Modern Software Experience

2006-12-20

history

long wait

GenoPro 2007 is the new name for what we already knew as GenoPro 2.0. This is the first major upgrade of this program since its introduction in 1998.

GenoPro saw quick upgrades to 1.71, but after the release of version 1.9 in 2001 its development seemed to slow down.
The public beta period for this product started back in 2003 with version 1.91. During this long public beta period, many users started to wonder whether GenoPro 2.0 is vapourware. The release of GenoPro 2007 is a fact, and its claimed feature lists looks good.

tainted history

adware

GenoPro started out as freeware for which Daniel Morin asked nothing but a postcard, but soon became adware. The free version continued to known as GenoPro, and the paid version became know as GenoPro Gold.

GenoPro gold

There was no difference in capabilities between GenoPro and GenoPro Gold. The shareware price was just $US 10, but the free version was adware. GenoPro has been associated with several different adware companies, including Radiate Networks and the Web3000 ad network. Users who tried GenoPro found the Web3000 spyware hard to remove.

nagware

GenoPro discontinued its association with the advertising companies, but its spyware reputation lingered for many years. The new versions were not true shareware either, but nagware.

trialware

GenoPro eventually became trialware. You could try it for thirty days before having to purchase it. GenoPro 2007 is still trialware, but does not offer a 30-day trial anymore.

GenoPro 2007

GenoPro 2007 trial

The GenoPro website eagerly prompts the visitor to download the GenoPro trial, but is less than clear about the trialware conditions. When you try to install the downloaded package, it requires you to register for a 14-day trial key. If you do, you have unlimited use for 14 days.
Without registration, GenoPro does not allow editing databases of more than 25 individuals, but you can still import larger databases.
The dialog that demands your email address promises that GenoPro will never share your address with anyone.

chart

criss-cross chart

I started my testing by importing a small GEDCOM file of just over 1 MB, less than 5000 individuals. GenoPro took just a few seconds to do so. and immediately displayed a tree – but not a pretty one. I was surprised that it would display so quickly, as laying out a full chart is quite an art, but I soon discovered why it was quick. I looking at an overview of less 5000 people and it looked plain messy, with clumps of people connected by lines criss-crossing the chart.

white boxes with white edges on a white background

You can scroll up and down, and zooming is very easy too; just scroll the mouse wheel. I zoomed in, hoping to get a clearer picture, with individual names and dates in boxes, but up close, things looked even worse. There seemed to be many white boxes with white edges on a white background overlaying other white boxes with white edges on that same white background. The display showed partial names, the rest of which where apparently overlaid by another white box. There are black lines between the boxes, but many of these are largely overlaid by the white boxes. The results is not really a chart, but bunch of disconnected text and line fragments floating in space.

changing settings

Obviously, the default colours are less than optimal, so I looked for a way to change these. There seems to be no menu to do so. When I click an individual, I get a dialog with a lot of tabs, and one of these tabs allows setting colours – but for that individual only, and I am not going to change thousands of boxes one by one. So, the trick to getting a reasonable display is to select all (Ctrl+A), bring up the box and change the setting. I was surprised to note that the display looked lots better, even when I reset everything to the default, as if just making any choice suddenly convinced GenoPro to lay the chart out properly. When I reloaded the same file, it immediately looks reasonable. When I restarted GenoPro to reload the same file, the display seemed okay. Apparently, this defect is limited to first use or till first change of settings, simply because GenoPro does not initialise these properly.

I tried clicking outside the boxes top change the default settings, but this does not seem to work - at least not after changing all boxes once. Later, some further testing revealed that you can change the default by clicking outside the boxes, but that for some reason the box fill colour is not on the dialog tab you get. Some settings apparently have no default?

boxes on top of each other

Once you pick a few settings, the diagram looks a lot better – but not good enough. I picked a pale blue for the box, with a dark blue border, with black lines between them. These settings clearly show that quite a few boxes overlay each other. Some boxes are overlaid by more than one other box. Sometimes, a whole horizontal series of children overlays another series of children.

