Monday, March 2, 2015

The Horns of a Software Dilemma

As I mentioned in my last post, Why I'm Going to Switch My Genealogy Software, none of the candidates for replacing Reunion has all the features I'd like to have, and all of them have their own drawbacks. I've been trying for months to decide which one to go with.

If I had my druthers, it would be a Mac-native software package. Unfortunately, neither MacFamilyTree nor Heredis have any source templating capability. Additionally, MacFamilyTree's very nice-looking charts are offset by rather primitive reports; and Heredis for some reason costs $55 for the Mac version, compared to $40 for Windows, and doesn't even offer a discounted upgrade for the previous version I bought two years ago, while a Windows version upgrade is only $20. The third major Mac-native player, Family Tree Maker Mac, doesn't have a trial or demo version, or a downloadable user manual, and I'm not willing to spend $40 to evaluate it.

A couple of Windows genealogy programs are available encapsulated in a self-contained app that lets it run on a Mac without a separate virtual machine. These are still Windows apps, though, and suffer from some serious flaws, including poor font control (the  fonts are generally too small and "spidery"), poor support for Mac shortcut keys, and inability to recognize a Ctrl-click as a substitute for a right-click. Of the two that I know of, Family Tree Builder from MyHeritage has no source templating; and RootsMagic With MacBridge, in addition to the flaws noted above, is buggy: it generates frequent error messages, some program preferences do not work correctly, and scrolling lists work erratically.

So my only option seems to be a pure Windows application, running in a virtual machine on my Mac (I have Parallels Desktop). The two big players – RootsMagic and Legacy Family Tree – are both excellent and powerful programs, with many similar or identical features; and, most important, both have sophisticated source template features. But they do have some important differences, and therein lies my dilemma: each has its own advantages and drawbacks, and I'm having a tough time deciding which has the overall edge and what I'm willing to give up. I have compared program features that important to me in a spreadsheet, shown in three screenshots below. For each feature, I have highlighted in green the program that has the edge (relative to my own preferences, of course; your mileage may vary).

I think you can see why I find it difficult to choose an overall winner here.
  • Legacy has many individually small features that add up to a very desirable whole (e.g., more flexible flags and statuses, better handling of alternate and married names, information available on-screen without generating reports); RootsMagic has a more comprehensive event/fact list, more flexible event formatting, and much superior location details. 
  • Legacy has better charts, but RootsMagic generates better web pages, and I may well want to publish my tree online directly from my database.
  • I really like Legacy's comprehensive assigned sources listing for each individual and the overrides for automatic footnote output. On the other hand, source entry in Legacy is not as convenient in some ways, and there is no question that RootsMagic has the best source templating feature, as you can create your own templates exactly as you want them (which perhaps obviates the need for Legacy's overrides).
Redoing all my sources in a new program is going to be a major effort (they transfer poorly from Reunion), so it's important to me that I make a good choice; I really don't want to have to do it all again. At the same time, I need to make a change very soon, because the longer I wait the more I'll have to transfer.

What would you do?

1 comment:

Magda said...

What did you end up settling on ? After 30 years of genealogy in the field and at home, my most reliable software has been, unfortunately, PAF - personal ancestral files, which is in my dropbox and held up through 7 major computers.

Of course, I also have the full versions of Legacy and Roots Magic on my laptop.I recently ended up with Family Tree Maker (2012) that was on a computer that I adopted and now work on that one the most. I like the PLAN section and how you can see everything in one view without a lot of clicking around.

I guess it a matter of what works for you intuitively.