Monday, July 30, 2012

Forming Up Your Genealogy--Part 6 Check Boxes

When you add check boxes, you are usually asking the person who is filling out your form to select one or more items from a list. In the example above, the user is being asked to click beside places in which they research.

Insert Check Box Form Fields
  1. Add the text instructions: Click beside places in which you are researching.
  2. Press Enter to create a new line.
  3. Add the list from which you want the person who is filling out your form to select.
    (Add a few place names.)
  4. Click before each item and insert the check box.
    --Click the Developer tab.
    --In the Controls group, click the Legacy Tools button.
    --Click the Check Box Form Field button. A small gray check box appears in your document.
  5. Save your document.
Adjust Properties
Complete these instructions for each check box you add.
  1. Right-click in the check box and a pop-up menu appears.
  2. Select Properties. The Check Box Form Field Options dialog appears.
  3. In Check box size, accept the default of Auto. For the most part, I haven't had a reason to select Exactly and start resizing the check box. However, you can see in the graphic that the size is based on points (each point = 1/72 of an inch). If you decide to use this option, it's easy enough to experiment.
  4. In Default value, accept the default of Not checked. Again, I've never had a reason to select the checked option. The check box is added with an X in it. I'd have to test it, but I'm assuming that when the person filling out your form click the box, Word removes the X. The assumption with this type of list is that everything in the list applies except the items from which you remove the X.
  5. Skip Run macro on fields. A macro is off topic for these posts.
  6. Skip Field settings fields. We'll talk about bookmarks later.
  7. Click OK.

We have one more type of form field to add. We'll do that in the next post. Then we'll talk about enforcing protection, which is what makes the form work. 

Sunday, July 29, 2012

Littering the Landscape

I live in the Tampa Bay area, which means I'm treated each Sunday to a column by Sharon Tate Moody who also happens to live in the area. Her column today is Technology makes record keeping a challenge. Her conclusion is that regardless of the technology, ya' still have to maintain the paper versions of your documents. I agree.

Don't get me wrong. Geek that I am I've converted all of my paper documents into PDFs and stored them in the cloud, on an external drive, on flash drives, and on CDs. Quite a few of my documents are even trapped as attachments in one of my email accounts.

After a document has been scanned and saved as a PDF, you have lots of options for storing it and deploying it. For example, when I get a request for a document, I usually respond with a PDF attached to an email, which is a convenience that genealogists of yesteryear might not have been able to imagine.

I've also stored the paper versions as a backup. In addition, for some records (Civil War Pensions for example), I've sent paper copies of the files and requested that they be added to the collections of the genealogy library where someone would likely be researching the family.

In my opinion, the next logical step is that a conscientious genealogist will go to paper in the form of articles and books that include those scanned documents (where possible) and that get widely distributed. Littering the landscape with paper versions of your work ensures that the work survives and is used. Note that going to paper doesn't preclude the electronic deployment of your articles and books. (I'm playing with e-books now!) The upshot is that you should be considering deploying in every format available, including basic good ol' fashion paper.

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Desperately Seeking Hidden Text...Part 3

Here's an interesting wrinkle. When attempting to hide text, if you happen to select text--for example, text with a heading style applied--and the text has an embedded page break, you get one big blank page smack in the middle of the document. Not exactly the result you want.

So what's the solution? Do a local change to the heading style and then hide the text. If you need to review page breaking, see How many ways can you break a page? 

Friday, July 27, 2012

Forming Up Your Genealogy--Part 5 Text Form Field

You can add three different types of form fields. Each type has a specific use, which is reflected in choices you make in its associated properties. You need to understand the use for each type to plan your form effectively. 

A text box form field is used to collect information like a name, place, or date. Your form user clicks in the field and types an answer in the field.

A check box form field is added beside an entry in a list. For example, you might add a check box beside a place name list (Sparta, Blair, Chester, Houston, Steeleville). Your user clicks the check box beside one or more of the correct entries. 

