Zim

Introduction

This application helps manage various genealogical projects that researchers can find themselves jumping between. The loose "wiki" structure (with one page per genealogical project) helps enable this and the ability to embed "to do tasks" into the notes as they arise is particularly useful. This is not the sort of functionality that could expect to be incorporated into fh.

Use of Zim for genealogical Work Management

The advantages and disadvantage of using this application

A screen shot of a project possibly gives an indication of specific advantages.

Features of particular interest to genealogists

  • The hierarchical index pane on the left - allowing a separate page for each "project"
  • Under the index pane there is a tags pane which I do not yet use but it allows tagging like in a blog
  • The main pane which allows extensive structured note taking - the editor is as comprehensive as this forum's with links, images, bold, italic etc, but also with a hierarchy of headings which facilitates
  • A table of contents1 for the page (top right) - which toggles on and off. This helps jump to relevant sections of the page.
  • The main edit pages will also hold tables - unfortunately the paste function does not for instance allow you to paste tabular information (e.g. FreeBMD or FindMyPast) directly into a table.
  • A sort line feature - highlight a block of lines and select sort! So you can alphabeticalise lists or sort them by date (provided of course the date is at the begining of the line in yyyy-mm-dd format!)
  • Within the main page the ability to add a todo list item in the context of the note - you just type square brackets followed by the item. It then formats into a check box which allows the user to mark when an item is done.
  • In the icon bar at the top there is an icon which brings up a task list1 (shown in the image above) in a separate window which lists all outstanding tasks in the wiki. Clicking on a task in the task list takes you to it in the relevant page.
  • Also on the top icon bar is a calendar icon - which creates a journal page per day
  • In the right hand margin there is a label backlinks which will open another pane (like the index pane) listing all those pages which link into the pages

1 These features use addins - which come with the basic package but need turning on in the Preferences Dialog.

Tips and tricks for integrating it with Family Historian

The screen shot above is of a fairly well controlled element of a project. Elsewhere it can be much less structured. Users might list a whole lot of people who for instance might be a parent of an individual and then as work through the list adding notes indicating evidence for or against before transferring their conclusions to fh.

The workflow tends to be to have a browser for searching for sources, Zim holding the research plan and recording the research as it is done and how the conclusions are drawn (and what is outstanding), and fh open to record the conclusions and their justification as well as providing already known information. If you take your laptop to archives interfacing to other devices is not important.

Given the "standard" format of the underlying files, others will be able to find applications for tablets and smartphones which could read those files.

Integration is unfortunately minimal - Mainly cut and paste. The actual Zim files are text files - one per page in a version of Markdown format and these can be exported "At the moment exporting to HTML and LaTeX is supported, as well as the Markdown and RST text formats."

Integration

The plugin that I would most like - which I have mentioned elsewhere is the ability in fh to right click on a record and select "create to clipboard a hyperlink to this record", which I could then paste into Zim (or other applications). The Thunderlink addin for the email client Thunderbird does something very similar - with the right click offering a short set of format options.

Availability

Zim was originally a Linux program but is also available for Windows. Unlike Wikis like this knowledgebase is a single user program based on a personal computer. Like many programs of Linux origin it is freeware. I have not had problems with stability. It seems to autosave to the underlying files, but Ctrl-S forces a save if required. Given the simplicity of the files I would not anticipate data corruption problems (unlike some Word Processing programs).

This page is part of a group of pages describing using Planning and Tracking Your Research > Working with External Applications

Section how_to