No, Microsoft isn’t going into the genealogy software business. It’s just that they badly want developers to use the facilities of the new Windows Presentation Framework (WPF, codename “Avalon”) that shipped with Windows Vista to create spiffy new graphics programs. To that end they are providing a variety of demo programs and:
Today, in collaboration with Vertigo Software, I’m pleased to announce the launch of a brand new end-to-end reference sample for WPF. Available for download immediately, Family.Show is a genealogy explorer that allows you to create or import a family tree and explore, annotate or save it to XPS.
We’ve shipped the source code for a number of demos before, but the bar for a reference application is somewhat higher. The goal here is to show best practices for the construction of an application and to try and include as much reusable code as possible that others can use both to understand the framework and to “borrow” for a real application.
(XPS is the XML Paper Specification, a document format like Adobe PDF that Microsoft also introduced with Vista.) Still using Windows XP? Not to worry - you get much of the WPF functionality and all you need to run Family.Show just by installing the .NET Framework version 3.0 on XP - it’s available at the above link.
Family.Show is a good idea for a demonstration program since most genealogy programs are understandably heavy on their database attributes, but usually light on the graphics which can get quite complex. The use of WPF allows Family.Show to provide a really nice graphical explorer interface for family trees and it will import (and export) standard GEDCOM files so you can load it up with the data from whatever genealogy program you are using now and give it a spin. If you want to start from scratch building your family tree, Family.Show is fully capable and easy to use as the demo video illustrates.
I would have to say that Family.Show seems remarkably full featured for a demo program, but I did have some problems with it losing relationships in my personal GEDCOM file. For that reason and questions of long term support, I don’t recommend that you shift all your family records over to it, but it is still a neat way to browse around.