A drop-down list form field is added with a list of acceptable answers. For example, you might add a gender list  (Male, Female, Unknown). Your user clicks to display a drop-down list and selects one option from the list of available answers. 

We are going to look at the properties for each type of field, starting with the text form field. 

Insert Text Form Field
  1. Click in the place in the document, where you want your reader to answer a question. For example, you might have text in the document that says:
    What is your name?
    Click after the question mark and press the space bar to add one space.
  2. Insert the text form field
    --Click the 
    Developer tab.
    --In the Controls group, click the 
    Legacy Tools button.
    --Click the Text Form button. A small gray square appears in your document.
    Adjust Properties

    1. Right-click in the gray square and a pop-up menu appears. 
    2. Select Properties. The Text Form Fields Options dialog appears. 
    3. In the Type field, select a type: Regular Text, Number, Date, Current date, Current time, Calculation. Since you're adding a name field, select Regular Text. If you were asking for a date, you would pick Date
    4. In Default text, enter instructions. For example, enter: Enter Name. A user will be able to replace this text. 
    5. In Maximum length, enter a number. For example, enter 40 to allow a 40 character name. If you leave the control set at Unlimited, your user will be able to enter paragraphs...which you may want if you are collecting another sort of info. 
    6. In Text format, select an option: uppercase, lowercase, first capital, or title case. For a name, select first capital. 
    7. Skip Run macro on fields. A macro is off topic for these posts.
    8. Skip Bookmarks fields. We'll talk further about bookmarks later. They have an interesting use.
    9. Click OK
    That's it for this first field. You can't do much with the fields until we start enforcing protection. So just hang in with me while I explain how to set up each field. Next, we'll look at the check box form field.

    Wednesday, July 25, 2012

    Forming Up Your Genealogy--Part 4

    If you're using Word 2003, you have only the Legacy Forms controls appearing. 

    If you're using Word 2007 or 2010, you have lots more to choose from; however, we're going to be using the Legacy Forms controls. Here's a rundown of the controls.
    • The Controls, which appear in the group, are Active X controls that are used for Web forms...not the subject matter of these posts.
    When you click the Legacy Tools button, a drop-down with yet more buttons appears:
    • The Active X Controls at the bottom are used for Web forms and require the use of macros to work properly...not the subject matter of these posts.
    • The Legacy Forms controls at the top are the controls we will be using to create forms. These are the lowest level of controls and are backward compatible to Word 2003. Considering backward compatibility is a good idea because genealogists frequently use older versions of software. 

    To insert a control, click in your document where you want to insert the control, and then select the control from the Legacy Forms control. Nothing too exciting happens. A gray block or a gray check box appears. Each control has properties that you must complete in order to make the field useful. 

    To display the properties for a control, right-click on the field to display a pop-up, and select Properties. In subsequent posts, we'll look at the properties for the following types of controls. 
    • Text Box
    • Check Box
    • Drop-Down List
    The remainder of the Legacy Forms buttons have other uses that we'll discuss later.

    Monday, July 23, 2012

    Forming Up Your Genealogy--Part 3

    The process for creating a form is similar to creating a template. You need to plan your form. The information you want to collect affects your form in that the information is related to a type of control that you can insert. The controls enable fillable fields that a person can use to complete your form. Therefore, the first thing you need to know is where to find the form controls. 

    Word 2003 Menu

    In Word 2003, getting to the controls is straight forward menu selection Word 2007/2010 not so much.

    Word 2007
    To find the controls you must display the Developer tab on the ribbon. The Developer tab has items on it that have a special use rather than the everyday items that most users click. 

    To display the Developer tab:
    1. Select the Office button and look for the Word Options button on the lower right of the dialog.
    2. Select Popular if necessary. 
    3. Click the check box beside Show Developer tab in the Ribbon, and then click OK. You'll see a new tab: Developer.
    4. Continue reading below at To display the Controls in Word 2007/2010.

