Design Goals & Philosophy

For information about the features supported by Family Historian, see Features. This page looks at the goals and philosophy behind the design of Family Historian.

Ease of Use

Family Historian was designed to be as easy to use as we could make it, while not compromising on the functionality we offered. We have tried to keep its look and feel as close as possible to the evolving standard used in Windows today.

Integrated Use of Visuals and Graphics

Family trees are complex. To make complex data easy to understand and work with, the best solution is to find ways to represent it graphically and visually. Human beings grasp visual information much more quickly and easily than they grasp information presented in other ways. In designing Family Historian, our goal was to go much further than any family tree application had done up to then, in finding ways to allow users to see their data, and to work with data visually and graphically.

An Emphasis on Visibility of, and Access to, Data

We wanted users to be able to see at a glance, all of the data in a record. We do not like hidden or ‘buried’ data. Wherever possible, we have tried to find ways to make data visible – even ‘low-level’ data such as source data. If the user is viewing an individual in a diagram, in a picture, or anywhere else, we wanted them to be able to easily access all the information they have about that person without having to ‘go’ to some special place where that data is stored. The data has to be available to them wherever they are and whatever they’re doing.

An Emphasis on Getting the Most out of Data

The Query engine was provided because we wanted users to be able to ‘mine’ their own data and make use of it and analyse it in whatever way they wished. Also, after a user has entered data we felt that they should be able to get it out again easily and copy it to other programs if they wish, to make best use of their existing investment in other sophisticated software products such as spreadsheets and word-processors. Finally, wherever possible, we wanted Family Historian to add value by using information already provided, to perform calculations for the user – for example, by calculating how old people were when an event occurred.

The Best GEDCOM Application

GEDCOM is the essential standard for Internet and computer-based genealogy, and we believe that it is likely to become even more important in the future. Our goal for Family Historian has always been to provide the best support for GEDCOM there is, and for it to be a 100% GEDCOM compatible and 100% GEDCOM complete.

The Best Support for Merge/Compare

In our view, the ability to compare 2 GEDCOM files and to effectively merge them, is a pre-requisite for genealogists to make effective use of the vast computer-based genealogical resources that are out there. It is also an essential feature for users who wish to share data, and/or review and correct each other’s data. Without proper Merge and Compare facilities, computing-based genealogy is severely restricted. In our view, none of the existing family tree applications provided facilities that were adequate in this area. Our goal was to provide the kind of merge/compare facilities that we felt genealogists needed.

Make it Easy to Document Sources

Most genealogists know how important it is to document your sources. The value of the information in your file is directly related to how well you document your sources. But as long as the process of documenting sources is laborious and time-consuming, genealogists will inevitably neglect it. Our goal was to provide excellent support for sources, while making it as easy as possible for genealogists to record their sources. Also, we wanted Source information, once entered, to be easily accessible and visible.

A Balance Between Pre-Configured and User-Customised

We have tried to find a good balance between the desire to provide new users with useful pre-configured diagrams, queries, text schemes, and other features; while at the same time making it possible for experienced users who want to, to customise and tailor everything to their own needs. Most features of Family Historian are very configurable if you want to configure them or customise them. But you never have to.

The Best Application for Pictures

We aimed to provide very good support for sounds, videos and other multimedia. But we aimed to provide the best support for pictures. Digital cameras, flat bed scanners, very large hard disks, CD-writers and DVD-writers are all common and cheap. Many people store and work with large numbers of pictures on their computer. And it makes sense to do this. By scanning in an old picture, you can make it accessible and available, where in a box in a drawer it would be lost. It also makes sense that pictures should be linked to family tree information. By linking a picture to family tree data you can analyse it and significantly enhance its value, while also adding value to your family tree data. However, in our view, none of the existing family tree applications have done enough to make this work well in practice. You should not have to ‘crop’ a picture to link a person in your family tree file to a particular face within a picture. If you crop the picture you lose the context, and the other people, which is often what made it an interesting picture in the first place. Nor should you have to add the same picture more than once to your file, to link it to all the people in it. When viewing a picture, you should be able to just click (or double-click) on a face to access all the information you have about that person. Equally, you should be able to use all the facilities of the family tree file (queries, etc) to locate pictures (e.g. find me all pictures of Y, or find me all pictures of the female descendants of Z). Our goal was to provide all the facilities users need to work effectively with pictures and get the best value out of them.