Thursday, May 5, 2011

Branches Software Rewind

I wrote several posts about Branches genealogy software last year after the NGS Conference where I was first exposed to it:

First Look at Branches - Genealogy Software
Using Branches Genealogy Software - Post 1: Navigating an Existing Tree
Using Branches Genealogy software - Post 2: Adding Unrelated Person
Using Branches genealogy software - Post 3: Adding a Spouse and Parents

I received an email yesterday from Mike Miller of Branches, which included this information:

"Normally I would not send out a general email, but I wanted to let you know that we have reduced the price of BRANCHES family tree software to $14.95.  This is the lowest price for a full featured Windows family tree manager ever offered.  I encourage you to download the 30 day free trial again and try the new and improved version (  We have reset the time limit to give you another 30 days.  As in the past, the onetime license fee is good for all the computers you own and includes free upgrades. 

"If you are comfortable using your current family tree software, consider using BRANCHES as a utility to view and manage your data as many of our customers do."

I love free trials, so I downloaded the program today (Version, dated 29 April 2011), uploaded my 40,000 person GEDCOM file created by RootsMagic 4, and did some learning on how to use the program.  Here is a screen shot of the biggest tree in my database:

This is a graphical program.  The user navigates around the tree by using the mouse scroll wheel to zoom in and out of the tree, and using the left mouse hold and drag to move the tree up, down, right and left.  The right mouse button is used to access menus to perform actions for persons in the tree. 

Note the small Mini-Map in the upper left-hand corner of the screen - it shows you where you are in the larger tree.  I zoomed into my tree, and moved to the right and zoomed some more in order to see some of my earliest generations.  The screen below shows a view of a small portion of my tree:

When I reviewed and tested Branches last year, I had some problems:

*  The program and database size swamped my older computer.  I have no problems now with a computer with a much larger hard drive and RAM, although Branches is using over 187 mb of RAM at present.

*  I couldn't figure out how to do certain things.  My readers helped out with suggestions, and the Help function is useful.  My biggest problem was with adding children to a family - the "right answer" eluded me in Post 3 until reader GeneaPopPop told me to run my mouse over the vertical line connecting husband and wife - a green line appears and a right-click permits a user to ADD Children.

*  Another problem I couldn't figure out was how to edit an Event.  Right-clicking an Event permits "Edit Event" which opens a text box to edit the information.  Adding a source to an Event is done with a right-click of the Event and selecting "ADD Source citation to event" (thank you, Deborah Andrew!). 

*  Adding an unrelated person to a Tree can be done by right-clicking in the "white space" and selecting "ADD Individual."

*  The user can right-click on the white space and select "EVENTS Off" and/or "SOURCES off."  In the screens above, I have them On, and they really clutter up the screen.  My preference is "EVENTS On" and "SOURCES Off."

I'm not sure if I will pay for Branches after my 30-day free trial, but I feel a lot more comfortable with it.  It is fairly easy to learn navigation and editing, although the reports and charts have significant limitations at this time, in my opinion.  I may write another post about the Report and Chart options. 

What other topics do my readers want to know about Branches?  What do you like or not like in Branches?  Tell me, and I'll report back.


Liz said...

Hi Randy,
Although it is not my "main" genealogy program, I like to use Branches software to demonstrate the family tree and relationships to my non-genealogist relatives, or to study the database in an overview mode for myself. It is a more familiar interface (think Google maps) than some standard genealogy reports, and can easily show off different lines, how the viewer is related, etc.
The other thing I really like about Branches is the support provided. I asked a question of the developer last week, about why the display order of events was not chronolgical. Mike Miller replied saying it was a good idea and and one day later he contacted me with notice that he had posted a new version with that option added. Now that's customer service!
I use a licensed copy, purchased last year.

Anonymous said...

I downloaded the trial to my laptop and added a 5,000 person Gedcom. I liked the graphical presentation, but I wouldn't use this program because my laptop uses a touch pad. Moving around the tree requires a mouse. You can use key strokes, but I found that counter-intuitive and clumsy.
I didn't have the patience to explore what I am sure are good features of the program.