Modern Software Experience

2011-05-29

Exclusive Technology Preview

AncestorSync for Geni Logo

AncestorSync

AncestorSync was announced a little over two weeks ago. Real-Time Collaboration's initial press release made it sound like a handy upload and download utility, but it is more than that; AncestorSync is a true synchronisation technology, complete with smart filters and conflict resolution.

How AncestorSync works explains what it is, what it does, and how it works.
This article discusses the AncestorSync Beta; how to sign up and what to expect.

Beta: subject to change

Be advised that although this article gives a reasonably accurate overall impression of what the AncestorSync Beta will be like, details are sure to differ from what is shown and stated here.
This is Beta information on a Beta product.

AncestorSync Beta

AncestorSync is not available yet. AncestorSync is in Closed Beta now. AncestorSync will be in Public Beta soon.

The AncestorSync home page features links to a pre-order page, which is great for most users. The home page does not tell you that AncestorSync will enter Public Beta soon, and does not link to the AncestorSync Beta page. I've been given permission to reveal the link to my readers.

AncestorSync Beta

If you don't mind dealing with the problems of Beta software, but really just want to get your hands on AncestorSync as soon as possible, then you probably don't want to bother with the pre-order page, but want to leave your name and email on the AncestorSync Beta Page instead.

I received the Closed Beta, and am allowed to tell you about it, complete with screenshots, so that you know what to expect when you sign up for the Public Beta.

Windows and Mac OS X

AncestorSync is available for both Windows and Mac OS X; the minimum required operating system versions are Windows XP and Mac OS X 10.5 Leopard. You will be able to download both a Windows and Mac OS application. AncestorSync supports both Windows and Mac OS genealogy databases on both platforms. AncestorSync for Mac OS variant will sync RootsMagic databases, and AncestorSync for Windows will sync MacFamilyTree databases.

AncestorSync for Geni

database formatBeta
GEDCOMY
Personal Ancestral File (PAF)Y
Ancestral Quest (AQ)Y
Legacy Family TreeY
RootsMagic 4 (RM4)Y
The Master Genealogist (TMG)y
Family Tree Maker Classic (FTM Classic)y
New Family Tree Maker (New FTM)y
Family Tree Maker for Mac (FTMM)y
MacFamilyTree (MFT)y
Reuniony

AncestorSync is a product family. The first product in that Family is AncestorSync for Geni. AncestorSync for Geni will be available as a public beta on 2010 June 10.
The AncestorSync download page asks you which of the three announced AncestorSync product you are interested in, AncestorSync for Geni, AncestorSync for FamilySearch or AncestorSync for ourFamily•ology. It does not matter which one you choose. The download page shows you which desktop products AncestorSync currently supports, and which ones it is expected to support soon.

To try the AncestorSync for Geni Beta, you will need a Geni.com account and at least one of the supported products. A basic Geni.com account is free and most of the currently supported desktop products offer either a lite version or a free trial.

colour-coded

The screenshot for the download page shows the logos for all three already announced AncestorSync products. Notice that the product logos are colour-coded variations of the AncestorSync logo; the AncestorSync for Geni logo uses shades of blue, AncestorSync for FamilySearch uses shades of teal, and AncestorSync for ourFamily•ology uses different shades of brown.

download and installation

AncestorSync for Geni is a download of roughly 15 MB. Installation requires about 44 MB. AncestorSync is a 32-bit application, I installed AncestorSync for Geni on Windows Vista 64-bit. The NullSoft installation wizard is easy to use. It offers a reasonable default directory, but allows you to choose another one. I experienced a few minor problems with the installer, which are likely to be resolved in the Public Beta.

AncestorSync for Geni TaskBar icon

AncestorSync for Geni starts up when Windows start and makes it presence known by displaying the blue AncestorSync for Geni logo on the TaskBar. The Beta has the TaskBar icon, but does not start automatically yet.

starting up

When you start AncestorSync for Geni for the first time, it immediately prompts you for your Geni.com login credentials: your email addres and password.

AncestorSync for Geni login

AncestorSync needs to login to Geni on your behalf to read and write your genealogy data. How AncestorSync works explains why AncestorSync does not need to burden you with separate login credentials for the AncestorSync Web Server.

When I first started AncestorSync for Geni, my firewall popped up to let me know that AncestorSync was trying to connect to the Internet, but because the AncestorSync dialog appeared first, I knew why it was doing that, and allowed it to happen.

AncestorSync for Geni

Once you are logged in, you get the AncestorSync for Geni dialog box. This isn't some welcome dialog box, it is the main dialog box.

