New user stumbling blocks

While answering yet another new user on Facebook who was lost starting his first Tree, I realized that I immediately enumerated 3 very basic stumbling blocks for the 1st time user. Are there others that bite EVERY new user?

(Ignoring installation woes. Almost every software package has installation idiosyncracies.)

There are 3 things that the new user might be missing. They must:

  1. create a new (blank) Tree from the Family Tree → Manage Family Trees… menu

  2. in the People view, Add a new person
    (Use the + button or select Add… to add a Person using the Edit or right-click contextual menus. The first Person in a tree is usually YOU.)

  3. Add people to the tree, relationship by relationship
    (from the Relationship view, start adding parents, siblings spouses & children. Alternately, Parents are easily added in the Pedigree Chart view by double-clicking a grey box. Adding siblings, spouses & children are more effort in the Pedigree Chart view.)

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There has been an evolution to Gramps to mitigate these some of these blocks.

Gramps now brings up the Manage Family Trees upon 1st launch.
Unfortunately, new users generally cancel this thinking that they’ll just open (rather than import) a GEDCOM or just want to see the interface.

5.2 will have a more explicit set of Dashboard prompts to guide the new user.

However, a series of utterly Blank views is what greets most new explorers. Perhaps we should agree that Blankness should NEVER be a valid situation?

Yes, Database Manager (Family Tree Manager) was a few high step in the stair, same with the unlock database (how to)…

And then the Name Editor for the first name you add, the very little button that is hidden to the right of the Suffix field (it was first when someone mentioned it in the mailing list I found out where it actually was…
It in the Right Click meny when you right click a person in the People View it should be a list of the following:

  • Add Parents
  • Add Siblings
  • Add Spouse/Partner
  • Add Child[ren)
    Where you just opened a new Add Person Editor View, where you add the Person, and the relation should be automatically added by Gramps.

Same should be with adding Events to a person, right click:

  • Add Event for .

Another big problem I had when I started was to actually get the grip of the Icons for Use/Edit existing, sometimes its Use/Add, other times its only “Edit”…
There was so many times I ended up adding multiple sources and citations when I actually wanted to cite a source I already had but the Citations was to another page of the source.
I think I ended up using 3 month merging Citations and Sources when I at the end figured out what the deal was with those Icons.

And one of the main Feature I started to use Gramps was the import and export to CSV and json…
Guess how disappointed I got when I realized that the import overwrite existing object instead of updating/merging them with the edited/updated objects in the csv file…
and that the json file actually wasn’t readable with any other software without manually editing it.
It couldn’t even be used update a Place Hierarchy with new Places or a new Hierarchy for a Place, because if you have the same place id in the csv file multiple times, it get overwritten, so it’s only possible to add one hierarchy for a place.
I soon learned that Open Source Software was not the same as Open Interchangeable Data…

All the Errors when importing a Gedcom was another big problem, but I don’t blame Gramps for that… (I only had 4700 Notes that I needed to clean up).

And the “only one field for citation” feature was hard to understand the first 3-4 month, until I started using Zotero and started to see it as a benefit to just add a Citation String or Bibliography String from Zotero by Copy/Paste.

Then it was the limitations of the Notes (little formatting without html, no print screens could be added etc. etc.)
But again, big benefit to be able to link to Gramps Objects in a Note (Not possible in Legacy).

Then it is was the technical problem with 32-bit File Path Length on Windows, not working, at that time it didn’t work correct in Explorer either, so I had to stop add Imaged and PDF’s to Gramps as media files (Don’t even know if it’s still a problem in Gramps, because I just stopped using the media module and kept things in Zotero and Digikam, Fotoware Fotostation Pro and ON1).

But most of the other feature was so huge benefits that I stil hope that Gramps can be the tool it has potential to become…


I never even noticed the Edit button that is to the right of the Suffix field. (I’d always gotten to that Name Editor dialog via double-clicking a row in the Names tab underneath.) It gets lost among the noise of the names form.

I think the Edit button placement would be more appropriate if it was beside the “Preferred Name” label at the top of the dialog. That would indicate the entire Preferred Name assignment was be being edited, rather than just the Suffix.

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Yes, the “Family Tree Manager” - It’s databases isn’t it?

It’s actually not a “tree” until you have created a graphical hierarchical view out of it, so I have problem using a name for “it” other than what it is… but that is just me and my thoughts of what I work with…

I work with structured data/information stored in a database, and the software program I use as a interface to that storage has the feature to generate multiple views and reports, some of those is “Family tree” views in different shapes…

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In Graph view, in right click menu there is an add children when you right click on a family bubble, but in both Graphs view and standard gramps, there should be possible by right clicking the parent too. Maybe have two buttons, one for add to existing family and add to a new one. Or one button for every family.

When a person dont have parents yet, there is a button for adding them, but when a person already have parents, the button goes away. The button should be there for those people that have both adoptive and bilogical parents on a person or similar, makes it easier to add.

Also missing an add sibling button, yes.

I think adding these ones should be high priority personally, its probably not that hard to code either as it is mostly just “links”?

I dont find that as important as those above, but yes!

I did not know that button exists, but yes.
What I always is done is pressing the names tab and then edit button there.

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Found this on the bugtracker, wrote a note on it, maybe not written the best way, but maybe it brings attention to it:

Personally I dont understand why its not a part of Gramps already.

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It’s not part of Gramps because no developer needs/use that feature

Hey !

I was that new user!

In fact, I am still a new user - because the seemingly arcane data entry and structure left me cold. Not that I don’t have a desire to use it, just that the workflow didn’t seem to make much logical sense, though I was and am impressed with the scope and capability of it.
It’s all to easy to gripe at large software applications and how they ‘don’t do X, and don’t do Y, and aren’t joined up’ so I didn’t and this is not a gripe, just trying to pass along an observation.
I have worked on huge systems, vital systems, and they were usually like Gramps. Sarted out doing one thing, added handy bits, stuff growing here and there, and changes steadily making the next change harder as the need to stay backward compatible makes every change harder to make and harder to test and increases the risk of breaking something in a far way part of the application.

My issues as a new user were/are mostly about the absence of simplicity at the training wheels stage.

/startup training
“welcome new user, this is a new installation of Gramps, and it has been initialised with a new database we named ‘Welcome’ - you can try out things, or you can rename it and use it as you wish”

play series of screenshots
"To get started, enter someone’s name in screen 1. Use your own for now.
Now enter that person’s spouse/partner in screen 2
Enter a child of the 2 people using screen 3
Enter a parent of one of the 2 people using screen 4 "

"Congratulations - you have a basic family entry. (options to view in different ways here)
You can enter another family or person the same way. If you then find you need to link 2 people later, do it using screen 5

To add detailed information such as certificates, images, notes - refer to …
/end startup training

that’s all just a simplistic view, and its just my notion. I think If I’d been able to follow along with something I’d have gritted my teeth and got down to it. As it is, I’ve put it aside for now.


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