Would it be a good idea to revamp media file handling in RM?

I’m new to RootsMagic (well, I bought versions 7, 9, and now 10 but haven’t actively used it until now). I’m freshly upgraded to RM10 and I’ve reviewed various threads on renaming/moving media files in RM and the problems and hoops one has to jump through seem to me awkward and unintuitive.

It seems to me the problems arise because the program is so focused on living within its database mindset it isn’t addressing what could be much more easily be accomplished at the OS/file system level of the Windows and Mac operating systems.

For example, we now set the root Media folder of our choice. I’m guessing many use nested subfolders for managing media beneath that master folder, yet RM displays all images in the single Media window, defeating the filtering power of subfolders unless one goes outside RM to the OS. It also lists the caption for each image, not the filename, making it even more difficult to find and manage media at the file-level.

If RM would enable a “folder view” tab in the Media window, it could show the nested folder hierarchy under the master Media folder chosen in Settings. One could then click on any subfolder and display/filter just those media; another checkbox could be labeled “View subfolders” so one could also have the option of selecting a higher-level or the parent media folder and see all media from that branch downward in one place (the only option now).

Along with this folder view it would be essential to display the file names instead of the image captions (or at least in addition to same) to be able to work at the file-level.

Then, one could easily
(1) drag and drop a file or selected group of files from one folder to another (no file name change just a move); or,
(2) select an individual file and rename it in place (just a file name change, no move).

Then after each such operation by the user RM needs to respond by mapping the changes made at this OS/file level back into the database links.

No doubt this would be a sizable programming job, and RM10 is just out so it’s not going to happen quickly. But RM is such a sophisticated program in so many ways, that this over-deference to the database in areas that OS’s have been designed to handle much more elegantly just looks a bit ham-handed today.

Now as a newbie I might have missed major points or features of RM that address my concerns, but maybe as a newbie certain things just pop out as seemingly obvious ways to make the program more functional and powerful? I would be interested in reactions to this idea of integrating moving and renaming file operations into RM.

1 Like

I totally share your frustration, but I think it’s a harder problem than it might first seem.

One issue is that RM does not insist that your files be stored in any particular file structure on your PC or Mac. RM simply links to wherever they are in any folder, including on removable disks and including that not all the files have to be on the same disk.

A consequence of this flexibility is that RM’s root media folder setting is not quite what it seems to be. It is not and it never has been a true root folder for your media files. And in fact most users could operate just fine if they leave the default media folder field blank. Prior to RM8, the default media folder only provided the convenience of a useful starting place to navigate to the media file you were linking in to the RM database. But your files did not all have to be under the default media folder. That part of the puzzle remains true under RM8/9/10. Beginning with RM8, the default media folder also provides a relative media path. But this relative media path is most useful only to users who run RM on more than one computer and where the location of the media files is different on the various computers. The fact that media paths are now relative is completely invisible from the RM user interface.

Another issue is that the default media folder is completely ignored for media files downloaded from Ancestry using RM’s TreeShare feature. Except for the media files downloaded from Ancestry using TreeShare, RM doesn’t put any media files anywhere. They are only linked into RM, and the links simply point to wherever you place them on your disk. Your media files can be highly organized or highly unorganized, and RM’s file links work just the same either way. But RM does put media files downloaded from Ancestry via TreeShare somewhere in particular, and that particular place has nothing to do with RM’s default media folder. It still just links to the files downloaded from Ancestry and doesn’t store them in the database, but the user doesn’t store the files in a location of their choosing. Rather, RM does the choosing.

1 Like

Roots Magic all recent versions – already allow drag n drop, From windows you can simply drag from the Windows/File Explorer (I believe Mac is similar)
Not sure if that helps you – RM then will ink the file/paths

Changing file names is risky. While coordination between the link in the currently viewed database and the file name ought to be a feasible and practical development, what if the file is used by other databases? Would RM search for all .rmtree files on given drives, open each file, search their MediaTables and update as needed? Maybe there is some merit in not making filename changes easy…

1 Like

Thanks for your detailed reply. You bring up good points that illustrate the complexity of what I’d like to see. Still, there are many examples of programs that have the flexibility to allow working with both the database/catalog and the file system. Photography (digital asset management) software like iMatch and Adobe Lightroom are catalog-driven but include folder panels that let one move files about and the program then updates the catalog links (and in that case even metadata within the photo files). It isn’t limited to a single master hierarchical folder system, but allows any number of folders to be added from any drive, and external drives are treated in a way that allows for them not always being connected without losing them from the database.