AncestorSync for Geni main dialog

AncestorSync's main dialog offers four main choices: Download a Personal Copy, One-Time Synchronisation, Automatic Synchronisation and Share with Someone. Notice that the One-Time Synchronisation, Automatic Synchronisation and Share with Someone choices are greyed out. The first Public Beta will offer only the Download a Personal Copy option. The main dialog box also allows has a link to sign out of Geni.com, a help button and a link to view the log file.
At this time, help button and the view log file functionality are not working yet. Real-Time Collaboration expects to have it working when they release the Public Beta.

Download a Personal Copy

When you choose to Download a Personal Copy, another dialog box pops up, prompting you for download options; how many ancestral and descendant generations, whether to include additional children and spouses, that kind of thing.

AncestorSync for Geni download options

Notice that the AncestorSync for Geni Beta supports media and lets you specify whether you want to download documents, photos and videos or not. The dialog box shows an estimated download time, but in my limited experience, the time shown is a gross overestimation; the actual download time is lot less.

When you are happy with your choices, you choose the Save and Select Program button.

AncestorSync for Geni choose program

This screenshot shows that AncestorSync currently supports Ancestral Quest (AQ), Legacy Family Tree, Personal Ancestral File (PAF), RootsMagic and GEDCOM.
The learn more button brings up a pop-up that provides a brief description for each choice. AncestorSync supports RootsMagic 4, it does not support earlier versions. The Public Beta should additionally support The Master Genealogist (TMG), and support for other applications should follow soon.

When you choose the Download a Personal Copy option, AncestorSync does not smartly synchronise with an already existing database, but simply overwrites whatever is there.

You can choose to download your Geni data to just one desktop database, or to multiple desktop databases. In the screenshot, I've chosen to download to the last two options, RootsMagic and GEDCOM.

You choose to save to a particular format with the save button; when you click the button, you are prompted for a file name. If you choose a filename that already exists, you are prompted to confirm that you want to overwrite it. When you choose the Download a Personal Copy option, AncestorSync does not smartly synchronise with an already existing database, but simply overwrites whatever is there.

Once you have chosen a filename, the dialog box displays that name, and adds the Automatically keep in sync checkbox. That checkbox does not do anything yet, as the initial Beta is limited to download-only functionality.

Download of your genealogy data starts when you choose the Finish and Begin download button.

AncestorSync for Geni downloading

The download dialog is remarkably large and shows an animation while downloading. The screenshot shows how my initial attempt to download from Geni.com failed. I thought this failure happened because I had remained inactive for too long; Geni.com had automatically ended my session and AncestorSync wasn't aware of that. I've been informed that it actually was a latency issue. Anyway, when I restarted AncestorSync for Geni and tried again, it worked fine. AncestorSync for Geni had estimated the download time at more than six minutes, it actually took about fifteen seconds.

The download speed does not depend on the number of database formats you choose. AncestorSync downloads the data just once. AncestorSync downloads the genealogy data to the local AncestorSync Desktop database just once, and then exports from its local database to all the chosen database formats.

desktop databases

The tree I currently have at Geni.com is rather skeletal, and does not contain anything particularly challenging. Still, I did not experience any problems opening any of the desktop databases that AncestorSync for Geni Beta created. Legacy Family Tree does not run on Windows Vista 64-bit, but RootsMagic had no trouble opening the Legacy file.
The GEDCOM files that AncestorSync generates are UTF-8 GEDCOM 5.5.1 files that contain a few legal GEDCOM extensions. The current AncestorSync Beta does have an identity problem; the GEDCOM files it creates state that they were created by Ohana Software FamilyInsight. Expect that to have been corrected in the Public Beta.

Public Beta

The initial Public Beta isn't as exciting as it could be, because it will not offer true sync capability, but merely allows you to download your data to several desktop database formats. If you'd still like to be involved, and be among the first to get a version that does more; the link to sign up for the AncestorSync Beta is below.
Please note that although it looks fine, the AncestorSync Beta sign-up page does not work yet; you should be able sign up on 2010 June 1.

updates

2011-05-31 Windows and Mac OS

Added information about Windows and Mac OS availability, database support, and minimum required versions.

2011-06-10 Beta available

The AncestorSync Beta is available. The Beta page now lists Embla Family Treasures and GRAMPS as applications that may be supported in future versions.

2011-08-18 Geni GEDCOM export

There have been many changes at Geni recently, see Geni Changes. Today Geni announced that forest export, the most inclusive GEDCOM export option, is now part of the free account.

links