I have not counted, but a rough estimate is that about ten percent of boxes is overlayed by another box. It may be a bit more or bit less, but it certainly is way too much. The harsh fact of the matter is that GenoPro’s automatic layout function is not good enough. Now, layout of charts is a hard problem, not something you code in a rainy afternoon, but this is not just another feature of the program, it is the main interface, and it has been in beta for many years. Its less than perfect layout may be acceptable for just another feature, but hiding one box behind another is unacceptable for the prime interface window.

main view

I tried making another window the default for the rest of my evaluation, but that is just not possible. The program supports many table views, but these are all subordinate to the main diagram. Try to close that diagram, and the GenoPro will prompt you to save your changes. Actually close it, and there are no table views anymore.

other views

table views

Minimising the large chart and maximising one of the table views does not work either. .The table views are close to useless. because they are really table views. The Individual tables has such non-sensical options as copying rows. When I tried this option and then paste the copied a row, it seemed to append the row onto itself, without any consistency-checking; it copied a date into name field and a name into date field.

dialog box

The table view allows you to bring up a dialog with an individual’s details, but you can not navigate on to parents, siblings, spouse or children. The table view’s copy & paste experience made me decide to try and enter a birth date after the death date. It initially seemed that GenoPro accepted this without a warning, but as soon as I tried to move to another tab or close the entire dialog, it popped up a warning.

The family tab allowed me to copy the columns with the last names of the children and paste it into the column with their birth dates without any warning whatsoever...

context menus

Neither the existence of these table copy & paste commands, nor the lack of checking makes any sense at all. These menu commands are obviously part of the table control used to build the interface, but it cannot be to hard for GenoPro to simply remove these items from the context menus.

not easy to navigate

The biggest user interface issue is that you cannot get an ancestors view, descendants view or family view that you can navigate through. These views are not available at all. There is only the one big chart. Other genealogy allows you to navigate through these views, GenoPro does not just lack this navigation, it even lacks most views. The few views it does offer on the persons tabs, namely of spouses and of children, are mere tables that do not allow navigation.

help

no help file

There is no help file. The help menu brings up a web page. The top help pages contains a link to 12 MB zip file that you can download to have off-line help, but it is not a Windows help file. It is merely a package containing all the web pages. You can install that wherever you like, but there seems to be no option to tell GenoPro that you did so, and that the help menu should redirect there.

web site

Worse, the help files do not start with help page, but with GenoPro’s main page. It appears to be a copy of the entire GenoPro web site. The main page it starts with does not have a clearly labeled link into the help pages. You have to follow the Get Started with my Family Tree link.

Somewhat sensible, but still annoying, is that of the main links in the offline help lead to the online site. These should have been marked clearly.

HTML quality

The quality of the HTML is so-so. The pages do not validate at all, abuse tables for layout, and use JavaScript for almost anything.

reports

no reports

GenoPro does not support any of the traditional report, not even the most basic ones, like an ancestors or descendants overview. In GenoPro, everything revolves around the big family chart.

no document formats

GenoPro does not support any reports to document formats like RTF or PDF, its only report output is a HTML. GenoPro supports just one report type: a web site.

web site

folder

GenoPro will generate a website for a project (the database) in My Documents\GenoPro Reports'\ProjectName.

default settings

There are several report styles and options. I used default settings, and those include a GEDCOM file, an XML file and a GenoPro file that visitors may download. It also include living people, private notes and so on. By default, the web site includes everything.

technical quality

frames and JavaScript

It is disappointing to note that the automatically generated pages still use frames. Like the pages of the GenoPro website, the pages use CSS, but the pages still do not work right without JavaScript enabled. They do not work entirely right with the scripts either; during browsing through the site, Firefox became unresponsive because of some script error, and I had to restart the browser.

There is a directory with scripts for multiple languages, but I did not see any button for a web site visitor to change language.

validation

There is a logo claiming XHTML 1.0 conformance, but it does not link to the W3C validator. Alas, contrary to GenoPro’s claim, the pages do not validate. GenoPro’s support of web standards as half-hearted as best.

size

The website contains a single *.htm file for each person, each place, and so on. The less than five thousand persons file I started with ended up as more than seven thousand web pages. The size of the directory and all subdirectories is more 61 MB, that is roughly 12 KB per individual.

customisation

The generated site looks quite nice, but the really interesting thing is that GenoPro provides documentation for customising reports.

GenoPro’s Eleven Essential Features

The GenoPro website presents a list of eleven essential features of sound genealogy software.
I certainly agree with number one, Unicode support. They lose me at number two, complete graphical trees, not just because I consider it as nice to have instead of essential, but also because GenoPro itself does not live up to it, perhaps because it does not live up to number 11: low system impact. I soon found that GenoPro gobbles memory likes crazy...

I reject their claim that non-genealogical relationships are essential to genealogy software. Additional information is always nice to have, but just how essential can it be to genealogy software if it isn’t genealogical in nature?

