As Gramps evolves, and becomes a serious alternative to commercial products. We work on improving Gramps as a volunteer effort, so whenever a new user finds "our baby" worthwhile, we rejoice.
Unfortunately, it's not all roses we receive. With wider public interest and more users, there's bound to be people who are disappointed in Gramps. We believe, however, that it's only because most newcomers do not realize what to expect -- hopefully this article will set that right.
The development team
Many users probably don't realize it, but the development team driving Gramps forward is very small for the complex product that a genealogy application is.
The main force behind Gramps is delivered by fewer than a dozen people. Consider that we do support, web site maintenance, documentation, feature enhancements, and debugging. There are more people (probably another dozen) pitching in with translation and design.
So we're always looking for new people to help. And while (unfortunately) a common misconception is that a project like Gramps would only benefit from more programmers, it is not the case! Whatever your ability, we'll be able to use it. If you are interested in spending a little time making Gramps a better application, please don't hesitate to join the developer mailing list and offer your services.
Gramps features and polish
As Gramps is getting more powerful and usable, we attract more and more users who expect the same feature set and product polish as they'll find in a commercial product. Which is, in a simple word, absurd.
Not that we don't want to get there, you understand, but it's simply not a reasonable comparison. Commercial companies spend many man-hours worth of development on their products, and can spend enough on getting good documentation written, new features, debugging, installation process made smooth and generally polish the thing till it shines. In comparison, Gramps development is driven solely by a small group's volunteer effort. We work on Gramps after work and in the weekends when "life" doesn't demand our attention elsewhere. We do it for fun.
Do not read that as an excuse for why Gramps lacks in comparison with other products. Do read it as an explanation for why you should expect nothing more from Gramps than it actually delivers. We're sure you'll agree (after having your bias readjusted and mulling it over for a bit) that it's quite a lot you get, Gramps being a free (as in freedom), inexpensive (zero cost), open source genealogy program.
Gramps releases are also put together by volunteers. This means that there's usually only prebuilt packages available for a few select distributions. While we would like to see Gramps packages for all the distributions (and platforms) Gramps runs on, it's simply not possible since the volunteers doing the release only have access to a subset of those platforms.
Specifically about library dependencies: Gramps depends on pygtk and gnome-python. Those in turn depend on GTK+ and GNOME. We try to maintain backwards compatibility as long as reasonably possible, but you cannot draw blood from the stone: sometimes we have to require a certain minimum version, and that is that. Please do not complain about the need for these libraries -- just as you might dislike installing/upgrading the libraries, the volunteer doing the release may dislike removing/downgrading the libraries on his/her machine, or simply be unable to do that.
If you find that there are no prebuilt packages for your platform/configuration, and are willing to help provide prebuilts for coming releases, please join the developer mailing list and offer your services. If you have the time and tools, we can probably guide you through the process, even if you don't have the knowledge.
Bugs and feature requests
If you find that Gramps does not cater for your needs, please look in the Bug tracker (a MantisBT powered database) and through the Gramps Enhancement Proposals to see if anyone has already requested the feature you need. If so, put your vote on it!
If the issue is not mentioned, open a new Bug Report in the "Gramps" project (or a Feature Request in the "Feature Requests" project), and state how you think Gramps could become better. Be certain to use clear language, with awareness that our contributors are international and may not recognize obscure English terms. Be specific and verbose in your description -- unsurprisingly, we have a hard time reading minds.
And please remember: a Bug Report helps us make Gramps better (over time, not necessarily tomorrow!). Strongly worded complaints and moaning (on mailing lists, home pages, news groups, and other places) will not... such negativity does zap our enthusiasm though! The place to file a complaint or feature request is in one of the trackers. Do it anywhere else, and it will not reach the precious few who are willing to do anything about it!
You can join both the user and developer mailing lists and ask questions there, see our Contact page. You can also ask for help on IRC (channel #gramps on freenode), and you can file bug reports and feature requests. However, since support is also provided on a volunteer basis, you must be careful not to have unreasonable expectations: you cannot demand your questions to be answered or bugs to be fixed. There are few things more annoying than some yahoo telling you to address this or that issue before noon tomorrow (or he'll stop using Gramps -- what a loss!). No, we're like most other people: we prefer to please those who appreciate our efforts! In short: the people volunteering time to Gramps only have so much time available, and they alone decide how to spend it. Please respect their choice.
When that is said, you should know that the mailing list and the IRC channel are friendly places -- few requests go without reply. And we also do our best to fix all bugs reported, just as we strive to implement requested features. But as should be evident from the number of open bugs in the bug tracker, there's not enough hours in the day to allow us to address all issues in a timely manner.
A large portion of this text was borrowed from the AbiWord Support Expectations page.
That text is Copyright (c) 2001 Jesper Skov
Permission is granted to copy, distribute and/or modify this document under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License, Version 1.1 or any later version published by the Free Software Foundation; with no Invariant Sections, with no Front-Cover Texts and with no Back-Cover Texts.
A copy of the license is available at https://www.gnu.org/licenses/fdl-1.3.html