Vyger Irish Genealogy

Our search to further our Eggleton, Surgeoner, Smiley & Gracey
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Rootsmagic Media Gallery - (a critical look)

The Media Gallery is a new feature which was introduced with the release of Rootsmagic 4 and it's a great concept. Most users will realize that the main problem with any new feature is that is only really gets developed to it's full potential once users start to use it and there are a number of items starting to repeat on the Rootsmagic user forum which deserve highlighting.

Firstly an overview in the screen shot to the left of some of the fundamental thoughts which come immediately to mind when using the Rootsmagic Media Gallery.

The gallery is great if you only have a small number of media attachments but once your collection grows you soon find the difficulties working within the present structure. I will outline my thoughts below in more detail on where this could work better especially with large collections of images and scans.

Many years ago I worked with two other researchers on a one name study and collectively we were building a large collection of document scans. We soon realized that we were duplicating lots of images due to slightly different naming conventions or more likely just a freehand undisciplined approach to naming files. We were forced to stop and rethink our whole approach to file naming and agree a format we could all adhere to.

We did agree and whilst is may not be perfect is has served me well for the last ten years. The naming convention achieved sorting and also some categorization for searching. Once I combined this into my own folder structure I had the virtual filing cabinet which I very much needed. A couple of examples of the file structure we chose are below with a brief explanation :-

smith-john,1900-jan-29-(b)  - (birth registration document)
smith-john,fellows-margaret,1920-feb-14-(m)    - (marriage registration document)
smith-john,1970-sep-12-(obit)    - (copy of obituary)

The structure is quite simple but the key is that many searchable components exist within the file name. Also placing like documents into specific surname or document type folders achieves a useful grouping through Windows Explorer sort on the file name grouping duplicates for easy recognition.

Whilst further file categorization does not exist at present in Rootsmagic 6 (see enhancement #6 below), any such enhancement in the future will only compliment any existing file name and folder system.

Enhancement #1 - Help deal with Media Gallery duplication

Providing some user file naming convention is in place it would be very useful if when the surname or whatever suits the file naming convention was typed, Rootsmagic Media Gallery moved directly to that alpha level within it's current file catalogue. This would help greatly in reducing file duplication where the user is tempted just to add the file again due to the difficulty in finding the existing entry.

Another way to keep the gallery accurate would be a small utility behind a menu option to reconcile the Media Gallery so duplicate entries are effectively merged. This can be achieved now through exporting the complete file to gedcom and importing it again but it's like using a sledgehammer to crack a nut.

Enhancement #2 -Show additional file information
Rootsmagic Media Gallery currently has a load of free space in the right hand pane labelled "Media Properties". The only information this currently holds in the main Media Gallery view is the path and filename. This pane does hold further caption information in the Media Album view like caption etc but could display important and useful information about the actual file in Media Gallery view.

There is room for a lot of development here which could also evolve to the finding or certain files by metadata but for now I would be happy to see the simplest information like Title, Subject, Tags, Comments etc. which are already available in through Windows and file properties. Further development could take this a stage further to editing the image properties from within Rootsmagic to assist in the maintenance of a quality media collection. Once meaningful metadata is contained in image files this can also be used to find files with a particular focus not contained within the file name itself.

As media galleries grow users will need more information to find files than the best thought out file naming convention can ever hold so I believe it is important that genealogy programs develop in tune with modern image handling techniques to provide whatever help is needed and ease the difficulties of managing large image libraries.


Enhancement #3 -Show only Broken Links Checkbox

Scanning down through the thumbnails for that little X which denotes a Broken Link is time consuming and tiresome on large Media Collections. It would be very easy to provide a checkbox in the header of Media Gallery alongside the search box to Show Only Broken Links. This would further help users after using the Fix Broken Media Links to re-link those files which have possibly been renamed.


