Tuesday, June 10, 2014

The MyCanvas Retirement Problem - Saving as a Set of PDF Files

Last week, Ancestry.com announced the "retirement" of five features on their website, including the MyCanvas publishing capability.  Several readers on my BIG News from Ancestry.com - Announcing Retirement of Several Features and Websites blog post lamented the loss of this product.  I know that some of my genealogy colleagues have a genealogy business that creates these beautiful books for clients.

There is a Frequently Asked Questions for MyCanvas at  http://www.ancestry.com/cs/faq/mycanvas-faq.  This says that the only option you have is to print out your project before all content is removed from the site on 5 September 2014.  The user does have the option to print their own pages from the project for free.

There is no explicit PDF export option.  However, if you can "Print to a file" in your web browser, you can probably save your project in a series of PDF files, five pages at a time.

I have not used MyCanvas for several years, so I wondered what the current process to develop a coffee-table quality genealogy book.  I created a book for four generations of my father's ancestry.  I was curious as to the content that might be created and how I might be able to save it.

Here are screen shots of the cover and the first five pages that I created using my Ancestry Member Tree (usually selecting default options).

for my four generation ancestry book, there were 117 pages.  Most of them were document images attached from Ancestry.com records to my Ancestry Member Tree, with indexed information for the person of interest.  The other pages were the first pedigree chart, a family group sheet for each ancestral couple, and a timeline for each ancestor, based on events on the person profile.  There were no Notes pages or images uploaded by the user other than the Primary photo for the tree images.  The user can Edit the book to add Pages in the book for Notes, or other images, but I didn't do that for this book.

At the top right of each page in the book are options to "Print" or "Order" the finished book.  I clicked on the "Print" button and the "Print Manager" window opened:

I chose to print all 117 pages (other options were the "Current page" and a "Pages" range), chose the "Higher quality" and to "Print without background."

I clicked on the "Print" button and saw this popup:

It says "Due to Flash Player limitations only 5 pages will be sent to the printer at a time.  You will be prompted to choose a printer and will need to click the "Print" button for each batch that is sent.

I clicked "OK" and the "Print" dialog in my Windows 7 Chrome browser opened.  I could print the five pages, or I could save them as a PDF file:

I chose to save these pages as a PDF file (the five pages were 6.736 megabytes).  I did this for the other pages also - five at a time.  It's a bit of work, but it can be done.

I could have had MyCanvas print out the 117 page book, with the cover, for $92.48 in the formats I chose.

I don't have a converter that can combine all of the PDF files into one file, or convert them to JPG images or to a word processing document, but there are many of them available (just Google [ pdf converter ]), and some are free to download and use.

If readers have suggestions for the "best" converter to use, I would appreciate knowing about them.  Please make a Comment.

If readers have other suggestions for downloading your MyCanvas book pages and publishing them, I would appreciate your suggestions.

There is probably a niche here for an entrepreneur to replace the MyCanvas capability to create coffee-table quality books for a price using one or more of the genealogy computer programs or perhaps the FamilySearch Family Tree.  They would have to be able to access the record images that are attached to events in a person profile.  The genealogy programs can do limited book publishing but they do not have all of the bells and whistles that MyCanvas had.

I didn't address the large wall chart issue using MyCanvas in this post - it is more of a problem, but at least there are chart printing companies that will be a great job for a price.

The URL for this post is:  http://www.geneamusings.com/2014/06/the-mycanvas-retirement-problem-saving.html

Copyright (c) 2014, Randall J. Seaver


Unknown said...

My attempt to use MyCanvas failed at the start - it requires Adobe Flash, which neither my iPad nor my Mac have. Probably one of the reasons it's being withdrawn. Another one is that the finished product only seems to be available in the US (prices in dollars).

Gary Fredericksen said...

Another great product was their calendars. My mother and then my sister, for many years, published a calendar of family pictures - when I took over I used all the old family photos with stories and identification of people. The ease of importing dates from my tree made the process easy. This is one I will really miss.

Unknown said...

I too was disappointed by the retirement of MyCanvas. I have played around to see what is offered (as well as checking out competitor products) and decided it was by far the best option for producing several family history books, both in terms of speed and ease of creation as well as being able to import everything directly from my Ancestry member tree – and then the subsequent flexibility of customization of any aspect at all. Unfortunately I need a lot more lead-time than 3 months to prepare the books had in mind.

