If your goal this year is to get organized, you’ll probably want to start with your genealogy software. Maybe the one you’re using isn’t working for you. If it isn’t, you should reconsider. It’s probably not to late to try something new. If you haven’t put your information into a database yet, make a list of what you need in a program, then shop around for one that fits.
I’m a pretty simple person. I don’t need bells or whistles. I’m also not really tech savvy, so it takes me a while to learn new tech skills.
Features I need in a genealogy software program are:
- Easy to navigate around the database
- Easy to understand how to work with the source citation manager
- Easy to import sources and attach them where I want them
- Media files are embedded so if I change where I store my pictures and digital images, they will remain properly linked in my software. This is a biggie for me. Some software only links to the images on your computer hard drive.
- Screen is easy on the eyes, not too cluttered
- Portability, so I can take my database with me, whether it can be stored on Dropbox and retrieved from any internet device, or on a flash drive that I take with me.
What can I say? I’m easy to please … today. The software we have available today fits many but not all of my requirements. Some shine better in one area or another. For instance, RootsMagic has portability onto a flash drive. Family Tree Maker provides a shaking leaf to give you “hints” about possible sources for your ancestor.
Here’s my “ancestry” of software programs I’ve used:
- A long time ago I started with Personal Ancestral File (PAF). When PAF first became available I was thrilled. I wouldn’t have to be retyping things on charts. I stored all my source citations in the “notes” section for each person. It worked for me but I wanted to be able to attach the sources to an event.
- Ancestral Quest came along in 1994 and it had been developed by the same people that made PAF. I liked it because it was easy to navigate and had a way to import sources, but I couldn’t get the source to look right with italics for a title, etc.
- Next I tried Family Tree Maker, I think that’s what it was. I remember being frustrated with the ability to cite sources (or lack thereof). Can’t remember what my complaint was, but I remember bending the ear of one of the developers at the NGS Conference at Nashville, Tennessee back in 1996.
- Then, I tried Legacy Family Tree and while it was a nice program, I didn’t like the way my sources looked, or I didn’t understand how to use their source manager correctly.
- In the middle of all this, I played with Family Tree Maker to use Ancestry’s shaky leaf hints. I believe I was also able to embed my images as well.
- Finally, I settled on RootsMagic. I found their source citation manager easy to understand and even easier once I watched the online tutorials. RootsMagic is self contained, so when I download it onto a flash drive, I don’t need RootsMagic installed on another computer if I want to use the data on the flash drive on another computer. I don’t link my images into my RootsMagic software because it links to images on my hard drive and I may want to move them sometime. Instead, I have a great filing system with my docs and images that I can get my hands on quickly. I’ll write more about that system in another post.
That said, I don’t just use one program for all my needs. Plus, I still use a word processing program to write family histories.
You may want to check out the software reviews found at “Top Ten Reviews.” According to this reviewer, they put Family Tree Maker in the number one spot. I can’t tell if this is a paid advertisement by FTM. Also, RootsMagic has released version 5, and this reviewer only addresses version 4.
My recommendation? Make a list of the features that are important to you. Then, check out the comparisons on the “Top Ten Reviews.” Finally, head to the home page for the software programs you are interested in and sign up for the limited or trial version to take your own test drive.
What software do you use?
Related Posts: Genealogy Software Stars.