While having media anywhere at all and still be linked into RM can be considered a feature and used for the second-hand advantages it might provide to some workflows, it sounds like most users go to some lengths (in FTM as well) to build and use folder hierarchies despite their not being integrated into RM.

Still, I didn’t realize the role of the media folder is as perfunctory as you describe. As to Ancestry downloads, if RM decides where to download them, it could be designed to download them to the master folder or even a second folder chosen by the user in Settings to give some easily discoverable and meaningful location to the user.

Perhaps RM could also enable Add Media to optionally copy/move new media into the master folder, not just set a link to it.

I will certainly be able to arrange my backload of media as I build my tree in RM, it is just more time-consuming to trace the image to the caption, the caption to the link to the file name and path, and move it or rename it.

If real file functions aren’t a realistic wish, it would be helpful to see enhancements that would expose the links more transparently. For example, without adding any OS file system capability, the links could be exposed in the Media folder with a View that shows a column of images with the full file-path (link-path) to the right of each image, and it could be sorted; now only captions show up. Even a virtual folder view could be added in terms of categories of media (this seems to be what FTM does with its media categories) to filter the media into more useful subsets.

These steps don’t solve the awkwardness when moving or renaming media, but it would at least make it easier to sort through the media while doing so.

Thanks again for your explanations.

Yes, but to my knowledge that is only for adding media and not moving already linked media, and thejerrybryan says that even adding media is only adding a link and not adding (copying) the file itself. It has its uses, but doesn’t really help me in trying to rearrange my media in a cleaner fashion. Of course I could abandon the goal of physically arranging the media and just go entirely links-based in my approach. But that doesn’t sit well with me.

Of course breaking connections with other programs by renaming or moving files is a problem for those that are using the files in multiple programs or RM databases, but adding a feature to be able to do that in RM wouldn’t have to be used by those who have such reasons to leave files where they are and depend only on links. Maybe in time I’ll come to a completely link-based (catalog-based) approach, that’s what database-driven programs offer as their selling point, but at some junctures ‘getting under the hood’ feels important. Particularly at my stage of merging and cleaning up a mishmash of online and offline trees. Once I get mostly set up these issues won’t be so important, but then again the point of the software is to help me get myself set up! :grinning:

I had forgotten that FTM feature – but never really likely the limits of it working only with FTM and found it quirky at times. Here is what I have been doing since switch to RM just over 3 years ago. Previously, I let Ancestry and FTM manage the file names (basically between 2004-2021).

I name my files, and most are tagged with something the looks close or matches the GEDCOM fact. Such as “Census”. In my file name - the fact is tagged within brackets “[MARR]”, “[BIRTH]”, “[CENSUS]” and so on… so I can easily search within the file director or RM UI.
Not sure if you or anyone find this useful… but let me know if you have any questions:

Thanks for showing me your system with the example screen shots. This is quite helpful. I’ve been trying to jump through hoops with media subfolders of individuals to physically sort individual media like newspaper clippings and photos by person, and then using shared folders for sources like census records.
FTM with its categories makes it easy to filter from a list of all categories without using subfolders by just clicking on a category, but you correctly point out the limitation of those categories working only in FTM and not existing at the file or folder level when browsing with a file viewer.
By contrast my inclination was to sort media files physically into subfolders. But that has the limitation of the file names having no inherent categorization without looking at the folder path as well, and not being favored by RM’s design.
Your method of starting each file name with a bracketed “category” embeds that category ‘for all time’ into the file name as well and without needing to use media subfolders. It might be the way for me to go. It’s a bit clumsy to need to remember the exact [bracket name] to enter in the search box should I end up with many such (person-name) categories, but other than that it seems very workable. I’ll need to sleep on this approach.
I do have a convoluted question: I’ve been wanting to sort photo and newspaper clippings by person for easy maintenance and a ‘person-centric’ approach to my tree in general.
Adapting your system I could envision using brackets for creating ‘virtual folders’ by person [SMITH, John A.]. That would be a lot of bracketed names but no more than the number of subfolders I’d been planning. I’m imagining having additional GEDCOM-type bracketed names like yours [CENSUS] for shared sources. Do you think that’s a workable combination of using both person-names and GEDCOM categories as bracket categories?
Or I could make a copy of each shared record (Census, etc.) for each person and embed each copy under each of the persons’ bracket names resulting in a purely [SMITH, John A.] person-based category list.
Thirdly, I could use just your GEDCOM-based categories and I see you include some last names in your file names. Would that be sufficient to not use person-brackets at all and search for ‘JohnASmith’ to filter by name when I (frequently) wish to? I think offhand with a census having maybe 7 family members it would be difficult to string all the names into the file name.
Thanks for your example and I’m interested in your thoughts.

