Friday, August 31, 2012

Forming Up Your Genealogy--Part 15 Research Logs

Click the graphic to see larger version, and then
press the Esc key to return to this post.

While watching the Republican National Convention, I've been tinkering with what I'd want in a research log. You can see the results above. My first decision revolved around information that I would want in a table or out of a table.

Information Out of the Table
I chose to place what I identified as unique information in running text.

  • Name of Person: A Text form field with a limit of 40 characters for the name of the person for whom I'm chasing information.
  • Information: A Drop-down form field with the following selections: Birth, Marriage, Death, Burial, Census. This list includes the type of information that I might be searching for. You might have other types of information to add to your list. 
  • Source Citation: A Text form field with no character limit. After I've located the document, photograph, or whatever, I can write a citation for the item that I will use to prove my point. When I get ready to use the citation in an article or book, I can select it and copy and paste it into that document. To paste the citation as running text, I'm going to use Paste Special to paste without form field formatting. If you don't remember how to do that task, see Grabbing Text from the Net. This post talks about getting rid of HTML coding. What I don't mention in the post is that Paste Special will remove any hidden coding, including form field formatting.
Information In the Table
I chose to place what I identified as repeating information in a table.

  • Date: A Text form field formatted as a date. This date is when I went looking for information. In this example, I added a date to show the format. 
  • Repository Type: A Drop-down form field with the following selections: Archive, Library, Online, Oral History. I could have added Court House,, Genealogy Society. 
  • Repository Name: A Text form field with a limit of 40 characters. 
  • Results: A Drop-down form field with the following selections: Found, Not Found, Bible Entry, Certificate, Newspaper Announcement, Obituary, Other, Pension (Military), Will. 
  • Abstract: A Text form field with no character limit. Abstracts are short descriptions of the contents of a document. For a long article, an abstract can provide a reminder of why a document is important.
  • Analysis: A Text form field with no character limit. This space is where I would evaluate the reliability of the information I've found. 

Table Formatting 
In the graphic above the table doesn't span the entire page. I've set the table up to expand based on the information entered in the table--the auto fit option. If you don't remember how to use this option, see Table It!...Part 2 for more information.

Doing It All Again
In the graphic above you'll also notice that the entire form (except for the words Research Log) repeats. I've assumed that I'm going to chase more than one piece of information (Birth, Marriage, Death, Burial, Census) for the same person. I can use the same research log to chase more than one piece of information. I just need to copy and paste the form block and complete it for each type information. I would have one file with all of my notes about information I'm chasing for the one person.

In addition, I've left the Name of Person field in place so that when a block moves to a new page, the name goes with it. I could also add a footer or header with page numbering. You include these types of elements for a log you plan to print.

In actual use, I can see myself enabling and disabling protection as I need to copy and paste new rows or entire form blocks as I chase new pieces of information.

Getting a Copy of the Research Log
If you like the looks of the log I've created and you want a copy, please email me and I'll send it to you. Please just remember to tell me what version of Word you are using. Write to me at

Democratic National Convention
I'm sure to be parked in front of the TV watching this one too. Perhaps it will inspire me to create another form. We'll see what I can come up with.

As always, please post comments and questions.

Monday, August 27, 2012

Pinterest and the long awaited Android download

The developers at Pinterest have created a download for Android devices. Yeah! An Android version has been one of their most requested items for a long time. When I downloaded it about 1/2 hour ago, less than 12,000 people had discovered it. So I'm guessing that it's relatively new.

When you shop for apps, it's a freebie. After you download and open it, you end up on what appears to be an Everything page. The page includes buttons at the top:
  • Topic search to see categories (or swipe right)
  • Create pin to take a photo or choose a photo
  • People search to see followers and following (or swipe left)
    --Click your name to see your boards, pins, likes, and about
    --Click the widget to see account settings, find Facebook friends, invite friends, support, terms, privacy, and logout
  • see new pins
The best part is that when you pin or repin, you can select a board from the drop-down list. I've been just letting my pins/repins land where they may, and then editing to place them on the correct board. This method left a trail and didn't break the link but it made no sense for anyone repinning off of my pins/repins.

