Catalog Your Treasures with WordPress Media Library

If you are using your blog to display and document your family treasures, your first thought is to create a post for each item with a picture of that item and text to describe what it is and its importance to your family. With WordPress, you do have other options and one of them gives you a lot more flexibility for sharing and displaying these treasures.

I’d like to introduce you to the WordPress Media Library.

When you click the Media > Library option in the Dashboard’s sidebar, you see a screen similar to the one below showing all the images and other media files you’ve uploaded to your WordPress blog. The panel to the right of the screen gives you the ability to add alt text and other metadata information about the selected media item and choose display options before inserting it into your page or post.

The Insert Media screen

My guess is that most bloggers are more interested in the display settings than the metadata section, but you may want to rethink that. Why? Those metadata fields can be used to describe that image just as well as your blog post can. AND . . . by taking advantage of those fields, you’ll have a lot more control and flexibility in how you display those images. Let me explain.

When you complete the title, caption, alt text and description fields for an image, WordPress will use that to build an attachment page for that image. You may have noticed that one of the Link To options in the display settings is to link to that attachment page.

Sample media attachment page.

A sample media attachment page.

When links to the attachment page are used, WordPress displays that page much like any other post or page. The actual design depends on the theme you are using. In the example above, I’m taking advantage of Jetpack’s new Carousel feature to display a collection of images. Here you see the title with the description below it. The caption appears under the image. Thanks to the theme and my blog settings, there’s even a comment form just below the description.

The difference here is I’m attaching the information about this image to the image rather than a post or page. This means that the metadata “travels” with the image giving me more flexibility for displaying my treasures. Think about it. I can build a gallery page of family portraits where clicking on any portrait will display a page (your readers don’t know the difference between a post, page or attachment page) describing the details about that portrait. Later, you may want to create an article about a family group. Inserting images of that family into the family post instantly adds the information about each individual while you concentrate on the story about the family. You can repurpose your media in any number of ways and the metadata for each item goes with it.

If you’re interested but find those tiny fields in the side panel too confining for any serious descriptions, don’t worry. WordPress has thought of that too. Go to the Media > Library screen and you’ll see that you can open any media item to display a much more sizable editing screen.

media library list

Media library list

This is a list of items in my Media Library. Notice the Add New button at the top of the media list. You can add new media items here just like you do on the Posts or Pages list screens except that you can’t insert them into the post from here.

media attachment page

Media attachment editing screen

Here you see the editing screen itself. You’ll find many of the same tools available on other editing screens, including the ability to edit the permalink to this attachment page. You’ll also find fields for the image’s caption and alt text information. The description editor only offers a text view so you will see HTML code when you format the text.

Now that my images have been added to the media library with all the captions, descriptions and other metadata, what can I do with them. In the example below, I’ve created a page titled Art Gallery and inserted the three images you see here using the tiled mosaic gallery option that was recently added to Jetpack. Clicking an image will display its attachment page in the carousel format shown earlier in this post.

wpmedia101As I create new images, all I have to do is upload them and add my metadata in the Media Library then edit the gallery on this page to add them to the mosaic. If at some future date I decide to create a post displaying just water-related scenes, all I’d have to do is pull appropriate images from the Media Library into that post and all the detail information comes with them.

As a family historian, WordPress’s Media Library makes it easy for me to catalog and repurpose treasured photographs as well as images of the places and things that are a part of my heritage. I like that!

Blurb – A Full-Service Publishing Platform

If you thought Blurb was just for photo books, think again. With its recent acquisition of MagCloud, Blurb has now become a full-service publishing platform offering tools and services to layout, publish and distribute not just beautiful photo books, but magazines and ebooks too! And, they have just announced a distribution agreement with Ingram so your books can be sold at Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Waterstones and many other outlets.

The updated BookWright app offers the flexibility to create bookstore-quality print books as well as magazines and your choice of fixed-layout or reflowable ebooks. You can still use their online book design platform, Book Smart or InDesign as well.

