by: Treelines Team
This tutorial will walk you through the basics of how Treelines' storybuilder works to show you how fun and easy it is to create beautiful stories your family will actually want to read.
To enter the storybuilder, either click the green "Start your story" button you'll find on your Stories page (and elsewhere around the site).
(You may want to keep this tutorial open in this window and work on your story in a second window to refer back and forth.)
On the next page you will see a choice about how to connect your story to a family tree. All Treelines stories link to family trees. If you've already built a family tree in another software program, click on the "I have a tree" button to import it. Otherwise, click on the "I don't have a tree yet" button to let Treelines start one for you.
We'll talk a lot more about writing with your family tree in a separate tutorial, but this tutorial will cover the basics of including the people from your tree in a story.
Now you'll find yourself in the storybuilder for the first time. Welcome!
There are three main parts to the storybuilder screen:
- The cover
- Story pages (you won't have any yet) and add page buttons
- The sidebar
Story drafts are private and accessible only to you. We'll talk more about changing the privacy of your story at the end of this tutorial.
First and foremost, writing stories is more fun with your family! Every person in a family has different pictures, records, and memories, and when their information is added to yours, the story becomes that much better.
Fortunately, you don't have to work by yourself on a Treelines story. Just click on the link in the sidebar to "Add Collaborators" and invite your relatives by email address.
Every story needs a title and a summary so that readers will know what your story is about. Click on the cover page of your story to add them.
The screen that appears is also where you can upload an image for the cover of the story and pick a title color that complements the image. We recommend uploading a large image here for the most beautiful effect!
Please note that titles can be at most 50 characters and summaries 140 characters (like a Tweet!). Don't worry -- you'll have plenty of room within the story to say everything you have in mind!
You'll see for the first time the screen to create and edit story pages. Every time you add a new page to your story, you'll see this screen.
There are three sections, all very quick to complete:
- Text entry box
- Design elements
- Tagging forms
The text entry box lets you type as much text as you want for each page.
You make parts of it bold or italic. You can also choose different sizes of text -- small, medium, or large -- to emphasize different paragraphs in different ways, as we've done on this page. You can also add hyperlinks to other webpages.
We recommend that you keep each of your pages short with just a few sentences or paragraphs (like in this tutorial!). Treelines stories have the most impact when each page is concise.
As you consider how to tell your story, think about one or two points you want each page to make. If you want to say more, just start a new page!
For the border and ornament, there are a number of colors you can choose from.
For the image, you can upload a file with any dimensions and crop it how you'd like. Take a look at how we cropped the photograph on this page by clicking on the magnifying glass.
This page has uses different design elements from the ones in the previous page. Note as you read this story how the different colors, borders, and ornaments add visual interest!
Also note how we cropped the record on this page to make it easy for readers to focus on the part of the census that is relevant to the story, as well as to explore the whole record.
Like a slideshow, each Treelines page has room for just one picture or record, so you'll create a new page for each photograph or record you want to share.
The third part of creating pages, tagging, may seem like the trickiest, but it's also the most powerful and well worth the effort.
When you read the last three pages, did you notice how the family tree animated at the bottom of your screen? Use the back arrow to check it out!
These Treelines (family tree + timeline) were drawn automatically from the tags! The picture on this page is what the tags look like from the previous page.
The first part of tagging is to include the people who appear in that page of the story.
If your story is already connected to a tree, and the person whose name you're typing is in that tree, look for the match in the dropdown that appears.
If your story is not connected to a tree, or you're writing about a person who isn't yet in your tree, look for the "Add new person" link at the bottom of the dropdown that appears.
If you chose to start a new tree when you created this story, when you tag your first person in the story, you'll see one of the coolest parts of the storybuilder: how we guide you through the process of growing your own family tree!
When to choose to add this person to your tree, we'll guide you in entering the necessary details --- name, dates, and family relationships. This information will also determine the appearance of the Treelines animation that accompanies your story.
If you linked this story to an existing tree, you can also use this option to continue growing your tree on Treelines.
