GED2HTML: About the Program

This program reads GEDCOM files as input and produces a set of HTML files, each file containing information from one or more individual records in the GEDCOM input. The information for each individual contains hypertext links (relative URL's) to the files for the parents, spouses, and children for that individual. Birth, marriage, and death events are included in the file, as are notes records associated with the individual, and source information. A sorted, hierarchical index can also be created, with a hypertext link to each individual. The program can be instructed to include ``pedigree charts'' with each individual, to facilitate navigation between individuals. The program can also automatically insert additional HTML text into each individual file. This feature can be used to add additional text, images, audio, or whatever else you want to each individual. Moreover, you only have to create the ``include files'' for the individuals on which you have extra information, and you can maintain all your other data on whatever system you are using to produce the GEDCOM output. If you get an updated GEDCOM file, simply go to the directory where the individual include files are stored and run GED2HTML again. It will update each individual file with the new GEDCOM data and will automatically insert the additional HTML text from the include files.

I wrote the original version of this program because I wanted an easy way to convert my own GEDCOM data to HTML for presentation on the World Wide Web. Version 1 of GED2HTML, written for Unix in early 1994, was built around a YACC parser. This version was based on the GEDCOM 5.3 draft standard. A Windows 3.1 version was created in late 1994, and a user-configurable output template language was also added at that time. As I gained experience with how GEDCOM is actually used in practice, I realized that the YACC-based parser was too inflexible to handle the full variety of GEDCOMs that actually exist. So for GED2HTML version 2, released in mid-1995, I wrote a new parser that would accept essentially "any" GEDCOM file, and would only complain about grossly malformed input. Since Version 2.0 many people have used this program to place their family history databases on the World Wide Web. Version 2.5b, released in April, 1996, was a particularly long-lived and successful version.

Version 3.0 of GED2HTML incorporated yet another major revision of the program. I undertook this revision because I wanted to accomodate better the newly adopted GEDCOM 5.5 standard, but could not do so in a reasonable way without redesigning the core of the program. In addition, the template language used in version 2 was incredibly cumbersome and difficult to use, and I felt the complexity of the output templates was limiting my ability to handle the additional information that could be incorporated into a GEDCOM under the 5.5 standard. Version 3.0 featured a newly designed output language that can actually be programmed by mere mortals, including me.

Well, at least me. One of the disadvantages of the new output language is that you pretty much have to be a programmer to make any kind of substantial changes to the output format. Regrettably, the situation has not improved much in subsequent versions. In the current version (3.6), the standard output program is itself over 3300 lines of code! However, the output language introduced in version 3.0 has given me the flexibility to accomodate many of the suggestions that I have received from users of the program over the past few years. It seems that my "to do" list is never empty, but I feel that I have continued to make many substantial improvements in the program since version 2.5b.

Over the course of its lifetime, GED2HTML has been used in a variety of ways. However, at present most people are using this program as a ``black box'' for quickly transforming their GEDCOM data into a form suitable for presentation on the World Wide Web. The largest database that I know about that has been processed with GED2HTML (running under FreeBSD Unix) is a huge file that contains data on over 319,000 individuals in over 3.5 million lines of GEDCOM. I have used versions of this program to prepare my own much more modest data (about 1000 individuals) for presentation on the World-Wide Web. You can view the results by starting from here. From my GEDCOM file, I produced approximately 700 individual files, which are linked together among themselves and to my hypertext family history document.

Though versions 2.3a and earlier of this program were released as freeware, around the time of the release of version 2.3a I realized that I was spending quite a bit of time responding to E-mail from users of the program. From the E-mail correspondence, it became clear that much better documentation was required. Besides that, the program itself had grown, revisions were starting to take more time, and had become a bit less fun and more work. I also began running the GENDEX WWW Genealogical Index site on the World Wide Web to try to establish a central index of as much as I could of the data on the Web that was prepared using GED2HTML program (and other compatible software). To justify the amount of time I was spending on this work, I decided that GED2HTML version 2.4 and all subsequent versions would be released as shareware.

Over the past few years I have corresponded with hundreds of people about this program, and quite a number of them have sent me useful suggestions which I have tried to incorporate into the current version. Though it would be impossible for me to name everyone from whom I have received a valuable suggestion, I would like to convey special thanks to Birger Wathne for contributing useful ideas and code for the first versions of this program, and to a number of other users (including, but not limited to, Annelise Anderson, Allyn Brosz, Susie and Kerry Jane Dunavant, Bob Fieg, W. Wesley Groleau, Brian Mavrogeorge, Steve Messinger, Mike Schwitzgebel, and Doug Smith) of various early versions of the program who took the trouble to send me their bug reports and problematic GEDCOMs. Special thanks to Jean-Philippe Ménard for the French translation, Wilm Boerhout for the Dutch translation, Peter Springer-Ferazin for the German translation, Olav Overdahl for the Norwegian translation, Ezio Ajmar for the Italian translation, Lars Blomberg for the Swedish translation, Jørgen Bak for the Danish translation, Matti Rekunen for the Finnish translation, Janez Toplisek for the Slovenian translation, Armando Schaun for the Portuguese translation, and Christo Viljoen for the Afrikaans translation. I am very grateful to Annelise Anderson for her beta testing efforts of version 3.0, which found a number of horrible bugs that I don't want to talk about. I'd also like to thank everyone else who sent me registration fees, along with their kind words that make all the work I did on this program worthwhile.

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Copyright © 1995-2000 Eugene W. Stark. All rights reserved.