So...Oh Happy Day!...Pinterest is now an Android app that is way cool.

If you search the App Store for Pinterest, you'll find several other new apps that provide all sorts of extras.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

Forming Up Your Genealogy--Part 14 Research Logs

Sorry for disappearing. I've been working on a huge project at work and the whole thing came to a crescendo last week. I made the date to produce my Help file and printed Workbook with three days to spare. The work is actually due tomorrow. This particular project was more stress filled than most. For my part it came complete with a full blown anxiety attack...something I have not had happen to me in 30 plus years. The aftermath of this project was that I spent most of Thursday and Friday in a post-project fog and Saturday and today sleeping. I'm still not 100% but I do feel a need to post and move the research log form along.

In my last post, I said that I'd want my form to be landscaped. To set orientation, you need to be on the Margins tab of the Page Setup dialog.

To set up the form:
  1. Open Word. The default Normal template displays automatically. Remember that this template is the lowest level template with just a few styles...the starting point for lots of documents.
  2. Select File, Save As, and name the document Research Log.
  3. Display the Page Setup dialog.
    --Word 2003: Select File, and then Page Setup.
    --Word 2007/2010: Select the Page Layout tab and locate the Page Setup group. Click the small arrow in the lower right of the group (group launch button).
    The dialog appears with the Margins tab displaying by default.
  4. In the Margins group, enter .5 for the top, bottom, left, and right margins. Since this document is a form, you are going to want to use as much of the surface area of the page as possible.
  5. In the Orientation group, select Landscaped.
  6. Click OK, and then save your document.
Next post, we add a table that includes a column (field) for each piece of information that we want to collect.
b.t.w. I live in the Tampa-Bay area. We're grateful to have dodged Isaac. My 81 year old mother lives in New Orleans and she has an evacuation plan in place. 

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

Forming Up Your Genealogy--Part 13 Research Logs

As a general rule of thumb, I don't use research logs. I use a user-defined column with coding along with notes made in my genealogy software. However, I have perused the research logs of friends...sometimes offering sympathy because their efforts have yielded so few results...other times offering unsolicited advice!

The web is littered with lots of examples of logs. The logs I find are usually portrait oriented. My first question is why portrait? I would landscape it without a second thought because I would want more space for each entry. If I really consider it, I'd make it an Excel spreadsheet but we won't go there in this post.

In looking at the logs that other people have created, I can see that the next planning item to tackle is to decide on the information I want to track in a log. Am I going to use a document numbering system? Will I use the log as my citation source? Will I want to include an evaluation of what I've found? Each of these questions and lots more need to be answered before I can put fingers to keys and begin to design a form.

If I think seriously about the information I'd want to collect, here are the types of column I'd include:
  • Document Number: Will I use it?
  • Date: When did I look for it?
  • Repository: Where did I look for it? Is it an online link?
  • Results: Did I find it or not?
  • Abstract: Can I describe it in a few words?
  • Analysis: How reliable do I think it is? What did I deduce from it?
  • Source: What fields do I need to write a proper citation? Can I use my genealogy software to design these fields?
If you've been reading these post regularly, bells and whistles should be going off as you relate the information you're trying to collect in the log with the three types of fields you can add to a form. For example, you might consider splitting Repository and adding a type drop-down list that includes entries like Library, Archive, Online, Court House, and so forth. You select the type in the first field and enter the name of the repository in the second field...or is a type important to know?

I'll stop for the moment and let you ponder what you are going to want to put in your form. I'm sure you can already see that this is going to be another series of posts as I figure out what I want to include in my form.

Saturday, August 18, 2012

Forming Up Your Genealogy--Part 12 Spell Checking

When you add an item like a Notes page, you do so with a text field that is unlimited. The field allows the user of your form to simply begin to type and type and type. They are able to transcribe obits, tell you family tales, and add details that flesh out the boring but valuable facts they've provided for you in other form fields. What the user of your form can't do is spell check.

