Second Site News #022

14 August 2005

In this issue:

Second Site Version 1.9 Preview Release

The next release of Second Site has something for everyone! The Change Log has more than 40 entries. Truth be told, most of the changes are relatively small, but most were requested by Second Site users so there is a good chance you'll like some of them.

Unfortunately, there are so many changes that users may have to adjust existing site definitions to make them work properly after upgrading. Unlike the previous upgrades to Second Site, the program cannot automatically make all the requisite changes to the properties in an SDF file to keep the output completely consistent with the previous version.

As a result, I decided to create a Preview Release for this version. Second Site users are invited to join the Preview Release program, download the new version, and test the software prior to the official release. If you are working on a project with a tight deadline, such as a CD you wish to distribute at an impending family reunion, I suggest you do not join the Preview Release program until after your project is complete. See the Adjusting Existing Sites for Version 1.9 article in this newsletter for more information.

Note Subscription information removed; the program ended in September of 2005.

Second Site Version 1.9 has been in development approximately 6 months. Beta testers have been testing the program all during that time. As a result, there should be no glaring problems. If you join the Preview Release program, you can evaluate the new version and if it meets your requirements, you are free to use it to update your web site or CD project.

Second Site Version 1.9 Highlights


Second Site now has Relationship Charts that show how two people are related. See the example charts.

The Linked Descendant Chart now has an Include Childless Spouses option. I also changed the inclusion rules for the Linked Descendant Chart. When Include Spouses is checked, included children shared with an excluded spouse are now included in the chart whereas they were not included before.


There are a couple of exhibit-related changes, including support for Citation Exhibits. In addition, Second Site respects the exhibit-sequence capability added to TMG in version 6.01, and there is a new Images from Alternate Image Folder Only property. When checked, Second Site will ignore image exhibits unless the exhibit has an alternate version in the Alternate Image Folder.

Speaking of the Alternate Image Folder, Second Site will now substitute an image file from the Alternate Image Folder if it has the same name but one of the standard web image filetypes (JPG, GIF, PNG). If you have an exhibit that is a high-resolution TIF image, for example, you can substitute a JPG image in it's place. Just put the JPG image in the Alternate Image Folder.

Witnesses and Roles

Second Site now writes witness names in the user-defined sequence in sentences when more than one witness is shown via a single witness variable such as [R:rolename]. (The non-narrative Formats have observed the user-defined witness sequence since Second Site version 1.8 Build 0.)

After some discussion on the TMG-L mailing list, I added the Names.Subject Role Rule property which allows the user to make Second Site treat the [Rx:Rolename] variable exactly as TMG does; see a more detailed explanation in the Names Section.


In this release there were many changes to the Formats feature. Most of the changes were small, but when added together they allowed me to reimplement the existing Narrative Format and Grid Format using the XML/XSLT facility. Prior to this version, those Formats were implemented using custom programming. Now all Formats are implemented the same way. That makes the program easier to maintain, and means that advanced users can tweak any Format supplied with Second Site.

All Formats now honor the Format section properties Add Parent Sentence, BMDB First, and Force BMDB Sequence.

For advanced users, the exhibit-related XML has been expanded. The extra tags are not used by any of the Formats provided with Second Site. They were requested by users making custom Formats.

Previous and Next Links

As a result of a discussion on the mailing list, I added three new properties to enable or disable Previous Page and Next Page links. You can enable or disable them on the name index pages, the person pages, and the source pages.


Some users contact me directly. One request was to provide features that reduce the size of the HTML generated by Second Site. That's a tall order, as the features supported by Second Site require extra HTML to implement. In the future, I'll add a no-frills Format that keeps file sizes to a minimum. In the meantime, I made visible and invisible changes to Second Site to reduce the generated file sizes. First, I deleted a lot of HTML that was required by old browsers but isn't necessary now. That's an ongoing process and I'll make more changes in the future. Second, I added a new property, Names.Surname Style Only. When checked, the title, given name, and suffix subfields in a name can not be styled differently than the surrounding text. That saves a lot of HTML.

Surname Style Only HTML for Name #
Off <span class=ng>Sam</span> <span class=ns>Smith</span> 53
On Sam <span class=ns>Smith</span> 31

The change saves 22 characters for every reference to a name on the site, except for the subject names at the start of the person page entries. Those 22 characters add up because most sites have many, many references to people. A site with 2 thousand people might have ten thousand references to people. For compatability reasons, the default value of the new property is unchecked. Based on my review of Second Site pages, most users are not changing the style of the name parts other than surnames, so I suggest you turn on the Names.Surname Style Only option.


You can now specify the META Description and META Keywords using Site section properties. Using META Keywords may not be worth the effort, but the META Description is useful because search engines often use the description of the page in search result listings.

The two META properties are only written to the index.htm page of your site.

Second Site now includes the Language.HTML Character Set pull-down menu. Most users should leave it set to the default value, iso-8859-1. The value is used in the "charset" META tag.

The Little Things

The [Set Database...] button will now open to current project's folder (if any) or to the folder of the last project used by TMG, or to TMG's default project folder. This makes it easier for new users to use the [Set Database...] button.

I added a Macro menu to the Text Editor; the Macro menu includes script statements and make it easier to use Page.PersonHREF, etc.

I changed the Flag Icon HTML so that a page opened via the HREF parm will now open in the main window for framed Themes.

