Ancestry.com

Beta Image Viewer now available

Posted by Jim Mosher on November 16, 2011 in Ancestry.com Site, Site Features

Several years ago, we launched the Advanced Image Viewer. This viewer provided some much-needed capabilities and was welcomed by the users who could take advantage of it. Our other users – almost 50% of our total user base – continued to use a basic image viewer which provided somewhat limited capabilities. Over time, as browsers changed, the Advanced Image Viewer worked for fewer and fewer of our users.

Today, we are pleased to announce that a new (beta) image viewer is available on the site. This new viewer should be useable by the majority of our customers while still providing the “advanced” capabilities of the previous viewer.

We have written this experience in a way that will make it easier and faster for us to support the most popular viewer technologies. For the present, this is Adobe Flash; in the future, we anticipate this will evolve towards technologies such as HTML 5 as browsers that support those technologies are more broadly adopted by our users.

Summary of key features

  • Faster image loading. We’ve invested in the backend services that power the image viewing experience. We’ll continue to optimize and improve performance, but this experience should be faster for most of our users.
  • Works on more platforms and with more browsers. Windows and Macintosh. Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, and Safari.
  • New and improved features. Rotate, mirror, and better zoom controls are new for all users. Magnify, thumbnail view, and enhanced images are new for anyone who couldn’t use the previous Advanced Image Viewer.
  • Familiar interface. The basic user interface around the viewer is relatively unchanged. Some of the interactions have changed (such as zoom and pan controls).
  • Simplified installation experience. For most of you, the viewer will just work. Some of you will first need to install a more recent version of Adobe Flash.
  • BETA. We’re still working on this. There are some known issues. We’re also taking feedback for further improvements. Let us know what you think at feedback-imageviewer@ancestry.com.

What this means to you

Some of you will start seeing the new viewer immediately. Everyone can choose enable the new viewer. If you don’t like the new viewer, you can go back to using the old viewer. Over time, we will be directing more and more people to the new viewer.

To switch to the new viewer (or switch back to the old viewer), click the Options button and then click on the viewer you wish to use. (Your options may be different than what is shown below, based on your browser and operating system.)

Options dialog showing different image viewer options

What’s new

The new viewer, and the backend services we’ve built out to support it, is faster, feature rich, and easier to install. It retains the general capabilities of the previous Advanced Image Viewer and adds some new features that our customers have requested. It runs on both Windows and Macintosh operating systems. It is supported on Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, and Safari. And it is available now.

When you first look at the new viewer, you may not notice many changes from the previous Advanced Image Viewer. If you are used to the Standard Image Viewer, there will be some new features to try out. Regardless, we have tried to keep the user experience very similar. There are a few changes that we’d like to point out:

Image viewer toolbar, showing new options

What’s Changed. We’ve added a link that describes what has changed and takes you to a survey so you can provide us with feedback on the new viewer. Let us know what you think!

Rotate and Mirror. Two new features are available on the toolbar. Rotating an image 90 degrees at a time or mirroring it (flipping it over) can make reading some images easier.

Zoom drop down. We have updated the options in the zoom drop down: Fit Image, Fit Width, Fit Height, and Full Size give you broad control over the initial size of the image. Additionally, we have removed the percentage-based zoom options.

Zoom controls. The Zoom in/Zoom out buttons remain to help you zoom in or out on an image. We have also added support for zooming in and out using the scroll wheel on your mouse or using the plus (+) and minus (-) keys on your number keypad.

Image Manipulation. Use the mouse to click and drag an image around on the screen. Alternately, use the arrow keys to move the image. Please note that there are no scroll bars within the viewer.

Picture showing how to move an image using the mouse by clicking and draggingArrow keys on a computer keyboard

What else has changed

Other changes may be more subtle. You will notice that images load to the “Fit Width” zoom value. Images start out a little fuzzy and then clarify – this is due to the “Deep Zoom” technology we are using to optimize download speeds (we don’t download the entire image all at once, which make the image faster to load). The Magnify option actually magnifies a bit more than the previous version.

Printing & Saving

We had to make some changes to the Print and Save Image features. This version doesn’t support a “Print Current View,” which the previous Advanced Image Viewer did. “Print Current View” should be available before the end of the year. Saving an image is also different. If you have been using Chrome or Firefox, saving was a right-click operation. You will now need to click the Save button and select “Save this image.” The file will then be downloaded by the browser.

Save dialog, showing different Save options

Known issues

Yes, this is a Beta release. Yes, there are things that aren’t quite the way we want them to be. And, yes, we want your feedback so we can continue to improve.

