Modern Software Experience

2007-06-27

Geves 1.1.39

Today I came across yet another genealogy application; Geves by Gevesoft. Geves is still in beta, but this is an open beta. You merely need to provide a name and email address to obtain a download link. I received mine within half a minute. The download is an MSI file which installs easily. The only nit is that beta_18522.msi isn’t an obvious file name for Geves version 1.1.39.

license

I went straight for the download link. It does not tell you there, nor in the email you receive, what the license terms for the beta are, but when I started the program for the first time it informed me that I had 60 days left in my trial period.

the Ultimate Genealogy Software

I could not avoid noticing that the website has a header which claims, in rather large type, that this is the website for Geves, the Ultimate Genealogy Software and the first sentence on the Geves page is Geves is a new concept in Family History Software. Uh-oh, that are some a rather bold claims.

some basic facts

GENTREE

Geves is a genealogy program written by P Bower. The most interesting claim on the Geves website is that the origin of this new program stretches all the way back to 1987, when they released the GENTREE package. A quick Google search shows that there are several systems with that name. The reference is probably to a French program that enjoyed some popularity in the late eighties and early nineties.

Event GEDCOM

Anyway, any genealogy author whose been around that long must know about the Roots program and about Event GEDCOM. Interestingly, the FAQ states that Geves is an event-based genealogy program. Some playing around with the program seems to confirm that that it is build around events, yet Geves does not support Event GEDCOM.

requirements

Geves uses the *.gvf file extensions. The recommended system for Geves is a PC running Windows 2000, Windows XP or Windows Vista with a 1 GHz processor, 256MB RAM and 4GB Hard Drive. I do not consider these specifications to be realistic. These official requirements sound rather minimal. I’d sooner recommend 2 GHz with 1GB of RAM to run Windows XP smoothly.

impressions

clean and simple genealogy application

A quick browse through the Geves menus showed nothing out of the ordinary. The first impression is that of a clean and simple genealogy application, complete with help file, that follows Windows user interface guidelines. That’s nothing out of the ordinary, but worth nothing anyway, as not all vendors can lay claim to this basic feature. A nice but not extraordinary extra is that you can customise the toolbar.

Gazetteer

One somewhat noteworthy feature is the Gazetteer; a master place list that includes latitude and longitude information. Not all genealogy programs have this yet. A quick browse showed me that this list is far from as extensive as the one that comes with Legacy. In fact, it appears to be a rather limited list, that seems to have been created from a medium-sized English genealogy.

random GEDCOM file

I tried to open a random GEDCOM file. I was happy to note that the File Open dialog box is the standard File Open dialog box one, but not so happy with the dialog box I got almost immediately after attempting to import the file: Error occurred during operation: Unexpected file format.. I double-checked the file menu: there is just the File | Open menu, no separate menu item for importing GEDCOMs. I checked the website, and it clearly lists Import data from other genealogy software using GEDCOM as one of the major features.

Oops. Of course, many programs require you to make a database before you try to import a file. I do so using File | New, and sure enough, after I have created a database, the File | Import menu option is there. The first file I tried to import resulted in a list of 4506 people without a name, so I tried another. I had many windows open, and noticed that Geves failed to update its windows while importing, but this time, the import looked fine.

performance

The file I imported was fairly small, and with just 574 people in the database, performance was snappy. I did wonder about the import speed though. I had not timed it, but it felt like somewhere between 20 seconds and half a minute, and that would be plain bad, so I did a timed test later.

individual TreeView

The application presents a TreeView of all individuals in the left pane. They appear unsorted, but they are not, the application merely defaults to sorting the individuals by their id numbers. There are three icons above the list that let you sort it by either id, last name, or first name. I found it rather annoying and disappointing that when I choose to sort by last name, the last name was not only moved to the front, but entirely upcased as well. Annoying, because it isn’t the same list. Disappointing, because it is wrong; it is neither the proper display order nor the proper name; none of these people has an all-uppercase last name.

sorting names

I tried to edit a name to see how it would handle a name like de Bourbon or van den Berg. I briefly got the impression the Geves was just a GEDCOM viewer, but soon found an edit option on a context-menu. To actually edit the name, I had to follow several menus. Editing is neither easy to do, nor intuitive, but I finally got a single field to enter the entire name in. An attempt to change an existing name seemed unsuccessful. The dialog box I found apparently serves some purpose in locating existing individuals. I tried the people list, and sure enough, it has an option to insert a person. It brings up a small dialog box that allows you to enter the first and last name separately. I entered Jan de Boer and Geves sorted him under the D, not the B, as it really should. The program does not seem to recognise the existence of name prefixes, and sure enough, when I exported to GEDCOM, there was not a single NPFX tag in the entire file.

serious GEDCOM problems

Just browsing through the GEDCOM that Geves created, I noted several serious problems.

no version number

The problems start with a messed up GEDCOM header. The program claims to export to GEDCOM 5.5, but the header lacks the 5.5 version number, and smart GEDCOM readers interpret the absence of the now mandatory version number as GEDCOM 3.0….

