Loading and Navigating a GEDCOM

Once GEDCOM Viewer has started, you will see a window that looks like this. To load a GEDCOM file, select Open or Open URL from the File menu. The Open item pops up an Open File dialog to allow you to open a GEDCOM file stored on your computer. Initially the filter is set to show files ending in .ged or .xml. Files ending in .ged are assumed to conform to the GEDCOM 5.5 standard (see also an HTML version). Files ending in .xml are are assumed to conform to the GedML encoding of GEDCOM into XML. You can also set the filter to All files to show all files, regardless of the extension. The Open URL item pops up a dialog asking you to enter the URL of a GEDCOM to be retrieved. If you don't have a GEDCOM handy, you can enter the following into the Open URL dialog:


The Load demo item under the Help menu is preprogrammed to load this demo GEDCOM.

As the GEDCOM file loads, a progress indicator may appear to display the progress in reading the file. Once the GEDCOM has been read, there is a "mapping" phase in which the contents of the GEDCOM are mapped in order to facilitate random access. If the GEDCOM was read in from a file on your computer, GEDCOM Viewer will attempt to create a file whose name is the name of the GEDCOM file with the extension .map appended. This file caches the results of the mapping phase, and can help GEDCOM Viewer load this GEDCOM faster the next time. It does not matter if a .map file cannot be created. The map files are a speed optimization only, and can be deleted at any time.

When the GEDCOM has been read and mapped, the information from the GEDCOM header record will appear in the main information window. You should at least see the name of the GEDCOM file and an indication of the number of records of various types that were read from it. Aside from that, GEDCOM files vary on how much information is actually present in the header record. To the left of the main information display will appear two index windows with scrollbars. Surnames from the GEDCOM are displayed in the top window, and full names of individuals are displayed in the bottom window. If you click on a surname, the bottom window will scroll until individuals with that surname are displayed. Clicking on the name of an individual will cause the information displays to show that particular individual. For example, scrolling the surname window to "Tudor" and then clicking on "Henry_VIII Tudor" results in this display.

The main information display area has several tabs, which correspond to different ways of presenting information derived from the GEDCOM. The Details tab displays formatted information about the GEDCOM record (header, individual, family, note, source, etc. that is the current focus of attention). The HTML tab shows the unrendered HTML source code from which the formatted display is derived. The GEDCOM tab shows the GEDCOM record currently in focus. Note that much of the information that shows in the other windows will not appear directly in the GEDCOM tab, because this information is derived from links between the current record and other records in the GEDCOM. The Ancestors tab shows a graphical display of the ancestors of the individual currently in focus, and the Descendants tab shows a similar display of the descendants of the individual in focus. Note that these two tabs only contain an active display when the focus is on an individual (INDI) record in the GEDCOM.

All the tabs except for the main Details tab can be "undocked" from the main window and displayed in windows of their own. To do this, select the particular tab to be undocked from the Windows menu. Once undocked, the display can be moved, resized, and iconified independently of the main window. If you close an undocked window, it reverts to being docked as a tab in the main window.

Above the information display windows is a row of buttons (Home, Back, Forward, etc.). Depending on the current focus, some of these buttons will be active and some will be greyed out. The active buttons can be used as shortcuts to move the focus to GEDCOM records related to the currently displayed record. The Home button takes the focus back to the GEDCOM header record.

Navigation through the GEDCOM can also be performed using the items in the Go menu. Most of these items are the same as the navigation buttons discussed above. There is one additional item: by Gedcom ID. This item allows you to move to a record in the GEDCOM specified by its ID number in the GEDCOM. To use this, you have to know the ID number. Sometimes you will know the ID numbers of individuals or families of interest from having edited the GEDCOM file using another genealogy program. A way to find out ID numbers if you don't already know them is to use the GEDCOM tab to display records in raw GEDCOM format. The ID numbers appear between @@ in the GEDCOM code.