We admit it we still haven’t addressed every new genealogy-software buyer’s number-one question: What’s the best program? Naturally, you want to get the most bang for your software buck. So why aren’t we talking?
Because it’s a trick question. These days, just about every genealogy program does all the things beginning genealogists need. But each program has its own strengths and signature features. So the “best” program really depends on your personal preferences: Are you most interested in creating pretty charts? Pick a program that offers tons of chart formats and graphic options. Want to research in tandem with Aunt Lulu? Scrutinize the software’s collaboration features. Are you a stickler for source citation? Seek out programs that allow for proper documentation, Instead of heading for your local electronics store, you can start shopping right here with this rundown of the most popular family tree programs for Windows and Mac. We’ve highlighted each one’s key features; to learn more. visit the software’s Web site, read past Family Tree Magazine reviews (noted in the listings) and check out our online Software Guide <www.familytreemagazine.com/softwareguide>. But when it comes to decision time, here’s our best advice: Don’t sweat it. (Really!) Thanks to GEDCOM and other data-swapping features, you can “upgrade” to a different program anytime.
• Ancestral Quest 11
Price: $34.95 download or $37.95 CD-ROM
Requirements: Windows 95 or higher, 10MB hard disk space and 8MB RAM
Key features: Easy navigation and terrific reporting capabilities. Automatically searches Ancestry.com’s online databases (some require a subscription) for names in your files. Sold in stores as Heritage FamilyTree Deluxe.
• Ancestry Family Tree
Price: Free download
Requirements: Windows 95 or higher, 10MB hard disk space and 32MB RAM
Key features: Easy-to-use software companion to Ancestry.com’s free and subscription-based online databases. Based on an old version (3.0) of Ancestral Quest.
Reviewed: June 2002
• Family Historian 2.1
Price: 49.95 pounds (about $82)
Requirements: Windows 95 or higher and 15MB hard disk space
Key features: Attractive, customizable family tree charts you can even edit your family information right in the charts.
Reviewed: October 2003
• Family Tree Legends 3.0
Pearl Street Software
Requirements: Windows 95 or higher, 30MB hard disk space and 32MB RAM
Key features: Has an attractive, easy-to-use interface. Automatically backs up your data on secure servers, and intelligently compares your ancestors’ names to those in Peart Street Software’s GenCircles <www.gencircles.com> pedigree database. Also lets you “chat” and swap files with other researchers who use the program.
Reviewed: August 2004
• Family Tree Maker 11
Requirements: Windows 98 or higher, 125MB hard disk space and 32MB RAM
• Family Trees Quick & Easy 6.0
Requirements: Windows 95 or higher, 6MB hard disk space and 16MB RAM
Key features: Similar to Ancestry Family Tree, with extra timesaving features such as source and repository merging.
• GEDitCOM 3.55
Price: $49.99 or free as a file browser Requirements: Mac OS 8.1 or higher
Key features: Creates and reads GEDCOM files, so you don’t lose data when you download or share files with other researchers.
Reviewed: December 2001
Price: Free Windows Standard Edition; $29.90 Windows Premium Edition; $69 Mac X version
Requirements: Windows 98 or higher/Mac OS 9.1 or higher, 27MB hard disk space and 32MB RAM
Key features: Beautiful family tree charts (even in 3-D). Windows users should try the free version before investing in the Premium Edition.
Reviewed: October 2002 (Windows), April 2004 (Mac)
• Heritage Family Tree Deluxe 3.0
Individual Software (800) 822-3522 <www.individualsoftware.com>
• Legacy Family Tree 5.0
Price: Free Standard Edition; Deluxe Edition $19.95 download or $29.95 CD-ROM
Requirements: Windows 95 or higher, 40MB hard disk space and 64MB RAM (128MB RAM recommended)
Key features: Strong source-citing and photo-editing capabilities. Offers a variety of printed reports and a handy to-do list.
Reviewed: June 2004
• The Master Genealogist 5.0
Price: Gold Edition $59 download or $79.95 CD-ROM; Silver Edition $34 download or $39.95 CD-ROM
Reviewed: October 2002
Price: $59.95 Classic Edition or $79.95 Prestige Edition Requirements: Windows 95 or higher, 30MB hard disk space and 16MB RAM Key features: Easily publish your family tree on your own Web site or CD-ROM. Weak on source documentation.
Reviewed: October 2001
• Personal Ancestral File 5.2 (PAF)
Price: Free download or $6 CD-ROM
• Reunion 8
Requirements: Mac OS 8.5 or higher and 12MB hard disk space
• Roots Magic 2
Price: $29.95 or $39.95 with printed manual
Requirements: Windows 95 or higher and 32MB RAM
Key features: Easy to use. Has outstanding reporting options and photo-editing tools.