Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Getting Help with RootsMagic 4

During my adult education classes on Beginning Computer Genealogy this year, I recommend downloading one of the free genealogy software programs to help the students create as a "starter" database. I tell them that Legacy Family Tree (Standard Version), RootsMagic Essentials, Family Tree Builder and Personal Ancestral File are programs that a researcher can start with - for FREE - and if they buy a specific program later, they can import their data in the free program using the GEDCOM file export/import procedure.

In this last class, several students said "I'm totally lost - where can I get help to add data, add notes, add sources?" I showed them the Help menu in Legacy and RootsMagic and how they can use the Search tab to find information, and directions, for their questions. The response was "I didn't know that Help link was there." It seems like some beginners are reluctant (terrified?) of clicking on a menu item for fear of "doing something wrong."

Since some of my society colleagues, and blog readers, have also migrated their databases to RootsMagic 4, I thought that I would highlight how to get help in RootsMagic 4 (I'll do the same with Legacy and Family Tree Maker 2010 in later posts).

From within RootsMagic 4, clicking on the "Help" menu item (top row) and the "Contents" item in the dropdown list takes you to the Help page:

On the Help page, the user can choose an article from the "Contents" list, or click on the tabs for "Index," "Search," or "Favorites" (where the user has saved a help subject previously).

My experience is that putting keywords into the "Search" tab usually brings up an article that answers my questions.

There are several online Help sites also. You can access them from within RootsMagic 4 by clicking on the "Help" menu item and selecting "Technical Support" from the dropdown list. When you do this, the program opens your browser and takes you to the RootsMagic Support Portal:

There are links on the Support Portal for the "Knowledge Base," "News," "Submit a Ticket," "View Tickets" (that you've submitted), and "Message Boards."

Here is the Knowledge Base page:

On this page, there are sections for the different RootsMagic products - Family Atlas, Family Reunion Organizer, Personal Historian and RootsMagic. The user can submit keywords to the Search field at the top of the page to see if there are answers to their questions in the Knowledge Base.

The "Submit a Ticket" link on the Support Portal opens:

On the "Submit a Ticket" form, the user can ask a question that they have not found an adequate answer for on the other support sites.

The "Message Boards" link on the Support Portal takes the user to the "Forums" section, where the user can submit a forum post and receive answers from RootsMagic employees or other users:

These Help sites can be useful to bewildered users of RootsMagic, especially beginning researchers.

Even though RootsMagic claims that their software is easy to use - and they offer basic information and instruction on using the program on their website, a video tutorial on "Getting Started," and a book Getting the Most Out of RootsMagic by Bruce Buzbee - my experience with beginning software users is that they need explicit directions on how to access these helps and to use the software satisfactorily.

Societies should consider having software user groups to teach the basics, demonstrate program features, and answer questions that beginners have. In the San Diego area, both the San Diego Genealogical Society and the Computer Genealogy Society of San Diego offer user groups for RootsMagic.

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