Adding dates to your pages helps your Treelines animations look great!
We already saw how adding a person to the page makes that person's lifeline show up in the Treelines below the story. And when you add a date to a page, we can show that event in context of the person's life.
This page has the date my Grammy was born, January 19, 1921. That's why you see the yellow line in the Treelines below.
This page also has the date of January 19, 1921. But because I tagged the people in this story -- my grandmom and her parents -- not only do I get the same yellow line, but I also get circles on each person's Treeline to mark this event. (And also, their Treelines are brighter than the others.)
You've probably only been navigating through this story using the arrows so far. But if you click on any of the circles in the Treelines, you can jump back to that page in the story!
The second part of tagging is to set the place(s) where this page takes place.
If this page were about how Dorothy's father, Abraham Yorker, immigrated from Russia to the U.S. in 1906, I would tag both the town in Russia he left and the city in the U.S. where he arrived.
Tagging places won't affect the appearance of your story, but they will affect how other people can find your story. More on that in a moment!
We recommend that you try to pick a matching place from the suggestion rather than creating a new place. Sometimes this can be hard since many towns changed names over the years or were called different names by speakers of different languages. But choosing the official name from our list will give you the best chance of linking your story to others from the same place.
The third part of tagging is to add in any important keywords about this page.
Like place tags, these keyword tags won't affect the appearance of your story, but they will affect how you organize and connect your stories. If you decide to share your story publicly, these keyword tags will tie your story to other stories with the same keyword tags written by other people.
Finally, if you know the source for the information in this page, here's where you can fill it in. At the bottom of this page I added the attribution for this quote:
"To be ignorant of what occurred before you were born is to remain always a child. For what is the worth of human life, unless it be woven into the life of our ancestors by the records of history?"
Not all pages in your story need to have tags. And pages can have some kinds of tags, but not others. It's up to you!
But the more you tag people and dates on your pages, the more you will enable your readers to use the cool Treelines that accompany every story to help your readers keep track of all the names and dates and relationships!
As you tag and save each page, you'll notice that the tags show up in the sidebar of your story.
Each page has its own set of tags, since different pages are about different people in different locations at different times doing different things. The sidebar is where you can keep track of all the tags from all of your pages.
The sidebar can also help you work with your story. If you mouse over or click on one of the tags, a menu appears with with the option to "Highlight matching pages." That way I can see at-a-glance all the pages in this story that I've tagged with a particular person, place, or keyword.
The menu for people also includes an "Update bio" link, which is one way to update the information you have for that person in your tree.
There's a lot more you can do with trees, but we'll cover that in our next tutorial!
Two pages ago you saw a glimpse of what the storybuilder looks like once it is filled with the pages of your story.
Whereas before we saw just an empty cover and the big green plus sign, now we see lots of page thumbnails!
We can click on each page thumbnail to edit that page further. We can also sort, delete, and add more pages.
If you ever get stuck, look for the purple question mark at the top of the screen. Clicking on it will bring up help for that screen.
There are also smaller, brown question marks next to individual text boxes or links. You saw a number of those in the pictures about how to tag your story. Mousing over those question marks will also bring up help for that text box or link.
Use the links in the purple navigation bar to move through these steps until your story is perfect, & you're ready to hit the big yellow publish button at the end!
Before you hit publish, you have an opportunity to review the privacy of your story.
- Public stories will appears on the Treelines site organized by the tags you set. You can connect to other users with similar backgrounds as yours!
- Private stories will never appear on the Treelines site. You will control who has access by inviting selected readers by email.
- Regardless of whether you share a story publicly or privately, you can also control the display names of your family members in the Treelines depending on whether or not they are alive to protect their personal privacy.
- Click on this link to read much more about these privacy controls.
And those are the basics of Treelines' storybuilder!
But that's just scratching the surface of what you can do! Once you've connected your story to a tree, whether a tree you already have (via GEDCOM) or one we've helped you to build on the Treelines site, there's a lot more you can do, including automatically generating stories!
Click here to read the next tutorial on working with your tree in the storybuilder!