Robins's Visual Chart Form Tips

Creating Box Charts

This page created 1 Sep 2014

Hosted by Terry's TMG Tips

Topics Included in this Article
Styles of Box Charts Overview of the 3 styles and the 4 orientations of box charts
Report Definition Screen Where you start to specify what chart you want
Chart Options Screen Consequences of option decisions for later editing
Options: Chart Style Where to start the tree and layout spacing
Options: Boxes Setting the look of a person box
Options: Lines Setting the look and style connecting lines
Options: Text Setting the font properties for different parts of a chart
Options: Background Setting a background to the chart
Options: Images Setting the location and sizes of person images in boxes
Options: Data Types Selecting the data to be in each person box
Options: Other Setting data inclusions and formatting of a person box

Styles of Box Charts

There are 3 styles of box chart that can be created in TMG:

  1. Ancestor Box Chart (ABC) – starts with a focus person and then shows successive generation of parents. It can include siblings of ancestors, but not their partners or their descendants. This chart uses the default settings.


  1. Descendant Box Chart (DBC) – starts with a focus person and then shows successive generations of children and their partners. It does not show any other persons associated with the included partners, like their parents or siblings. This chart uses some of my preferred settings.


  1. Hourglass Box Chart (HBC) – starts with a focus person and then in one direction shows the ancestors of the focus person and in the other direction, it shows the descendants of that same focus person. That is, it is the ABC and DBC combined. This version uses the double line UK marriage style


Each of the chart styles can be created in 4 orientations:

  1. Top to Bottom – where the focus person is at the top and successive generation are placed below the previous one. Most commonly used for DBC.
  2. Bottom to Top – where the focus person is at the bottom and successive generations are placed above the previous one. Most commonly used for ABC.
  3. Left to Right – where the focus person is at the left and successive generations are placed to the right of the previous one. Most commonly used for DBC (quite compact).
  4. Right to Left – where the focus person is at the right and successive generations are placed to the left of the previous one. Most commonly used for ABC (quite compact).


  1. For HBC, the orientation of the ancestors is set, as Top, Bottom, Left or Right. The descendants are then in the opposite direction.
  2. Generally, charts have many more boxes in the same generation, than they have generations of persons. This can create very wide charts or very tall charts.
  3. These orientation settings become very useful when Creating Combined Charts The size of a chart is influenced by the maximum number of persons in any generation, the choice of font height for names and events and hence the required width of a box in which to fit the data (see Limitations of Text)

Using the Report Definition Screen

The Report Definition Screen (RDS) and its associated Chart Options Screen are the way that you set the description of the chart you want to create. That information plus the relevant data fields from the TMG database are then passed to the separate application Visual Chartform (VCF) to then create the chart. VCF has very powerful editing tools to modify the created chart to refine it to better show what you want. However, there are some edits that you can’t make. The Chart Options Screen section explains these in more detail.



  1. Any setting on the Report Definition screen can’t be changed once a chart is created in VCF.
  2. Select chart configuration by name if you are about to repeat an existing chart.
  3. If this the first time that you want to create a new chart definition, it is best practice to select the closest chart configuration to match your needs, then click [Add] button give the new definition a meaningful name and accept that you want to start from the settings of the configuration that you just selected.
  4. A suggested naming convention combines several parts, a short project name, an abbreviation of the chart type, e.g. ABC, DBC, etc, orientation LR, etc and the ID# or name of the focus person, e.g. Sample DBC-TB (17).
  5. Checking “Use Focus Person” can lead to unexpected outputs. It is better to set the ID# explicitly.
  6. Checking “Only include people with this flag value” can lead to unexpected outputs as some persons may get omitted due to incomplete flag settings.
  7. Selecting “Save to” can lead to no output as larger charts can exceed the size limits of some image formats. ALWAYS select “View in Visual Chartform”. Then you can “File > Export” the chart as image once you have viewed it.

Settings On the Chart Options Screen

There are 6 tabs of Chart Options screen, each detailing some part of formatting and layout of the chart. Once a chart has been created from these settings, then some of the resulting content cannot be further edited. The following sections discuss the consequences. Each tab screen picture is annotated according to this legend:

The impact of settings once a chart has been created.

You can’t edit this result of these settings
  If you have incorrectly set any these, go back and change them and create the chart again.
You can delete but not add items created by these settings


If you have incorrectly set any these, go back and change them and create the chart again. You can use this to create a chart that you want remove excess persons in some parts of a chart.
You must individually edit the result of these settings
  If you have incorrectly set any these, go back and change them and create the chart again. You can use this to create a chart that you want to deliberately edit it to emphasize some characteristic.
You can easily edit the result of these settings
  Select these items then use standard chart editing to adjust the output.

Chart Style Tab



  1. The “Chart title”, “Title location” and “Diagram location” are easily modified by normal commands.
  2. The “Gap Between Boxes” can be modified but it is difficult to do as it has to be done on a box by basis and managing other components of the chart takes a lot of skill. This is discussed in Selecting, Grouping Editing.
  3. The “Output Language” cannot be changed. This option changes the abbreviations for events and other preset text strings in the chart output.
  4. The “Bypass the Report Generation ...” something can only be changed in the RDS itself.
  5. The “Chart Size” is a maximum number of generations. Once in VCF, no new data can be automatically retrieved from TMG. This means that can create a chart that has more generations than you need and then in VCF you can explicitly prune the branches that you don’t want.

