Posted by Ancestry Australia and New Zealand on November 18, 2011 in Site Features


Several years ago, we launched the Advanced Image Viewer. This viewer provided some much-needed capabilities and was welcomed by our members who could take advantage of it. Our other members – almost 50% of our total base – continued to use a basic image viewer which provided somewhat limited capabilities. Over time, as browsers changed, the Advanced Image Viewer worked for fewer and fewer of our members.

Today, we are pleased to announce that a new (beta) image viewer is available on the site. This new viewer should be useable by the majority of our customers while still providing the “advanced” capabilities of the previous viewer.

We have created this experience in a way that will make it easier and faster for us to support the most popular viewer technologies. For the present, this is Adobe Flash; in the future, we anticipate this will evolve towards technologies such as HTML 5 as browsers that support those technologies are more broadly adopted by our users.

Summary of key features

  • Faster image loading. We’ve invested in the backend services that power the image viewing experience. We’ll continue to optimise and improve performance, but this experience should be faster for most of our members.
  • Works on more platforms and with more browsers. Windows and Macintosh. Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, and Safari.
  • New and improved features. Rotate, mirror, and better zoom controls are new for all users. Magnify, thumbnail view, and enhanced images are new for anyone who couldn’t use the previous Advanced Image Viewer.
  • Familiar interface. The basic user interface around the viewer is relatively unchanged. Some of the interactions have changed (such as zoom and pan controls).
  • Simplified installation experience. For most of you, the viewer will just work. Some of you will first need to install a more recent version of Adobe Flash.
  • BETA. We’re still working on this. There are some known issues. We’re also taking feedback for further improvements. Let us know what you think at

What this means to you

Some of you will start seeing the new viewer immediately. Everyone can choose to enable the new viewer. If you don’t like the new viewer, you can go back to using the old viewer. Over time, we will be directing more and more people to the new viewer.

To switch to the new viewer (or switch back to the old viewer), click the Options button and then click on the viewer you wish to use. (Your options may be different than what is shown below, based on your browser and operating system.)

What’s new

The new viewer, and the backend services we’ve built out to support it, is faster, feature rich, and easier to install. It retains the general capabilities of the previous Advanced Image Viewer and adds some new features that our customers have requested. It runs on both Windows and Macintosh operating systems. It is supported on Internet Explorer, Firefox, Chrome, and Safari. And it is available now.

When you first look at the new viewer, you may not notice many changes from the previous Advanced Image Viewer. If you are used to the Standard Image Viewer, there will be some new features to try out. Regardless, we have tried to keep the user experience very similar. There are a few changes that we’d like to point out:

Image viewer toolbar, showing new options

What’s Changed. We’ve added a link that describes what has changed and takes you to a survey so you can provide us with feedback on the new viewer. Let us know what you think!

Rotate and Mirror. Two new features are available on the toolbar. Rotating an image 90 degrees at a time or mirroring it (flipping it over) can make reading some images easier.

Zoom drop down. We have updated the options in the zoom drop down: Fit Image, Fit Width, Fit Height, and Full Size give you broad control over the initial size of the image. Additionally, we have removed the percentage-based zoom options.

Zoom controls. The Zoom in/Zoom out buttons remain to help you zoom in or out on an image. We have also added support for zooming in and out using the scroll wheel on your mouse or using the plus (+) and minus (-) keys on your number keypad.

Image Manipulation. Use the mouse to click and drag an image around on the screen. Alternately, use the arrow keys to move the image. Please note that there are no scroll bars within the viewer.

Picture showing how to move an image using the mouse by clicking and draggingArrow keys on a computer keyboard

What else has changed

Other changes may be more subtle. You will notice that images load to the “Fit Width” zoom value. Images start out a little fuzzy and then clarify – this is due to the “Deep Zoom” technology we are using to optimise download speeds (we don’t download the entire image all at once, which make the image faster to load). The Magnify option actually magnifies a bit more than the previous version.

Printing & Saving

We had to make some changes to the Print and Save Image features. This version doesn’t support a “Print Current View,” which the previous Advanced Image Viewer did. “Print Current View” should be available before the end of the year. Saving an image is also different. If you have been using Chrome or Firefox, saving was a right-click operation. You will now need to click the Save button and select “Save this image.” The file will then be downloaded by the browser.

Save dialog, showing different Save options

Known issues

Yes, this is a Beta release. Yes, there are things that aren’t quite the way we want them to be. And, yes, we want your feedback so we can continue to improve.

For this release, there are a few known issues:

  • Zooming in and out using the “+” and “-” key on the top of your keyboard doesn’t work. It should work with the “+” and “-” on the numeric keypad. Except that…
  • Zooming out using the “-” key doesn’t work with Chrome, and…
  • Scrolling the image using the arrow keys doesn’t work with Safari.
  • The popup that displays when you first load the new viewer is currently English only.
  • If you resize your browser window , or have the Member Connect/Source panel open, some of the toolbar options may wrap on the screen.
  • While we highlight terms in our OCR collections (such as newspapers), this version doesn’t move and center the image on the current highlight.
  • There are a few odd cases where canceling the install of Adobe Flash on older browsers can cause the browser to crash.

With the exception of the Adobe Flash issue, we plan on fixing all of the other items. You won’t need to do a new download or make any changes – they should just start working as we roll out the updates.

Faster image loading. New and improved features. A familiar interface. A new viewer.

We hope you will try it out. Let us know what you think. Click on the “What’s Changed” link in the viewer to learn more and to take a survey. Or send a message to us at If you like it, we want to know. If you don’t like it, we want to know. And if you have problems with it – especially if images don’t load correctly – we want to know (please let us know which collection you were viewing).

We look forward to your feedback!

Best regards,

Jim Mosher
Search Product Management

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