Tuesday, April 10, 2018

Do I Still Need a Desktop Genealogy Software Program?

James Tanner, who writes the Genealogy's Star blog, updated his blog post on this topic in Update of Do you still need a desktop (local) genealogy program?

My short answer is "YES!"  Emphatically.  

My main reason is that no online family tree can perform all of the functions I routinely use in RootsMagic 7, which is my desktop genealogy program of choice.  

With RootsMagic, I can perform these functions that some or all of the online family tree services cannot do:

*  See a Pedigree View, Family View, Descendants View, List of Tree Persons, perform a WebSearch, or see a Timeline with one click.  
*  Navigate to a specific person in the tree with one click and some typing
*  Have two trees open at the same time, and copy/paste persons from one to the other
*  Provide a Source List, a Place List, a Fact Type List, and be able to edit and modify entries
*  Use a Media Gallery that permits one media item to be used for multiple persons and events

*  Create and maintain a Research Log and To-Do List keyed to individuals and/or repositories
*  Have Bookmarks and Named Groups 
*  Find a name or place in any database record 
*  Search and Replace a word or phrase 
*  Create Ancestor or Descendant Reports Using standard genealogy numbering systems

*  Create Wall Charts (ancestor, descendant, bow-tie, hourglass, fan), Timeline Charts and Relationship Charts
*  Create Lists for Ahnentafels, Birthdays/Anniversaries, Descendants, Multimedia, Missing Information, On This Day, Place, Statistics, Surname Statistics, Timeline, Who Was There, etc.
*  Create Research Reports for Correspondence, Repositories, Research Log, Research Notes, Source List, To-Do List, Custom Reports
*  Create a Book for Selected Persons and/or ancestral lines
*  Merge Duplicate Persons 

*  Problem Search List 
*  County Check for Historical Place Names
*  Date Calculator, Relationship Calculator
*  Create a Calendar (Birthdays, Marriages) with Selected Persons
*  Calculate Relationships Between Two Persons

*  Create Files to Generate a Website using HTML
*  Create a MyRootsMagic Website (e.g., http://my.rootsmagic.com/rjseaver/index.html)
*  Share and Sync Information with FamilySearch Family Tree
*  Share and Sync Information with an Ancestry Member Tree (TreeShare)
*  Find Record Hints on Ancestry, FamilySearch, Findmypast and MyHeritage for a person (WebHints)

*  Perform a WebSearch on any number of user-defined websites
*  Craft Evidence Explained style source citations
*  Use standard place names (allowing historical differences) and interface with online Maps

Many other desktop genealogy programs can do many of those tasks.  RootsMagic is unique for some of them.  Other programs may have unique features.

Some of the online family trees can make a standard Pedigree Chart, a standard Family Group Sheet, find a specific person, calculate relationships, but not all of them can do those tasks, and most of them cannot do even some of the Report and Chart tasks.

This may change in the near future.  With the desktop/laptop computer trend to limited hard drive storage, not having a CD/DVD drive, or permitting downloadable software (e.g. Chrome Book), the time is ripe for online family trees based on the desktop genealogy software programs.  We may be able to do all of the functions listed above in an online family tree program with a personal tree.  That may cost a yearly fee, but we wouldn't lose much functionality.

I wrote about my "ideal genealogy software program" in Dear Randy: How Can I Avoid Updating My Tree in 5 Different Places? (posted 19 May 2014), and still have that dream.  In short - a Genea-Web (no slight to other websites or programs intended - the image got way too busy!) - I think this shows my ideal (in 2014):

If "Some Other Program" were able to exchange data seamlessly between itself and the other programs and websites, it would be very valuable.  We have GEDCOM to exchange data between desktop programs, some online trees, but GEDCOM is dated and mangles custom source citations.  Websites use APIs to exchange data with other websites and desktop programs (e.g., RootsMagic TreeShare with an Ancestry Member Tree).  

In the long run, I still think that the FamilySearch Family Tree will be the biggest and most accurate online tree, and will eventually be able to exchange data with all of the other online trees and all of the desktop genealogy software.  It can do that now for some software programs and online trees.  


Copyright (c) 2018, Randall J. Seaver

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Keith Riggle said...

Randy, those are all excellent reasons for keeping your tree in a desktop application. Another important reason for me is that, with my tree on my device(s), I own and control it. If you just leave your tree in the cloud, it becomes subject to the vagaries of the websites where it resides. How many family tree websites have come and gone? I noticed Mocavo in your diagram, which was absorbed by FindMyPast. MyHeritage has absorbed several websites, like GenCircles. But those websites could just as easily have shut down without notice, locking users out of their trees. Hopefully everyone at least keeps a GEDCOM backup of their online trees, but I'll bet most people don't. And even if they do, I can't think of any family tree websites that allow you to include media in your GEDCOM--without using a desktop application.

Personally, I'd rather do my work in my desktop app and sync it with the cloud to get hints and serve as cousin bait, much as you do.

Tony Proctor said...

James's article is still very much about "family trees" -- as are those online products -- and I have a separate issue with that focus over real history. There are pros-and-cons for both the online and desktop worlds, including the potential loss of data stored in either camp. Transportability of data -- even if it's only the tree-based GEDCOM -- is not directly related to whether the product is desktop or online; it comes down to the will of the company producing it. Functionality accessible through the user interface, however, is very much related to the difference. It is in the interests of the producer to use Web technologies (no need to worry about distribution, updates, support of old versions) but this comes at a cost since those technologies are less capable of providing graphical interfaces -- simply filling in forms with items of data is a poor substitute. This also extends to visualisations -- different ways of conveying information from your stored data -- although lack of vision may be involved, too, since the ergonomics of the form-fill interfaces are dreadful.

Linda said...

I agree with Randy's "YES" - absolutely.
Aside from other issues you never know when a website will change, shut down, be hacked, be taken over by another, etc. And all these could lead to big changes, either a new fee for access, or increased fee for same.
While I have a couple of online trees, I will keep my main tree on my own database (also Roots Magic).

Linda Stufflebean said...

I agree with Keith - I have ownership and control over my research findings and data. I've never understood why anyone would work on their family history and then keep the one and only tree on a website, whether free or by subscription. Sharing is great, but keeping all the work in only that one site - never!

Regina Bruner Markowicz said...

FamilySearch most accurate? How do you get rid of those 5 extra children folks added to your ancestor that are not correct? They are a hodge podge of inaccurate mess but we must keep using it to try to snuff out all the copies of bad data from non-researching people.

Tess said...

For sure we need a desktop program. I admit I use Ancestry to add people to save my wrists (CTS), but I am careful and document everything and sync with RM. Plus, I'm also painstakingly working through a Do-Over in RM as well. Plus, I'm also working with Family Historian - I like having an alternative, especially if something goes wrong with RM (or vice versa). My alternate used to be Legacy, but I got sick and tired of waiting for them to add Unicode support.

Monta Lee said...

I have Ancestry, FamilySearch and FTM. Should I just sync with Ancestry or should I also sync with FamilySearch? I ask because FamilySearch is public.