Sunday, June 16, 2013

PAF to be Discontinued

PAF to be Discontinued
A FamilySearch newsletter has apparently announced it. And other people in FamilySearch have confirmed it, although no specific date has been announced that PAF will no longer be available for downloading, and official support will cease. This is part of the trend to eliminate FS software in favor of web-based services.

This decision saddens me personally, as I consider PAF an old and dear friend. We have spent tens of thousands of hours of quality time together, PAF and I. Yes, I have tried other programs, and they are still on my computers. They just don't get used. Actually, I purchased AncestralQuest to sync my PAF database with, and found it very useful for that purpose, but I find its data entry slower and more awkward than in PAF.

What will I do when support for PAF ceases? I will carry on using it, of course! (I still use MS Office97, and it still works as well as it did 15 years ago.) If I find something I like better than PAF, I can always change. Or if PAF will not run on some future version of Windows, I will need to decide whether PAF is more important to me than the newest version of Windows.

If you plan to continue using PAF, please Please, PLEASE make sure that you have a good copy of the setup software, so you can install it on your future Windows machines. If you don't have it, get it now before it goes away. Make sure your FHC has a copy too!

What software should we be teaching in the FHC?
Opinions vary. For years PAF has provided a common platform, where everyone serving in a FHC knew the basics. Many of us worry that if PAF is gone, chaos may ensue. Patrons may come to the FHC for help with any of the currently approved affiliate programs (see or even unheard of programs of their choice. There may be another alternative.

On Thursday night a couple arrived at my FHC with the proverbial cardboard box filled with family records collected over two generations. They had no data files, just papers. I took them directly to Family Tree to see what was already there. Then we used Find to find or add missing ancestors to the pedigree charts. They left the FHC three hours later with an FOR with 38 names, and smiles on their faces!

What if they had come instead with just a CD of data files from Heridis or The Master Genealogist? ... well, we help where we can. Maybe we can find them a support phone number for that particular software.

Do we still need genealogy software? 
Can't they just use Family Tree? That depends what they want to do. If they are focused entirely on dead people, FT is all they need. If they want to keep records of living people, they will need software. Family Tree hides the information on living people, so you can't input 300 of your living relatives and expect your relatives to see them when they sign into their accounts. That would violate the privacy laws in every country. And NO ... there is no way for FamilySearch to give a special dispensation to your patron's daughter-in-law!

In Summary
My advice, for what it is worth, is to focus on Family Tree, where possible. Avoid the software quagmire if you can. Decide what software your FHC can support, and include that information on your FHC's Wiki page, bulletins, etc. PAF is still an option in my opinion. It is simple to use and it always works! (We can't yet make that guarantee for Family Tree, but it is a useful tool and it should get much better over the next six months or so.)

Print Charts - Delete Person

Print Charts
The ability to print Family Group Records  and 4-generation Pedigrees is a very welcome addition to Family Tree. This is done from the Person view, and not from the Pedigree view. The charts can also be saved as PDF files, which can be sent to others.

If you wish to print charts without ordinances, look in the URL and change ords=true to ords=false and press the Enter key. The chart will be shown without ordinances. (The URL in non-member accounts does not have the option to show ordinances.)

If you are using Firefox and the chart comes up blank, save the chart and reopen it to see the data. You can also use an external viewer, which will show the data. If the ability to change the URL is not important, you can change a setting in Firefox to automatically use your preferred PDF viewer. e.g. Tools menu > Options > Applications > Portable Document Format (PDF) > change the viewer to Adobe Reader (or whatever you use) > OK

Delete Person
This new feature has been causing mayhem in the hands of some users.

Please instruct your patrons to NOT USE IT if they wish to remove someone from a family. Instead, they should delete the incorrect relationship. If they delete the person from the incorrect relationship, they are deleting that person from the entire database, destroying all of the correct relationships, ordinances, and links to sources, photos, stories, etc. Even records created by Membership Department, which are supposed to be protected, have been deleted! The only time this feature should be used is if the patron can prove that no such person ever existed. e.g. a wrong gender record, or a record that the patron personally created in error.

There have been some real horror stories from the misuse of this feature, please do what you can to avoid further damage until the programmers can bring this under control.