    Word 2010
    To find the controls you must display the Developer tab on the ribbon. The Developer tab has items on it that have a special use rather than the everyday items that most users click. 

    To display the Developer tab:
    1. Select File, and then select Options. The Word Options menu displays. 
    2. Select Customize Ribbon
    3. In the Customize the Ribbon list, click the check box beside Developer, and then click OK. You'll see the new tab.

    To display the Controls in Word 2007/2010: 
    1. Click the Developer tab on the ribbon.
    2. Location the Controls group.
    3. Click the drop-down. The controls you want are in the Legacy Forms list. 
    Next Post
    We talk about the controls in general. 

    Saturday, July 21, 2012

    New Orleans Event Follow Up

    Because of other peoples' lives, you can learn about things that you would otherwise have no reason to know. The week of July 4th I was in New Orleans for the christening of the Neal J. Seago. I went looking for pictures to see if they were posted yet. While searching for them, I ran across a live map that shows current ship positions.

    You can look up the Neal J. Seago at any time and see exactly where she is. Click here to see the boat's record. If you click the link Current Vessel's Track, you go to a map with a pin for the exact location of the boat. As of this posting, she's in the Houston area and I would assume working.
    As you may be able to tell, I've been totally entertained by this experience.

    Friday, July 20, 2012

    Forming Up Your Genealogy--Part 2

    Before we start creating forms in MS Word, you should look at two additional form-related tools: Adobe and Google Documents.

    For anyone lucky enough to have Adobe Acrobat ($$$!), they've included functionality that will take any form (really any existing document) and turn it into a form that an end user can fill in electronically. You never have to print/paper. I've found this type of form at only a few genealogy-related sites.

    One of the best sites to see these types of forms in action is the Mid-Continent Public Library website. Click on PDFs at this website and you'll find forms with lots of blue highlighting. Click in the blue highlight and you can type directly into the PDF. In addition, the library has enable saving on several forms. Display the form, hold down CTRL + Shift and type S to display a Save As dialog, and save the form to your system. The form is saved as a fillable form. The drawback of course is that all of the forms have a Mid-Continent Public Library logo on them...which is part of the boilerplate...which means you can't remove it. Thus the reason to learn to create your own forms so you can put your logo and contact info on them.

    Adobe is making sure that everybody knows how to convert documents into fillable forms. See:
    Both of these sites have movies as well as text. The movies show you how to create fillable forms and explain the additional built in communication and statistical functionality (which the library did not enable on their forms).

    So, if you have friends who have access to the latest version of Acrobat, you might want to create a few forms in MS Word and ask for a small favor. You can also download a free trial copy of Acrobat; however, I don't know if the fillable form functionality is available in the trial. I would think yes.

    One bit of hopeful news is that many companies follow right behind Adobe and create similar functionality for less money or sometimes for free. So keep an eye out for similar products advertising this functionality.

    Google Documents
    Let me start this one off by explaining that I have multiple email accounts. I have a Hotmail account because it's my passport to everything Microsoft, including Skydrive...the cloud. I have a Gmail account because it's my passport to everything Google, including Google Documents...the cloud. I love both services because each is wildly different and has a special use that I find convenient. Thus it is with the Form function on Google Documents.

    To create a form:
    1. Log in to your Gmail account. 
    2. On the bar that runs across the top of your page, click Documents. The Docs page displays. 
    3. Click the Create button, and then select Form from the drop-down menu. The form template appears.
    4. Replace the text Untitled form with a form title. For example, enter Family Questionnaire.
    5. Replace the paragraph below with a message. For example, you might explain that you are doing a family research project and you'd like to ask the recipient a few questions. The form is similar to a survey.
    6. In Question Title, replace Sample Question 1 with your first question. For example, you might ask: Have you had any major changes this year?
    7. In Help Text, replace existing text with additional information. For example, you might write: Marriage of child or birth of grandchild. Please provide details.
    8. In Question Type, click the drop-down arrow and pick a type. 
    9. In Make this a required question, click this check box if you want to force the recipient to answer the question. When you click this option, the recipient can't finish the form until they answer the required question.
    10. Click Done
    11. Double-click Second Question to open the next form and add the next question.
    12. After you have all of the questions you want to ask entered, you can email the form to a recipient. The recipient responds and you are able to see and track responses.
    In addition, you can apply one of many themes to the form and you should explore the options available on the Add item button. Google makes using their products simple and fun. Here's what my cousins would see when they open the survey on their end.

