Monday, December 15, 2008

Critical Genealogy Software Reviews - and more

Is this what you think about Family Tree Maker 2008?

"Family Tree Maker 2008, a complete rebuild of the product, accomplished something entirely unexpected: it made Family Tree Maker Classic look good"

It is what Tamura Jones thinks about FTM 2008, and he is not afraid to say it.

Have you read many truly critical software reviews - you know, reviews that constructively criticize the contents of a software package, the user interfaces, the standards used, etc.

Most genealogy software reviews comment about the look and feel, the output, the ease of input - frankly, that's what my "testing" posts of FTM 2008 and other packages have been about. Other genea-bloggers essentially post the press releases from the software companies and praise the latest and greatest features.

Are you willing to look and think critically about genealogy software? If you are, then check out Tamura Jones web site, called Modern Software Experience, at

The web site is comprised of original articles dealing with genealogy, browser, office and other software packages. In each article, he analyzes the program components and features, tests them with his own databases, and constructively criticizes the package - what does it do well, what could it do better, where is it dangerous, etc.

Tamura says he uses "...web standards so you can use any web browser worthy of the name. It uses Unicode-encoded XHTML 1.1 with CSS, and all images are in PNG or SVG format." The "web standards" reference means that you CANNOT use the standard Microsoft Internet Explorer on his web site (although he provides instructions for changing IE settings to make it work). For Windows computers, Mozilla Firefox and Google Chrome are web standard compliant, and Tamura provides a link to download them. I downloaded Google Chrome and use it to read Tamura's site.

His is a web site, not a blog. It has no RSS feed. You have to visit it often to see new content. The web site is beautifully simple - a list of key words on the left, a list of links to articles on the right. The content is frequently updated.

What genealogy software programs has Tamura written about? There are articles about Family Tree Maker 2009, The Master Genealogist Version 7, Legacy Family Tree 7.0, Family Historian 3.1.2, It's Our Tree 1.0, and many more (click on the Genealogy link for the list).

He also has survey and review articles like Social Genealogy Sites, Footnote is not Facebook, Genealogical Record: Most Married, etc.

Tamura has been a frequent commenter on Genea-Musings about genealogy software and has helped me with many of my software questions. I appreciate and value his expertise.

I admit that I am not a computer scientist like Tamura, so I cannot critically evaluate his comments about the "computer" aspects of his critiques.

Will genealogy software companies read his critiques and modify their programs to incorporate Tamura's suggestions or correct problems that he points out? I sincerely hope that they will. The genealogy "industry" needs computer scientists providing constructive criticism that improves their products.

UPDATE 12/15 10:40 am: After I posted this, I was reading my Bloglines and found that Louis Kessler on his Behold Genealogy blog also reviewed this web site at It's a good review with more and different information than I provided above.


Anonymous said...


> "Most genealogy software reviews comment about the look and feel, the output, the ease of input - frankly, that's what my "testing" posts of FTM 2008 and other packages have been about."

Don't downplay your own reviews. I like them.
You do no repost or rewrite press releases, but real reviews.
You give your own opinions and impressions. One genealogist talking to another.
That makes them trustworthy.

> "The web site is beautifully simple"
Thanks. I worked hard to make it so.

- Tamura

Rurality said...

I would like my genealogy software to be much more *searchable* than what I've got now.

I want to be able to look up, say, all my relatives who were buried in XYZ cemetery, or make a list of everyone was born in (or lived in) ABC county...

Does this exist?

Anonymous said...


Lots of genealogy software offers the ability to define your own queries and then generate reports, but what you want may be built-in already.
Even the old PAF will generate a places reports with people shown below each place name (File | Print Reports... | Lists | Places sorted alphabetically)

Such a full report for all places and all people may be prohibitive large though, so you will probably want to define your own report.
If you cannot do that with your current program, then "custom reports" is the feature you are looking for in another program.

- Tamura