Too Many Genea-Software Programs! How to Choose? Part 2

Yesterday, I began pondering which of four potential genealogy programs I might choose to be my primary software program – Family Historian 6, Family Tree Maker 2017, Legacy 9 or RootsMagic 7.

Today, I’ll share a bit of my limited trials with each program. I decided I needed to be consistent and set up each practice tree in the same way, adding the same records and images.

First up is Family Historian 6. I really like several things about this program. It is very easy to add data and images:

Adding Info

There is a relationship calculator between the root person (home person) and a selected individual:

I was also able to tag my great grandfather’s face in a group photo of him, my great grandmother and my grandfather. I can’t capture an image of the process, but all I had to do was open the individual’s work box, click on LINK TO FACE and then draw a box around his face using the cursor. Very simple and quick!

It also asks how I want to back up the program whenever I exit – gedcom, partial file or full file.

The main drawback, and only real negative to this program, is that it doesn’t have source citation templates set up using Elizabeth Shown Mills’ Evidence Explained formats.

Source Template Box in Yellow

Although the directions state that source citations can be created using a format of our choice, the information needs to fit into these data boxes; the final product won’t be in EE format.

I am the first to admit that, in general, those templates frustrate me no end, but if I really want to make an honest attempt at using them, I need a program that has them formatted to the EE style.

My other option, which might be my tried and true method anyway, is to type bibliography-style citations in my research notes, but typing them in EE format. Although in the long run, it is a lot more typing, I won’t be pulling my hair out because I can’t find clear directions as to what some of the terms in those boxes mean.

Obviously, I have barely touched on all the features in this program, but trying to create a source citation was a bit unwieldy. One other negative is that there is no local users group.

As much as I really like Family Historian 6, the source citation templates might be the deal breaker, at least until an update that includes EE templates is released. It’s a fabulous program with this one (big) exception.

Family Tree Maker 2017 – Before I begin with FTM, I will admit that I am somewhat biased against it, due to all the issues I’ve had with it over the years.

Besides the freezing (it’s already happened once with the new 2017 release) and lengthy time it took to open the program, I just discovered a huge issue. I don’t know whether it was on the FTM end of the equation or an Ancestry issue.

I rarely look at any of the media in my Ancestry tree, which I uploaded from FTM years ago. I last synced my tree in June 2014. When I opened FTM 2017 and downloaded my Ancestry tree into FTM, it completed the task very, very quickly. That was because when I looked at the tree in FTM, there were six images attached to my grandmother and many – probably 100 – were missing!

Then I went back to Ancestry and found the same few images. However, when I hit the search button in Ancestry, it brought up all the hits for my grandmother, including all the images I had originally attached to her.

I have no idea how this happened, but both my FTM tree and Ancestry tree were stripped of almost all the images.

I called Ancestry, the girl helping me replicated every thing I told her on her end and created a report to send to the programmers. Who knows when I will ever hear back from them! Yes, I do have a full backup AND I imported my tree into RootsMagic and the images are attached there.

The point is – and I’ve heard others say that their trees have had items and people disappear – there is always a chance something can happen.

It was not an easy process importing a backup file into FTM 2014 or 2017. I tried and couldn’t find the file. My husband even had to play around with the options before realizing that an ftmB file couldn’t be found by the program until the little box asking for the file format had the option changed to include it. It could only find ftm files.

On the plus side, there is a local users group. Also, Family Tree Maker looks very much the same as when it was owned by Ancestry. Creating a new tree was very easy:

Adding a source citation was another pain. It isn’t intuitive for me and I had to open the PDF Companion Guide. It also appears that, like Family Historian 6, it doesn’t have source templates set up in EE format.

I think is deal breaker #2. It didn’t take much, given my other biases against FTM.

Onward I go:

Legacy 9 – Remember that Legacy 9 is the program with which I have the least experience and, from what I can see, may well have the most bells and whistles. There used to be, but is no longer, a local users group.

It was very easy to begin a sample tree:

Legacy Home Screen in the Tree

Legacy Family Tree has a LOT of free webinars demonstrating how to use this program. Scroll down to What Do You Want to Learn? and choose Legacy Family Tree.

Many, although not all, of the software webinars are free to view at any time. Geoff Rasmussen created most of them and he does an excellent job demonstrating features.

Legacy 9 includes Source Writer, which allows the user to input information in a source citation that is turned into the Evidence Explained format.

Legacy SourceWriter

Watching Geoff’s webinar on using SourceWriter made it extremely easy to use.

As I first mentioned, though, I believe that Legacy offers way more bells and whistles than the other programs and it takes practice to master usage so that steps become automatic and quick.

I really like many of the features found in Legacy 9, but realize that I need to spend more hours hands-on to be able to navigate the program at the speed I need to if it is to be my primary software program. It’s not off the table, but for now remains in a holding pattern.

RootsMagic 7 – Last, but not least of my four, is RootsMagic 7. RM is the program I turned to when I had had enough of the FTM issues in 2014. RM 7 is also quite easy to use. Here is the work screen:

RootsMagic 7 Work Screen

I have the manual for this program, but remained confused after looking up information on the source citation templates. Happily, friend and fellow blogger Randy Seaver wrote a series of posts in January 2016 about setting up Master Source Templates and then adding citation details to them. Those became my bible!

For the most part, RootsMagic 7 allows for easy navigation, data entry and searches. It helps that I’ve attended a local SIG (Special Interest Group), which is part of the Pima County Genealogy Society here in Tucson.

