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
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
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
smith-john,1970-sep-12-(obit) - (copy of
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.
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
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.
-Show additional file
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
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
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
Enhancement #4 - Show me what it not linked to
After 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
Believe it or not this is relatively simple to achieve,
Rootsmagic already 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.
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
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
When 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.
- 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 add 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
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
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