Towards an on-line version of Gramps

Deadlines are great, even if arbitrary: my family is getting together for a family reunion this summer, and I decided that the event would make a great goal to try to finish-up Gramps-Connect, the on-line version of Gramps. My goal is to try to have the bulk of a complete version of Gramps available by July 1, 2012.

Gramps-Connect on the web

Gramps-Connect has been under development for a few years now, and it has taken that long to iron out some issues. One problem was that Gramps wasn’t designed to run on a server. Gramps likes to pop-up a window to ask a question, or give you a status update. But a server program can’t do that. Now, almost all of Gramps can be run from a server, or from the command-line. That includes importing, exporting, and reports.

Another problem was database access speed. Once we had the Gramps tables designed in Django, we found that trying to use the reports (for example) was incredibly slow. The reason is that Gramps was written with a particular access method in mind, and trying to switch to a relational database schema was expensive. But that problem was solved by replicating Gramps’ hierarchical database structure in the relational database. Now it is nearly as fast as Gramps on the desktop.

Another hurdle was learning all of the complexity of Django (a Python-based web development tool) and modern web development. The last time I did any serious web development CSS hadn’t been invented yet.

Editing Gramps data on the web

The goal of Gramps on the web is two-fold: first, it is designed for people to work in collaboration. Second, it is designed to work with large family trees. Gramps on the desktop can handle fairly large trees (at least a few thousand). But Gramps on the web can literally handle millions. But because Gramps-Connect is on the web, it also fills another niche: those people who want a mobile version of Gramps. With the right CSS, Gramps on the web should work quite nicely on your tablet or smart phone.

If you would like to see what Gramps-Connect looks like right now, check out http://gramps-connect.org/  If you would like to edit data (only the Person data can currently be edited) use ID: admin, and Password: gramps.

What would you like to see in Gramps-Connect?

-Doug

21 Comments

  • Jason Simanek

    Wow, Doug. It’s great to see how far along that project has come! Looks like it could use some web design TLC, but otherwise looks very exciting. I wish I had time right now to start helping out.

  • Doug Blank

    Jason, yes it is coming along, and yes, it needs some web refinement at some point. I’m just building on the Narrative Web CSS (as you can probably tell) so switching between our CSS should be easy. My web-foo is weak
    :)

    I was just going to post a message on the gramps-developer mailing list asking if anyone could help by making a CSS for mobile phones. For example, making it look like an iPhone or Android app. Also a CSS for tablets would be nice (big buttons)… can CSS/HTML/JavaScript handle touch gestures? If you have any ideas, please let me know!

  • mike hingley

    I bought a book from oreily about creating apps, and the approach was as you said in the article – basically create a css file for mobile devices…i’ll see if I can knock something up for my android, if that would help.

  • Matt Fletcher

    Hi Doug,
    Looks great. Is it at a point yet where the code can be shared? I’ve love to test it out with my own data.

    Regards, Matt

  • Doug Blank

    Like most open source/free software, we develop it in the open. You can find the source code in our SVN repository. I’ve made some brief comments on using it here: http://gramps-project.org/wiki/index.php?title=Gramps-Connect

    Please feel free to let us know on the gramps mailing lists if you have questions or comments. Thanks!

  • Doug Blank

    Mike, that would be useful. Especially if it were based on NarrativeWeb classes and id’s. Thanks!

  • Benny Chin

    Hi Doug,
    In my culture (Chinese), especially hundreds of years ago, a “Family” usually consist of one male head of household, multiple spouses and their off springs. Often (but not always) there is no record of who is the birth mother of each kid, although we know very clearly who is their birth father. Would you be able to accomodate this in your design?
    Thanks
    Benny

  • Doug Blank

    Benny, the on-line version is based on Gramps. In Gramps, a family is a father/mother/children collection. But you can adapt your use of “family” through other means, perhaps. For example, you can use the “Association” connection to link people, or use a father-only family. Also, Gramps is a very active probject and you could request a well-defined Feature.

  • Tony Town

    Hi Doug,

    I’ve just come across your Gramps-Connect project and am looking forward to seeing it live in due course.

    I developed a family genealogy database project some time ago and recently modified it to use Zend Framework. I’m no guru, so it took quite a while to convert.

    One of the reasons I developed my own project was to be able to link:-
    people photos (most genealogy projects do that)
    people locations ( ditto )
    people documents – scans and transcripts
    documents locations (most genealogy projects do that)
    photos locations – e.g. photo of the birthplace
    people, documents, photos & locations external links

    I don’t know if the above is of any help but please let me know if you would like any more information.

    Regards,

    Tony

  • Steven

    Will the desktop version of Gramps be able to interface with the online Gramps-connect?

  • Doug Blank

    Tony, did you make your system available? Do you have a demo? Would love to see it!

    -Doug

  • Doug Blank

    Great question! Yes, I hope so. The first thing I have been working on is a way to have the Desktop and webapp be able to update from each other. Work is progressing on that front. But there are so many other possibilities… you have ideas?

    -Doug

  • Debbie

    Hi –

    Just thought to ask … can GEDCOMs be uploaded?

  • Doug Blank

    Yes, any file that Gramps desktop can import can be imported into the on-line version. (Currently the file needs to be on the web, but you’ll be able to upload it as well, soon.

  • james gross

    you need a 32 bit version for windows. i tried to install in xp and the program crashed,saying x86 was required.

  • Doug Blank

    James, Gramps is mostly just Python code, and so can run on just about anything. Join the gramps-users mailing list for followups.

  • RMcK

    IMO, the most important feature is to be able to generate the HTML for an “ancestry” diagram.

  • Carey Parks

    I think simply being able to reference the data one has in GRAMPS from a phone or tablet would be the most important first phase. This way when you are in the field, you can look up things to help know if the item you have just located is pertinent to your collection and/or already in it.

    Things which are new can be collected and added to GRAMPS when you have the full system available. Everything new would be a new source first, and from the entry of the source, you sprout people, places, events.

    For example, snapping a photo of the important pages of a book when you find a reference to an ancestor, or taking a photo of a document or tombstone.

    Then back at the ranch you can ping the things into your file system and fill out GRAMPS.

    But doing the whole job in the field would be good too. I have a Bluetooth keyboard that I use with my tablet when I have a large amount of typing to do. It does add something else to carry, but both together still don’t approach the bulk of a notebook PC. Or an physical three-ring binder even.

  • Don Kendall

    I am interested in this format. Is development still in the works? I tried both Sourceforge and the Gramps-Connect website and could not locate your project

  • Doug Blank

    You can find Gramps here:

    http://gramps-project.org/

    and Gramps-Connect here:

    http://gramps-connect.org/

  • Yair Tenorio

    Hello my name is Yair I am from México and I am agree with Carey Parks, it would be great to have an App for iPad iPhone or similar devices. I mean tablets and móvil phones. I have my mother´s family tree, 5 generations ago and I am planing to do my father family tree, In my experience some times you do not have Access to a PC or an scanner, but a cellphone or Tablet is a powerfull device to up date your tree, sometimes pictures or documents are imposible to add to your tree or your family can not give you a pic to pass it to a digital format (for many reasons) so you can just take a pic with your phone or whatever and with a good on-line plataform you can up-date your tree !on the go¡ I think it opens a wide rank of oportunities. I hope that in a near future you could develop an app with this characteristics, you are doing a great job. Keep forward.

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