Tuesday, December 04, 2012

RootsMagic 6: A Review

I was very excited to hear my favorite genealogy software RootsMagic announce their latest upgrade, version 6, two weeks ago. It's hard to believe sometimes that this program can get any better, but somehow they manage to come up with new features that are more efficient and user-friendly than ever. Actually, the secret is that the developers of RootsMagic listen to their customers and incorporate requested features whenever feasible.

Whenever I'm asked why I prefer RootsMagic to any other, I tend to outline all my favorite components: how RootsMagic had the Pedigree View before anyone else did way back when it was still known as Family Origins; the ability to color-code names or entire branches of a tree (although, I'm still waiting for the color orange to be available, hint, hint!): RootsMagic-To-Go, your entire working database on a flash drive so you can access all your data at any computer, anywhere (relative's home, work, research library, archival institution); user-friendly intuitive features; and its clutter-free--yet menu-accessible--interface.

Pedigree View, featuring color-coded family lines; notice the clean interface(click on the image to enlarge)

So what is new and improved in RootsMagic 6? I've taken some time to explore and review these, and I think you'll like them as well.

The first item I explored was the editable timeline. While the timeline is not new, I really did not explore it or use it to its full capabilities in earlier versions. Besides seeing an individual's events in chronological order, one can also choose add to any combination of parent, sibling, child, spouse, or shared events, as well as manipulate the order of the place names, show place details, and show the graphic timeline (with the blue and red bars). What is new is the ability to edit any names, dates, and places that appear on the timeline from this view. For instance, if I noticed that Emeline's brother's name was misspelled, I wouldn't have to close this timeline view of Emeline's, search on her brother's name, and then open his edit menu. I can simply click on Emeline's brother's name here on her timeline, correct the spelling, and voila! The edit is complete.

Editable Timeline(click on the image to enlarge)

The second great new feature is called WebTags. This allows you to place a URL to an online image, document, or text that gives evidence for one or more of your people, places, events, sources, or individual items in your research log list. For instance, here is my ancestor, Richard Wilkinson, and his family on the 1861 Canadian Census at Ancestry. You can see that I've highlighted the URL (web address):

(click on the image to enlarge)

I can then create a WebTag of this image and attach it to my sources, to provide a link for myself and others to easily access the original image.

(click on the image to enlarge)

My third favorite component of version 6, although it is not new, is that I can view and edit two database--or even different individuals in the same database--side by side. This comes in really handy when I need to copy information from one individual to another, whether it be simple data, or a source or citation. Below is a screenshot of two of my databases. The first is my own, and the second is the database of my significant other. You will notice that we are distantly related (the exact relationship is fifth cousin, twice removed). I have data in my own database from information I have researched in online records. The data in my honey's database comes from a downloaded GEDCOM shared by a cousin of his who has researched the family tree. By flipping back and forth, I can add add information to each database without having to merge the two to ensure that both have the same data.

(click on the image to enlarge)

Some of the other new features include Find Everywhere, which allows you to search all text--notes, sources, citations, names, places, events--for a word or phrase. CountyCheck Explorer allows you to look up counties and states in the U.S., Canada, United Kingdom, and Australia to view information about them. From this feature, you can also go online to learn more at the FamilySearch Wiki page for counties and states, as well as the interactive state historical county boundaries map at the Newberry Library website. Finally, Publish Online offers a new, dynamic site for your family tree with pedigree, family, and individual views, notes, sources, and media for each person in your database. This replaces the older, HTML "90s look" of the old-style publishing options that were available. While I haven't had a chance to try this out yet, it does look intriguing.

If you're looking for a good genealogy program, or are wondering if it's worth upgrading your current RootsMagic program, I highly recommend RootsMagic 6. At $29.95 for a new purchase, or $19.95 for an upgrade, it's affordable and well worth the investment. It can also be purchased with a user's manual for $39.95 at Amazon.com . Customer support is personal and prompt. You don't have to worry that this version will be replaced every year with a new one, making your older version obsolete simply because the calendar changed. Unlike some other genealogy software companies, RootsMagic doesn't pump out a new product on a regular basis simply to make money. They make sure they are meeting their customers' needs and providing a great product, and only when the demand requires it, do they release a new, improved version. I'm looking forward to continuing to utilize this great resource to enhance my research, stay organized and focused, and easily analyze my results.

If you'd like to see these features in-depth, I recommend viewing the free webinar "What's New in RootsMagic 6" here (under "Past Webinars").

Disclosure: I was given a copy of RootsMagic 6 to review on this genealogy blog. I was not compensated monetarily, or in any way other than stated, for this review. I have long been a RootsMagic user and strong proponent since my first experience with its earliest product, FamilyOrigins. I am an affiliate for Amazon.com, and as such, receive compensation for products advertised on and linked from this blog.


Sean said...

I agree that this is an excellent piece of software, but I can't agree with the assertion it can't get better. You tout the excellence of being able to load the data on a flash drive. It's handy, yes, and I've taken advantage of that more than once, but that is such a 20th century solution. I fail to understand why so much focus has been put into creating new bells and whistles (none of which seem vital) over creating versions of RM for smartphones and tablets. Until that development occurs, I find it hard to get excited by any new versions or upgrades in the program

Miriam Robbins said...

Hi, Sean,

I wasn't clear enough about the flash drive. By "working database," I mean the entire program works (adding, editing, deleting...everything you need to do to run the program) off the flash drive, no matter where you are. What's nice is that if I'm in SLC doing research and don't have my laptop with me, I can run the program, check my data, and manipulate it as well from ANY computer. Then when I return home, I can update all the data on the program on the laptop.

Miriam Robbins said...

P.S. I don't know of any other genealogy software that offers that option right now.

Miriam Robbins said...

P.P.S. :-) Thanks for stopping to read my post and leave a comment, Sean. I always appreciate my readers' thoughts.

Sean said...

I have used RM on a flash drive in the way you described, but I would much rather be able to carry it around and access it on my smartphone.

There isn't a lot out there yet, so RM isn't the only one lagging behind, but there are a few developers who have adapted or created genealogy software for phones and tablets. For example, Legacy Family Tree and Family Bee have smartphone apps that you can sync with the desktop version of those programs. There are also smartphone and tablet versions of MyHeritage and Reunion (the major genealogy software for Apple computers). There are some that only allow you to read data (including gedcom information) that you can't update, but at least that's handier than nothing.

I really like RM and would have to switch software, but if there is too long a lag for them to catch up to other developers, I may end up doing that anyway.

Miriam Robbins said...

I look forward to RM having a smartphone app, too...but then, I just look forward to having a smartphone!

Miriam Robbins said...

RootsMagic now has an app for iPhone, iPad, and iPod touch, with Android apps to come soon! See http://blog.rootsmagic.com/?p=1522.