A Special Note on the Side by Side and Framed Themes

There is a bug in Internet Explorer version 6 that affects the Side by Side and Framed Themes. Pages in frames and with enough content to cause scrolling will often include a horizontal scrollbar even though the horizontal scrollbar should not be necessary. The bug is triggered in part by a "DOCTYPE" statement which has been updated as part of making Second Site more compliant with the HTML 4.01 standard. I chose to leave the DOCTYPE statement in place because (A) using it improves consistency across browsers and (B) the problem is cosmetic. There should be a new version of Internet Explorer soon. In the meantime, people should also consider using Firefox.

Style.Children Mixed w/Events

The Style.Children Mixed w/Events property has been removed. It was difficult to implement in the new version of Second Site and I've never seen any sites that use it. If there is adequate demand, I'll revisit the question of whether or not it should be restored.

... and finally

These changes, and others, are described in the Second Site Change Log.

Adjusting Existing Sites for Version 1.9

Due to the many changes in the generated HTML and to associated stylesheet changes, your pages may look different after you upgrade to Version 1.9. It should be possible to return to the same look, but doing so may require some changes in the Stylesheets section. Users with Custom Themes should review the Information for Theme and Format Authors section of the Change Log; custom Themes must be modified to take advantage of some of the new features.

General Recommendations

As noted above, you should not upgrade to version 1.9 if you are working on a project with a tight deadline.

After upgrading, you should open your SDF file using the new version, and re-make the site. For many users, there will be no significant changes. If you do see an unwelcome difference, the first thing to do is to make a new SDF file. Set the database, set the flag filter (if any), and choose the same Theme and Format as your production SDF file. If you use a custom Theme, choose the Theme that is most like your custom Theme. Then make the site. Review the pages to see if the unwelcome difference noted above is also present in the site made from the new SDF file.

If the unwelcome change isn't evident, then you need to adjust something in your SDF file to get the desired output. If it is not obvious what to change, post a message to the SS-Preview mailing list. I will be monitoring the list as will other expert users and we should be able to help you find the right option to modify.

If the unwelcome change is evident, it may still the result of a program change and so it may still be possible to adjust something in your SDF file to get the desired output. If it is not obvious what to change, post a message to the SS-Preview mailing list. It may also be the case that it is not possible to get the exact same formatting as a previous version, but those cases should be rare.

Advice About Specific Changes

In previous versions, Add Parent Sentence, BMDB First, and Force BMDB Sequence were restricted to the Narrative Format. They can now be used with all Formats. Prior to version 1.9, if those options were checked but disabled because your site didn't use the Narrative Format, they would have no effect. After upgrading, the options will be checked and enabled. If you are not using the Narrative Format, Add Parent Sentence is usually redundant so you will probably want to uncheck it. Decide for yourself how to set BMDB First and Force BMDB Sequence.

The Exhibit: Image DIV style now includes a background-color property. Because the property did not exist in previous versions, it will be added to your SDF file and set to the default, which is white. If you do not want a white background within the border that surrounds image exhibits, change the Stylesheet.Standard.Exhibit: Image DIV.background-color property to "Inherit".

The HTML used to create a left-hand border image in the Carla's Graphics and Generic Graphics Themes has changed. The change fixed a problem inherent in the old design of the HTML where the border image would be visible on the right hand side if the browser window was maximized on a large monitor. If you use one of those Themes, Second Site will adjust the Theme the first time you open your SDF file in Version 1.9. After you make the site, you shouldn't see any difference. If the page border or other graphics don't look right, force the browser to refresh the page using its Refresh or Reload command.

If you have created a custom Theme based on either Carla's Graphics or Generic Graphics, you should compare the HTML in your template files to the HTML in the new Carla's Graphics or Generic Graphics template files. If you want to use the new border approach, you will have to create a "border.jpg" file following the model of the versions supplied with Second Site. You will also have to change the HTML in the template files. It may be easier to re-implement your custom Theme by starting over with one of the SS-supplied Themes and making customizations to it. You may find that you don't need a custom Theme due to the addition of new features in SS such as the ability to suppress the Next and Previous links, etc.

The (underused) Simple Text Format

The Simple Text Format is unusual compared to other Formats. It's not designed to make a web page, and when it is used, many of the more powerful Second Site features are disabled. Still, the Simple Text format can be very useful. If you want to share data with a family member or with another researcher, and you can not use HTML, you might consider using the Simple Text Format.

When you use the Simple Text format, Second Site produces one or more text files. The files contain only text, and so bold text and other formatting is not supported. On the other hand, the simplicity of the format makes it ideal for sending to other researchers when using HTML or a word processor document is not an option. Here's some example output.

Subject: George Bezanson (M, b. 16 May 1781, d. after 7 Jun 1821)
Father: Jean Jacques Jacob Bezanson (b. 1754, d. 1806)
Mother: Anna Maria Ley (b. 27 Aug 1758, d. circa 1835)
Name Variation: George Bezanson was also known as John George.
Birth*: George Bezanson was born on 16 May 1781.
Baptism: He was baptized on 24 May 1781 at Lunenburg.
Marriage*: He married Mary Millet.
Death*: George Bezanson probably died after 7 Jun 1821.
Family: Mary Millet  (b. 20 Dec 1775, d. 1844)
Marriage*: George Bezanson married Mary Millet.
1: Eunice Whitcomb Bezanson ((excluded))
2: Sarah Elizabeth Etter Bezanson ((excluded))
3: John George Bezanson ((excluded))
4: Nathaniel Millett Bezanson ((excluded))
5: Hannah Church Bezanson ((excluded))
6: Charles Anthony Bezanson ((excluded))
7: Isaac Whitman Bezanson ((excluded))
8: Sarah Ann Bezanson+ (b. 7 Jun 1821, d. 28 Feb 1887)

The Simple Text Format is ideal for text-only e-mail such as mailing lists. Try it, you might like it!


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