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Review: Family Bee for Android


Family Bee LogoI have been using PDAs for years, and was an early adopter of the Handspring prod­uct that started the inte­gra­tion of PDAs and cell phones back in about 2002.

As a geneal­o­gist, I have used sev­eral prod­ucts that have allowed for dis­play­ing a geneal­ogy data­base on my PDA/cell phone, and was quite happy with GedStar Pro, which could read my data­base directly from The Master Genealogist and dis­play it on my PalmOS device.

But, folks, the PalmOS is dead. Long live WebOS, iOS, and Android!

I never caught the iPhone bug. The only things I can say were that the pric­ing I get from Sprint has always been bet­ter than what AT&T has offered with the iPhone, and I was happy with my PalmOS, and later WebOS devices. I was start­ing to get a lit­tle bit of app envy, though, as more and more apps appeared for the iPhone, and very few for the WebOS, par­tic­u­larly around the geneal­ogy space. I was able to run GedStar Pro in the WebOS’s Palm OS com­pat­i­bil­ity mode, but only in a lim­ited way, and only for a lim­ited time. Then, try­ing to start GedStar Pro seemed like the best way to force a phone reboot.

I now have a Google Android-based phone (the HTC Evo), and have been try­ing out FamilyBee for Android ($10 from Beekeeper Labs). This app accepts GEDCOM 5.5 files and pro­vides an ele­gant and intu­itive way to nav­i­gate through your data­base. Search works exactly as you it does in any other Android app. Multiple GEDCOM files can be uploaded. Each time you launch you choose the one you will use.

To get a GEDCOM file into the appli­ca­tion, you can down­load it from a known URL, send it to your phone via e-mail (directly, or by using a web form Beekeeper Sofware pro­vides), or use a USB con­nec­tion to install it from your computer.

GEDCOM files can­not be mod­i­fied in any way, which is com­mon with geneal­ogy apps for hand-held devices. In my case, I do not really want to edit my GEDCOM, because I would then have to sync the GEDCOM with my data­base. What Family Bee offers instead, which I hap­pen to like bet­ter, is the abil­ity to attach notes to a file, which can later be exported or e-mailed. This sep­a­rates the notes from the data­base, and allows you to keep your “sin­gle source of truth” in the desk­top or web appli­ca­tion you use to man­age your data.

There is more for me to look at in Family Bee. But I can say at this point that it has already shown me some flaws in my sourc­ing (where I have sim­ply attached the wrong source or repos­tory to an event or doc­u­ment). That, and the abil­ity to take my data­base some­where that I can­not get an Internet con­nec­tion in a form fac­tor small enough to fit in a shirt pocket, is well worth the $10, in my view.

 
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