ASCII instead of UTF-8 or ANSEL

Perhaps even more worrying is that the character set is specified as ASCII. The best default is UTF-8, and the traditional default is ANSEL, so why ASCII? And why wasn’t I give a choice?

indirect note style done wrong

The GEDCOM file produced by Geves uses the indirect note style. This is legal, and only very old GEDCOM readers do not understand it. However, when you use indirect note style, just like Family Tree Maker, you should follow its lead in keeping the first line of the actual note empty, and putting all text in subordinate CONC and CONT tags. Geves does not do this, and as a result, its NOTE tags are ambiguous.

unreferenced INDI; a Geves import defect

I also noted that quite a few INDI records remained unreferenced. On comparison with the original file, it became clear that information had been lost. A quick experiment later made it clear to me that this is not an export but an import defect. Information is lost upon import; after importing the file into Geves, many relationships are gone. I have not looked for any pattern, so I have no idea right now why some relations are imported and others are not. Nor does it matter much; just one defect like this makes an program worthy of disrecommendation.

no log file

I looked for a log file that might tell me what had gone wrong, and perhaps give some hint why, but found no import log file.

Geves’s ASCII is not ASCII

Before exporting again, I added a name with a few accented characters, André Prudhômme. Despite the presence of accented characters outside the ASCII character set, the program still claims to export to ASCII. If that were true, these characters would be lost, or perhaps replaced by an e an o without diacritics. However, a quick examination with NotePad shows that they are still there...

The truth is that the Geves GEDCOM is broken. It claims to write ASCII, but actually writes ANSI. Well, it writes ANSI on my system, which defaults to Windows code page 1252. I have not tested what happens if the default code page is different.

no UTF-8 or ANSEL support

Anyway, Geves does not support either UTF-8 or ANSEL, and that may be the reason it failed to import another file I tried. It just would not import at all.

import performance

import progress

I timed the import of a popular medium sized file, royalfam.ged, just shy of 3 ½ MB. While importing, the lower left corner of Geves said Ready instead of the more accurate importing. There is no progress bar to let you know how things are going either. While importing, Geves not only failed to update its windows, the Windows Task Manager even listed the program as not responding.

memory hungry

The really astonishing thing was not even the time it took to import this file. The numbers I got show Geves to be even slower than TMG, but the truly astonishing thing is Geves’ hunger for memory.

I watched in astonished unbelief as I saw its memory usage shoot up to 100 MB, 150 MB, 200 MB, 250 MB and even 300 MB. It was hard to believe any program would need 350 MB to import a 3,5 MB file, that is already hundred times the size of the input file, but apparently, Geves does. In fact, its memory usage continued to climb, to 400 MB, 450 MB, and 500 MB, past 512 MB. Half a gigabyte! Yet it still was not enough. Geves was hungry for yet more. After some twelve minutes, it was using more than 550 MB, and usage continued to climb, past 600 MB. Task Manager showed the CPU usage to be fairly steady at an unusually high 30 to 55 %, whiles Geves’s memory usage went past 650 MB. Surely this climb was not going to pass 700 MB, some two hundred times the file size? It did, and Geves’s hunger for memory continued unabated….

unfinished after 35 minutes

Thirty-five minutes after I started the import, memory consumption was at 786.212 KB. The excessive memory consumption had reduced the entire 1 GB system to a thrashing state. The constant swapping rendered it practically useless. The commit charge was dangerously close the maximum. I was not going to wait any longer to see whether Geves would actually crash the system. I terminated the Geves process.

GEDCOM import speed

I suspect an internal error that has the program looping, and claiming memory until there is no more, but I will kindly assume that Geves would have finished the import eventually, and would have done so very soon after I killed the process. Taking at least 786.212 KB and 35 minutes for a 3.41 MB ( 3.579.808) byte file works out to using more than 224 times the original files size, and processing at most 1.7 KB per seconds. These are the worst GEDCOM import numbers I have seen yet.

Standard and Deluxe

Geves is available in Standard and Deluxe Editions, but my experience with the basic features of the Standard Edition is so dismal already, that it makes no sense to invest any time in exploring Deluxe features.

conclusion

Geves carries a version number above 1.0, but it is simply not ready at all. Editing is unintuitive. GEDCOM import is unreliable, memory hungry and extremely slow. GEDCOM export is broken. There is no ANSEL or UTF-8 support.
One word summary: unfinished.

updates

2008-08-29: Geves for sale now

After several months of public beta with a version number already above 1.0, Gevesoft Ltd announced that their Geves is for sale now.
Those who participated in the beta received an email with a coupon code for a free upgrade to the Deluxe Edition (£ 45) if they buy the Standard Edition for £ 25.

2010-01-01: Twigs of Yore Geves 1.3.28 review

Shelly of Twigs of Yore just reviewed Geves version 1.3.28, the Deluxe edition. She is enthusiastic about how its source templates automate a lot of work, but unhappy that its reports lack source citations. Referring back to this review she notes that it seems none of the GEDCOM export issues have been fixed yet and finds that …disappointing. Source-based data entry loses its gloss if you’re not sure of getting the information out again!.
I had a quick look at Geves 1.3.28 GEDCOM output and I agree with her assessment. It indeed seems that none of the defects have been fixed; Geves still does not even write a correct GEDCOM header.

product details

propertyvalue
productGeves
version1.1.39
companyGevesoft Ltd
websiteGeveSoft
price£25 for the Standard Edition,
£45 for the Deluxe Edition
requirementsWindows 2000, Windows XP or Windows Vista
notememory-hungry.
VerdictUnfinished.
RatingDismal.

links