* To upgrade or not?

Older V4 Queries please post for any version in the General Forum
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AlanWhite
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To upgrade or not?

Post by AlanWhite » 07 May 2009 16:26

I apologise for the length of this post but as v4 is the first release of FH for years and probably the one which contains the greatest changes since v2 then I think it deserves a discussion.

I’m never quick to upgrade to a new version of a program but I can usually tell from the information provided by the company and from the comments of other users whether I will want to upgrade at some time. In the case of FHv4 my inclination is not to upgrade because the positive changes seem to be few and outweighed by the negative or neutral changes. However, the information provided seems to be rather sparse and lacking in detail. Jane’s work on videos and the like is very much appreciated but it’s really for Calico Pie to provide the proper information for its customers and that doesn’t seem to have happened. That said, there’s nothing like the impressions of other users to enable one to get a feel for the software so what I’m after, during the first couple of weeks after release when the flavour of the new version is still fresh in people’s minds, is the detail of the changes so I can make a decision about whether to stay on v3 - with which I’m very happy - and ignore all comments related to v4, or to continue to consider an upgrade to v4 at some possibly distant future time.

A good starting point for a discussion should be the new features information provided by the supplier. http://www.family-historian.co.uk/downl ... in_40.html is rather brief and lacking detail but as it’s all there is let’s use that.

Focus Window
I can see why this has been added because it’s expected of family history programs and the v3 equivalent of the Property Dialog was always a sub-optimal implementation. I can see me using the Focus Window simply because it’s there but since I’m accustomed to my ways of working with v3 (primarily in the Records window) then the FW isn’t a big inducement for me to upgrade.

Property Box
I think everyone would agree that this needed work. The biggest problem was always its small, fixed size and limited number of data fields. The new version sounds really good and I can see this being the thing that might persuade me to upgrade.

Projects
This is the thing that most puts me off upgrading. The many discussions about it recently show that other people too don’t understand it and don’t see the value of it. It’s also probably the biggest new feature that hasn’t been fully explained. I positively hate software which tries to commandeer my data and squirrel it away in places of its own choosing. FH has always done this, of course, for example by placing much of the configuration data in the All Users structure thus forcing all users of a computer to have the same settings and then overwriting them during an upgrade (something I’ve complained about to Calico Pie before).

If I’ve understood correctly, the new projects feature takes my GEDCOM and images and puts them a place called My DocumentsFamily Historian Files. Err, no. These are not Family Historian files; they are my files. I have my own file structure and I want to keep it that way. It doesn’t help that the information about what it is in the project isn’t published. Clearly the GEDCOM (one, or many?) is there and the images which are attached to it; but what else? There was a suggestion that Text Schemes are there. That makes no sense since the same schemes might be required in other projects. What would be useful here is the detail of the standard file structure and a list of all the files that FH will put there.

I’m aware that it’s said that one doesn’t have to use Projects and to an extent that is true, though it can often be difficult to work around an integral feature like this. And there are features which don’t work unless you use projects, though other than lazy programming I can’t think of a reason why this would be so. After all, Web and CD creation both work in v3 so why force projects on a v4 user to do the same thing?

In summary, using Projects removes the ability to manage one’s own files and not using Projects disables certain functionality. I’d love to see an explanation of why v4 does this but in any case this single feature strongly dissuades me from upgrading.

Undo
Yes, useful. But not a reason to upgrade.

How Related
Already exists in a few forms.

Same sex relationships
I have no need for these.

Multimedia enhancements
Many people have said they don’t want FH to be an HTML creator; likewise I don’t want or need FH to be an image management program. There are plenty of those already available. I also understand that the thumbnails have a significant performance impact. Thanks, but no thanks.

PDF
Already available by a variety of free programs.

Export GEDCOM
This could be useful. The split tree helper is not a tool I’ve ever used because its opening dialog is too complex and frightening even to an experienced computer user like me.

Website generation and family tree CDs
Improvements here could be useful but v4 users have reported that there’s nothing significant. In any case, these features can no longer be used except within a project.

