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Louis Kessler’s Behold Blog » Blog Entry           prev Prev   Next next

RootsMagic 4 Misbehaves! - Fri, 18 Nov 2011

About a week ago, I was sent a GEDCOM that Behold crashed on. Behold crashed on a PLAC tag with a value of: “<>” as the place. It was a small bug, easy to fix.

But I noticed that this GEDCOM was from RootsMagic 4. Looking in my sample files, I only had one other RootsMagic 4 file, and I hadn’t looked at it in detail. But once I looked, I wasn’t happy with what I saw.

It wasn’t too long ago that Randy Seaver did some research and found that programs can not read source citations in GEDCOMs created from other programs. Furthermore, only RootsMagic was able to export to GEDCOM and then import its own source citations correctly.

At first glance that sounds good for RootsMagic. They obviously thought out what they were doing. It seems good … until you go and look at the GEDCOM they create. It includes illegal tags, misused tags and unsupported embedded codes. The GEDCOM they produce is illegal. They have their own algorithm to build up their templates from this illegal code, which if any other developer (such as me) want to try to input their data properly, then we have to work hard to reverse engineer all their ideas.

This is not good. If you are a RootsMagic user and use their Citation Templates, then you will be okay as long as you want to use RootsMagic. But the day you want to export all your data to another program, you are stuck, because it’s doubtful that the others will have done the work to figure out how to unmangle the mangled RootsMagic GEDCOM.

You can keep your hopes up that AncestorSync or BetterGEDCOM will one day do the job. They may enable transfer of this data. But until that day comes, you’re either stuck with RootsMagic - or as Randy recommends, you should NOT use their source templates.

For me, I’m now going through various RootsMagic 4 GEDCOMs and I’m at least trying to figure out how to display this stuff nicely. I’ve got GEDCOM code like this to deal with:

0 @S12545@ SOUR
1 ABBR <i>Echoes of the past Volume. II</i>
1 TITL <i>Echoes of the past Volume. II</i>
1 _SUBQ <i>Echoes of the past Volume. II</i>
1 _BIBL <i>Echoes of the past Volume. II</i>.
1 _TMPLT
2 TID 0
2 FIELD
3 NAME Footnote
3 VALUE <i>Echoes of the past Volume. II</i>
2 FIELD
3 NAME ShortFootnote
3 VALUE <i>Echoes of the past Volume. II</i>
2 FIELD
3 NAME Bibliography
3 VALUE <i>Echoes of the past Volume. II</i>.

and the wonderful reference to this source which is:

1 SOUR @S12545@
2 _TMPLT
3 FIELD
4 NAME Page

First you’ve got user-defined tags that begin with the underscore (”_”). Those are at least allowed in GEDCOM, but they require the reading program understand their meaning to process them correctiy. The same can be said for the TID, FIELD and VALUE tags, except they are illegal in GEDCOM. And the NAME tag has a completely different purpose in GEDCOM and should not be used here like this. Add to this the repetition of the same information 7 times, which is not intended to be displayed over and over, and the inclusion of the HTML “<i>” and “</i>” tags to indicate where to use italics, and you can see what a challenge RootsMagic imposes on other programs.

What they have done is broken their GEDCOM export so badly, they are saying that they don’t care if any other program can read their data or not. Imagine if every program decided to do this and do it in their own way. That will eradicate whatever usefulness GEDCOM still has.

That is not in the true spirit of what all other genealogy software programmers want to use GEDCOM for. We want, make that “need” to use it to archive your data and to transfer it between programs. Right now its the only mechanism that comes close. Until there is a BetterGEDCOM or an AncestorSync, GEDCOM is all we have. And it saddens me as a programmer to see the damage RootsMagic has decided to do to it.

*** Five days to Version 1.0 and counting *** :-)

7 Comments           comments Leave a Comment

1. genej (genej)
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Joined: Wed, 5 Jan 2011
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Posted: Sat, 19 Nov 2011  Permalink

A few of the researchers on BetterGEDCOM looked at RootsMagic (RM) and the other “extended” sourcing systems, too. On export, RM offers the user several options, including whether to export “RootsMagic Specific tags.”

This option is discussed only briefly in the RootsMagic Help file, “Creating a GEDCOM file.”