An unfortunate by product of enabling protection is that it disables the spell checker along with several other items. The formal way around this is to add a macro. I'm going to give you the address of an MVP site that provides instructions for adding a macro (a set of instructions that Word completes automatically) that enables spell checking in a protected form:

MVP (Most Valued Professional Microsoft) is a group of Word users who are worse than I am about digging up details. When I'm really stuck, I check MVP to see if they have a suggestion to solve my problem. They frequently do. However, in this case, I think that the solution is worse than the problem.

Here's what I do. In the email to which I attach the form I include instructions. I explain that the creation of the form disables the spell checker and I ask the person filling the form to write their notes in a separate document, spell check it there, and then copy the notes and paste them in the Notes page form field.

This method isn't as elegant or seamless as enabling the spell checker; however, it has a few advantages. First, I don't have to deal with a macro (VBA programming!).  They can be quirky and do odd things no matter how careful you are when you construct them. Second, they can cause messages to appear that will confuse and frighten many an end-user of your form. Third, macros are a quick way to spread viruses.  When I get a document from someone I don't know and Word asks me if I want to enable macros, I say, "Hell no!"

So there you have my opinion and the workaround I use. We'll continue to look at forms and the many things you might want to consider using them for or not and why not.

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

Forming Up Your Genealogy--Part 11--Updated Form

I updated the form after hearing from Marilyn. Seems my tired old eyes messed up a field. When I started looking at the form, I realized I had a few problems that Marilyn was kind enough not to point out. I've fixed them. In addition I added instructions at the top of the form...always a good idea. Can you guess how to set up the Notes page? If no, email me and I'll send you a copy of the form so you can experiment with it. Email me at if you want a copy.

Forming Up Your Genealogy--Part 10

When you find a form you want to reproduce, you need to study it carefully to see how it was put together. Reverse engineering a document is standard practice in producing documents. It's frequently a good learning method. In the case of the family group form I've been talking about, I'm going to walk you through the reverse engineering.

Page Setup
If you displayed the family group form and then displayed the Page Setup dialog, it would look like this sample.

I've sent the margins very close to the edge of the paper: Top 0.25" and Bottom, Left, and Right 0.5" each. When you create a form, you want to use as much of the page area as possible. 

This layout assumes that I'm going to put my contact info in the body of the document. If I were going to put contact info in a header (or footer), the top margin (or bottom) would need to be large enough to accommodate a logo and text. In addition, I would make changes on the Layout tab to handle the header or footer. If you need to know more about these tabs, see this post: Setting up a Book Template Part 1

Setting Up Tables
In looking at the sample, the tables (12 of them) are set up as separate tables. The husband table has five columns and seven rows, while the wife table has five columns and six rows. Each child table has five columns and eight rows. Most of the tables are separated by one empty line using a style called spacer (3 point font with 1 point before). You need to create this style. See the Styles Posts for more information. 

If you look at the sample form, you can see where table cells were merged and formatted in an effort to create some interest and make the form attractive. 

If you need help setting up tables, see the table series of posts: Table Posts

When you add the 12 tables to your document, I suggest that you create the husband, wife, and child 1 tables first. Add the fields in each of the three tables (see the previous posts for details on adding fields). Double-click each field and edit the properties based on the the type of field. Copy and paste the Child 1 table nine times and update child number in the first column of each table. 

When completing the Child tables, leave the last name blank. We're going to add an automatic cross-reference that will allow your form user to type the husband's last name and then add that last name to each child table in the Last Name field. 

Setting Up the Automatic Surname Fields
In the Husband table, in the Last Name field, when you edit this form field, it should have some special settings. Double-click the form field to display the Text Form Field Options dialog.

To complete properties: 
  1. Complete the Type form field group as shown above. 
  2. In the Field setting group, edit the Bookmark to give it a logical name. For example, enter FamilyName or Surname or Last_Name. Notice that the text is an unbroken string. Remember that bookmarks can't have spaces. 
  3. Confirm that Fill-in enabled is selected. 
  4. Click the check box beside Calculate on exit. Selecting this last check box will cause the form to update cross-references (which you will be adding next) when the user of the form presses Tab to move to the next field in the form. 
  5. Click the OK button and save your form. 

