This post was originally titled “Waffles and Genealogy, Why I Can’t Decide on a Genealogy Program,” when it was conceived during my brainstorming session while completing one of the 31 Weeks to a Better Genealogy Blog challenges. However, before I ever had the chance to write it (c’mon give me a break – it’s only been a week) I finally picked a genealogy program— I think.
See, the problem is that there are so many good choices out there, both for Mac and Windows. I am a die-hard Mac user. I gave up my Windows PC in 2003 after having the third hard-drive failure in less than three years — two from viruses and one from a seemingly minuscule bump against the desk whilst moving it.
As an aside – YES – I had anti-virus software. Yes, I updated it regularly. However, there is a (albeit short) period of time between the virus being released and the anti-virus companies having the time and ability to release the software updates to conquer these techies-who-obviously-have-no-lives-and-get-their-kicks-from-ruining-other-people’s-hard-drives.
The reasons for having these viruses attack my computer are not all my own stupidity. (Ah- blame shifting is always so chivalrous, isn’t it?) The point is, it can happen to anyone, at any time. Don’t think you’re immuned if it hasn’t happened to you. Chances are, it eventually will. But that’s another story for another day.
Back to the point. I switched to Mac in 2003. Since then, I picked up my genealogy research again and found that there were a few good Mac genealogy programs out there. One I tried was Reunion. I liked that there were some videos available online to help with Reunion. The interface seemed relatively intuitive. The thing that got me thinking I might need a different program, however, was that Reunion does not support citation styles such as the Elizabeth Shown Mills (ESM) Evidence! citations. Hmpf. I have to think about that … if I want to eventually work toward pro, I want to have a program that supports the citation style that is being used more and more in the genealogy pro realm.
Then I tried MacFamilyTree, if only briefly. The graphics are beautiful. The interface is also somewhat intuitive. It seems it suffers the same source problem as Reunion. At least in Reunion you can create sources to mimic the ESM styles, if you have the time and patience. I didn’t see this ability in MFT – unless I missed it altogether. And I still don’t have the time and patience to worry about fixing source styles.
Then I thought, “hmmm… I have a netbook (I won at a conference), what if I just go with one of the Windows programs? According to all of the comments I hear and the reviews I have seen online, the Windows versions have much more functionality and support than do the Mac based genealogy software. The downside would be that I’d be locked into my netbook (or so I thought) and not be able to work on my Mac, but that might be a small price to pay in order to have a program that is much more highly rated (assuming I don’t throw my netbook against the wall too often, which is usually the desired outcome when using my netbook).
So I spent some time considering the many options for software on a Windows computer. The frustrating part of this is that the only comparisons of these programs are ages old. Most of the programs have had updates since the latest reviews that I could find online. So I started a comparison of my own.
The Master Genealogist seemed to have a lot of functionality, but I didn’t want to spend that much time learning how to use another software. I have introduced way too many software and cloud-based programs into my life lately. Trying to figure out another complicated system might send me over the edge. I’d rather get up and running and spend my time on doing research.
I started watching videos for Legacy Family Tree and Rootsmagic. I was almost sold on Legacy Family Tree. I like that they offer so many training videos, and they also have experts do helpful videos like organizing your research within Legacy. There is a website that explains the entire organization system at fileyourpapers.com. This almost sold me. I tried the free version and it seemed relatively easy to use, had a lot of nice options (research log, notes), it uses the ESM source citation styles. I came so close to pulling out my credit card at this point…
Then I decided to give one more shot at comparisons and opened the RootsMagic website. Now I have to admit, as petty as this is going to sound – there is one person that kind of annoys me and he/she is always going on and on about Rootsmagic. So I wasn’t really inclined to check it out because- ugh- to hear it one more time will make me sick. However, I got over my pettiness, at least for the moment, and decided to take a look, just for kicks.
The outcome: I finally settled on Rootsmagic. I barely tried out their free version when I decided I wanted more. The interface is super-intuitive. There are so many ways to view the information that no matter what it is you’re trying to compare, you will most likely find the proper view to do so. With the other programs I found I had to have a scrap paper in front of me and take lots of notes so that I could do comparisons, since it just wasn’t that easy to view, say, the details about the children while looking at the family as a whole. Rootsmagic makes this easy to do, and without having to give myself carpal tunnel from clicking the mouse 400 times every time I want to toggle between a child and a parent or grandparent.
Finally, and this was a biggie, I saw their webcast on “Running Rootsmagic on Your Mac” — woohoo! This is an amazing breakthrough. With a little investment in Crossover (and no required investment in Windows – - an absolute MUST in my book), I could also run RootsMagic on my Mac. RootsMagic worked with Crossover to get this ironed out – so it shouldn’t be as buggy as other programs you might try to run in Crossover (one of the warnings Crossover gives is that all Windows programs will not work properly — it depends on the software). The ability to run on Windows and Mac, without having to purchase anything else from Microsoft? Who could ask for anything more?!
But wait — there is more! There is RootsMagic To Go (RTG) — which gives you the ability to take RootsMagic — both software and data — with you wherever you go. Pop a USB into the computer at the library, and you’re off and running. Now that is a great feature. Keep your files on Dropbox (a free could based storage) and you have a very portable genealogy office. They also offer their software free to Family History Libraries (FHLs), but some of the FHLs either don’t realize it or just haven’t taken RootsMagic up on the offer. So RTG will be a help even at the FHLs.
I can’t say much more than that right now, since I’m waiting for the CD. I whipped out my credit card and ordered the full version last night. I was able to order a package that came with their family history writing software and the users guide at a discount, so I went for it. Since I ordered the package I was obligated to wait for delivery of the CDs but that’s okay since I have a lot of work to get done over the next couple of days. By the time the CDs get here I’ll be itching to try them out.
I’m sure I’ll have more to say on genealogy software, but hopefully my waffling is over and done with. I’m pleased that I decided on the same program as Dana at Just Folks, since she and I think alike and we’re starting the same massive undertaking: entering all of our data from scratch in order to clean everything up, include all of the sources, and maybe in the process we’ll find some leads we overlooked when we started.