I have used the free program PrimoPDF (http://www.primopdf.com) for several years now and it works really well. I probably use it more than the full version of Adobe Acrobat, which I subsequently bought (for business reasons), for printing to PDF (e.g., webpages, in the event they later disappear), as it's much quicker and the PDF’d webpages are usually equivalent or better than with Acrobat (where elements such as frames may cause issues). It works well with the browsers I use (Chrome, Internet Explorer, and Firefox) on Windows (XP and Windows 7). And it does a MUCH better job at PDF-ing webpages than the paid version, Nitro Pro, although this product has additional features not available in PrimoPDF.

So I tried PrimoPDF for printing a MyCanvas book. As indicated, the 5 page Flash Player limit window appears, but the great with PrimoPDF is that when you print the next set of 5 to PDF, if you save these as the same filename as the first set, a message box appears, indicating “The specified PDF file already exists. Do you want to append or overwrite the existing file?” with Append/Overwrite buttons. By using the append option, you can keep on adding each set of 5 pages to the rest. For me, each set of 5 pages was about 2.5-3 MB using the higher quality printing option. And to delete pages from a PDF (say Pages 4-6), you can fool it by printing the file to PDF for Pages 1-3, then repeating this for Pages 7 onwards and save to the same filename using the Append option.


p.s. I had made a note of an issue I had a few years ago on an XP system when an update resulted in a message “String was not recognized as a valid DateTime" when PrimoPDF launched, and a fresh install didn’t fix it. I could click OK and the program continued but none of my preferences were saved from the last time the program was launched. Googling provided a fix (from a PrimoPDF employee):
“Delete the PrimoSet.xml file from C:\Documents and Settings\%USERNAME&\Application Data\PrimoPDF and see if that resolves the issue. This file stores all the settings from the previous session. By deleting, it will create a new file when you start PrimoPDF again.”
That worked for me and I’ve not had a problem since (although I don’t recall updating again).

I'm trying to make this comment longer than Randy's original post, but I don't think I've quite managed that!

Jana Iverson Last said...


I want to let you know that your blog post is listed in today's Fab Finds post at http://janasgenealogyandfamilyhistory.blogspot.com/2014/06/follow-friday-fab-finds-for-june-13-2014.html

Have a wonderful weekend!

Unknown said...

Randy, can I ask - the first family tree (on page 3, I guess): was that produced in MyCanvas or can it be produced somewnere else in Ancestry? I'd love to create a tree like this, so would appreciare your feedback.

Randy Seaver said...

Chris, I'm assuming you mean the first "real" page in the book with the pedigree chart with pictures.

I don't know of a site that does something exactly like that. A chart-making company like FamilyChartMasters could do something very similar with a GEDCOM file and the thumbnail pictures.

Randy Seaver said...

Chris, I'm assuming you mean the first "real" page in the book with the pedigree chart with pictures.

I don't know of a site that does something exactly like that. A chart-making company like FamilyChartMasters could do something very similar with a GEDCOM file and the thumbnail pictures.

Unknown said...

Randy, you are an absolute star. I had compiled a 242-page book "Surfing my Past" using MyCanvas (about 30 more than the one I had got printed by the company a few years ago) and was worried I would lose it with the "retirement" of their publishing facility.
Following your advice, I tonight saved the whole 242 pages in PDF format in less than an hour on my iMac. so will have my book available on my desktop in perpetuity.

Thanks a million (think how much ink I would use to print it out myself).
Ron Gardiner, Gloucester UK

Kathy Imbriani said...

I know this is an old thread but I wanted to comment that after much gnashing of teeth and profanity I learned that if you go into Ancestry.com via Chrome you can very easily save your whole book as a series of pdf files. Firefox will NOT work! After many tried in Firefox it would only save in pdf format if you have some sort of pdf creator program and then you have to define your 5 page packets one at a time. Even then, my book when viewed as a pdf file had tiny, faint blue boxes around every single bit of information. So, Chrome is definitely the way to go. This was hard won information after several weeks of struggle.