Sunday, February 04, 2007

How to create your Ward Photo Directory in two minutes

All wards publish their membership directory in some form or another for their members.  Some wards (including student wards) very often publish a photo directory to help members get to know each other better, and to help a member recall the name with a face.  Creating ward photo directories has been a laborious task, but it doesn't need to be any more.  I've written a program that can generate your directory for you!

Oh, and as a bonus feature, with just a click you can upload all your membership photos to your ward web site on lds.org.  Your photos are automatically resized as necessary.  What used to be a painful, tedious and slow process is now completely automated!  Yay!

All it takes is an MLS membership export and a directory full of member photos (sorry, you still have to round up each member family and get their photo).  It produces a nicely-formatted PDF with every family, listing phone numbers and address, and children's names. 

This program is free.  Follow these steps to download, install, and use it:

  1. Download and install the prerequisites: Microsoft .NET Framework 2.0, Microsoft Visual J# redistributable, Microsoft Windows Installer.  These total 28MB, and I've never seen an MLS computer connected to the Internet, so I suggest you download it all to a thumb drive at once.
  2. Download the program: Ward Photo Directory installer
  3. Install the program and start it.  You should see a screen like this:
  4. On this first "MLS Import" tab, you can either open a file exported from MLS or you can paste the data directly from the clipboard that was prepared by MLS.  Follow the directions at the bottom of this step in the wizard to prepare the data.
  5. Under the "Photos" tab, choose the directory to import photos from.  The photos must be named by family name or head of household.  The program has some limited intelligence to figure out which photo goes with which membership record. 
  6. Under the "Hide Details" tab, include the geographic information that is common to most/all ward members.  You can reduce clutter in the directory by leaving out obvious parts of addresses like the state and area code your ward lives in.
  7. When you get to the "Output" tab, you're done.  Just generate your directory:
  8. Choose a PDF quality and after a few moments a PDF pops up.  Don't be too discouraged by the progress bar during generation.  It does all its movement at the end (poor progress bar).  Here is a sample of what it looks like (blurred deliberately to protect the innocent):
  9. If you want to upload your photos to your ward web site on lds.org, you can!  Just click the appropriate button on the last screen of the program.  It will prompt you for your lds.org username and password (as it needs it to go and upload photos).  It will likely take several minutes to do it's work, but I guarantee the time ratio had you done it manually is at about 15:1. 

Where do I get "two minutes" from?  Well, once you have the pictures and are familiar with the program, you can regenerate your PDF in about two minutes from start to finish.  Once you see how easy PDF generation is, you'll probably want to update your photo directory more frequently than you used to.  My last student ward likes to print out an updated copy each week for 2-3 weeks allowing members to pass it around and mark corrections on it.  Then the final prints out and they make copies for everyone.  It helps keep MLS updated too!

I hope you find this program helpful.  If you do, please comment on this post and tell me what your old process was like.  And hey, I take feature requests. :)  If you're a programmer too and want the source, comment on that, too.  If I get enough interest in collaborative development I'll consider open-sourcing the program. 

Copyright and license info: this software includes NFOP, an open-source product licensed under the Apache Software License