    My cousin would complete the form and click the Submit button. In many instances, this type of online form might serve your needs better than a formal MS Word form. Only you can decide what you need in any given set of circumstances. 

    Form from Part 1 of this Series
    If you look back at the Part 1 posting, you'll see that I have a blank form. If you would like a copy of that form to work with please email me ( and I'll be happy to respond. Just be sure to tell me what version of Word you are using so that I can save the form in the correct format for you so that it is easily usable.

    Next Post...Part 3
    We get started for real. We'll start creating MS Word forms. 

    OneNote - SkyDrive, Mobile and More

    Everyday Genealogy: OneNote - SkyDrive, Mobile and More: Three weeks ago I wrote about how I discovered  OneNote . I can say that I use it daily either at work or for personal use and keep finding ...

    Forming Up Your Genealogy--Part 1

    This set of posts is going to involve using MS Word to create forms. During the course of your information collecting, you might need to collect data from others or you might want to fill out some or all of a form to deploy data and/or get information back. Any repetitive task you do is probably a good candidate for a form.

    A form is similar to a template in that you have boilerplate text that you do not want to have changed. For example, in the form above, I have a logo, project title, and contact information in a header. The body of my form includes fields that identify the information I want to collect. All the recipient has to do is fill in the blanks. 

    An example of when I would consider developing a form is for census pages. I have older relatives who can't see the bad PDFs of census pages. If I were to create a form for each census year, I could easily transcribe census data so that my relatives could see what I'm seeing on that blurry PDF that they can barely decipher. 

    Your task over the next few days is to examine your methods and see where a form might be helpful to you. Are you a pro? Do you produce invoices? Do you want to create a fancy tree layout that allows you to fill in the blanks and know that you can't mess it up because it's a form? 

    These sorts of documents are all over the Web. They are usually PDFs that you can't do much with except download and write on them. With this series of post, you'll learn to create your own forms and make them more useful than just about anything you can download for free. 

    Also, you might want to brush up on your table creating skills. Tables play a big role in the creation of forms. They make layout and placement easier. 

    A Toy to Toy With
    While cruising the Net and looking at available forms (I needed to know what you might like to learn to do), I came across an interesting little site. You can upload any Word document or PDF, type directly in the form, and then download the completed form to your system. One of my pet peeves with society membership forms is that everything ends up on paper. This site lets you create an electronic version of your completed membership form. 

    You can do lots of other tasks too. It's a slick little toy as things go. 
    If you're interested in taking a look, click here to visit FillanyPDF ( When you get there, they have a movie on their home page that walks you through lots of what is available. It's pretty easy to hack your way through it too. 

    It's limited because you are forced to register for a trial. After you try it once, they make you either quit or sign up. It's free but I didn't notice if they said how long it lasts. I'll try to remember to tell you when I get cut off. If you have to do this task all the time, the basic service is pretty cheap. 

    Sunday, July 15, 2012

    Next Week + Pinterest and Find A Grave

    I have a work project that suddenly turned nuclear. So, I won't be posting this week coming. I'll be having fun 10 hour days with people screaming...the whole nightmare scenario.

    With the MS Word mail merge postings, I'm sure I've given you quite a bit to chew on. I'll get back to posting when I can...probably in a week or so. We have lots more that we can do...forms, working in different views, and so forth.

    Pinterest and Find A Grave
    If you've read this blog, you know I have an ongoing interest in Pinterest. If you've read my family research blog, you know I have long standing love affair going with Find A Grave.

