7 Apps for Creating Your Family History Books

7 great apps perfect for creating picture perfect family history books for the whole clan to enjoy! #designtips #apps #familyhistory

Family history books come in all shapes and sizes. Some are glossy coffee table books, while others are bursting with facts and analysis. Maybe you’re planning a book like these, or have something else in mind. Whatever you choose, you’ll need to layout and typeset your research, to create a print ready file.

The good news is that you don’t need fancy software (unless you already have it, of course!). Printing books has gotten a lot easier over the years, and so have the options to create them.

Many printing companies provide layout software to make it easy to create your book. These apps are great when offered, but won’t always be available or have all the features you need. However, you have plenty of choices as there are many options available.

Start with the basics

When it comes to choosing the app to use, make sure it meets some basic requirements. You’re looking for an app that will let you:

  • set custom page size
  • add multiple pages
  • set custom margins or guidelines
  • use custom fonts
  • add background images or colour
  • add and adjust images
  • include repeatable header and footer
  • create automated page numbering
  • export or save as a PDF

It’s also a bonus if the app also allows you to

  • create custom styles
  • add bleed and crop marks

Bleed? What is that?
It is the excess image added to the layout file when it needs to run to the edge of the page.  Paper will shift during the printing process. It’s recommended to extend the image (3 to 5mm) outside the margin, therefore, you’ll avoid unintentional white lines on the edge of the page.

FeaturesCrello
(Free)
Canva
(Free)
Google DocsGoogle SlidesMicrosoft WordMicrosoft PowerPointAdobe Indesign
Custom page sizeyesyesyesyesyesyesyes
Add multiple pagesyesyesyesyesyesyesyes
Custom margins or guidelinesnonomarginsguidelinesmarginsGuidelinesMargins & guidelines
Upload / use custom fontsonenononoyesyesyes
Background imagesyesyesyesyesyesyesyes
Adjust imagesyesyesyesyesyesyesyes
Repeatable header and footernonoyesyesyesyesyes
Automated page numberingnonoyesyesyesyesyes
Print resolution PDFnonoyesyesyesyesyes
Custom stylesnonolimitednoyeslimitedyes
Bleed and crop marksnoyesnonononoyes

The list includes completely free apps as well as paid subscriptions so you can choose the option that suits your budget and skill level. For subscription software, look out for free trials so you can test out that it’s a good fit for you. And look for monthly options so you can subscribe only for the time you need it.

Apps for your family history books

1. Crello

Visit Crello home page to start creating family history books
Crello home page

Firstly, Crello is a web-based graphic design editor and it’s perfect for creating social media images and other web graphics. As well as print-resolution PDFs which is ideal for your family history books.

It’s free to use with an upload limit of 100 images, and access to 6,000 free design templates. Or snag a subscription for a higher upload limit and access to premium templates. Find out more on their pricing page.

Five features you’ll love for your family history books

  • Variety of frames for images
  • Two-clicks to resize the canvas
  • Page limit (approx. 150 pages per file)
  • Font-specific special characters for symbols and accents
  • Lockable objects so you won’t accidentally mess up your design

2. Canva

Canva home page
Canva home page

Another web-based graphic design tool is Canva. It uses a drag a drag-and-drop format to create designs for print or use online. The ability to add bleed and crop marks to printable PDFs makes it perfect for family history books.

It’s free to use and comes with 1GB storage for images, and access to 8,000 free design templates. You’ll also get two folders to use for organising your designs. Or snag a ‘Canva for Work’ subscription for unlimited storage of photos and as many folders as you want to create. Find out more on their pricing page.

Six features you’ll love for your family history books

  • Create a palette of up three colours
  • Elements such as charts and graphs
  • Page limit (100 pages per file)
  • Variety of image grids
  • Export print-resolution PDF with bleed and crop marks
  • Buy templates from online marketplaces (e.g. Creative Market or Etsy)

3. Google Docs

Google Docs home page
Google Docs home page

This option, Google Docs, is a web-based word processor for creating short or long text-based documents. Short like letters or long like reports or family history books.

It’s completely free to use without any upload limits. The only restriction to the number of images you add or pages you create is the size of your Google Drive storage. You’ll receive 15 GB of storage when you register for a free Google Account.

Six features you’ll love for your family history books

  • Variety of ready-to-use report templates
  • Table of contents add-on
  • Easy-to-add header, footer and page number
  • Find and replace words or phrases
  • Invite collaborators to view or edit
  • Ability to see and restore historical versions

4. Google Slides

Google Slides home page
Google Slides home page

Not a traditional graphic design app, Google Slides is a web-based presentation program. But it’s capable of creating more slide decks. Furthermore, it’s suitable for online graphics, social media images, invitations and workbooks. The option to save as printable PDFs makes it suitable for your family history books.

It’s completely free to use and without any upload limits. The only restriction to the number of images you add or pages you create is the size of your Google Drive storage. You’ll receive 15 GB of space when you register for a free Google Account.

Five features you’ll love for your family history books

  • No page limit
  • Easy-to-change the page size
  • Add repeatable elements to master slides
  • Invite collaborators to view or edit
  • Instant access to the Google Fonts library

5. Microsoft Word

Microsoft Word product page for creating family history books
Microsoft Word product page

Word is a powerful graphical word processor that is a part of the Microsoft Office suite of programs. It’s the industry-standard program that lets you create any document you can imagine, whether it’s an ebook or a visual coffee table book. Whatever you want your family history books to be is possible with Word.

It’s licensed software that’s either a one-time purchase or a limited time subscription. You have the choice to save files on either a local drive or OneDrive. Which lets you add as many images as you want to use and create as many files as you need. It’s easy-to-use to use, and there are a variety of free and paid templates available.