For this release, there are a few known issues:

  • Zooming in and out using the “+” and “-” key on the top of your keyboard doesn’t work. It should work with the “+” and “-” on the numeric keypad. Except that…
  • Zooming out using the “-” key doesn’t work with Chrome, and…
  • Scrolling the image using the arrow keys doesn’t work with Safari.
  • The popup that displays when you first load the new viewer is currently English only.
  • If you resize your browser window , or have the Member Connect/Source panel open, some of the toolbar options may wrap on the screen.
  • While we highlight terms in our OCR collections (such as newspapers), this version doesn’t move and center the image on the current highlight.
  • There are a few odd cases where canceling the install of Adobe Flash on older browsers can cause the browser to crash.

With the exception of the Adobe Flash issue, we plan on fixing all of the other items. You won’t need to do a new download or make any changes – they should just start working as we roll out the updates.

Faster image loading. New and improved features. A familiar interface. A new viewer.

We hope you will try it out. Let us know what you think. Click on the “What’s Changed” link in the viewer to learn more and to take a survey. Or send a message to us at feedback-imageviewer@ancestry.com. If you like it, we want to know. If you don’t like it, we want to know. And if you have problems with it – especially if images don’t load correctly – we want to know (please let us know which collection you were viewing).

We look forward to your feedback!

Best regards,

Jim Mosher
Search Product Management

About Jim Mosher
Jim Mosher is a Sr. Product Manager at Ancestry.com, focusing on the platform and service layers, with occasional forays into the user experience. Previously, Jim has worked for Microsoft, FAST, NextPage, MSTAR, and Folio in various product management, development, and technical writing roles. When not herding cats at Ancestry.com, he enjoys outdoor activities, wood working, and spending time with his family. Jim is distantly related to John Batterson Stetson, maker of the Stetson Hat, but has yet to receive any royalty payments.

25 comments

Comments
1 GlennNovember 16, 2011 at 10:20 am

Flash UGH!! You couldn’t have picked a worse platform to base the image viewer on. Please rush the HTML5 version into production.

2 Penny HoltNovember 16, 2011 at 1:13 pm

This is good news which I approach with cautious optimism. I’m a researcher, not an IT person so I like my tools to work with minimum fuss. For years I was quite satisfied with the advanced viewer. Recently I changed to Windows 7 and shortly afterwards (because of another third party application) my beloved and highly customized Firefox corrupted. I started using Chrome. There was no way I could save an image in Chrome. It would give me an extension of ‘.x’ and I could not change that to a jpeg. I called your help line. He told me that Chrome was not a fully supported browser. Try IE. Even though I dislike IE, I did it, but could only load and save images with the standard viewer.

Flipping from one browser to the other in order to save images has been a big hassle, so I am hoping this will solve the problem.

3 Valerie CNovember 16, 2011 at 4:16 pm

I really like this update. I like the “full size” view and how quickly the image focuses and scrolls. BTW, I had no problem scrolling using arrows in Safari (viewing a census record).

4 JadeNovember 16, 2011 at 4:48 pm

The viewer works sort of okay, but is ~much~ slower loading than those already in place, not faster-loading. This is why FamilySearch.org abandoned the Flashplayer-based viewer they were using. Their site now works a lot better for viewing images.

5 MargaretNovember 16, 2011 at 6:29 pm

I’ll wait until “Print Current View” is supported.

6 MikeNovember 16, 2011 at 6:48 pm

DANGER: ADOBE FLASH.

So, unfortunately it will not work on my iPad.

HTML5 anytime soon?

7 Save image | BabystepsandbeNovember 17, 2011 at 1:39 am

[...] Beta Image Viewer now available [...]

8 Betty DahlstedtNovember 17, 2011 at 6:17 am

If it is like the delivery service from Ancestry,forget it.

9 TaneyaNovember 17, 2011 at 12:29 pm

Thanks for the update, but I too would like to see Ancestry move towards using HTML 5 rather than Flash. Will help increase the ability to use your products cross platform.

10 Trevor RixNovember 17, 2011 at 5:21 pm

For me, this new viewer is unusable.

Windows XP SP3, 2Gb RAM, Firefox 3.6.24, Firefox 8.0, Chrome 16.0.912.41. Tried the 1861, 1871, 1881 and 1891 UK Census on all of those browsers with the same result. The images either fail to load at all, or take minutes to load and focus. The best case scenario is that the image takes about 30 seconds to load plus then about 40 seconds to fully focus.

Much of the time the browser is “waiting for mediasvc.ancestry.co.uk”.

Did not get a chance to try much else in the new viewer because it is so slooooow. My only solution is to revert to Firefox 3.6.24.

