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What do you expect from a new application - which features are important to you?

Very soon will we (genea-it ltd.) release our source management software iFontium. Lately we started to design a new "family tree" application, which should be work great with iFontium.
So, what do you expect from a new application - which features are important to you?
I know Mark Tucker's great "10 Things Genealogy Software Should Do" presentation and Randy Seaver's newly post "What I want in a Family Tree Program", but both are windows user and can't speak for the mac-community.
iFontium was primarily intended for my private use, to manage our huge source collection (documents, photos, etc) it wasn't designed and developed in communicating with the mac user community. I want to change that for our next application. I know I can't gratify every mac user, but the new application should be developed in communication with the mac user community and this discussion should be a starting point.

- Ralph

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Replies to This Discussion

I wouldn't dismiss Tucker's or Seaver's opinions just because they are windows users. I am a recent Mac convert and appreciate the reliability of the Mac and the look and feel of most Mac programs, but find all Mac genealogy programs lacking. I have been using The Master Genealogist for years and haven't found anything comparable for either Mac or Windows. Why would I want to change? TMG's user interface is archaic, the underlaying database engine is weak (FoxPro) and they are slow updating the software for new releases of Windows. Why can't I change? The features and functionality. TMG allows multiple names per person, multiple events (ie. birth) when you find conflicting records and accenting (color coding individuals based on conditions - I use one color scheme for my line, another for my wife's line, a third for my ex-wife's line and a fourth for any individuals in multiple lines). I would love to find a Mac program that match TMG's capabilities.

I wouldn't dismiss Tucker's or Seaver's opinions, they are both great. But I wanted to hear something from mac user, switchers oder advanced users.
Is the user interface of TMG the only thing that you don't like?

- Ralph
Hi Ralph,

There are quite a few things about TMG that I don't care for. TMG is slow to update their product. It was originally a DOS program and they didn't come out with a Windows version until XP shipped, The user interface is Windows 3. The underlaying data engine is FoxPro (as a user I wouldn't normally care about the data engine, but it has been used as an excuse for not implementing certain features like Unicode). The response time is slow. I have to use Parallels and Windows XP to run it on my Mac.


I agree, the underlaying database isn't something a user should care about, but it is important for the user experience. A slow data engine isn't fun and Unicode support is a must have today.
Both points are are easy to implement. Since Tiger, SQLite is used in many Apple application (Safari, Mail, Aperture, and more), it is installed on every Mac and SQLite is fast and supports Unicode.

- Ralph
Larry --

Just to point out ... MacFamilyTree allows for multiple names, multiple events, and flags can set based on whatever you want. The flags would have to be hand set (at least I haven't found an easy way to flag several people at once). Plus, MFT is a SQL database and pretty darn fast.

Having said that, you'll probably notice lots of things MFT doesn't do well. Its reports are fair at best (the company said a new report system was in the works, but that's been many months). Its sourcing doesn't support citations (that, too, is on the company's to-do list).

To its credit, it handles photos better than any software I've seen. I'm not the best judge, but its web site creation appears to be excellent.

For whatever this is worth ...

Hi Doug,

Thanks, I've been looking at MacFamilyTree. I saw that it allowed multiple names, but only the primary name displays in the list of persons. I also couldn't find a way to do the accenting (color coding) that I can do with TMG.

Mark Tucker's stuff is a great starting point. With a fair amount of overlap with him here are the things that I want (in stream of consciousness order):

1. Robust import and export

Gedcom is an awkward "standard" at best and it's easy to lose information when software doesn't know what to do with a particular tag or an unexpected tag structure. Ensure all data gets imported even if it doesn't exactly match the original structure. It's easier to move data around than to re-enter data. Also produce a log file that explains what happened so the user knows what records need some work.

Similarly for export, ensure exports are produced that can be used by other prominent software. Obviously, you can't make the other software do it's job properly but you can at least produce well formed exports.

2. Master Sources

One of my gripes with all the mac genealogy software I've tried is that they force me to either enter lots of redundant info for source entries or they encourage me to get lazy and not be thorough. For example, I have many sources from the NEHGS' Massachusetts Vital Records 1840-1910. I can't enter the info about this database once and then produce citations for specific uses. The source record has to have all the info. This is error prone and awkward.

3. Repositories

Same as above only for repositories.

4. Create facts from sources

All the genealogy software I've used (which is mostly mac software) wants you to create a fact for a person or family group and then cite a source for that fact. However, many times, I'm entering facts for many people for a new source. Or adding additional citations to existing facts. From the screen where I enter the new source info, It would be nice if I could create facts or attach citations to existing facts from that one spot. This would save a lot of time spent navigating around and would really streamline data entry in this particular circumstance.

5. Multiple windows

One of my big grips with Reunion is that it I can only have one window open at a time and those windows are modal. Multiple, non-modal windows is really important when comparing two or more people to see if you've got everything right among them.

6. Annotate images

MacFamilyTree took a step in this direction recently. Allow me to tag what people are in photos (and ideally also label people who aren't in the tree). Also allow me to annotate the facts that a digital image of a census or birth record correspond to.

7. Individual vs. family orientation

Reunion forces everything to be family group oriented which is awkward when dealing with unmarried people or multiply married people. MacFamilyTree works with individual records and family records which is a bit confusing at first but works reasonably well. In an ideal this info could be displayed together in a hybrid way that was both clear and concise, but I'm not sure what that would look like off the top of my head.

8. Robust

I will pay a performance penalty to ensure my data isn't going to be corrupted by a crash. Data loss is the bane of any software and it's especially true here.

9. Data storage

MacFamilyTree stores images and other media in the database file. This makes it easy to transport and move this file but my relatively small tree with only 200 individuals, but large images is over 2GB. This removes much of the benefit to the one file as Time Machine can't efficiently back up a 2GB file and copying 2GB files into and out of network disks is tediously slow.

Reunion uses an out-of-db mechanism for storing images and I prefer this but they require file names to be unique, even across directories or you risk having two images being mistaken for one. I'm still sorting this out as at first I didn't realize this. A better method that Reunion uses for re-hooking up broken links is needed.

10. Flexible HTML, reporting and charting

Reunion gets the nod over MFT here as it allows you to customize CSS, but MFT produces (mostly) prettier default layouts Neither is ideal.

11. Good merging facilities

Ensure gedcom files can be easily merged.

12. Geotagging

Allow events and photos to be geotagged (ensure existing geotags on images are read). Maps of a person's lifetime of events on the person page or the family page would be nice. Produce custom search maps.

13. Find

Allow the user to search for pretty much anything.

I suspect I could run on for a while so I'll stop now. I'm happy to talk more offline if you like!





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