See Bruce Buzbee’s 2009 blog, “RootsMagic 4 Update Released (4.0.2.1)” http://bit.ly/rZfe3t where he writes about the new features including “Added option to exclude RM specific tags when exporting GEDCOM files.”

Over at BetterGEDCOM, I learned about that export option the hard way. I had created some comparative GEDCOMS (same data input to several programs, then exported GEDCOMs to compare them) but I hadn’t excluded the RM specific fields. :) Long story short–eventually I determined I needed to start all over on the RM comparisons–re-running the GEDCOMS (and recreating all the graphics …. ) with the RM specifics excluded …

GJ

2. genej (genej)
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Joined: Wed, 5 Jan 2011
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Posted: Sat, 19 Nov 2011  Permalink

P.S…. So great to see the “5 days” and counting! Congrats again, Louis.

3. Louis Kessler (lkessler)
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Joined: Sun, 9 Mar 2003
142 blog comments, 200 forum posts
Posted: Sat, 19 Nov 2011  Permalink

GeneJ,

Unfortunately, RootsMagic’s default is to do the GEDCOM export WITH the RM specific tags. Like you, many people will miss that option, or not decide to uncheck the option, and there are now many RootsMagic 4 GEDCOMs on the web with them. Developers will have to know which tags to ignore when importing the files. RootsMagic would have done much better to figure out how to export all its information in a way that is legal in GEDCOM 5.5.1. It wouldn’t have been too hard for them to do that.

… and thanks for the good wishes.

4. Herb Mellinger (silicon)
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Joined: Tue, 29 Aug 2006
16 blog comments, 1 forum post
Posted: Sun, 20 Nov 2011  Permalink

Louis,

I understand your frustration and have empathy for you as you are so close to your 1st release. However, source citations and sources are important to the proper recording of facts. Have you looked at any of the other programs that use similar templates?? Like Legacy, and I believe Master Genealogist also uses some. I was looking at Reunion recently and in the back of my mind they were also implementing Citation-source templates in their software.
I know you are upset, possibly rightly so, but instead of throwing stones at RootsMagic 4 wouldn’t it be better to contact Bruce and discuss your concerns with him yourself. He is one of your peers in programming and this should not continue to frustrate you but open new lines of communication for you and other Genealogy programmers on how to solve a thorny issue.

This is where the programmers should look for a way to work together and solve issues like this before they become a issue.

Herb…

5. Louis Kessler (lkessler)
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Joined: Sun, 9 Mar 2003
142 blog comments, 200 forum posts
Posted: Sun, 20 Nov 2011  Permalink

Herb,

I’ve been contributing with BetterGEDCOM for a year now, expressing my ideas there. Even that committee has had trouble getting developers such as Bruce Buzbee involved. Maybe they’re too busy doing their own developing their own way to get involved, or maybe everyone else to them is their competition.

This analysis now is solidifying in my mind that current programs today are complicating your life and making you spend (i.e. waste) your time on formatting your reports and citations. What they should be helping you do is to record your sources, determine what is evidence, and use that to record and document your conclusions.

To heck with how you format it.

Most of RootsMagic’s non-standard citation template stuff will be displayed in Behold as hidden text by default. It, after all, is not data.

Louis

6. mtibesar (mtibesar)
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Joined: Fri, 25 Nov 2011
5 blog comments, 0 forum posts
Posted: Fri, 25 Nov 2011  Permalink

I am a user and, I have trusted that the big companies would follow the GEDCOM standard to a “Tee”. However your research has enlightened me and, I am really pissed about this. You see I have been exporting gedcoms and re-importing them into other programs thinking all is well. Thank you Louis for educating me and, I will start looking for a program that follows the standard and go with them. If I can’t depend on a ged file then what the hell can I count on?!?

7. Louis Kessler (lkessler)
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Joined: Sun, 9 Mar 2003
142 blog comments, 200 forum posts
Posted: Fri, 25 Nov 2011  Permalink

mtibesar: As you have come to realize, I’m of the camp that GEDCOM isn’t all that bad. I’d say try to get your GEDCOMs into valid GEDCOM 5.5.1 and keep them that way. You’ll be guaranteed that there will at least be a few programs that will be able to read them for the foreseeable future.

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