Well most of them are more like unofficial abbreviations of a GEDCOM tag
[BIRTH], [DEATH], [MARR], [CENSUS] , [DRAFT], [US City Dir], [HEAD], [PHOTO], [OBIT], [Divorce] are some examples. I follow that info with date of event in () like (11 Jul 2024) for death and headstone markers I also have lifespan range. I try to have person full birth name (with maiden name if known). The goal is to have something unique and consistent. I learned many lesson having come from FTM – download, rename and save manual to computer then add to media (or attach link in RM facts etc) Other than census I do not include locations for things.

image

image

Lot’s of users have excellent file naming systems that assist with managing the files. When I look at them, I find that most of the are similar to each other but that no two of them are exactly the same. I think each user needs to develop a system that works for the way they actually think and work. I tried without success to adapt to systems developed by other people, but ended up developing my own.

My system is based on the idea that I actually do most of my file management of media files from outside of RM, but the file names make it relatively easy to find file names inside of RM as well. RM8 introduced search boxes for most every major screen, but before RM8 there was a search box for media files which I made heavy use of.

For whatever it’s worth, I actually have two systems. One is for census. The other is every everything else. My census files are organized geographically and the file names have no names of people. My other files are organized into folders by record type such as as marriage, divorce, birth, death, obituary, etc. Then with the record type folders, the file names include the person’s name and record type. In the case of marriage, I include the name of both spouses. I don’t always do it, but I often include a year in the file name for birth and death and obituary records in case I have more than one person with the same name.

This system would actually work with one big folder for all the census records and with one big folder for all the everything else records because the file names have enough information to find things. When I’m working inside of RM, the search boxes are effectively working in a flat name space and RM is not sensitive to the folder structure, which works out fine because of the naming conventions. But when I’m managing files from outside of RM, the subfolder structure is very handy.

One key component of the way I work is that I use a file manager outside of RM which is not Windows File Explorer. It’s free and it has the strange name of Agent Ransack. It’s very fast to find things and it supports very powerful Boolean logic. So I can search for things like john AND smith AND marriage in file names. I know that most of the world seems to get by just fine without Agent Ransack, but I don’t know how they do it.

Here are some sample file names just to give you some ideas. I would emphasize that I think you need to use your own system rather than adopting someone else’s. The file names can only include information that exists. For example, the 1850 census did not list things like Civil Districts and Enumeration Districts, but the 1940 census did.

bryan_fred_duel_and_frances_cecelia_travis_marriage_return.jpg
bryan_fred_duel_and_frances_cecelia_travis_marriage_license.jpg
bryan_fred_duel_and_frances_cecelia_travis_marriage_application.jpg
bryan_william_c_obit_1928.jpg
bryan_harley_death_certificate.jpg
bryan_emmert_oral_delayed_birth_certificate_1898_page1.jpg
census_us_tn_sevier_1850_p455a.jpg
census_us_tn_sevier_1940_dist14_ed78-22_p279b.jpg

Thanks for the suggestions from everyone, I have a much better idea how to proceed now. I think I’ll use a few subfolders for work outside RM (I use Directory Opus as my file viewer which has some quite good searching and filtering features), along with consistent file naming to search within RM’s global media collecction.

If RM was to do this it would either result in duplicates on your hard drive and/or drastically increase the size of your RM database, neither of which is desirable.

1 Like

Personally, I don’t use the Media folder very often. Almost exclusively I use the drag and drop feature both when adding a new media file to RM or when reusing a file I have already added.

On the rare occasions that do use the Media folder to link a media file to a new source/person/fact I use the search bar to quickly find the file I am looking for.

You mention that you would like the links to be more visible, when you select a media file it will show the link in right hand window and it has the ‘Tags’ link to show all the places the media file is used.

Moving media is easy you just have to remember to run the fix broken links tool after the move.