    I was curious as to whether Find A Grave had a pinning policy. So I sent them an email asking for comments. It turns out that Find A Grave has no specific policy. However, they also have no problem with pinners pinning individual memorials. Their position is that pinning does nothing more than bring a reader to a spot (the memorial) and that the copyright that is attached to photographs on the memorial remains intact.

    This position of course means that a pinner could create a board (cemetery) and pin all of their memorials to it. You can create a virtual cemetery inside of Find A Grave; however, many of my  younger relatives haven't joined Find A Grave. Being able to add a memorial in Pinterest puts the grave site in front of them without their having to be a member of Find A Grave. So is this another way to coax younger family members into genealogy? We'll see.

    Saturday, July 14, 2012

    Doing It En Masse...Part 3

    So you have your list of recipients and the letter text. What do you do next? Merge!

    Word 2003 Menu Selections to Start Wizard
    On this screen, you tell Word that you're merging a letter. 
    Click Next at the bottom of the wizard pane. 

    Word 2007/2010 Menu Selections to Start Wizard
    On this screen, you tell Word that you're merging a letter. 
    Click Next at the bottom of the wizard pane. 

    From this point forward the wizard is the same regardless of the version of Word.

    Pick a Template

    Click the graphic to show a larger version.
    Click Esc to close the display.

    Complete the Letter 
    1. Locate the Click here and type return address. Do what it says. 
    2. Locate and select Company Name Here. Type a name (McKee Family Research Project).
    3. Locate and select Type your letter here... You are going to select the entire paragraph and replace it with the text you created.
      --Open the document with the text that you want to include in every letter.
      --Highlight the text, and copy it (Ctrl + C).
      --Close the document with the text that you want to include in every letter.
      --Select the text in the template.
      --Paste the text  (Ctrl + V). 
    4. Locate Click here and type your name. Do what it says. 
    5. Locate Click here and type your job title. Do what it says. 
    6. Locate Click here and type a slogan. Do what it says.
      (Shaking the family tree to see what nuts fall out...)

    Notice that I didn't alter Click here and type recipient's address.
    The addresses will be merged with the letter later. 
    At the bottom of the Mail Merge pane, click Next: Select recipients

    Attach the List of Recipients

    1. In Select recipients, accept the default of Use an existing list
    2. In Using an existing list, click the Browse... button to display a navigation dialog.
    3. Navigate to and select the list of recipients that you created. 

    I'll talk about this list in a subsequent post. 
    You can do several tasks here but I want you to see the merge 
    before you get bogged down in the list. 
    Right now, you just need to confirm that all of the names on the list are checked.
    1. Click OK on the dialog.
    2. At the bottom on the wizard pane, click Next: Writer your letterThe next pane appears. You've already written your letter. However, you need to select recipients.

    1. Highlight Click here and type recipient's address and delete it.
    2. Click Address Block... The Insert Address Block dialog appears.
    3. Click OK on the dialog.
    4. At the bottom on the wizard pane, click Next: Preview your lettersA sample letter appears with the first address recipient.

    Complete the Merge
    1. At the bottom on the wizard pane, click Next: Complete the merge. The final wizard pane appears. 
    2. In the wizard pane, you have two options: Print; Edit individual letter

    Edit Individual Letters
    1. Click Edit individual letter. The Merge to New Document dialog appears.
    2. Accept the default of All, and then click OKThe individual letters are presented as one multi-page document. 
    3. Add notes to each letter.
    4. Close the letters (click the X in the upper left of the screen). A save message appears.
    5. Click Yes and a Save As dialog appears. 

    Print Individual Letters
    1. In the wizard pane, select Print. A small screen appears. 
    2. Accept the default of All, and then click OK.
    3. Complete the pint dialog box to print your letters. 

    Future Posts
    These instructions and the wizard will get you through a basic merge but as you can see from the wizard there's more to discuss. However, I'm sure you've had enough for one day. 

    Wednesday, July 11, 2012

    Doing It En Masse...Part 2

    Let's start by creating the preliminary documentation you need to complete a merge.