Where does that leave me in terms of making a final choice? I have to say I think Family Tree Maker 2017 is my least favorite of the four programs. It also froze on me when I had only opened it a handful of times and that is one of the issues that made me decide to drop it in 2014. I was also a bit surprised that the source citations aren’t really in Evidence Explained format.

Next, I really, really like a lot of the Family Historian 6 features and workability. However, for now, it’s also going to take a back seat, mainly because of the lack of Evidence Explained source citation templates. Not having a local users group or even a Facebook users group is also a bit of an issue because of the time difference between England and Arizona.

Legacy 9 and RootsMagic 7 are both fabulous programs. Legacy 9 is the only other program that remains in the mix, but getting a handle on all of its features will take some time. I am going to continue to devote some time to learning more about Legacy and, in the long run I might come to prefer it, but at this time RootsMagic 7 will remain my primary software program.

There aren’t any real negatives for me in this program, not any that would be close to deal breakers anyway. I do miss the relationship display to the home person and I still struggle a bit with the source citation templates, but they are created in EE style and format, which is a huge plus.

I guess I’ve finally made a firm commitment!

Congratulations! You made it all the way through to the end of my ramblings!




8 thoughts on “Too Many Genea-Software Programs! How to Choose? Part 2”

  1. From what I recall from testing FTM 2017, media images used to not be automatically downloaded in earlier versions of FTM they were just linked. That said there is now an option that allows you to tell it to do so always when syncing. But be aware that those images are considered high-something and so though a tree may sync the data, the images themselves are being downloaded in the background and this can take a while especially on the first sync. So you’ve got to let the pot sit a while. You can still work but it might be a little slow. Or leave the program up and go do something else for a while.

    Side note, remember media marked private in FTM does not get uploaded to online trees. (At least in 2014 and earlier, check companion guide for FTM 2017 to see if that has changed.)

    I’m not on FaceBook so I can only see parts of the FaceBook page for the program but there is a group FaceBook page for the FTM user group which is separate and you must ask to be part of. I know this delay in media images downloading was discussed before.

    For the FTM backup files, you can not just click and open them like a regular tree file. You have to open your FTM program close any open trees, then go to File then Restore… and select the file backup ftmb file. If you’ve stored the backup externally, simply copy that file to your Family Tree Maker folder to make finding it easier. Of course what you find in the backup depends on when you did it compared to what you’ve done since. If you’ve worked online since syncing in FTM 2014 and earlier was shut off, of course there will be lots to sync/download.

    Be aware that FTM 2017 now backups up only the media in the tree’s media folder and not the files stored elsewhere on your hard drive. (See companion guide for FTM 2017) If you are storing your media elsewhere on your hard drive it simply notes the link to the file and does not backup the file. (Check your media links for any broken links which just may need to be pointed to where they are if you have changed computers/drives or moved the images.) So if you want a backup of your images stored not in the tree media folder you will have to do so manually. Either do it at the time you back up the tree file (and date it) or just rely on your standard backup process you have in place. [Everyone should be backing up their computers regularly just in case.]

    As far as Source Citations, Evidence Explained is there in FTM 2017 and possible for the sources. But remember more than half of the proper EE format comes from/relies on what the user enters in the citation field.

    But realize that those source citations created by Ancestry — when merging information to an online tree or when doing a web search/merge of data into FTM — are the ones not using EE formatting, In fact they don’t use any source citation template at all not even the digital archive format. Some people have modified the original Ancestry source to better reflect EE but when they sync have found Ancestry adds its own back or changes it back. (Can’t recall which) See Randy Seaver’s Genea-Musing post about this. Essentially he’s manually adding info to ensure EE formating rather than relying on Ancestry online/FTM merge created citations. I think he did this test in RootsMagic so I’d guess this would occur in any program that supports syncing or search/merges.

    Personally I’ve noticed that Ancestry is not being as detailed as it once was when indexing and including information in a specific citation for a person in a record. Compare older Ancestry/FTM merge source citations for like a record from a census enumeration that has been on the website for a long time to a source citation for a record in a collection that was more recently added. The older ones have more detail, the newer ones have less detail.

    My two cents. I still really like FTM’s Source Workspace and Manage Sources which lets me see everything from the source point of view as opposed to just a particular person. I can see who is connected to a particular source and how and can more clearly see if I’ve got everyone/every fact cited which is really helpful for sources that apply to a lot of people in your tree. Not all programs let you see things this way.

  2. Linda, I just bought RootsMagic and haven’t yet installed, but thank you for reinforcing the positives and making me feel good about my purchase. I’ll be blogging about my experience after I’ve had a chance to play with the new software!

  3. I too have settled on RM. I still own and use Legacy for some of its reports and other features, but for ease of use and just an overall better (for me) UI, I prefer RM.

    I will say, however, that I don’t share your enthusiasm for EE Citations. I find them too fussy and annoying, especially as so many of her templates are American-based. I prefer creating my own citations and/or adapting the ones I get from Ancestry and FamilySearch. For that reason I LOVE the FreeForm citation template in RootsMagic 🙂

  4. I recently purchased Legacy 9 and have been very happy with it. Yes, lots of bells and whistles, my goodness! Unfortunately (or fortunately, actually), when I went to make a master locations list, I realized I had not input my locations in a standardized way the past 7 years (you’d be amazed at how many ways San Diego, California can be entered–almost every location had at least 3 ways of being entered yikes). I have had to go back and fix that (a spring cleaning that has gone straight through the summer). I think I would have had to do that no matter what software I was using, though–it isn’t Legacy’s fault. By Fall my tree should be in awesome shape. I’m going to finally get into Legacy once that is done, and I’ll be posting about various customized reports I have seen people do with the software.

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