Their list is not really a list of essential genealogy features, and not even a list of GenoPro’s features, but a list of claimed GenoPro features. It seems to be the wish list of features that the GenoPro creators aimed for, not a list of features that GenoPro actually offers. Heck, they even mention easy navigation and reports, two feature that GenoPro lacks, as one of the eleven desirable features.

Unicode support

GenoPro 2007 is a Unicode application, but GenoPro 1.0 was not. GenoPro 2007 supports import from and export to the original GenoPro format. For this conversion, GenoPro quite correctly defaults to Windows code page 1252 (Windows ANSI), but you can override this setting by choosing a different active codepage.

larger files

100k INDI

When I tried importing a file with about 100.000 individuals, GenoPro simply crashed. Well, not so simply, it first took its sweet time deciding to crash.

medium file

I tried importing a GEDCOM file with over 34K individual in it, less than 10 MB in size. GenoPro claimed to be done reading it in seconds, but then requested my patience while it auto-arranged the 34.331 individual and 16.337 families in its all-encompassing chart. During this auto-generation, GenoPro was completely unresponsive. Task Manager showed its memory usage shooting up to 100 MB, 150 MB, 200 MB, 250 MB, 300 MB, 350 MB, 400 MB, 450 MB, 500 MB. Around the half megabyte point the system, equipped with 1GB of RAM, starts swapping like crazy. GenoPro’s hunger for memory continues: 550 MB, 600 MB, 650 MB, 700 MB, … 950 MB, 1000 MB, 1024 MB and then, after a small hour, it finally reports: out of memory.

memory hungry

GenoPro cannot handle a 9.490.735 bytes file with 34.331 individuals, because it needs more than 1024 MB to process it. Obviously, the GenoPro claim that GenoPro has a low system impact is nonsense. It apparently needs more than 30 KB per individual. That is a huge system impact.

maximum number of individuals

GenoPro does not document this limitation on their web site, but there apparently is a rather low maximum number of individuals that GenoPro can handle. Just how low I do not know, but it is less than 34.331 individuals.

If anyone bothers to figure out the maximum, I will happily include a pointer to that research, but what I would really like is for GenoPro to come clean, remove it false low system impact claim, and clearly state the maximum in their documentation.

XML

GenoPro claims that it integrates easily with other programs by being XML-based and supporting GEDCOM.

GenoPro is indeed XML-based. Its *.gno file is actually a zipped a XML file.
The first thing I noticed browsing through the XML file are coordinates for the boxes on the chart. You do not see those in genealogy data formats.

The XML format that GenoPro uses is not any genealogy or industry standard. It is an undocumented proprietary format of GenoPro. The XML file does not even refer to a simple Document Type Definition (DTD)or XML Schema (XMS) for the format, and there seems to be no documentation for it on the GenoPro web site either.

GEDCOM

default UTF-8

I had a brief look at the GEDCOM output. Unsurprisingly for a Unicode and XML-based program, the GEDCOM output defaults to UTF-8. GenoPro supports output to ANSEL. In a quick test I did the ANSEL looked fine. GenoPro additionally supports output to many different codepages.

character sets

There are two noteworthy features. GenoPro supports Macintosh code pages in addition to Windows code pages, and GenoPro supports more Unicode encodings. GenoPro does not just support UTF-8, it also support UTF-7, and UTF-16, both the Little-Endian and the Big-Endian variant. A quick test showed that GenoPro does the right thing, and always includes a Byte Order Mark (BOM) at the start of Unicode-encoded GEDCOM files.

non-standard code pages

Programmers familiar with Microsoft .NET may notice that the entire list of character encodings looks darned similar to the code page support in .NET. Although support of all these pages is nice, most of these are not support by the GEDCOM standard. GenoPro does not warn you if when you make a non-standard choice.

invalid GEDCOM

The problem with GenoPro GEDCOM files is that they do not respect the GEDCOM standard. All non-standards tags should start with an underscore. GenoPro adds many proprietary tags. Some of these tags you are likely to notice are BOUNDARYRECT, POSITION, FAMILY, PEDIGREELINK and INDIVIDUAL, UNIONS, RELATION, LEFT, RIGHT, TOP and BOTTOM. Note that none of starts with an underscore.

GenoPro does not even get the GEDCOM header right. Where it should say 2 FORM LINEAGE-LINKED it actually says 2 FORM LINAGE-LINKED (the first E is missing).