Boxes Tab



  1. The “Box Size; Minimum height” setting is usually set to 40 pixels. If needed the box will increase its width to contain all the text. It refers to the height of a box when it may have very little text in it. Sometimes it desirable set it lower, say for a chart that has only names, nothing else. A larger value increases the total size of the chart. You can edit this from within VCF.
  2. Setting the “Color by Generation” is something that you can’t easily change from within VCF.
  3. Selecting the “Use Accents” is a very useful option, but it cannot be easily changed in VCF.
  4. Using a “Grey shadow” or “Frame file path, Frame width, Frame fill color” are some things that you can’t delete or change in VCF.
  5. The “Box size; Width” setting must be increased to match the font height set for “Name” and “Data lines” on the Text tab.
  6. “Box border; Style, Width and Color” settings can only be edited in VCF by selecting each box in turn. Trying to line edits on a block of the chart also changes the connection line properties.

Lines Tab



  1. The choice of “Descendant Connections” cannot be changed within VCF.
  2. The “Spouse double connector lines” only applies to the UK Style.
  3. NOTE that there is a restriction between line type and line width. This applies to both “Spouse double connector lines” and Connector lines”. When the “Width” is 1 pixel, then you may select any line style. If you increase the “Width” to 2 or more pixels, only a solid line style is available. Also note the line “Width” units in the Chart Options are pixels, whereas in VCF they are in points. There are 96 pixels to the inch, whereas there are 72 points to the inch. This can cause problem when adding a new line to a chart in VCF. See Editing Lines

Text Tab



  1. It is simple to change the “Title“ font name, style and size in VCF
  2. It is simple to change the “Manual entry default“ for font name, style and size in VCF
    ( Edit > Default Properties; Font tab.)
  3. The “Names” and “Data lines” font settings can only be changed in VCF by selecting each box and making the property changes. NOTE that there is a constraint between the “Box Width” on the Boxes tab and the size of the font for these 2 settings. The larger the font height, the wider the box must be set. See the Limitations of Text

Background Tab



  1. It is best to leave the background to be solid and color unset. It is simple to create a large rectangle within VCF fill it with the desired color and then “Send to back”. This way you can create a tailored background if you want to.
  2. If you set an image to the background then VCF will stretch it to fill the chart shape. Once set you can’t change or delete it in VCF. It is unlikely to be effective unless you have adjusted the image before using it. It is far better to add the image to the chart entirely under your own control, and once sized and located “Send to back”. If using an image you should read Using Images.

Images Tab



  1. This tab refers to placement or not of primary person passport-like images within the person’s box on a chart.
  2. There are 3 options for the placement, “Off” implying none, “On left”, and “On Right” referring placement in top left or top right of the box. Only on image per box, that exhibit having been marked primary for that person.
  3. If “On left” or “On Right” is selected, then the “Boxes tab; Box Width” needs to be increased to accommodate this increased width taken up by the “Image width”. The Name and Data lines of the person start at the top line of the box wrapping around the image. If a person does not have a primary image exhibit then the whole width of the box is used. That is all boxes have the same width. This can greatly increase the total width of a chart when only a few persons have an image.
  4. The “Image Width” and “Image Height” form a set of bounds such that all images are zoomed to fit in the specified space.
  5. You should read the Using Images section.

Data Types TabData Types_tab_annotated.jpg


  1. This tab specifies what content you want to have display in each person box.
  2. It has number of “Box types” classified by how those persons relates in the tree.
  3. For each “Box type” you select what order you want lines to appear, select one box type then select the number buttons in the “Box Contents”. There are several hundred options.
  4. To make a simple compact chart, I suggest starting with:




  1. where you also set “Place preposition” to (Blank).
  2. The “Place preposition” can’t be changed global in VCF; it must be modified on a box by box basis.
  3. The “Reference to a duplicate person” can’t be changed global in VCF; it must be modified on a box by box basis.
  4. The “Reference to a duplicate person” can’t be changed global in VCF; it must be modified on a box by box basis.
  5. The “Reference to an unknown person” can’t be changed global in VCF; it must be modified on a box by box basis.
  6. NOTE that unknown persons sometimes cause VCF to create charts with large gaps, see Data Entry for Charting to improve your charts.

Other Tab



  1. This tab sets a number of field formatting settings. Most of them cannot be modified within VCF as they are applied globally during the construction of the chart.
  2. For Surety, be extremely careful. Select "No Threshold" and check "Include blank surety". If you choose a surety value other than "No Threshold" this can lead to unexpected omissions on the chart. To use a threshold filter value other than "No Threshold", you must have consistently set surety values on all events within the target scope of that chart.
  3. If you have not set “Identifiers” to “None” then you can delete information on a box-by-box basis.
  4. If you have set “Research info” to have some content then you can delete or move information.
  5. “Remove blank lines” is useful to set as it makes the chart more compact.
  6. “Blanks for missing data” is useful when trying to see what information you are missing. Often on these charts, I include the ID number under identifiers to make it easy to return to that person in TMG.
  7. For a clean looking chart, I prefer to use “TEXT alignment” set “Center” and have boxes without an outline.
  8. I prefer charts “Names” set for “Surname caps”. You can always edit MACDONALD to MacDONALD if that is your preference afterwards.

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