Tuesday, January 21, 2003
Posted by Peter Foot in "SOFTWARE" @ 02:00 PM
Pocket Genealogist is a tool which won’t appeal to everyone, but if you have an interest in family history research it is definitely worth a look. It allows you to have a copy of your entire family tree on your Pocket PC. It’ll save you lugging around folders of information when you go researching and gives you the ability to search for individuals quickly. The program centres on a family group screen which has been cleverly laid out to fit the limited screen space.
Once you have installed Pocket Genealogist your next step is to import your family tree data. The Advanced version will allow you to import directly from Legacy Family Tree, a popular desktop application, but for everyone else it will import from a standard GEDCOM file which every piece of genealogy software should support. Importing and synchronising your database with the device can be a slow process; however the software shows a detailed log of progress.
Figure 1: Desktop Synchronisation software
One of the advantages of having your family tree stored on a computer is the ability to search the data. The search options are limited compared to a full featured desktop family tree application. Firstly, and probably the most important, is search by Surname.
Figure 2: Finding an individual by surname
You must first select a letter and the application will display a list of matching surnames, when you then select one of these it will display a list of first names. A useful addition to this would be a keyword search if you can only remember part of the name. You can also search by location which will return all events that took place in the selected location. I found this slightly odd as it included occupations in the list, but that may be due to my desktop family tree application not complying with GEDCOM standards.
Because data entry is not currently available the only way to get data back into your desktop family tree application is using “Research Notes”. These allow you to add text memos which will be synchronised back with the desktop application. The desktop application displays a list of these. Ultimately the process is still manual, although with the benefit of cut and paste. It is perhaps not that compelling when you can use the rich text, doodling and voice notes with the Pocket PC built in Notes app. Obviously this will change when the data entry version of the software is made available.
As well as the core family tree features the software features a selection of calculators.
Figure 3: The Built in Soundex Calculator
The Soundex calculator converts a name into its Soundex code, used when searching databases for subtle variations of names. The date calculator allows calculations by adding and removing days, months or years to a date. It allows dates as far back as the Gregorian calendar began (September 1752). A co-ordinate calculator converts latitude and longitude into a variety of display forms. The colours of the user interface are highly configurable, although the palette is limited to quite vivid colours which won’t be to everyone’s tastes. A properties screen displays a count of individuals, families and research notes in your family tree file.
- The software does not allow two-way synchronisation, however the registered version allows you to keep “Research Notes” which you can then work through to update your desktop data.
- The desktop application is rather clunky looking. It would be nice to see tighter integration with ActiveSync so the process could be more automatic.
- Search options are limited; you can only search by location or surname. It would be useful to allow keyword searching on a range of fields, for example using keywords.
The application is available in three versions:
- A free trial is available which you can use for 30 days but cannot enter any research notes on the device.
- Basic registration removes the nag-screens and allows you to enter research notes on your device which are synchronised with the desktop. Basic registration costs $20.
- Advanced registration adds direct synchronisation with Legacy Family Tree and will eventually support full data entry; however this will be available as an update as the data entry version is still a beta product. The Advanced version costs $35.
The market for genealogy software on the pocket PC is extremely small and therefore there is little choice. However this software can prove very useful especially if you have amassed a large amount of information and you need to be able to refer to it while out researching. Overall I like this application, it is an interesting use for a Pocket PC and well executed.[list][/list]