Enhancement #4 - Show me what it not linked to Rootsmagic

gedcom image traceAfter dealing with all these files which are linked to your Rootsmagic database what about all those files which are on your hard drive in your media folders which are not linked, we might as well call them orphans. Rootsmagic needs to be like the librarian for your media collection and unless a file is linked then there is no reference to it within Rootsmagic. Also I believe all electronic documents available should be linked to there respective individuals in some way to provide a complete reference. In other words when you are researching John Smith, all the documents pertaining to John Smith should be immediately available.

Believe it or not this is relatively simple to achieve, Rootsmagic gedcom image traceralready has a table (list) of what media files are currently linked to the database so comparing this table to what files are in a user specified folder on the hard drive is a simple task. Say you have the folders on your hard drive as Smith > Births etc., running this proposed utility and selecting Smith > Births as the target folder would produce a list of files in that folder which are not currently linked to Rootsmagic. This would effectively provide users with a To-Do list of files which need to be linked and help make the database complete, the goal being no files being unlinked. This type of utility within Rootsmagic would be a big wish for me as in the modern world new images and files come to me much quicker than I can ever hope to link them to my database.
gedcom image tracer

The images to the left are from a utility developed by another Rootsmagic user which analyses both a gedcom file and the selected folders on the users hard drive and makes a comparison highlighting anomalies in different colours. Because this is an external program working on the gedcom file is it easy to use side by side with RM making the necessary corrections as you go.

If you have Microsoft Excel then feel free to download a workbook I wrote up to overcome this difficulty for myself. My problem, and I am sure that of others, is that I can always collect new media much faster than I could link it to my Rootsmagic database and this helped achieve what I wanted. My frustration is that this could be very easily achieved within Rootsmagic. Using functionality similar to the Fix Broken Media Links where the user selects a location, Rootsmagic could easily display a list of currently Unlinked files within Media Gallery, the user would then simply highlight the file and use the Tag Media button to add it to the database. I believe from my own experience that this would be a very useful enhancement and if you agree then I would encourage you to email Rootsmagic Support and log an enhancement request. 


Enhancement #5 - Add the option to Fit Height & Width on View/Edit menu

rootsmagic.wish-listWhen the View/Edit button is clicked or any image in the Media Gallery is double clicked you enter the Edit Media window from where you can perform some simple image tasks. Bigger tasks should really be handled externally in a program specifically designed for the task, after all Image Editing programs do not do genealogy.

When I enter this window it is invariably to View the Media and Rootsmagic could help here with a couple of fairly standard options like Fit Width and Fit Height. Not all images are a nice easy 6:4 format and long portrait images like newspaper columns and long landscape images like certifications are very common and need to be catered for.

The other shortcoming I would highlight here is the lack of cursor control for scrolling the image with the arrow keys and this has also been mentioned on the Rootsmagic Forum. The final pretty standard image functionality would be the "hand" on image where the image can be clicked and dragged to the desired position with the mouse.


Enhancement #6 - Add additional file categorization to aid filtering

Any additional categorization of media and digital documents within the Rootsmagic database is to be welcomed. Family Tree Maker allows for a further categorization and the user can edit the default list to family-tree-maker-mediaadd their own categories. Rootsmagic already has a database field for Media Type which only holds simple keys for Image, Sound, Document types etc so a simple user interface could easily enable such an enhanced feature allowing users much more scope in categorizing media. 

Currently within Family Tree Maker 2012 the user has this further selection option just to show media which is very useful.

It is worth mentioning that in my file naming system mentioned earlier the (b) for Birth, (m) for Marriage and (cens) for Census etc. can be entered into the search box in Rootsmagic Media Gallery and will the program will present a list of only those files which contain that particular text.



Enhancement #7 - Add "Search Again" option to further filter finds

As mentioned in the previous enhancement Rootsmagic already has a useful Search box which allows for displaying a filtered list and the immediate thought is how a "Search Again" feature would be useful for further filtering that found set. This may be cumbersome but at present Rootsmagic only finds contiguous text although it will find it anywhere within the File Name or Caption, my thoughts would be to allow use of the "&" character so users could search for more than one component match.