    List of Addresses
    The first item you need is a list of addresses. You can use any of the following programs when creating a list of addresses: MS Excel spreadsheet, MS Word table, MS Outlook contacts list, or MS Access database. For this exercise, I'm going to suggest that you create an MS Word table.

    Reproducing the table as shown above is important because Word is going to pick the data in a particular sequence during the merge: First, Last, Address, City, State, and then Zip. If you need to review creating a table, click here to review the post. Save the Word document under the name List.

    Letter Text
    The second item you need is the text for the letter that you want to send to each recipient shown in the list above. Here's some suggested text. It's nonsense but you need text to create the letters. Open a Word document, don't change the style (it's Normal), type the following text, and save the document under the name Letter.
    My name is Pam (enter your name) and I'm a distant cousin of yours. I'm in the process of constructing a family history and I'm hoping to get some information from you. If you go to the following website, you'll see some of the information I already have: 
    Enclosed please find a questionnaire and a self-addressed stamped envelope. I'm asking that you complete missing information if you can, and then mail the form back to me.
    Thank you for your time and attention to this request. If you would like more information on this project or if you would like to assist, please add your email address or phone number so that that I can contact you.
    Completing the Merge
    In my next post (probably this weekend), we'll use the List and Letter documents to complete a merge. After the merge is complete, you'll have five separate letters, each individually addressed. In addition, you'll be able to edit each letter to add individualized text.

    This particular example with five letters doesn't seem like much; however, when you have to produce 200 letters, knowing how to do a merge will be convenient. Even is you plan to PDF each letter and attach it to an email (a way to save some cash), you can still use the merge to make the task of producing the individual letters less time consuming.

    Monday, July 9, 2012

    Doing It En Masse...Part 1

    MS Word includes a mail merge wizard. Let me explain. A wizard is a small application that walks you through a process. Mail merge is a Word function that allows you to use a template to produce duplicate documents with some personalized information on each document.

    Mail merge is generally thought of as a marketing function. For example, if you have a promotion, you would want to send the same cover letter to a list of people. The letter will have the same text but each letter will have a unique address and salutation.

    What, you might ask, does this have to do with genealogy? Nothing on the surface until you consider how many times you've written the same letter to older relatives who do not have email accounts and to whom you are going to send letters if you hope to get a response.

    Pattie has taken this concept one step further in that she annually contacts relatives with a genealogy update that is similar to the Christmas update that many families send annually. She's also been known to write to everybody across the country with the same last name if the project is manageable and affordable. She's put together an entire presentation based on doing mass mailings...the why, the who, the how, and so much more. It's a fun and fascinating presentation.

    Certainly, if you're a professional, you'll have use for mass mailing for any number of reasons.

    I'm just going to introduce the concept in this post. The other thing I'm going to do is tell you that before you start, you need a list of people to send the merged letters to and the text of the merged letter (What do you want to say to each addressee?).

    We'll really get started in the next post.

    Wednesday, July 4, 2012

    New Orleans Event

    Almost everybody I know has a few once in a lifetime events. I had the privilege of being in attendance as a family friend, Neal J. Seago, celebrated one of those events in his life.

    In the picture above, Neal is busting a bottle of champagne on the railing of a new tugboat that was named after him. The boat is owned by Blessey Marine Services in New Orleans. Under the command of Captain Greg Cameron, the tugboat will be moved through the Inland Waterway to its home port of Houston. If you click here, you'll go to the Blessey website with the christenings for 2012. The pictures from the Neal J. Seago christening aren't up there yet but I'm sure they will be in the next few weeks.

    I, of course, also had a once in a lifetime event in that I've never attended the christening of a boat before. All in all, it was a fun day for everybody concerned.

    I'll get back to posting next week. I'm back at home in Florida. I've taken the week off from work and I'd like to work on a presentation and a few other items I've had in the background for a while.

    I hope that each of you has a happy and safe 4th of July.