MyHeritage released an API and started a programming contest for it a few months ago. I considered trying for it but knew it was probably a waste of my time because they were likely working on the app that I had in mind. And today it was released. I immediately downloaded it after their Twitter account sent out the link to the press release. I wonder why they sent out a link to a tech site before the press release on their own blog. I didn’t see a link to the market in the press release until I checked the one on their blog, but I found the app in the market.
On the first try, the app told me I needed Adobe AIR. Especially since the press release mentioned HTML5, and their other apps all require it as well, I knew that was going to be the case. But they failed to mention that in the description. Sorry, if I require some other app on my device to run yours, you have to tell me before I try yours. This is one reason they’ve gotten some negative reviews for their other app. Not only do people not like AIR, but they don’t even tell you that you need it.
So I installed AIR and the app loaded very slowly. I thought it had crashed because the screen was black for so long, but it got faster after the next restart. I imagine it was setting up files on my Android but didn’t tell me what it was doing. I don’t even know if it was AIR or MyHeritage that took so long to start.
I think they’ve combined all of their apps into one. There are three main options: Family Tree, Share Photos, and MyCeleb.
I went for the first option, logged in, and had access to my tree. This seemed to work well, though the usual zoom in and out gestures did not work and I had to click on the + and – symbols. It is a little slow loading, so I think it fetches my tree every time I open it. The main view is similar to the main family tree view on their web site, showing the graphical interface of the tree. Tapping on an individual brings up a different view with three options for Info, Events, and Family. The family list shows, in order, spouse, children, then parents, and you can click on each of them. I checked someone with two spouses and it listed them out of order. The database doesn’t have marriage dates for either, but they are in order in my program.
There is an option to turn off the upper menu and the search function to see a little more of the tree at once. This also flips to landscape mode as it should.
I shut off the wifi to see if the app cached any information, but it did not even let me into this part of the app without a connection. Because my Androids are not phones/have no data plans, this would not be helpful anywhere without wifi, for instance, if I was in a cemetery and found curious gravestones nearby and wanted to investigate my family tree. Assuming a constant Internet connection is a regular occurrence among Android apps, unfortunately. In my opinion, if you need the Internet, why bother programming an app? How about just do a mobile-specialized web site?
The Share photos section brought up the pictures that I’ve uploaded to the site. The camera icon lets me take a photo or choose from the library on the device. The share icon (though Android usually uses a different icon; maybe this is a standard iOS icon) gives me the options to share photo or save to camera roll. I don’t know what the second option actually did. The first doesn’t do anything for me. It seems that the option is for sharing with people who can already access the tree on the web site but I have no other people there. It gave me the option to add emails within the app, but I didn’t follow through.
Flipping to landscape mode here lost all the functionality of sharing or taking photos and I could just look through the photos. On the Galaxy Tab 7″, the photos fell off the side of the tab. On the Galaxy S Wifi 5.0, they were centered properly.
MyCeleb let me choose a photo or take one. I had my usual photo on my Android and it matched me the same as the web site had. I don’t want to discuss the results I got from snapping a picture, but it seemed to work. This part of the app works exclusively in portrait mode.
Probably in part, or entirely, because it’s programmed in AIR, it doesn’t always work like a regular Android app. The back button often doesn’t do anything, though in every other app it either closes whatever has opened, it goes back to the previous view, or it eventually closes the app. Sometimes it did go back, but very often it did not, for instance, any smaller pop-up windows did not close and I could not exit the app via the back button. The Android menu button also does nothing in the app. To close the app, I had to use the in-app menu button.
I Have Email
While writing this review, I received an email from MyHeritage, likely activated when I logged in via the app. It states “now the whole family can contribute to your family site… and stay in touch via iPhone, iPad, and Android.” Well, how? I guess they mean mostly the photo sharing, because the email specifies that v1.0 is read-only for the family tree section. They also claim more features are “in the works”. I assume they mean writing and editing abilities in the tree, but they don’t say what else. We’ll just have to watch for that.
Overall, the app seems to work pretty well. Some things lagged, in part probably because it was setting itself up or it had to access the Internet. My tree showed up and I was able to move around it and view individuals’ details. It doesn’t remember my data for offline use. I didn’t log out, so it remembered me each time I restarted it.
I still have a lot more information in my own program that wasn’t in the GEDCOM that got uploaded to MyHeritage. I don’t know how much more data would show up in this app if I had all kinds of odd events and notes in there; it might show those or it might just show the “normal” events, like the ones I included. I still want to try out some of those options on the web site, so I will remember to check out the app again when I do that to see if it can access more data.