Our Preface 'damns with faint praise'

Our wiki manual leads off with the following paragraphs of the Preface:

Gramps is software (packaged for several operating system computer environments and languages) designed for genealogical research. Although similar to other genealogical programs, Gramps offers some unique and features which we’ll discuss below.

Gramps is Free and Open-Source Software (FOSS), which means you are free to make copies, to customize the code, and to distribute it to anyone you like. It is developed and maintained by a worldwide team of volunteers whose goal is to make Gramps powerful, yet easy to use.

That’s ‘damn faint praise’ indeed.

I think that it is trying to suggest that:
Since the genealogical software community tries to encourage collaboration and data sharing, most tools have struggled to remain within the limitations of the standard GEDCOM file format. So they tend to have very similar basic features. And Gramps has been shaped by that same struggle.

And from the history of Gramps in the blogs, it looks like the struggle in the early years was to become ‘feature complete’ but now the hard part is staying within boundaries.

But what are the hallmarks of Gramps?

I like its flexibility. There are so many different ways of recording genealogical data. Not only in the workflow but also in how you structure your data.

You are rarely limited by some preconceived ‘best practice’ which leaves little room for the information that piques your interests and drives your research. Quite the contrary, actually.

More often, the limit is your imagination… and sometimes your ability to make firm choices about your workflow.

The customization options are nearly unlimited. The custom attributes, custom ‘types’, and custom filtering (query) system gives more options to users without programming skills. The plug-in framework allows seamless expansion in all directions.

This is all too wordy and begins to read like marketing hyperbole. The convention in FOSS seems to be underselling, not overselling. We may be taking that to heart a little too much.

What do you think should be in the Preface? Where’s the best tradeoff point between ‘hype’ and ‘shooting ourselves in the foot’?

1 Like

I’ve suggested in the past that Gramps is ADVANCED genealogical software. And that the project should lean into that!

If a user finds their current software package too constraining or too controlling, Gramps may let them throw off the shackles!

I would hazard a guess that our users are mostly already pre-disposed to support open source software. That probably means they are more technical than the average user elsewhere. More likely to already understand database concepts, and/or query languages, and/or scripting, etc.

The stereotype for genealogy is a white-haired person that needs a grandchild to come and show them how create an account on Ancestry. I know that is an over-generalization but there is more than a kernel of truth, as well. But I don’t think that stereotype applies at all well to Gramps users. (Maybe I’m wrong; do a bunch of people want to wave their hands?)

I think Gramps should position itself as the LAST genealogy software you’ll use. When you’ve outgrown whatever you were using, take Gramps for a spin.



Here’s how I described Gramps to my local genealogy networking group when I gave them a demo a few years ago:

Why I like Gramps:

  • Since I don’t have a Windows-based PC, my choices of genealogy software were limited. Gramps runs on my Mac, and even on my Chromebook (using Linux). It will run on your Windows computer, too.
  • Gramps helps me input, manage, and view my data. It especially helps me track source citations.
  • As a free, “open source” program, Gramps is actively supported with frequent updates, and continuous dialog between users and developers. It seems like it will be around for a while.

Why you might not like Gramps:

  • There’s a bit of a learning curve. Data entry can feel like a chore until you get the hang of it. If you’re not really serious about documenting your sources, this probably isn’t the right program for you.
  • There are more features than you may need. If you only want software for creating simple charts, this probably isn’t the right program for you.
  • As a free, “open source” program, Gramps doesn’t have a customer support hotline or other things you might expect if you were to pay for software. If you’re not comfortable installing and updating software, this probably isn’t the right program for you.

Yes, but a non-programmer’s ability to make good use of things like attributes is limited to the few reports etc. that allow them to be included. Ideally a non-programmer would be able, for example, to choose person attributes to display in the Person category view (see this feature request). And even for programmers, I imagine such changes are not trivial; the previously mentioned feature request has been out there for a lot longer than I’ve been using Gramps.

Most of my acquaintances who are into genealogy (and happen to be white-haired) have some software (other than Ancestry) but rarely or never use it; they keep their data in paper files and spreadsheets and occasionally try to create a useful tree somehow. Whereas for me, the main function of Gramps is to manage my data.

I would add, Gramps should probably not be the FIRST genealogy software that you use (though in my case it was). Or if it is your first, try it out using a sample GEDCOM file (preferably one from a cousin, so that the data are personally meaningful) before investing any time entering data.

You emphasized the first part of the sentence while the important part is second.

We could reverse the proposition:

Gramps offers some unique features which we will focus on below, and like any genealogy program, it provides the usual functions necessary for this discipline.

The problem is that below it do not focus specifically on the unique features in question, if only what is available basic without counting the advanced features that a person mastering the technique could find: Sources, the management of places, rather unique in genealogy programs, attributes, every object like media can be described with sources, notes and attributes, filters on/across these objects wich could help to find the hidden relationships between the information entered, the ability of Gramps to share an object - like a note- with others, to annotate why and on what basis this sharing was carried out thanks to the information that can be added in the references of the sharing, etc…

1 Like

[quote=“GeorgeWilmes, post:3, topic:3283”]
Why you might not like Gramps:

  • There’s a bit of a learning curve. Data entry can feel like a chore until you get the hang of it. [/quote]

I love Gramps, for open-ness of its architecture and its power.
And the community’s support is just great.

What often drives me crazy is the quirks of the user interface in Windows.
It often requires me to perform extra clicks for no reason when looking up a record.
Example: I want to look for a person. I click on “people” in the left side sidebar, the list of people’s names appears all right. Then I start typing the name I’m looking for, and nothing happens. All my typing is wasted until I remember that I also MUST click on the list of people’s names before typing. Same with Places.
Why? I can see no reason, it is not required in many other places. Must be some leftover of the portability to other OSes and UI conventions.

It’s nothing compared to the qualities of Gramps, just repeatedly annoying.


The boldface was to indicate the part that needs to be replaced more than any other.

It is as bad as writing: “french cuisine is like any other grub, except there are some things different that we discuss below.”

This topic was automatically closed 30 days after the last reply. New replies are no longer allowed.