I first read about Heirloom on Tamura Jones’ GeneAwards 2014 blog post when it was awarded the “Best New Genealogy App of 2014.” I thought I would check it out.
Heirloom is a new app that allows you to photograph hard copy pictures and documents with your smartphone and share them with family and friends. Doesn’t sound like an original concept, but there are a few things that are worth mentioning.
First, the “capture” feature in Heirloom will deskew and correct perspective on your scanned photos. You don’t have to worry about having the photo lined up juuuuust right to have a nice, straight image. As long as you get all four corners of the photo in the frame, Heirloom will make it straight and flat. This is a lot like the way CamScanner works (which I also love), but with Heirloom, I don’t have to TELL it to fix it. It just does. Automagically.
Second, the photos you take through the app are not stored on your smartphone. They are stored in the cloud on the Heirloom website. For me, that’s important; I don’t need anything else filling up my storage unnecessarily. (Probably more important for iPhone users, since your storage isn’t expandable).
Third, one word: FREE.
How does it work?
When you scan/photograph a picture or document, it is uploaded to the Heirloom site. These are called “moments” and you can view them here, organize them into albums, or download them. The quality of the photos will obviously depend on your camera. My Galaxy S5 has a 16 megapixel camera, so the images are quite good. Here is an example showing some very fine lines and detail. I have not edited the photo in any way (ignore the fact that it’s crooked – this is a photocopy of a page from a 1909 court file and the image is crooked on the copy. So – sorry – but if your original is crooked, your scanned image will be crooked. The app is good, but not THAT good!)
Note: if you already have a bunch of digital photos that you want to share with your family or friends, you don’t have to take them again with the app. You can upload photos directly to your albums and groups on the website.
Viewing the photos on the website or in the app is effortless. Your photos are presented in all their glory when you log in. But if you have a bunch of photos, I can see this becoming quite unwieldy because this “moments” screen shows you ALL of your photos – even if they’ve been sorted into albums.
You can see that I’ve selected several photos (the ones with orange check marks). Once I select them, I can click “share,” “add to album,” or “download.” I can add them to an existing album or create a new one. A photo can also be added to more than one album. So if you have an album called “Cousin Bob” and one called “Vacations,” you can add that photo you took while on vacation with Cousin Bob to both albums. You can also share directly to Facebook and Twitter from the website.
In the app, you can select one or more photos to share to a group, share via the standard sharing options you have on your phone (social media, email, text, etc.), add to an album, or delete.
From the app, you can save images to your device if you choose to do so – in case you want to make it your lock screen image or your background image on your phone or tablet. You can only edit the photos from within the app (unless you download them and edit them in your photo editing software). You cannot edit from the website.
Downloading is just as easy. When you click the download button, you are given two options: download to Dropbox or download a zip file. When you download to Dropbox, a folder called “Saves” is created. This is a dedicated folder for Heirloom. Downloading a zip file is simple, too; you just indicate where you want the file to go, then unzip it when it finishes downloading. Both options take about the same amount of time. Obviously, the more images you have, the longer it will take. All images are saved as .jpg, so the file sizes are relatively small.
The group feature is a little wonky at the moment (it’s a new app, so I expect a few wrinkles). You can share your photos with family members or friends by creating “groups.” When you create a group, you invite people by name or email address. I invited myself using one of my other email addresses and received this message almost immediately:
Here’s where it got a little wonky. This is the email message in its entirety. I clicked on the big orange “join group” button and was taken to the Heirloom home page, but not to the group. There were no instructions or anything – just a big white box and a link underneath saying that if I wanted to learn more about Heirloom, I could “click here.” Apparently, you MUST sign up with the service before you can join a group. That information is not provided in the email invitation, nor is it provided when you are taken to the website. I also was unable to figure out how to delete an email/name mistakenly entered when creating the group (there are big Xs on the email address, but some of them won’t delete).
- automatic deskew/perspective correction
- images are not automatically saved to device
- ability to download images
- sharing with friends/family
- available for both iPhone AND Android
- ALL photos are present on the “moments” page, even if they are already in albums
- Cannot get to the Heirloom home page (to access the contact info, social media links, videos, etc.) without logging out of your account
- group feature is severely lacking in functionality
The main reason I’ll be using this app is to create digital images of photos and documents so I don’t have to manipulate them in my photo editing software (which will come in handy when photographing images on the old-school microfilm readers at my local Family History Center). I won’t be inviting anyone to a group until they get all the wrinkles ironed out of that feature. Once they get everything working properly, I can see this app becoming quite popular with the genealogy community.
Have you tried it? What do you think?
Do we share ancestors? Email me: lostancestors AT gmail DOT com
Copyright 2016 - Jenny-ology.com
Disclosure: Some posts may contain affiliate links, which means I may be compensated if you purchase a product using one of those links. There is no additional cost to you. Occasionally I receive free products to review, which will be indicated in my review posts. All opinions are my own, regardless of compensation. See my full disclosures at the link above.