Second Site News #037

14 November 2008

In this issue:

Second Site Version 2.2 Released

This version includes two big new features: interactive maps and interactive calendars. Both items can be added to Custom Pages.

The fun doesn't stop there! This release includes more than 20 other new features and a dozen fixes. Some of the other features are described in this newsletter. See the Change Log for more details.


Location information is critical to genealogists. We usually need to know—or guess—where something happened in order to find source information. Analyzing the movement of ancestors can help us understand their lives.

In addition to the research and analysis needs, most people who visit ancestral homes feel a connection with the place that is hard to explain.

To help illustrate the places that are present in genealogy data, Second Site now includes a Map User Item for adding maps to your web site. The map feature leverages free mapping services including Google Maps, MapQuest, Virtual Earth, and Yahoo! Maps. The mapping services supply all the basic map data. You supply the location of events of interest: ancestral homes, cemeteries, battle sites, etc. Second Site ties it all together to integrate the map with your site.

You can see an example map on the Second Site demonstration site.

Terry Reigel has an article about the Map User Item on his web site. The article focuses on creating maps with markers added manually, as opposed to using markers created from TMG event locations. See Adding Maps to Second Site.


You use the Calendar User Item to create a calendar where selected events appear on the anniversary date of their occurrence. Calendars show a month of events at a time, starting at the current month, but the person browsing your site may move forward or backward to see other months.

You can see an example calendar on the Second Site demonstration site.

Frame Script

Second Site users who publish framed sites should investigate the new Use Frame Script property in the Layouts Section. The checkbox controls whether or not Second Site includes a script that forces content pages to be loaded into the frameset for links that point directly to the content pages and not to the frameset page. If Use Frame Script is checked, links from an external site that point directly to a person page will open the person page briefly, and then the person page will be replaced by the frameset page, and the person page will be loaded into its frame within the frameset.

The Frame Script helps to overcome one of the negatives of using a framed site. The Frame Script is subject to some limitations as described in the Layouts section.

Group Feature for Custom Indexes

The new Group, Link HRef and Link Text properties of the Index on Flag Values variant of the Custom Index User Item provide a general-purpose grouping feature via Custom Indexes. (See the Using the New Group Feature by Terry Reigel in this newsletter.)

Other Notable Features

  • The Place Index feature now supports Map Links.
  • The Picture User Item now supports image files that are stored in subfolders of the Input (-i) Folder. Picture User Items were also enhanced to support user-supplied image maps.
  • This version has been updated so that it constructs pages that are compatible with IE8 Beta 2. Because IE8 Beta 2 is more compliant with HTML and CSS standards than previous versions of IE, the changes required in Second Site 2 were minimal. In fact, all of the hacks required to support IE7 and IE6 were not required for IE8 and so IE8 is "just another browser" to Second Site.
  • You can now center items in the MenuBar if you use the Standard Menu: set Styles.Menu to "Standard Centered".

Using the New Group Feature

I'm pleased to include the following article by Terry Reigel, a well-known TMG user and author of A Primer for The Master Genealogist. Terry has published articles related to TMG in user group publications and on his web site at Terry's TMG Tips site.

Ever want to create a special page in your site that applies to a number of people and provides links from each person to that page? Maybe a background write-up about the family? A page of photos? Use the new Maps feature to create maps illustrating the family's migration? Now you can, with the new Groups feature.

The new feature provides an easy way to provide a link, in the Person Page sections for all the people in a group you define, to any other page. So, if you create a custom page that is related to a specific sub-set of the people in your site, you now have an easy way to provide links to the page in the person page entries of those people to whom it applies.

The new feature is part of the Custom Index feature, available when you create an index based on flag values. To use it, you first create a custom flag in TMG, with that flag set for those people who are to receive the group link. Then, you create a custom index based on that flag, and apply the Group feature. The links then appear in the person page section for each person named in the index. For more information on use of this feature see the detailed instructions on my website.

One particularly interesting application of the new Groups feature is in a website arranged as a set of "virual sub-sites." This is a way to create a single website that has the appearance of being several separate sub-sites. This technique is useful if want to divide your site into sections for several different family lines, for example. This allows you to create a set of pages for each family, perhaps including a discussion of the known or suspected family background, the status of unfinished research on the family, an index of family members, maps, photos, or anything else you may what to share about each family.

The site would have a main page that might describe the organization of the site, and would provide links to access each family section. Once readers accesses one of the family pages, they see only information about that family. This arrangement has been achieved in the past by creating several separate sites, one for each family line, then creating a master page providing links to the individual sites. Virtual sub-sites has several advantages in some cases, including needing to maintain only a single site (very helpful if you want to make any changes to the appearance settings of the site – you only have make those changes once). It may also be more convenient for your readers if your family lines are interconnected, such as by marriage. Since everyone is actually in one large site, readers can follow links to spouses or other persons sharing events, crossing family lines if necessary. A detailed discussion about the use of this method can be found in my article on Creating Virtual Sub-Sites.

The value of the new Groups feature in a site using the virtual sub-sites layout appears in two cases: 1) if a reader should navigate to a member of a different family, or 2) if a reader finds a person on your site directly by use of a search engine. This latter case is common – I find most of my readers find an individual on my site by use of Google or another search engine, thus by-passing my site's "front door" and all the family information located there. The link produced by the Groups feature will take the reader to the background pages for that person's family.

For an example of the use of the feature in a site constructed with the virtual sub-site method, see my Narrative Family History site. Choose one of the families listed, then on the family introduction pages, navigate to any person by use of the links provided. At the top of that person's narrative, after the label "Family Background," is a link back to the family introduction page for that person's family. Alternately, imagine you had found on of my ancestors with a search engine, and landed on this page. You could then find the family information for this person by using the link under the "Family Background" label near the top of that page.

Whether you want to develop a complex site using the virtual sub-site method, or just want to provide links to a custom page that relates to certain people on your site, the new Groups feature provides an easy way to direct readers to pages that can enrich their experience on your site.

Beta Testers

Once again I am indebted to the Second Site beta test team!

Testing this new version was more difficult than with most other releases. The Map User Item, in particular, went through many changes and beta testers had to deal with beta updates that invalidated their SDF files. There were 15 beta versions that had to be installed and tested. Beta testers found significant issues and in so doing they improved the quality of the software.

Thank you Second Site beta testers!


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