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Copying your ancestors to a spreadsheet

Discussion in 'Useful features you may have missed.....' started by peter, May 17, 2015.

  1. peter

    peter Administrator Staff Member

    On your My Ancestors page there is a link near the top which reads Show more detail. This displays a text-only version of the page that includes additional information (maiden names and baptism dates, where entered), but more importantly it's easier to copy-and-paste into a spreadsheet.

    If you press Ctrl-A to select the contents of the page, then Ctrl-C to copy them, you can paste them into a blank spreadsheet using Ctrl-V.

    Once you have the data in a spreadsheet you can sort it in any way you want.
    • Thanks! Thanks! x 1
  2. Alexander Bisset

    Alexander Bisset Administrator Staff Member

    With a little tweak this could be changed to include "Export details" which would create and allow saved a CSV of the data which could be loaded into a spreadsheet with less effort for the non technical for whom the mysteries of CTRL-A, CTRL-C, CTRL-V are sometimes a challenge.
  3. peter

    peter Administrator Staff Member

    Thanks - I did consider that, but as I'm also one of the technically-challenged I didn't know what to tweak or how to tweak it.

    Also, if one of those non-technical users runs into problems (such as not being able to find the file they've just saved - a very common problem in my experience) they'll come to me - whereas if they go down the keyboard route they'll probably just try again, rather than asking for my help. The tip about copying and pasting the data to a spreadsheet has been on the site for 10 years without anyone asking for my help, perhaps because anyone who knows how to use a spreadsheet also knows how to cut and paste.
  4. Alexander Bisset

    Alexander Bisset Administrator Staff Member

    Yes that's the difference between an active and passive feature. Users don't tend to notice passive features, ie: something baked into Windows vs a button they can actively click. Hence despite instructions, which most steadfastly forget to read even when they are emailing for help, users will tend to plod on not knowing such a feature exists, because it was passively there in the background and they didn't bother to read about it.

    It's prompting about these sorts of things in forum and newsletter will tend to get comments along the lines of "oh I didn't know you could do that". Which is of course a cue to slap forehead in despair that despite instructions being there for 10 years users STILL didn't read them. Which is of course why you chose the title of this forum article :)
  5. Alexander Bisset

    Alexander Bisset Administrator Staff Member

    BTW the usual way of producing a CSV from a database is a select along the lines of...

    select field1 || ',' || field2 || ',' || field3 || ',' || field4 as output_line from table_or_view

    Note that depending on version of SQL it might be + rather than || for concatenation.

    Edit: Actually just noted that for MySQL the syntax is...

    select concat_ws(',', field1, field2, field3, field4) as output_line from table_or_view
  6. peter

    peter Administrator Staff Member

    I'd already written an article for the newsletter about the new features - and although copying the data to a spreadsheet isn't new I've just added a note explaining how to do it.
    Thanks - that bit I can handle, but it's saving the data as a file that I see as the challenge (especially where to save it). For now I'd rather rely on the copy-and-paste solution since it is general purpose (someone who learns how to do it for one web page can apply their newly-learned skill to other pages).
  7. Alexander Bisset

    Alexander Bisset Administrator Staff Member

    All you need to do is to create a file that the browser offers to download for the user. There are instructions for PHP here.

    Users saving a downloaded file is also a VERY general purpose skill just as basic as cutting and pasting data. It is certainly possible to use a computer without ever knowing you could cut n' paste data, I've seen many users retype stuff when they could have cut n paste. However it is scarcely possible to use a computer without saving and loading files. So I simply don't buy the suggestion that users could learn a cut n paste skill but can't learn to save a file.
  8. peter

    peter Administrator Staff Member

    Thanks - the newsletter has gone out now, so I'll wait and see if anyone runs into problems.
  9. I have to admit I had never looked at this part of the Forum but I am very familiar with Copy and Paste and using Excel for sorting lists and doing my own way of analysis of the data.
    Using Ctrl-V is not the best way to go. Right click and select 'Paste Options' and then 'Match destination formatting' will produce a list that is sortable as opposed to a replica of the list in My Ancestors more detailed view which needs an awful lot of tidying up before being able to sort and analyse.
  10. canadianbeth

    canadianbeth LostCousins Star

    I had never looked at that either, but even if I had I would not have known what to do with it. I have now done the copy/paste into Excel, but am still not sure just what to do with it.
  11. When the last competition was on I had wanted to be able to load my ancestors into Excel so I could tick off those I had checked. If I'd known about this feature I would have used it.

    I had used FTA to load a large number of people and found it really hard to use the My Ancestors screen as it seems to bounce up and down and doesn't always take me back to the ancestor I have just checked. I gave up checking due to frustration.
    Although the pressure is off as the competition was finished ages ago I can still use the spreadsheet.
    Also, I have several trees and I can use the spreadsheet to note which tree the household or individual can be found in. I can then go to the right tree when trying to ascertain what I have done wrong.
  12. canadianbeth

    canadianbeth LostCousins Star

    I only have the one tree but I can see where it would be helpful to make a column to list to which branch each entry belongs. There are a great many that are not Joyce, Riches, Barratt or Bowyer.
  13. peter

    peter Administrator Staff Member

    Me neither - but some family historians do everything on spreadsheets, and it just happened that the Show more details view worked well for those who did want to manipulate their My Ancestors data in other ways.
    I don't get the option 'Match destination formatting' when pasting to blank spreadsheet.
  14. My 'research':
    Copy the data from the show more details view of My Ancestors, right click in cell A1 and see Paste Options 'Keep source formatting' and 'Match destination formatting'.
    Create a table in Word, copy the table, right click in cell A1 and see Paste Options 'Keep source formatting' and 'Match destination formatting'.
    Use an existing Word file, copy the text, right click in cell A1 and see Paste Options 'Keep source formatting' and 'Match destination formatting'.

    Copy data from another spreadsheet the range of Paste options is much greater and there isn't 'Match destination formatting' but there is a 'Keep source formatting'.

    I don't pretend to be an Excel expert therefore cannot explain why it might be different for you.
  15. peter

    peter Administrator Staff Member

    Same here. Even though I wrote some spreadsheet programs myself in the 1980s.
  16. Reminded me, I learnt to use a predecessor of Excel but can't recall the name of the program.
  17. canadianbeth

    canadianbeth LostCousins Star

    All I can do in Excel is make basic spreadsheets and do an autoSum for totals.
  18. peter

    peter Administrator Staff Member

    Do you mean Multiplan? I started with Visicalc, which was supposedly the first spreadsheet program. I called my program Busicalc.
  19. Innovative name.
    Multiplan and Visicalc are familiar names but looking online for older spread sheeting programs I came across Lotus which rings bigger bells and is highly likely as I was using a VDU powered by an IBM mainframe.
  20. Tim

    Tim Megastar and Moderator Staff Member

    Was it Lotus 123?

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