Charts and diagrams
v3 seems to do all I need in diagrams except make effective use of space. Can anyone add some detail to the vague comments on this item?

Fact Queries
This could be useful. I’ve long wanted to be able to report effectively on events and attributes (Reports were supposed to be the solution to this but they’re too restrictive). Again, can anyone expand on the vague description?

Power-user features
This is just marketing-speak. Can anyone say what these features actually are?

Moving on from the listed changes...

I understand that image embedding is no longer allowed. This doesn’t bother me as I wouldn’t want to embed images anyway, but if it’s true then this breaks FH’s 100% GEDCOM claim. Is it?

Talking of 100% GEDCOM, have the failings in FH which cause it, despite the claims, to be not 100% GEDCOM compliant been fixed? Two things which have long annoyed me are that EVENTS_RECORDED should be a comma-separated list but FH permits only a single value; and ROLE_IN_EVENT  should permit any value but FH permits only selection from a limited set of values. Has either of these been fixed in v4?

Every program has bugs. But bugs such as the installer not working, upside down text, and HTML tags visible in output are basic. These should have been discovered during even minimal testing and do not give me confidence in the quality of the product. Even worse, reports of bugs are being met not with a quick patch (except for the installer) but a “we’ll look at it when we get around to it”. All in all, not very inspiring. Fortunately, being always intentionally slow to upgrade these problems won’t affect me as I think it reasonable to expect that they’ll be fixed by then.

Lastly, are there any other changes in v4, good or bad, which I’ve not listed here?

I know that only I can decide whether or not to upgrade but the views of other users are an essential part of the evaluation. Thanks for any input.


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ChrisBowyer
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Post by ChrisBowyer » 08 May 2009 05:48

There are quite a lot of observations on most of your points in other threads under 'V4 Usage', e.g. http://www.fhug.org.uk/cgi-bin/index.cg ... y&num=3618 (sorry, not sure how to get a link in here)

Converting your way of thinking to project folders is annoying if you're already well organised, but I can see it as being essential for new users who are not so familiar with filestore concepts, and doesn't intrude too much on my normal useage. (It annoys me more that Outlook has it's own filing system that I can't easily link to in source citations such as 'Correspondence with...'.)

Power user enhancements (I agree with you about the irritating marketing-speak) is mostly about additional functions in queries and the like, but...
Alan White said:
But bugs such as the installer not working, upside down text, and HTML tags visible in output are basic. These should have been discovered during even minimal testing and do not give me confidence in the quality of the product.
It's worth saying that all these are apparent only in unusual circumstances or particular configurations. For me at least, V4 mostly worked well throughout the extensive beta testing, and I'm still using it from choice rather than V3.

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arshawbrown
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Post by arshawbrown » 08 May 2009 07:56

I quite agree with Alan, the points that he has raised are valid ones.
I have started using projects as I have one main tree with 2500 individuals, but I also have several smaller trees that I am researching that may or may not prove to be relations (such as others living in the same area with the same surname). Being able to manage these in a more structured way is proving to be very useful. Overall I would say that the upgrade is worthwile to me.

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redrock
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Post by redrock » 08 May 2009 09:34

My view, expressed in more detail in other recent posts, is that there is nothing to lose by upgrading and there is almost certainly something to gain. How much you gain depends on what focus you apply to your research. The new FH4 is clearly designed to appeal more to new users, whatever their level of genealogical experience and it is those 'new' users who gain most.

However the discussion about the 'Project' features of FH4 prompts me to comment that they are not what I was expecting (and hoping for). Better file management may be useful, but it is no substitute for project MANAGEMENT capability - in this context meaning the listing and management of tasks associated with that 'project'. 'To do' lists, linked to the individual person records, perhaps with some prioritisation and tracking capability, are something that I find extremely useful, as an aide memoire to a failing memory. It is a feature that I have used extensively in other genealogy software packages and I would go so far as to say that I simply can't do genealogy without keeping track somewhere of the thoughts that come to mind and the tasks that have to be done.

Note: Professional Project Managers would say that it cannot be a 'project' unless it has a clear goal, a start date, an end date and a number of tasks to manage.

