Monday, July 6, 2009

My Switch to RootsMagic 4

In my last post, I discussed how I am organizing my genealogy digital media. Besides trying to find the correct file on my computer, I am also reorganizing because I made the switch from Family Tree Maker 2009 (FTM) to Roots Magic 4 (RM4). Today I want to write about why I made the switch.

When I started doing my family history a year and a half ago, I started by building an online tree on Ancestry. I soon realized that I wanted a copy on my computer in case Ancestry's servers crashed without a backup or the site closed one day. So I went shopping for family tree software. I decided to use Family Tree Maker 2008 because I wanted to tie together what I found on Ancestry and my Ancestry online tree to what I had on my computer.

After I purchased the software, I started hearing more and more about people complaining about FTM08 when compared to FTM6. Since I had never used FTM6, I didn't know what the big problem was. I found that the software was slow to load and crashed, but since I had never used any other family tree software, I didn't know who much was FTM and how much was my computer. I was also disappointed that I couldn't synch my FTM to my online tree at Ancestry. But I also found that it helped me to organize my data and cite my sources. I liked being able to add my media and attach things that I found on Ancestry (until I realized that I should just do it manually to avoid odd file names and follow good source citations.)

When RootsMagic 4 was being released, I thought that I would give it a try. I heard very good reviews about it. One thing that I like about RM4 compared to FTM was that I shouldn't have to purchase a new version every year. I understand that FTM releases another version each year to keep it on store shelves, but I didn't want to pay for it every single year. I also wanted to get the updates for the software for more than just one year (I wanted software that was supported long term).

After using RM4 for a few months, I think that I will be staying with it. At least until I find something better.

Here are some of the reasons that I like RM4 more:
  • Faster load times
  • Haven't crashed it yet. FTM would crash when I would try to add media to it WAY too often.
  • Shared events. I love being able to add a census record once for an entire family. I use the "Residence (family)" fact and then share the fact with all of the children in a given household. If I would need to change this fact, I would only have to do it once. It also quickly shows me who an individual was living with when a census was taken.
  • More source templates. When FTM09 came out, it had many more source templates that correlated to Elizabeth Shown Mill's Evidence Explained, but I find that RM4 has more.
  • Customizable source templates. These are also available in FTM09, but I find that RM4 has even more flexibility. I will write another blog post about how I am using this later.
Here is what I wish that RM4 had:
  • I wish the sources for each fact were listed to the side of the page as they are in FTM. I think that sources are so important that they shouldn't be hidden away. RM4 only tells me how many sources I have for each fact, I want to be able to quickly see what they are.
  • I wish that I didn't have to click around so much. I feel like it takes too many clicks to get to what I want. Once I'm on the person popup screen, I have to click on the fact, then click on sources, then click to add a source, then click text detail, just to add what was recorded in a source. I didn't feel that FTM took this long, but maybe I just was so used to it.
  • I wish that you could edit the source details (like adding text that you found) right on the source page instead of having to click to another screen.
  • I wish that it would give me more guesses when I typed in a place. In FTM, the software tries to guess what place you are typing. RM4 only gives you a guess to what you have already added. Although places change over time and FTM may try to guess a county that didn't exist yet, I like the feature for spelling purposes. I'll have to go through my places at a later time to check them instead of when I input them.
  • I don't like that it tries to make every photo I add the primary photo, I wish that I could turn off this check box.
Although I don't find RM4 perfect, I have made the switch. My number one reason for the switch is the ability to make customizable source templates (which as I said I will discuss at another time).

I do want to mention that I tried to use Legacy Family Tree when I got my netbook. This was right before RM4 was released and I was trying to decide what software I wanted to use. When I tried to open my GEDcom in the free version of Legacy 7, it would just crash. That was my first and only experience with Legacy and since I couldn't get it to work, I never tried it. I know that other people really enjoy using it, but if it can't even open my GEDcom, I won't be using it.

This is just a quick comparison list. I'm sure I could think of many more. Maybe I'll write a part 2 when I think of another list and after using it some more. What have you found in your own comparisons? What did I forget? Leave me a comment or send me an email genwishlist [at] gmail [dot] com.


  1. Tina,

    The problem you experienced importing the FTM GEDCOM into Legacy is probably a combination of FTM and Legacy issues.

    As I remarked in my FTM 2008 review already, FTM2008 does not even write a proper GEDCOM header, yet a year later my FTM 2009 review had to note that even that simple issue had not been fixed yet :-(

    That said, although the FTM GEDCOM may not be perfect, Legacy should not crash on any (ostensible) GEDCOM file, but instead report whatever is wrong.
    I do not disagree with your decision to dump Legacy because of your experience,
    but hope that they are paying attention to what you are saying and improve their import.
    You are far from the only one to stop trying an application before you've really started because the GEDCOM import just fails.

    - Tamura

  2. Hi Tina, I'm in the process of moving my database to RM4. I agree with many of your wishlist items, particularly having sources more visible. That's one of the few things I dislike about RootsMagic - too many things seem to be hidden and require additional clicks to view.

  3. I switched primarily because of the customizable source templates as well. I used to use Legacy 7.0, but I didn't like that the only way to change a source citation was to override it every time with my own. The customizable templates are so much more convenient. The only tricky part is getting all my parenthesis, spaces, etc in the right places. It was funny b/c one night at dinner on the RM cruise, Bruce told me he was initially going to talk about customizing templates in the advanced Legacy class, but then he changed his mind b/c he figured I was the only person interested in it (he told me to email him if I had questions). I think that he meant that I was the only person capable of understanding how to do it. Since I am pushing 30, I think I will go on that cruise every year so that I don't feel too old :).