Wednesday, 9 January 2008

Genealogy Tip: take advantage of free viewers

A friend in the British Isles Family History Society of Greater Ottawa mentioned having problems opening an Excel spreadsheet file. Not owning a copy of Microsoft's office suite can leave you out of the game. Maybe you connected with an internet buddy, they sent a file revealing everything you've been searching for, but you now have the brick wall of an unreadable family history file. If that frustration sounds familiar you need to know about the mostly free options and alternatives available for viewing, and in some cases manipulating these documents.

My advice was to find the free Microsoft Excel Viewer by Googling <>, following the first link and clicking on Download. Further down the page you can read about some complementary programs, including viewers for Word, and PowerPoint, and upgrades allowing you to view files created by more recent versions of these Microsoft products.

If you'd like to work with as well as view files there are several free office suites available for download. OpenOffice is one of the best know, and as their web site boasts "a multiplatform and multilingual office suite and an open-source project. Compatible with all other major office suites, the product is free to download, use, and distribute."

If you use Google for more than searching you might want to try the Google Docs facility, an online application. Check out the Wikipedia article here if you have concerns about security in an online application.

Files produced by genealogy software are often a challenge. Mud Creek Software Inc has a free viewer, a lite version of their GENviewer, that will read GEDCOM, PAF, TMG, FTW, Legacy and RootsMagic files. The results may not be the prettiest but will be a lot more satisfying than looking at the dialog box asking you to pick from a long list of application to open it, none of which work for that file.

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