I'm making my annual attempt to warm up to the way RM6 handles media. About once a year, I try to get excited about the way RM6 (or whatever version of RM is current) deals with media. What usually happens is that I end up feeling like Charlie Brown when Lucy promises not to pull the football away, and then she pulls it away anyway when I try to kick it. And I'm always sorry to sound so negative about RM6's handling of media. But this time around, I feel a good bit more positive than I have felt in the past about linking media into RM6.
This year's efforts to integrate media into RM6 is a part of a larger project where I am trying to revamp some of the ways I handle sources. The way I have handled sources for years has served me well, but I'm hitting a point where there are so many sources that I need a better system. Plus, I really do want to be as compliant as possible with footnotes and bibliographies as suggested by Evidence Explained (even though I will do so while still using the standard Free Form source template). To this end, I'm trying out the idea of becoming an extreme splitter of sources, and as a part of being an extreme splitter of sources I'm trying to link all images to a Master Source rather than to Source Details. As such, I can make any changes I need to make to a Master Source, including changes in media files, and the changes will automatically apply to all citations of that master source.
My test project for this effort is the collection of dozens (if not hundreds, eventually) of courthouse marriage records from Knox County, Tennessee. Even though I live in Knox County, there is no particular advantage in me actually going to the Knox County Archives in person because the clerks there have to process my requests. The public cannot directly handle the marriage books (for those books that have not been microfilmed) or the microfilm (for those marriage books that have been microfilmed). So if I go to the Archives in person, I end up waiting forever. So instead, I e-mail my requests in, they e-mail me back whether they found the records and the cost, I mail them a check (they are eager to be able to take online payments, but politics has prevented them from doing so thus far), and they mail me the records as photocopies on paper. I scan the records to JPG files, and go from there.
Typically, there are three pieces of paper and hence three JPG files for each marriage record - the minister's license, the couple's license which is returned to the courthouse by the minister, and the original application which contains the information which is the most genealogically valuable. Part of my new attempt to "kick the football" is a new and more robust Windows folder structure for storing these images and a new and more robust naming convention for these images. That being said, I have the following comments.
- On bulk loading the images into RM6. I would not wish to bulk load dozens or hundreds of images into RM6 and then go back to the Media Gallery to process them. I continue to find that using the Media Gallery does not scale up well beyond a few dozen images, and I avoid using it at all costs. So instead, I simply Add New Media -> (Media Type -> Image) -> (Media Location -> Disk). It then is very easy to find the images in my Windows folder structure and to add them to RM6.
- On adding image properties such as Caption, Description, Date, etc. It seems to me that such properties are most appropriate for photographs of people or places - that sort of thing - and are not really needed for images of documents provided that the file naming convention for documents is suitably descriptive. It's very time consuming to put in the properties, and I'm all for saving time rather than spending more time. And with extreme source splitting, I'm only going to have one link (what RM6 calls a media tag) for each document anyway. So I just don't add any properties for these images. (I do obviously add properties for images that are photographs of people and places).
- More on bulk loading the images into RM6. But having said that I would not wish to bulk load dozens or hundreds of such images into RM6, I would dearly love to "bulk load" something like three or so images into RM6 at the same time, namely the three images I have from the Knox County Archives for each marriage. I have to run through the Add New Media dialog three times for each marriage instead of just doing it once and selecting all three files from the Windows "File->Open" dialog. Being able to load all three at the same time would really save some time, and for these kinds of files there would be no requirement to "go back and process the properties for each of the files" or to "go back and finish tagging each of the files". Once the three files were loaded, they would be tagged to the Master Source, no properties are necessary (or even desirable), and I would be done.
- List and thumbnail formats. The RM6 Media Album window can list files as either thumbnails or in a List format. In addition, it really needs what Windows calls a Details format with more file details than are available than are available in the List format. But more importantly, I find the thumbnail format almost completely useless for images of documents. Yet, the thumbnail format is default and I can't change it. Even when I change to List format, the Media Album window reverts back to the default of thumbnail format upon the slightest provocation. If I change it, it needs to remember that I changed it and not change it back.
- TIF and PDF formats. Just within the last week, the Knox County Archive now offers the opportunity to receive my images via e-mail in TIF or PDF format. This is a good thing. I don't have to get the images on paper and scan them, and it makes all my transactions with the Archives electronic instead of on paper except for the one remaining glitch of having to send them a check instead of doing an online payment. But these are multi-image TIF files or multi-image PDF files. RM6 supports TIF files as images, but it does not support multi-image TIF files as images. RM6 does not support PDF files as images. So for both TIF and PDF files, I have to load them into RM6 as files rather than images. Curiously, I find this to be a good thing. No, I should say that I find this to be a great thing. It forces RM6 to use an external viewer for both file types (in my case, Irfanview for TIF files and Acrobat Reader for PDF files). The external viewer does a vastly better job of rendering images than does RM6 itself, and the external viewer opens in a window that is independent of RM6 (also a very good thing). So I'm a happy camper on TIF and PDF files. Indeed, it makes me think I should go back and remove my JPG files from RM6 as images an link to them as files instead so that JPG files will be rendered in an external viewer. Please notice that I'm not suggesting that RM6 should do a better job of rendering images (they are really pretty bad, much grainier than what you get from an external viewer). I really don't think we want RM6 to try to be a better word processor than Microsoft Word or to be a better image viewer than IrfanView or Adobe Acrobat, etc. I think we want RM6 to be a better genealogy program than anything else on the market.