Welcome to Ancestry.com's new and improved publishing service
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Change can be painful, as I was reminded last weekend when an early snowstorm abruptly ended a stretch of lovely fall weather. As a new homeowner, I was surprised to learn that turning on a gas furnace is more complicated than pushing a button. I was so afraid of blowing myself up by tinkering with the furnace that I spent four hours huddled under a quilt on my living room sofa'until I remembered that the owner's manual for the furnace was in the kitchen, in a big envelope full of useful information that the previous owners had thoughtfully left behind. I followed the somewhat arcane 14-point instructions, and within half an hour the house was toasty warm.

Life had been so much simpler in my tiny apartment in Manhattan, where the landlord activated the steam heat for the whole building every October. The downside was that I couldn't control the temperature, and on most winter days my apartment had been too warm, since it absorbed the heat from the floors below. Now that I can adjust the thermostat in my own home, I realize how empowering it is to get the temperature exactly where I want it ? definitely worth the 10 minutes I spent figuring out which switches to flip.

If you've used Ancestry.com's publishing service recently, you've noticed that we've made some rather dramatic changes. For starters, the service is no longer called AncestryPress. The site has a new look. And the project creation process is slightly different. Do not panic. The publishing software, which I will refer to as the Project Editor, is still the same. You can still access all of your AncestryPress projects by clicking on My Projects. Best of all, as you explore the site you'll see that we've added lots of new content and output options.

Once you start using the new site, I think you'll find the transition to be relatively painless. Even more important, I hope you feel empowered by all of the new products, features, backgrounds, themes and embellishments. It may take a few minutes to get used to the new site ? although I hope the new layout of the My Projects page is less confusing than the gas valve diagram in my furnace manual. But our goal is to give you more control, more options and more creative freedom so that you can get your projects exactly how you want them.

One change that may be slightly confusing to previous users is the new cover selection process. On the old site, you chose your cover as part of the checkout process. Now you select and customize your cover while you're editing your book. The level of customization depends on which product you choose. If you're making a book with a leatherette or bonded leather cover, you can enter a two-line title. If you're making a premium book with a velvet, nubuck or genuine leather cover, you can add a photo and a two-line title. If you're making a photo book with a custom cover, you can edit every element of the cover (if you're using a template) or even design your cover from scratch.

For example, here's what you'll see if you're making a standard 11x8.5 family history book with a leatherette cover:

Title_cover

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If you type in a title and then decide you'd rather word it a little differently, just click the first page thumbnail (far left) at the bottom of the main workspace. You can go back and edit your cover as often as you wish.

If you're making a custom cover photo book based on one of our themes, you'll get a cover template that coordinates with the other pages in that theme. The screen shot below shows the cover template for the Very Squary' theme.

Custom_cover1

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It only takes a moment to drop in a couple of photos and type in a title on the front and a photo caption on the back.

Custom_cover2

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But you don't have to stop there. Because this is a custom cover, you can also manipulate the photos, edit the text, and add frames and embellishments. You can even wrap an element around the book ? from back to front ? as I've done with the blue box in the example below.

Custom_cover3

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I'd love to hear what you think about our new site. Please take a few minutes to explore the site, learn about the new products and experiment with the new content and features. We will of course do some fine-tuning over the next few weeks, and we're counting on your feedback to help us focus our efforts.

To learn more about MyCanvas, Ancestry.com's online publishing service, please read my interview with Kelvin Hulet, who oversees the development of new features.