Pennine Software Genealogy corner

!Family for RISC OS

!Family is a BASIC program to maintain a family tree database on an Acorn RISC OS platform (has been in frequent use on RO 3.1 and 3.5 - current versions are being developed on RISC OS 4 but will be tested on 3.1). It uses the worldwide standard GEDCOM file format to store its information, and can therefore exchange data with most genealogical packages in use today. The user interface is graphical through an on-screen family-tree in which members of a family can be seen in the context of their relationships. This makes it far easier to navigate than many genealogical packages whose interface is purely textual, or which show only a tiny part of a tree structure at one time.

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full-size version

The tree display can be sent to a printer, or a !Draw file, and a variety of reports can be generated. A complete website can also be created with a page for each person in the tree, showing two generations of ancestors, their marriage(s) and children and all relevant dates and notes.

!Family was developed over several years (up to version 2.18) by Denis Howe at Imperial College. Pennine Software added features for local needs and intended sending these to Denis for incorporation into the released version. Following Denis's desire to pass support of the program on to someone else, these updates are now being made available by Pennine Software and can be retrieved from the downloads page. There have been a number of user-interface changes, one or two of which seem to be causing some confusion, especially among users of earlier versions - a radical rethink of some aspects of the interface is currently in development which it is hoped will address all such confusion. Documentation is currently ahead of development (!), but if you use Acorn's interactive help program (!Help), the information it reports is almost up to the minute in 2.24 and way out of date in 2.25.

The current stable version is 2.24, while the development version is 2.25. Significant additions and changes to the user-interface are detailed inside the application in !Family.Changes. Noticeable bugs which have been fixed are similarly detailed in !Family.BugsFixed whilst known outstanding bugs (and a lot of wish-list items) are listed in !Family.Bugs. I have removed the original !Help file, since this is now quite confusing if used with the changes to user interface. New documentation in html format is in preparation, but relates to the new user interface style of the 2.25 development version.

!Family by no means deals with all possible events and tags defined in the GEDCOM standard, and lacks handling of that most important aspect of genealogy, documenting your sources ! Work is in progress to add handling for many extra tags without overwhelming the user interface in complex detail which is rarely, if ever, used. GEDCOM structures dealing with sources and their locations can become quite complex, and a major goal is to add support for these in an easily-understood form.

!Family produces GEDCOM which most closely corresponds with version 5.3. The more recent GEDCOM 5.5 specification removes some useful structure which was present in 5.3 and which had recently been added into !Family. In particular, for events birth, christening, baptism, death, cremation and marriage, GEDCOM 5.3 split the location into "Place" and "Site" fields, whilst burials were split into "Place", "Cemetery" and "Plot". GEDCOM 5.5 no longer supports this level of structure and work is in hand to provide a method for !Family to save its tree in accordance with this new version, whilst still preserving structured information.

Currently !Family 2.24 is out of step with the GEDCOM spec. (both 5.3 and 5.5) in storing the TIME of an event at the same structural level as the DATE. The time should, in fact, be one level below the date, and this is how the development version 2.25 works. 2.25 comes with a small BASIC program to convert GEDCOMs produced by versions 2.20 to 2.24 to the correct format without losing all the times from existing files.

A compiled program is being developed for Linux on both Acorn and other platforms, and user-interface innovations from that code are providing useful inspiration for further changes to !Family. You can get an idea of how this work is progressing from the X!Family page.

Warning: one new version of the code has been added to v 2.24 since the original posting (in April 2000). This fixes a minor bug in provision of interactive help on the "Cremations" window.