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davidm_uk
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Post by davidm_uk » 08 May 2009 11:03

I too share the concerns about the Project feature of V4, and it's the main reason (by a long way) that I'm holding off on upgrading until I can understand it in more detail.

I already have my files organised in the way I want, so that I can find them quickly, if for example I want to send a copy of an image or source document to someone else, or link it to a new person or event.  

I also have many of my source images (certificates, census images etc) hyperlinked from an Excel based 'timeline' spreadsheet, which I use to do a lot of my initial research (to get the family timeline picture of things, and confirm that people do really fit in, and make notes of things to follow up) before the entering the data into FH.

Finally I have routines created to both back up all my files, and synchronise them between my laptop and PC (and I do this seperately for data files and configuration files).

It's disturbing to hear that some FH4 features can't be used unless you also adopt it's Project feature!

Just my two pennies worth! I still think that FH is the best program for me, but won't be upgrading just yet a while.

David
David Miller - researching Miller, Hare, Walker, Bright (mostly Herts, Beds, Dorset and London)

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jmurphy
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Post by jmurphy » 08 May 2009 15:37

redrock said:
However the discussion about the 'Project' features of FH4 prompts me to comment that they are not what I was expecting (and hoping for). Better file management may be useful, but it is no substitute for project MANAGEMENT capability - in this context meaning the listing and management of tasks associated with that 'project'. 'To do' lists, linked to the individual person records, perhaps with some prioritisation and tracking capability, are something that I find extremely useful, as an aide memoire to a failing memory. It is a feature that I have used extensively in other genealogy software packages and I would go so far as to say that I simply can't do genealogy without keeping track somewhere of the thoughts that come to mind and the tasks that have to be done.

Note: Professional Project Managers would say that it cannot be a 'project' unless it has a clear goal, a start date, an end date and a number of tasks to manage.
I too had something very different in mind when I voted on the wish list for Project Management features.

I installed trial versions of several different programs before settling on Family Historian. I did not use TMG extensively, because its 'look and feel' was so bad on my small monitor, I knew I could not use the program without being driven mad. Of the others, the only ones I looked at that helped with managing a project in the sense you mean were GenSmarts (a research assistant which will generate To-Do lists based on a specific research facility) and Ancestral Quest (a lineage-based program which will allow you to make To-Do lists indexed to people in your tree).

As Jane first said in the 'what other software do you use' discussion, we need a good research journaling program, and the longer I go on looking at 'how to' books and 'how to keep organized' articles, the more I wonder why no one has done it.

There are non-tree-based systems like Custodian and GenScribe, but those are focused on keeping track of what you have. No one (that I've seen so far) has made a good program that also keeps track of what you want to find but haven't found yet. You can do it with bits here and bits there but I haven't found a program which will give you the big picture.

It is as if double-entry book keeping existed only on paper, and no one had ever written accounting software, and we were all chugging along with Excel spreadsheets and nothing else.

On the other hand, given the comments on web site creation, I suspect a research journaling program would be best as an add-on program, like Gedcom Census, and not something built into Family Historian itself. Ideally I would want to have FH and the journal open at the same time, and updates to FH noted in the journal or a separate log, along the lines of what Gedcom Census does.

Jan

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jmurphy
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Post by jmurphy » 08 May 2009 15:44

I just wanted to add quickly that I do commend Simon for adding the focus window with the family group sheet structure that will be more familiar to people coming over from other software.

I chose Family Historian precisely because it did NOT force me into using that kind of screen, but I recognize that the display in the Records Window which drew me to the FH could be off-putting to users accustomed to doing it the other way.

Jan

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ColeValleyGirl
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Post by ColeValleyGirl » 08 May 2009 15:55

I've developed an Access-based Family History Research Manager to help me keep track of what I've done, am doing and intend to do some day... linked to Sources, and with a facility to generate standardised source citations based on any system you care to devise. It's only fit for my use at present (bugs and all) but I hope eventually to make it available for others if they find it useful.