If you want to create a photo-rich family history, these tools and services give you a broad range of construction support along with a full-service distribution service. There are no up-front costs to use Blurb’s tools or services. For print books, there’s a base cost depending on the size, binding and number of pages. You choose your retail price and keep all the profits from books sold directly from your Blurb bookstore. For books sold through distribution, you set the retail price and the wholesale discount. Blurb tracks sales and handles payments from all these sources right in your Blurb account.

Need a little inspiration to get you started? I think Janet and Charlotte can do just that . . .


Replace Templates with TextExpander

Much of our genealogy research revolves around forms. And, while many of those forms – like census forms – are from outside sources, we often create our own customized forms to support our research efforts. These might be forms to help us index our collections or maintain research logs or create a cemetery inventory. I used to build a blank form in my word processing app and save it as a template file. That works well when each form is a single document, but what about a situation where the form is repeated several times within a single document?

I’ve been working on a guide to one of our local historic cemeteries for some time. It includes information from an early inventory and adds photos, additional information on the individuals buried there and more.

Basic data form used in my cemetery guide project.

My guide is being built in a sort of scrapbook style since I plan to include photos of the cemetery as well as documents, historical records and anything else that adds value to the cemetery’s history. I still need some structure for the details and to do that I’ve built a basic table to input a standard set of data items. You can see a sample of it here. This form will be used to generate a record for each entry documented in the early inventory, but it won’t necessarily appear on each page – especially once I start adding biographical information, images and scanned documents to the guide. So, in this case, a document template will not be very useful. Fortunately there is another option – a text replacement app like TextExpander [Mac - $34.99]. With it I can save a blank version of the table as a TextExpander form and, by typing a few characters, TextExpander will build this table for me at the point of my cursor. Using this method, I can easily create any number of “forms” within this document and include them when and where I want.

These “forms” are called snippets in TextExpander and they consist of two parts: 1) the text to be inserted and 2) the abbreviation that will be used to call the snippet. To create a snippet, I start by typing the text that will be my snippet. In my table example, it’s more than just text but that’s okay. TextExpander will capture the formatting as well as the characters that make up my form.

A blank form will become the content of my snippet.

Here you see the blank form I created in my Pages word processing app. You’ll notice that I’ve merged the two columns in the top row and set that font to bold. I’ve also turned off the gridlines for the table. I’ll see them here as I edit the tables, but they won’t appear in print or PDF versions of the document. Once I’ve got the form the way I want it, I’ll select the entire table and copy it. When TextExpander is running, there’s an icon on the menu bar at the top of your screen. Click it to display a menu similar to the one you see here.

Since I’ve already copied my table in Pages, I’ll choose the Create Snippet from Clipboard command. This will bring up the snippet management screen with the contents of my clipboard – the table – displayed in the Content pane as you can see in the example below. Notice here that you don’t see the ghost table grid that is visible in Pages. Don’t worry, it’s still there. Below the Content pane is the Abbreviation pane. Here I put the characters I want to associate with this content. It’s the text I will type to insert the table form in my document.

TextExpander snippet management screen.

Notice in the left pane that I have set up folders to organize my snippets. The selected folder will be the location where my current snippet is automatically saved. If you look at the contents of my Editing folder, you’ll see special characters, snippets of HTML code and even WordPress shortcodes. TextExpander for Mac works in any app so I can use it to quickly add a custom form that combines HTML and shortcodes inside a blog post as easily as I created my table form in Pages. Are you using Evernote for your research log? Use TextExpander to add the appropriate form into a blank note. The few characters you type to add the form is much faster than copy/pasting a template note.

It won’t take long to find any number of other uses . . . like the special character snippets for use in Twitter and snippets to ensure that I stay consistent in my use of the term “ebook”.

While at first glance, the $34.99 price tag for this app might look a bit steep, it has more than earned its keep in my workflow. As a forms manager it will quickly pay for itself, but that’s just the beginning. There’s also a TextExpander for iOS app [$4.99] which synchronizes the snippet library with the desktop version via Dropbox. It works with many of my favorite iOS apps such as Byword, Day One, Drafts and Notebooks to save me lots of time and effort.

Note that TextExpander isn’t the only text replacement application out there. Windows users can take advantage of the PhraseExpress app. For each of these apps, the details may be a bit different, but the basic concepts are the same.