To add cross-references: 
  1. Click in the Last Name field of the Child 1 table. 
  2. Insert a cross-reference to the bookmark you set up in the properties dialog.
    --In Word 2007/2010, click the Reference tab, and select Cross-reference in the Captions group.
    --In Word 2003, select, Insert, Reference, and then Cross-reference.
    The Cross-reference dialog appears. 
  3. In Reference type, Bookmark should be selected.
  4. In Insert reference to, select Bookmark text.
  5. In For which bookmark, select the bookmark you set up. 
  6. Click Insert
  7. Repeat these steps in the Last Name field for each Child table. 

Testing Your Form
  1. Save your form. 
  2. Enforce protection.
  3. Save your form as a template.
  4. Close everything. 
  5. Relaunch Word.
  6. Open the template (form) you saved and fill in the form. (You're playing the part of end user of your form.)
  7. Use the Tab key to move from field to field. 
  8. Notice that when you complete the husband's last name, the name is added as each child's last name. 
  9. Congratulations on completing your first form! Be sure to save it. 
Future Posts
I'll start looking at other forms and tell you how I would put them together.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Forming Up Your Genealogy--Part 9

Click the graphic to see a larger version.
Click Esc to return to this post.

When you think about creating a form you have lots of planning to do. It's easiest if you start with a paper version of the form. The family group sheet shown above is a common type of form for a genealogist. You can find lots of examples of similar forms.

If you can't find a sample form to see what somebody else has done, you should take a piece of paper and do a rough sketch of what you think you want. After you have a paper version, you can make a list of the types of information that you want to collect and relate the info type to a fillable form field type. In the case of the family group sheet, I want to collect names, genders, dates, and places.

  • Name is going to be a text form field. I can add formatting that causes the system to capitalize the first letter of any name enter automatically. I'm also going to want to have the field length be about 40 characters for the first and middle name and 40 characters for the last name. 
  • Gender is going to be a check box form field with three selections: male, female, unknown. I could have users select gender from a drop-down list; however, for space considerations, I might want to have all options visible on one line. 
  • Date is going to be a text form field with date formatting applied. Date formatting means that the user of the form will need to enter a real date. In the case of my form, they need to enter d MMM yyyy as in 1 January 2012. 
  • Place is going to be a text form field with conditions that are similar to what I would apply for a name.

Since this is a family group sheet, the children are all going to have their father's last name. When I add the name text form field for the husband's last name, I can set it up so that it is used as a bookmarked cross reference and complete the last name for each of the children automatically.

I'm also going to want to add contact information and page numbering. I can put that at the top of the form or the bottom...inside or outside of a header or footer. I've used all of these configurations depending on the form and what I was trying to achieve. If you're a professional, you might want to create electronic letterhead that you can use for forms as well as other documents.

In subsequent posts, we're going to look at the selections I made to create the sample family group sheet, including layout, tables, and forms. In addition, I'll tell you how to set up the naming bookmarked cross reference.

I found that constructing the family group sheet sample was tedious. However, once I had it perfected, I saved it as a template and used it again and again. So while the initial construction is painful, the time and trouble it saves me on the back end is considerable.

So start thinking about the types of information you want to collect and how that information relates to fillable form fields and how you might want to present that information to a user in a form...and remember that user might be you!

P.S. If you'd like a copy of the family group sheet form, please email me at If you have the Word version, you can display the properties, etc. to reverse engineer the form.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Forming Up Your Genealogy--Part 8 Enabling Protection

We've been through the first three buttons. We can run through the last three buttons quickly, and then we'll enable protection to use the form.

Insert Frame: You can use it to create a frame for a graphic. It's just as easy to use a table with or without borders. 
Form Field Shading: This button is a toggle that turns the gray background of a form field on and off. I generally leave the shading on because the fields are easier to see. 
Reset Form Fields: This button removes any selections you've made--for example, you checked in a check box and added an X while playing around. 

