02 June 2009

Genealogy Software & You!

Did you ever spend money on something and then later ask yourself why you bothered? Or maybe you bought it and no matter what you did, it just didn't live up to your expectations?

I've talked with quite a few people lately who feel that way about their genealogy software. Yep, sad but true!

When I do my genealogy talks questions always arise about which software to use. I tell my students that they need to try all that interest them and then make a decision based on what works for them. Here are my thoughts on picking a piece of software to use for your genealogy information.

1.) Determine what is important to you. For me it was sourcing & notes. I felt strongly that the software I chose had to support sourcing in a way that worked for me. Allowed me to "ibid" when I needed it, as well as the ability to "memorize" my source for multiple uses. I also needed unlimited note fields with the capability to use BOLD, italics or even different fonts or characters. If the software I was looking at did not fill those two requirements they were immediately off the list.

2.) I needed a piece of software that worked well on my computer & didn't limit the data base size. If your computer is older it may not have the "size" needed to accomendate the software you are considering. It may slow down or even cause your computer to freeze up.

3.) Photo capacity - As badly as I needed unlimited amounts of notes, sources and databases, I also needed the capacity for unlimited photo's. Unlike some people I scan everything from death certificates, estate files, military pensions and more, and then link them to the individual. No transcription errors when the click of a keystroke takes me to view the actual image.

4.) User friendly was important too! There are some great programs out there, but a few them almost offer TOO many choices. So many choices its overwhelming. Others don't offer enough. Finding something that works for you is important.

The nice thing about the software today, is that with almost all the software makers being online, they offer trial downloads of their programs. You can imput your data see if you like the program, play with it for a limited amount of time, and then if you like it, pay them and receive a "key" which will unlock the full version of the sofware. With all these companies offering the free trials you can see for yourself how the software works.

Keep in mind that not all software is created equal - and sometimes the trial version is not as "full" as the paid version. Usually the things that are not in the trial version but do appear in the full version are noted in the software.

For many years, I used one piece of software, and I used it exclusively. I did try one or two others, but came to the conclusion they just didn't work for me. The things that mattered to me just weren't kicking in the sofware. So I used the one I used since I started genealogy so long ago. Recently, after much thought and discussion with the husband, I made the change to a new piece of software. It offers all the things I was looking for and more.

It wasn't easy changing software after so many years, but when the software I bought & paid for no longer worked to my needs, what choices does one have? It was a challenge to learn new software, and yes, it did slow down the resaerch process for a short time, but in my opinion it was worth it.

I'd like to encourage you to challenge your software. Make your list of priorities and then make sure that your software is working for you. If its not working for you, then I suggest you stop and take a good hard look at your software & see exactly what it is that just doesn't do the job. Go looking and figure out exactly what the other software is doing that yours won't. Download the trial and see if it works better for you.

Step outside your comfort zone - after all who wants to pay for something that doesn't work like its supposed to....

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