6. Microsoft PowerPoint

Microsoft PowerPoint product page for creating family history books
Microsoft PowerPoint product page

PowerPoint is the powerful presentation component of the Microsoft Office suite of programs. It’s a storytelling tool that uses customisable slides to create information-rich documents. And that’s precisely what your family history books will be.

It’s licensed software that’s either a one-time purchase or a limited-time subscription. You have the choice to save files on either a local drive or OneDrive. Because it’s a software app you own, you can include all the images you want and create all the files you need. It’s easy-to-use to use, and there are a variety of free and paid templates available.

Five features you’ll love for your family history books

  • Ability to create master pages
  • Eyedropper tool to select colours from photos
  • Resize the page in three clicks
  • Smart Art for quick family trees
  • Easy-to-switch font and colour palettes

7. Adobe InDesign

Adobe InDesign product page for creating family history books
Adobe InDesign product page

Finally, Adobe InDesign is the industry-standard layout and typesetting application. It’s a powerful program which does come with a learning curve. But it’s the bee’s knees when it comes to creating one page or multi-page documents for print or use online.

It’s licensed software, so it’s only available via subscription. You can choose between a single app (e.g. InDesign only), or the suite of Adobe products. When it comes to saving your files, you can either choose a local drive or the Adobe Creative Cloud storage. That means there isn’t any restriction on the number of images you can add. Because you decide where you save the files, that means you can create as many as you need.

Six features you’ll love for your family history books

  • Add text frames to Master pages
  • Easy-to-add bleed as well as crop marks for print files
  • Include Drop Cap options in the style
  • Buy templates from online marketplaces (e.g. Creative Market or Etsy)
  • Add keyboard shortcuts to text styles
  • Export as EPUB file

Creating family history books

It’s a terrible feeling when you hand your book over to be printed, only to find out that it doesn’t meet any of the specifications. #beenthere

So, picking the app to create your family history books is an important step. You need to make sure that it’s capable of producing the design you want as well as being easy for you to use.

Your first step is to decide what you want to include in your book (e.g. graphs, tables, photos, page numbering etc.) Then investigate the features of your app of choice and make sure it can do what you want. Finally, test out a free version of the program to make sure you’ll be able to create your family history books with it.

I’d love to hear your thoughts

When it comes to creating your family history books, which of these apps are you inspired to try? Can you suggest any others that you’ve used for your genealogy projects?

Want to read more about compiling your family history? Be sure to check out:

13 Responses to “7 Apps for Creating Your Family History Books”

  1. KayCee says:

    What are your thoughts on Microsoft Publisher?

    • Prudence says:

      I’m not a huge fan of Microsoft Publisher. However, I’m reviewing it to include in the upcoming “5 Desktop Apps for Family History Book Layout”. I’m running it through the same tests I do with other apps, so stay tuned for my thoughts on how it compares.

  2. Terrie Gamino says:

    Although I used Adobe InDesign when I was building display ads for a newspaper when I was working, I’ve probably forgotten a lot about it. But the “repeat to” feature is to die for!

    While I have Microsoft Word and Publisher, I LOVE publisher due to the fact that I don’t have to lock the position of graphics. It’s much easier to move blocks of type around and I can position my graphics as desired. It also has a feature (not sure of Word does) that makes it easy to move copy overflow to another column and or page simply by creating a link that looks like a coffee cup pouring the “coffee”, copy into the desired column or page.

    • Prudence says:

      Hey Terrie, I’ll be updating this article in the next couple of months and including Publisher. I’m not a big fan of the program, but I thought it was time to see if it’s improved after all these years.

  3. Sue G says:

    Standard book publishing programs don’t lend well to ancestry/genealogy printing IMHO. There are long/wide trees, tables photos, and things that would be quite cumbersome for people to pull out of den software like Ancestry.com. Best “book” software I’ve found is Family Book Creator (it’s a basic and simple to use plug in for Family Tree Maker) but it does exactly what one would hope for. It does ALL the work of pulling, organizing from your tree (Must have FTM2017 or higher). Once it processes, it creates a WORD doc and can THEN be manipulated with more graphics, etc. Saves lots of time. Unfortunately only has a Windows platform which is a shame because there is a large amount of Mac users (myself included, only keep my laptop for THIS program!) but Mac users are very much into publishing/creative projects. So they’re missing out. They’ve been promising a Mac version for over 3 years (since I’ve been counting) so doesn’t look like it’s going to happen.

    • Prudence says:

      Book design does require patience and planning, that’s for sure. There is no magic button to push, but absolutely worth the effort. Good luck with your projects!

  4. Liz Berg says:

    and what about those of us who use Mac based programs. Do you have any suggestions for us for programs that are specifically designed for Mac?

  5. Amber Lee Dennis says:

    RE: Microsoft Publisher – I am a graphic designer who worked at a printer for many years and by far people had more issues with Publisher than any other software.

    Lots of disappointments with layouts not behaving as expected, fonts not being recognized and images not linked properly and therefore not showing up.

    There are many free or low cost alternatives available that will provide predictable results and this blog post is a good resource.

    Unless you are a pretty experienced designer, you are better off without Publisher. (and if you are a designer, you won’t be using Publisher anyway. . . )

    Thanks for this – you provide a lot of accurate and useful information to your readers

  6. Vicki R says:

    Thanks for the comments about Family Tree Maker’s options. I have used the software for years, but just now feel like I have enough info to publish something.

    • Prudence says:

      Just to be clear, the comments about Family Tree Maker aren’t mine. I have no experience with that software but would encourage you to research carefully before making a decision.

  7. Kelly Rusk says:

    I use Publisher frequently and love it! The key, when you have your document the way you want it, is to create a pdf before printing. Then everything you set in place is saved as you designed it and it prints beautifully.

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