Enforcing Protection
When you enforce protection, you protect the information that is already on the form. The only places where a user of your form can make changes are in the fields you've added to the form. 

  1. Display the Restrict Formatting and Editing pane.
    --Word 2007/2010--Click the Restrict Editing button on the Developer tab.
    --Word 2003--Click View, Toolbar, and Forms to display the floating toolbar. Click the pad lock icon (last icon on the right). 
  2. Bypass 1.Formatting restrictions.
  3. In 2 Editing Restrictions, click the Allow only this type of editing in document option to add a check mark. The drop-down below updates. 
  4. In 2 Editing Restrictions, select Filling in forms from the drop-down list. 
  5. In 3 Start enforcement, click the Yes, Start Enforcing Protection button. The Start Enforcing Protection dialog appears. Entering a password is optional. If you're going to enter one, make sure it's one you'll remember. I always use my first name with all lower case letters (pam). 
  6. Enter a password (or not).
  7. Click OK

If the form you develop is one that you'll use often, save the form as a template. See Setting Up a Book Template Part 12 for instructions on saving a document as a template. The instructions include steps for finding the form when you're ready to use it again. 

Now that you know what all the parts are, where they are, and how to use them, we can start looking at designing forms.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Push Pins in Word 2007 and 2010

When you open a document, Word automatically adds the document to a Recent Documents list. The thinking is that the document is one that you are working on and that you'll want to come back to it soon. As you open other documents, a previously opened document moves down the list unless you open it again. Eventually, the document rotates off of the list. If you happen to have a document that you want to have stay on this list regardless of how many other documents you open and close, you can pin the document to the Recent Documents list. 

Each time you open a document, Word places a push pin icon to the right of the document. Click the push pin and Word places the document at the top of the list and changes the push pin to a pin icon and draws a dividing line so you know to look above the line for pinned documents.

When you no longer need to have the document pinned, click the pin icon and Word moves the document back into the general list. The document rotates off of the list in due course.

The push pin icon is a common icon that you see in many programs. So when you see them, click them and see what gets pinned and where.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012

Forming Up Your Genealogy--Part 7 Drop-Down Lists

You use a drop-down list form field to add a list of acceptable responses. For example, you might add a gender list (Male, Female, Unknown). Your user clicks to display a drop-down list and picks one option from the list of available responses. 

Insert Drop-Down List Form Field 
  1. On a new line, type a question. For example, type: What is your gender? 
  2. Insert a form field.
    --Click the Developer tab.
    --In the Controls group, click the Legacy Tools button.
    --Click the Drop-Down List Form Field button. A small gray box appears in your document. 
  3. Save your document. 
Adjust Properties
  1. Right-click in the small gray box and a pop-up menu appears. 
  2. Select Properties. The Drop-Down Form Fields Option dialog appears. 
  3. In the Drop-down item field, type the first item on your list (Male), and then click the Add button. Word adds your entry to the Items in drop-down list field. The Add button is enabled only when you type text in  the Drop-down item field. 
  4. Repeat step 3 to add additional items (Female, Unknown). 
  5. Repeat step 3 to add instructions for the gray box (Select One). 
  6. Use the up and down arrows to the right of  the Items in drop-down list field to rearrange items. For example, move Select One to the top of the list so that it displays in the gray box as an instruction for the person who is filling your form. 
  7. Use the Remove button to remove a selected item from the list in the Items in drop-down list field. Depending on what you've done, you might end up with a blank entry that you might want to remove. 
  8. Skip Run macro on fields. Macros are off topic for these posts.
  9. Skip Field settings fields. We'll talk about bookmarks later.
  10. Select OK
Here's what the field will look like when a user is filling out your form.
Note: You can improve the attractiveness of the response by adding a space before and a space after when you are adding entries to the list. Word will read the spaces as characters and include them so that entries aren't bumping up against the outline of the gray box (like mine is in the sample above!). 

Next Post
We'll talk about is enabling protection, which makes the fields work.