manually maintained:
  • Birth in FreeBMD for possible births
  • Birth in GRO > Confirmation, Mother's maiden name, RD of birth
  • Siblings in GRO
  • Baptism > Parent's first names, Parish of birth
  • Siblings in Baptism records
  • Census Records > Parents, Siblings, Spouses, Occupations, Marital Status,
  • Residences
  • Marriages in FreeBMD > Spouses
  • Death in FreeBMD > possible deaths
  • In GRO Death > Age at Death to check
  • In Parish Burials > Age at death
  • Burials in FindaGrave and BillionGraves > relatives
  • Probate > Exact Date of Death > Executors & Relationships
  • Certificates BMD
For a start I would like the bullet points above to be check boxes in the property box and I would like them on a separate tab for easy access!
(I have experimented with trying to get ticks and crosses to appear via typing "x" and hold-down to bring up "accented characters" - but I can't configure this to show neat ticks and crosses - FH renders them with the little square which indicates "FH does not know what the F this character is"! This will be a font issue - I'm not sure whether it is exacerbated by Wine/Linux/Windows/FH compatibility issues.)

Within diagrams I would like to be able to hover over (or possibly right click on) a diagram item and have this checklist appear. Perhaps each diagram item might have a little (non-printing) status item to specifically hover over to bring this up and the colour of the icon could indicate how complete the check list is.

The penultimate line is my attempt to "automate" some of this using the letters BMD (and c & b) to indicate whether I have "satisfactorily" determined Birth, Marriage, Death, baptism/christening and burial. But it is coarse and binary: knowing that Mary Graham was born around 1821 in Scotland is not really "satisfactory". I find these indicator letters within the diagram box more effective that icon/flags appearing below the box - which can quickly get messy and distracting.

Can we develop a (configurable) "status line" with indicators indicating whether certain "vital" information has been ascertained with some sort of indication as to the "quality" (I don't know for Births we might have: Certificate - best; Derived e.g. from census date and county - not bad; derived from census but only at country level - worse, etc.)

When I close a custom diagram can a "Status Note" open so I can record where I have got to and what the next step is. Then when I next open the diagram I get this note plus a summary of work outstanding for people in the diagram (a bit like Helen's suggestion for when a project is opened but at a more specific (and therefore manageable level).

I realise that some may think this approach is either off-topic or sadly too off-the-wall, so I will pause for reaction!
David
Running FH 6.2.7. Under Wine on Linux (Lubuntu 18.04 LTS)

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Ruth_W
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Re: Possible Research Note enhancements

Post by Ruth_W » 03 Aug 2022 10:21

I'm not sure if this is quite the sort of response you want, but here goes.

Relatively new to FH coming from Brothers Keeper. It took me a while to work out how to make a To-Do list in FH which I now do using named lists - I tend to have one for a specific CRO or online resource (e.g. I have one for FMP to check at the library or when I take out a short-term sub!)

What I miss, that I had in BK and I found more 'obvious', was a simple to do list that linked to an individual. It was often a simple reminder of a job to do (e.g. add info to children; check to see if xxx happened) with a note of where I might look (e.g. Ancestry, GRO, Blackburn PR etc). I could then sort by name, number, date or repository.

Having said this though, FH works in such a way that I am less likely to have missing information - inputting census data, for instance, automatically fills in the data for the children (BK was much more manual and laborious with this task needing to be on a to-do list!).

I "think" I'm happy now with the way I've begun to use named lists in FH, but, as I said, it was a new approach from what I was expecting/looking for. A simple to-do list of reminders to check or get on with a particular task would be good though.

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