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redrock
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Post by redrock » 08 May 2009 21:27

I have been a 'Legacy' user for many years and have been testing out FH3 for the last six months, before making a final decision to migrate to FH4. Legacy has got fairly good task management capabilities and hence I was hoping that version 4 would have something similar or better. It hasn't, so I am left with a straightforward choice - Do I want to keep the excellent 'to do' list and some other unique features of Legacy or migrate to the excellent diagram, list, flag, query and new configureable property box features of FH4.

I think you all know the answer to that one, but I still wish it had 'project management' capability as well. Like Cole Valley Girl I suppose I can build a spreadsheet or an access database to emulate many of the Legacy 'to do' features, but I will not be able to link the task itself to the FH individual person record.

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Jane
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Post by Jane » 09 May 2009 10:02

Don't miss out on using Named Lists as to-do lists
Jane
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redrock
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Post by redrock » 10 May 2009 11:20

Thanks Jane. I had thought about creating a custom attribute called 'To Do' but I'd forgotten about using the named lists. In fact, I used named lists quite a lot, to indicate what action I needed to take, when I was sorting out one of my large problem files using FH3. I used lists such as 'tree integrity problem', 'source data conflict', 'extension priority 1', 'extension priority 2' etc. I just didn't realise at the time that I was using them as 'to do' lists.

It worked really well with a small number of 'to do' types and limited detail for each 'to do' but it might not work so well for more complex requirements. So I think I'll explore the viability of using a combination of a custom attribute, flags and the named lists. If it works out well I'll post the details on FHUG forums.

The drawback of using a custom attribute that readily comes to mind is that it would appear on reports, or is there some way of excluding specific attributes from reports? Sorry if this question is a very basic one but I haven't really explored the reporting features of FH very much yet.

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AlanWhite
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Post by AlanWhite » 10 May 2009 14:54

Thanks to all who replied. I must say I was expecting rather more comment - especially from Calico Pie - but I guess that many users are still getting to grips with v4.

I think, however, that my way forward has been determined by this comment from Simon on another thread:
You need projects if you want to save diagrams as chart files, create websites, or create family tree CDs. This is because the settings, and the charts, are all stored in the project folder. In the future, there will be more functionality and benefits which will only be available with projects.
Since I don't want to use projects and don't want FH to mandate where I store my files then this means that v3 is the end of the line for my usage of Family Historian.

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Post by SimonOrde » 13 May 2009 12:28

There do seem to be a lot of misunderstandings about projects, so perhaps this may help:

FH has always lets you put your GEDCOM files wherever you want and still does.  The only difference is that if you create a project, it will maintain the GEDCOM file in the folder that is created for that project.  In the past because it had no project folder to put them in, it was forced to store a small number of settings files (files that kept track of your recently-used settings - e.g. website settings) in tucked away places - something that people (understandably) didn't like.  Thanks to project folders, it now has somewhere much better to put them.

You can put your project folders wherever you want to put them.  By default, FH will put them in the 'Family Historian projects' folder - but that's just a default.  You can change that to wherever you want.  You do not need to keep all your projects in one folder anyway.  You can have them where you want and use 'Browse for project' on the 'More Tasks' button on the Project Window to open projects located anywhere.

FH does not put your images in its project folder unless you ask it to.  It's entirely up to you.  You can keep all image files there, none, or a mixture.  You can switch between keeping media files in your project folder, or storing them externally at any time (using the 'Work with External File Links' tool).  If you have your own system for managing your media in structured folders, you can either continue to use that by simply not copying the media into your project folder;  or, you can if you wish let FH copy all your multimedia files into its project folder and continue to maintain your own system for organising media within the project's media folder.  Every time you add a picture into the project you are effectively given the choice of (a) whether you want to copy the picture file into the project folder and (b) if so, do you want to decide where it is to go in the Media subfolder, or would you prefer to just leave it to FH.

Within each project folder there is a subfolder called 'public'.  The idea behind this is provides a convenient place for users to store any other files of their own (including subfolders etc) that they want to keep together with all their other project data.  Obviously - like all the other features - you don't need to use this; but it's there if you want to.

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