Monday, November 2, 2015

Dear Randy: Why Do You Use RootsMagic?

A "dedicated reader" of my blog, Gary, asked this question in email recently.

1)  First, a little history:

*  I started out with Personal Ancestral File in the 1990 time frame.  When I added sources, they were in the Notes text.

*  I switched to Family Tree Maker 5 in about 1998, after I got a CDROM drive, because it seemed to be more capable than PAF and had fields for source citations and other features.  I stuck with it until Version 16 released in 2006.  I still use Version 16 for some reports.

*  I had heard about RootsMagic software, and bought RootsMagic 3 in 2006 (I think) to try it out.  I was able to transfer my FTM database using GEDCOM, learned how to use RootsMagic, and have stuck with it ever since.

*  I also have Family Tree Maker 2014 and Legacy Family Tree Version 8 on my computer at this time, and use them occasionally.  I also have worked with Family Tree Builder, Family Historian, and Branches, but don't use them at this time.

2)  Why RootsMagic?  I have several reasons based on my experience with all of the above:

*  I like the layout - it's relatively simple and uncomplicated.  I can read the fonts.  I can make it pretty.  I can color code family groups.  The menus and icons are intuitive.

*  I like the navigation - with one click I can see any of the Views; and with one click and some typing I can find a specific person.  Minimizing clicks is important to me.

*  I like the Edit Person screen - the buttons are identified, and I can add notes, sources and media easily.

*  The Source Templates are very well organized - I can use the source templates to craft a new master source for record types I am not familiar with.  The templates provide fields for both the Master Source and the Source Detail.  The templates create A Footnote, a Short Footnote and a Bibliography citation.  I can create free-form sources easily - with one click, fill in some blanks, and I'm done.  All sources can show master text, detail text, media, quality and repository information.

*  It creates many reports, lists and charts.  I have always used reports to provide information to correspondents.  The lists are helpful.

*  It interfaces nicely with the FamilySearch Family Tree.  I can add content to the Family Tree from RootsMagic, or from the Family Tree to RootsMagic.

*  It tells me if there are record Hints on MyHeritage and FamilySearch for my tree persons.  I can easily check to see if there are records there that I've missed.  I wish it interfaced with, AmericanAncestors, and also!  I wish it permitted me to import the information and record image directly into RootsMagic, but it doesn't.

*  It has a Research Log and To-Do list capability that I can use to define tasks completed and tasks to do at a specific repository - like the Family History Library.

*  I can import and export a GEDCOM file in order to transfer information from one program or website to another.  I can choose which persons or person groups to include.  I can choose to exclude RM-specific features, like source templates.

*  It has a Relationship Calculator.  I love it!

*  I can create a RootsMagic website for free.  I can use the RootsMagic app to see my database on my iPhone or tablet for free.

*  The Support is excellent - email, forum, newsletter, videos.  All for $29.95 every two years or so.

3)  I'm not going to discuss the other genealogy software programs in detail.  I know that many of them do all or most of those things, and perhaps more.  For instance:

*  Family Tree Maker 2014 syncs with an Ancestry Member Tree, including bringing attached media items from Ancestry into FTM.  I wish RootsMagic did!  It doesn't, so I create a GEDCOM file in RootsMagic, put it into FTM 2014, and sync it into a new Ancestry Member Tree.  However, because of a known problem in FTM 2014, extraneous blank spaces are put into source citations, notes, etc.

*  Legacy Family Tree 8 creates much better narrative and other reports, in my humble opinion.  So I GEDCOM a file into LFT 8 when I need a new report (usually 10 generations).  LFT 8 also has more types of reports about the database.

4)  The bottom line is that RootsMagic 7 is easy for me to use, especially for data input, navigation, source citation creation, and FamilySearch Family Tree interfacing.  Even after 9 years, I don't use all of the features available in RootsMagic, but I'm gradually learning more features.

I hope that answers the question, Gary!

Copyright (c) 2015, Randall J. Seaver

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Dr D said...

Started using PAF in the 1980s but my data got corrupted and I abandoned computer genealogy databases. When the Windows version of Family Tree Maker (FTM) came out around 1990 I tried again. Really liked the format of reports but gave it up because I could not export part of the file in GEDCOM. It was all or nothing. Family Origins allowed me to tailor exported files I shared with others. I still missed some of the report formats of FTM and would occasionally move some of my data back from Family Origins just to create a good looking report.

Eventually Ancestry (who previously had acquired FTM) also acquired Family Origins. I hoped that Ancestry would use its marketing and distribution know how to the advantage of Family Origins. However, it soon became obvious Ancestry was not going to support continued development of Family Origins. In retrospect that acquisition must have been only to eliminate a competitor. A couple of years later, when the non-competition clause of the sale agreement had expired, the Family Origins programming team wrote RootsMagic and the result was described by Randy.

Great program Bruce and colleagues. Thank you.

Unknown said...

The best is actually what is under the hood, a good database. It also helps that there is full UNICODE support. Most other genealogy software fail on one or both of these.

Now, if we only could have full support for I18N and L9N, so that we could have correct sorting and language specific sentence templates for languages other than English that would be great....

Unknown said...

Well over a decade ago I researched the choices and wound up buying and loading data for about 1000 or so individuals at the time into both Legacy and RM. My work leans more toward family history than cataloging BMD for infinite cousins, and I don't need Temple or exchange interaction. But RM seemed better for notes by event and narrative in reports, and laid out the data more intuitively for me. I found that it does encourage atomizing the info a bit more, which can get anal, but facilitates analysis of problems and relationships. My take.