Archive for the ‘Desktop Genealogy Software’ Category

Picasa for Family History Images

Thursday, June 3rd, 2010

I’m a fan of Picasa, a photo editing program that’s available for free download from Google, and I mostly use it for organizing, tweaking, and sharing scans of genealogical documents.

A Picasa tutorial is beyond the scope of a short blog post, but I thought it would be useful for me share a list of the features I find particularly helpful with some simple directions on how to use them.


Select Images to Appear: You can decide which images appear in Picasa by selecting folders under “Tools” then “Folder Manager.”

Organize Images:
Move images from folder to folder by dragging and dropping. You can also rearrange images within a folder using the same approach.

Rename an Image: Click on an image to select it, then hit F2. Type the new image name in the pop-up box.

Rename Multiple Images: Select multiple images (holding down Ctrl lets you do that) and then hit F2. Type an image name and the selected images will be renamed in sequential order. For example, decree.jpg, decree1.jpg, decree2.jpg, etc.


If you open Picasa and double-click on an image and you’ll see three tabbed menus appear on the left: Basic Fixes, Tuning, and Effects. These menus are key.

Rotate an Image: Click “Straighten” under the “Basic Fixes” tab; use the sliding bar to rotate the image left or right, then click on “Apply.”

Crop an Image: Click “Crop” under the “Basic Fixes” tab; draw a box around the portion of the image you want to save and click “Apply” when done. If you’re not happy with how the cropped image turned out, click “Recrop” and try again.

Tweak Brightness and Contrast Automatically: Click “Auto Contrast” under the “Basic Fixes” tab; if you’re not happy with the result, just click “Undo Auto Contrast.” If Auto Contrast doesn’t work, click on the “Tuning” tab. Move the sliding bars to tweak the image.


Print an Image: Click on the image(s) you want to print. Click on the “Print” icon at the bottom of the page. Use the resulting menu options to assure that the image will appear on the page the way you want it to.

Upload an Image to a Picasa Web Album: Web albums are a great way to keep, backup and share images. Click on the “Upload” button and follow the instructions. Images will be sent to a folder associated with your gmail address and once they’re there you can rearrange them, add captions, and share links to individual images or a folder. It’s a convenient way to back up the files and it’s a nice way to make sure they’re accessible from any place you have Internet access. (The image below says “paid storage” but free storage is also available.)

Emailing Images:
The one thing that hasn’t worked well for me is the email option. I find that the documents shrink somewhere along in the process and the resulting images may not be large enough to be read easily. (If anyone has a solution to that problem, please let me know.)

These are just a few ideas but I’d encourage you to explore the program to discover other useful features and if you discover one, please add a comment to this post.


Picasa and Genlighten go great together! Here’s how:

For lookup providers: use Picasa to enhance the quality of the document scans you upload to your clients. Here’s a tip. Upload both your original scan and a second one that you tweak with Picasa. That way, clients can see the difference and appreciate the extra effort you went to. Also, there may be certain details in the image (handwriting, for example) that are discernible in one version but not the other.

For clients: once you’ve downloaded the images your provider posted to your account, use Picasa to bring out details you might otherwise have missed. Experiment with the techniques mentioned in this post and save different versions of your images with descriptive names. Have fun!

Follow Friday: Behold Genealogy and Louis Kessler’s Behold Blog

Friday, January 22nd, 2010

I like to think that our blog is fairly unique in offering an insider chronicle of the travails of building a genealogy startup. But I tend to be pretty circumspect in sharing our technical struggles, bug fixes, and product roadmap. Louis Kessler, on the other hand, let’s it all hang out. Louis is the visionary behind Behold Genealogy. For this week’s Follow Friday recommendation, I’d like to encourage you to get to know Louis and his plan to “Change the Way Genealogists Work” by subscribing to the Behold Blog.

Software that Focuses on the Output Report Instead of the Input Form

beholdheaderFrom what I can tell, Behold is designed with the end in mind, and acts more like a word processor for top-notch genealogy reports than an “enter names in a blank pedigree chart” data-gathering tool. I haven’t used Behold yet so I can’t offer a recommendation one way or the other, but I’m completely drawn in by Louis’ passion for his product and his innovative thinking about what genealogy software can and should do.

GEDCOMs, Programming, Bug Reports, Future Plans

Here are some of the topics you’ll read about in Louis’ blog:

  • Arcane details of how GEDCOM files are constructed and processed (harder than you probably think!)
  • Louis’ daily battles with software bugs (in Delphi no less!), much of them fought well after midnight
  • His painstaking efforts to construct error messages that are helpful to his users
  • The bugs he can’t fix on his own, and his humble efforts to get help from StackOverflow (where he’s also a regular contributor)

And that’s just the last few months… Louis has been at this for almost eight years!

As you can tell, I have a lot of admiration for Louis’ openness, persistence, and pride in his craft. You won’t find a lot of details of Louis’ genealogy research in his postings, but you can tell he’s channeling his love and respect for his ancestors into his software development efforts. If you want to gain a sense for the work that goes into that shrink-wrapped genealogy software you bought, the Behold Blog is a good place to get it.