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Entering Data Quickly

Have you ever felt like entering data into computer programs is slow and cumbersome? Ancestral Quest was developed with an eye toward quick entry. With the advent of the latest round of quick entry features, you will find that you can enter your family history into Ancestral Quest (AQ) faster than you ever thought possible. This article will teach you the tricks of the quick entry trade. There are three things you need to keep in mind to get the most out of AQ's quick entry capabilities: 1) keyboard shortcuts and mnemonics, 2) ditto capabilities, and 3) the new "quick entry" capabilities. The keyboard shortcuts and mnemonics and the ditto capabilities have been part of AQ since its inception. The "quick entry" capabilities were introduced into version 3.0 after its initial release (if you don't have this feature, you will want to upgrade to the latest version of AQ.

1) Keyboard shortcuts and mnemonics. The first thing you need to know, if you want to enter data quickly, is to let go of that mouse. The mouse has its purpose, but it is a hindrance when it comes to data entry. Every time you take your hands off the keyboard to grab the mouse slows you down dramatically. What do you use instead? Use the standard Windows shortcuts, used liberally in all AQ entry screens. Take a look at figure 1. Notice that each field has a label, such as "Birth:," "Nickname:," "Burial:." Notice that many of these labels have a single character underscored. If you will hold the <Alt> key down and type the underscored character of a field, you will be positioned at that field, ready to enter data. We call these underscored letters "keyboard mnemonics."

Let's walk through an example. Let's say you want to enter the child of James Jones, Samuel, whose birth and death information you have. From the Family View, you type <Ctrl-L> to add a child to James' family. The surname "Jones" is already filled in for you. Use <Tab> or <Alt-G> to jump to the Given Names field to enter "Samuel." Next, type <Alt-M> to set the gender to Male. Now type <Alt-B> to jump directly to the Birth date field. Enter the birth date, then <Tab> to the place field and enter the place of birth. Next, type <Alt-D> to jump to the Death date field. Enter the death date, then <Tab> and enter the death place. If the burial was in the same place, but you don't have a date, use the down-arrow key to move to the burial place field, then hit <F9> to "Ditto Down", or copy the information from the above field (death place) to the current field (burial place). As you can see, using the keyboard mnemonics, the <Tab> key, and the up and down arrow keys, can get you around the entry screens much more quickly than using the mouse. With a little practice, you'll feel like you've traded in your horse and buggy for a Ferrari.

2) Ditto capabilities. AQ can really speed up your data entry if you intelligently use the Ditto capabilities. Depending on your version of AQ, pull down either the "Edit" menu or the "Ditto" menu while on many entry screens. You will see options like those shown in figure 2. The Ditto Primary, Last Record, Father, Mother, and Older Sibling are all based on other records. For example, <Shift-F8> will ditto, or copy, the same field from the father's record. So if the father was born in "Tempe, Maricopa, Arizona," and you are entering the child, and you are in the birth place field, simply type <Shift-F8>. AQ will copy the birth place from the father's record into the child's record.

The Ditto Down, or F9 key is a little different. It will copy from a date or place on the current screen. For example, if you have entered "Fallbrook, San Diego, California" into the birth place field, then arrow down to the death date field, you can type <F9> to have AQ look up past the blank Christening place field and copy the birth place down to the death place field.

3) The "Quick Entry" capabilities. The new quick entry features make the old ditto features pretty much obsolete. They are more intuitive, and can be used in more situations successfully to speed up data entry (there are, however, times when the ditto keys are still the best option). These features can be disabled or fine-tuned in the Preferences of AQ. There are some differences in the way names and places behave during entry, so each must be discussed.

Names. When entering given names, you could start by entering 'Ro' for "Robert", and see the full name of "Robert" fill in. If the middle name is "Edwin", you can then hit the <End> key to go to the end of the name "Robert", type the space, and then type "Edwin". Or, here's a special TIP: Once you have type in 'Ro' and see "Robert", you can type the space to indicate you are done with this name and ready to type a middle name. In this case, the space will fill in behind "Robert", and you can continue with "Edwin". The end result, with very few keystrokes, is "Robert Edwin".

Places. When entering place names, AQ gives more quick shortcuts than any other program. To type in "Hurricane, Washington, Utah" for example, you might type in anywhere from 1 to about 7 keystrokes. If you have already typed in this full name, just typing in the 'H' or the 'Hu' might bring up the full name. But if you have not yet entered in this full name, but have separately entered in "Hurricane", "Washington", and "Utah" as parts of different names, here is how you would quickly get this full name entered:

1. Type in 'H' or 'Hu' to get "Hurricane" to come up.

2. Now type in <End> followed by ", " to be positioned to type in "Washington", OR just type in "," to do the same thing.

3. Now type in 'W' to get "Washington" to come up.

4. Now type in <End> followed by ", " to be positioned to type in "Utah", OR just type in "," to do the same thing. (During place name construction, a comma "," is a shortcut to accept the current name and place the comma and space to be ready for the next place name.)

5. Now type in 'U' or 'Ut' to get "Utah" to come up.

In the above example, you type in 'Hu,W,Ut' to get "Hurricane, Washington, Utah" the first time you come across this place name (that's 7 keystrokes!) and you simply type in 'Hu' later to bring this full name up (that's only 2 keystrokes!).

Some special things to remember when using the quick entry features:

Use <Alt-DownArrow> to bring up or close the list of names, or click the down arrow symbol in the entry box (See the Surname field in figure 1). When the list is shown, use the arrow keys, or <PageUp> and <PageDown> to move through the list. Hit the <Enter> key to accept the highlighted name from the list. When entering place names, you might see a list of full place names or a list of partial place names, depending on the situation.

Use the space bar to accept a name in a name field and move on to a second name. Use the comma to accept a name in the place fields.

If you see a name in the lists that have misspellings or other problems, you can remove these using the new Replace Names and Edit Quick Entry Place List tools.

If you have already typed in a longer name, like "Smithfield", and are now trying to enter "Smith", but AQ insists on placing the full name "Smithfield", you can simply type in the full word "Smith" and hit the <Del> key to remove the highlighted "field" from the end of the word.

With some practice, you'll find that using the quick entry features dramatically speeds up your data entry. By becoming familiar with and using all the features presented in this article, you will spend less time in the monotonous process of entering data, and have more time for the other things in life.

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