11 AnnNovember 17, 2011 at 6:22 pm

The Beta viewer was working great earlier today, but it has now crashed and burned. Any attempt to zoom results in no change. It also cannot be turned off. I’ve been forced to switch to IE, instead of my preferred Firefox.

Hope it is fixed soon!

12 KimNovember 17, 2011 at 7:44 pm

I have just joined this site with a 2 week trial period. After watching the tutorials, etc., I am still having an extremely hard time locating, searching, etc. I mean, I put the exact name, date of birth, date of death, location and it gives me everything but. If I put my state in, it gives me thousands of other people in other states. I mean the purpose of the search is to find information, which is in my state. Why would you give me every other state in the USA??? So far I am not happy with this servicee and am spending far too much time looking for one piece of information on one person.

13 Andy HatchettNovember 17, 2011 at 10:37 pm

Kim RE: #12

You are putting in too much info in your search parameters. If you are then marking each of those exact you are cutting out a great deal of possible results. Very few documents contain an exact date of birth and an exact date of death.

If you’ll give me a specific example I’ll see what I can find and show you how I found it.

Andy

14 Jeff FordNovember 18, 2011 at 1:52 am

Dump it. It works ok for me, but Advanced Image Viewer is MUCH better. If you decide to keep it, I would include a button similar to the magnification button in the AIV. In the AIV, saving images is much easier. Ancestry seems to be embracing failing technologies. Adobe is moving away from FLASH in mobile products. Btw, what is a search Q&A doing here?

15 Ancestry memberNovember 18, 2011 at 3:41 pm

Kim:

Andy is right. Less is best. Every new member seems to have to learn that the hard way. Ancestry doesn’t tell you that. I do recall in a blog of long ago, that very advice was given but I guess they don’t repeat it to newbies.

16 BEENovember 18, 2011 at 4:38 pm

Glad it’s finally working, but how do I keep it?
I don’t know enough about computers to understand it all. I keep my computer in good working order, and
do upgrades on Firefox, and was not going to go backward to find the one where the “plug-in” worked.
Looking forward to the “Print Current View,” feature returning.
Sorry to get off topic, couldn’t find any information elsewhere:what has happened to the “return to” person button? Sometimes it’s not there.

17 Carol A. H.November 18, 2011 at 7:57 pm

Something is definitely not working as well as it used to. I lost the settings of Advanced Viewer and Enhanced Images and the cursor being a little hand that I could use to scroll. In reinstalling the above settings, I got back my little hand but the images are not better than the Standard Viewer. I would like my old Advanced Viewer.

Tech Support told me NOT to use the BETA version. Why couldn’t they release it when it was running well instead of before they got the bugs out. And what happened to the good Version of Advance Viewer?

Also I get a prompt to download the Advanced Viewer every time I try to look at a census page. Man, what a way to run a company!

18 Denice RichesonNovember 18, 2011 at 8:23 pm

I have used the new beta image viewer in a test drive. So far I have to say that I think it is great! My images were crisp and I really like the way the mouse could be used to enlarge the image. I had no problems with it when I used it. Big improvement in clarity over previous viewers in my opinion.

19 MarshallNovember 19, 2011 at 6:40 pm

I do like this but there are still a few bugs. I have used this on IE9, Firefox 7 and google chrome. It does work on all three browsers but most of the time I have to refresh the browser when viewing an image in order to have all the controls working properly. The save image feature works very will and the images are very crisp with excellent resolution.

20 Ancestry.com Tests New Record ViewerNovember 20, 2011 at 1:03 am

[...] Ancestry.com is collecting feedback from users who try the new viewer. Read more about the new features, see screenshots, and see the known issues on the Ancestry.com blog. [...]

21 W ClaytonNovember 23, 2011 at 12:04 pm

I have seen the brief “Download it not…” msg flash for a fraction of a second each time a Cnesus Image loads. But the screen will not pause long enough to click it. Eien once or twice I have done that, but the image loads over the top of it anyway and the Download cannot be completed.

22 JMBNovember 24, 2011 at 11:40 pm

I have tried the Beta version but I think the image quality is inferior.

23 Andy HatchettNovember 26, 2011 at 12:21 am

JMB Re: #22

Which images are you viewing?
1) The enhanced Images
2) The compressed Images

24 W ClaytonNovember 28, 2011 at 6:58 pm

I finally was able to download and use for several days. The Page-Up and Page-down Keys on my Keyboard would not move the page up or down in the window (using IE) even after clicking on the image itself. Until this is fixed I will not use the upgrade as it’s a bigger negative than any of the improvements. ie, Page-Up and Page-Down keys are a REQUIREMENT!

25 BEENovember 29, 2011 at 4:06 pm

Well I had it, but I guess it doesn’t work with the latest Firefox?

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