That a basic mistake like this makes it into the final product after so many beta releases does not impress me positively. The one benefit of this mistake is that it makes it easy to Google for GenoPro GEDCOM files.

languages

Back in 2002, the GenoPro site promised to deliver a French version of GenoPro with GenoPro 2.0. The new versions supports international characters, but the company has a clear a focus on its local American market, as evidenced by the use of Amglish throughout the documentation. I could not find support for any other locale.

genograms

central feature

GenoPro’s main chart is its central and main feature. t does not look pretty as those in genealogy charting programs do, but it is an all-in-one chart, something few genealogy programs offer. The ability to build a tree by building a chart is a draw too. It sounds better than it really is, but it is not unpractical for small trees.

all-in-one

The all-in-one chart is not about good looks. It is a genogram; it offers not just the traditional genealogical relationships, but social relationships and some medical symbols as well, to document hereditary diseases and social dynamics influencing a person. There are not just symbols for persons, but for pets as well. None of the family relationship and emotional relationship symbols are very intuitive, but GenoPro cannot be blamed for that. They are simply based on a 1985 book by two psychologists. Genograms were developed for and appear to have gained some popularity with family counsellors and social workers.

Typically, these users will draw a single family and some people around it. With such small groups of people in their files, they will never notice how resource-hungry and limited GenoPro is.

customisation

GenoPro offers reasonable customisation abilities. You can add custom fields and custom reports. That sounds much like other genealogy programs, but it is not.

First of all, remember that GenoPro does not really support reports; it does not support even the simplest reports found in other programs, and it does not support out output to a single document format. GenoPro misleading tries to pass its web site generation of as reporting capability.

Secondly, its web site generation customisation capabilities seems considerably deeper than with most other programs. GenoPro allows customisation through JavaScript or any other scripting language your browser supports. It is my impression that this claim is technically correct, but practically hard, simply because the limited documentation about the GenoPro object model seems hardly sufficient.

conclusion

genograms

GenoPro’s whole design centres around drawing genograms, and it hardly supports anything else.

performance

It works fine for small files, but its layout of medium sized files is poor, and its ability to handle larger files is non-existent. Its excessive use of memory places a surprising small upper bound on the maximum number of individuals it can handle.

features

reports

There are no reports. The creators try to pass its web site creation ability off as report generation. GenoPro but it does not support reporting at all; it lacks standard reports as well as standard output formats. It will not produce a single report file you can send to somebody else.

web site

GenoPro will generate an all-in-one website, but does not respect web standards, and its default settings do not respect privacy. The use of frames seriously limits the accessibility of the generated web sites, and the default settings do not respect privacy.

help

The help file is not included and the separate download turns out to be nothing but the website in a ZIP file. The program lacks the context-sensitive help that Windows users have come to expect.

easy of use

GenoPro lacks the easy navigation through relations that other genealogy software offers. The forced use of a diagram as a primary interface is handy for psychologist working with small diagrams, but impractical for genealogist working with large families. Its poor consistency checking further contributes to its unsuitability as a genealogical tool.

limited

GenoPro import is slow, and its memory hunger is excessive. As a result, GenoPro cannot handle anything but small to medium sized files. Its auto-layout of charts results in criss-crossed lines and many overlapping boxes, making the already poor interface even less practical.

GEDCOM

GenoPro GEDCOM files are invalid; the header is wrong and the files are full of non-standard tags.

overall

Surprisingly, GenoPro does not fall short of just any measure, it even fall short of meeting GenoPro’s own list of eleven essential features for genealogy program.

Unsurprising really, because GenoPro was not designed as a genealogy program, but a drawing program for relatively small diagrams of families, pets and friends.

GenoPro may be a great tool for family therapists that want to draw small genograms, but it is a poor tool for genealogists. The GEDCOM import and export feature is half-hearted, but even great GEDCOM support only highlights that there is a bit of overlap. It does not transform a drawing program for psychology diagrams into a genealogy program.

updates

2007-07-26: limited multi-language support

Version 2.0.0.9 provides limited support for multiple languages: Catalan, Czech, Dutch, Estonian, Finnish, French, German, Hebrew. Hungarian, Icelandic, Italian, Lithuanian, Polish, Portuguese, Russian, Spanish, Tagalog and Vietnamese.

The multi-language support is limited to the user interface and reports only. There is still no English interface, and documentation remains available in Amglish only.

product details

propertyvalue
productGenoPro 2007
version2.0
companyGenoPro
websiteGenoPro
priceUS$ 49,00
requirementWindows 2000 or Windows XP
notesome limitation on Win95, Win98 and WinNT 4.0; see web site
VerdictGenogram drawing tool.
RatingNot really a genealogy program.

links

GenoPro

GEDCOM file