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Genealogy Software Place Management
I have worked with and compared Family tree
Maker, Rootsmagic V6 and Legacy Family Tree v7.5 looking in detail at how they help users manage places. Whilst
Rootsmagic has many useful features I believe a common modern interface is required to make the process of
reconciling and geocoding places and place details more productive and user friendly.
For that reason I have placed Family Tree
Maker in the top spot here with and if you view the video below you will see why.
Family Tree Maker 2012 has good interaction
with Bing Maps both automatically throwing up suggestions on the embedded map but also allowing users to
geocode the place by simply clicking a point on the map. It also shows people and events linked to the highlighted
place allowing users to easily move into and back from the edit person
My inclusion criteria was to only add a showcase video for
the genealogy software feature which was rated in first place in each category. However Rootsmagic
V6 has so many useful Place Management features that I believe these warrant inclusion.
The introduction of a new modern user
interface to bring the common Rootsmagic place management features together could easily rise the program above the
others. As software users we can only hope that the vendors are listening and up to the
Regardless of the name within the
program Family Tree Maker, Legacy and Rootsmagic come with a gazetteer which is a geographical dictionary or
directory. Some of these gazetteers are larger than others and when searching for places throw up more
possibilities and matches. I have listed the size on disk of the gazetteer which accompanies each program, some of
these are free downloads following program installation.
It's worth noting that the program with the
largest gazetteer, Legacy v7.5, also has the least functional place user interface. In saying that if you
simply want help finding possible places it does throw up quite detailed possibilities.
Rootsmagic is the program with the greatest number of Place related features however working
within with any effectiveness is thwarted by the current fragmentation within the program. There are
currently few direct links between the Place List, Mapping, County Check, Gazetteer and
Reporting. If all the features available in Rootsmagic were smartly brought together in a new fully
functional user interface similar to that used by Family Tree Maker then Rootsmagic would be the best
Place Management tool I have tested and easily Number 1 in this category.
So what's missing? :
The current Place List has no direct link to Gazetteer, County Checker or
Rootsmagic Mapping and must be closed to access these other features. This breaks
workflow and makes Place management much more time consuming and
When something like an Occupation or other problem is found in the
Place List there is no way to directly move to the Edit
Individual screen and correct the problem. Instead the user must use the
Print button and note the individuals using that entry and then edit those
The Print button on the Place List
will create a screen report of all individuals using the selected Place but this report is
static and not hyper linked. In other words it must be either printed to paper or file or the used
must make a note of the entries for later editing.
Whilst pressing the Online Map button may well bring up an exact
match on the modern Bing Maps interface including geo co-ordinates these
co-ordinates need to be copied and then pasted in a two part exercise into Rootsmagic.
Family Tree Maker allows direct lifting of these co-ordinates but even if
Rootsmagic allowed a direct single paste option it would be much better than the current
Rootsmagic provides one option to Print Events Near a Place where
the user enters a radius with the intent of reporting Place or Place Details
within that radius. At present this feature is broken in respect of ignoring Place Details
regardless of there proximity.
The Print Events Near a Place option should by default be
populated by the highlighted Place when the Print button is
pressed, this is currently not the case.
I believe this Proximity Search should be brought to the fore with
a dedicated button where when selected the current options of entering distance or latitude and
longitude values can be entered.
The current Place List offers no Search facility within the
interface to search for possible Place Detail components or maybe just show a filtered list of all
those places in Pennsylvania. This is something much needed to help manage large
The Place List could very much benefit from a hierarchal view
where Places are displayed reversed. Family Tree Maker already provides this option and it is
another very beneficial in feature in managing Places.
Merging of identical Places should not be a
manual operation and it currently is. Rootsmagic versions previous to version 4 did Auto
merge identical Places and Family Tree Maker achieves this very well.
County Checker is a positive and informative feature but
constantly receive negative opinions from users. From my observation this seems to be mainly due
to it wanting to change the Place field you have just entered in your own
preferred format. I believe County Checker would be better received if it
populated the Standardized Place Name field as the Gazetteer
does leaving the users preferred name format as is.
Whilst on the subject of Place Fields Rootsmagic provides three in total and
options exist to select these for reporting. I have found that the Standardized Place
Name which Gazetteer populates and as stated above I believe
County Checker should is the concise Place description and usually a four
component description, three commas in other words. This being concise and recognised by the
Gazetteer I decided to rebuild my Places from this data with the Place being the first three
components and the Abbreviated Place Name being the first two components. So in an example where
the Standardized Place Name is Wilkinsburg, Allegheny, Pennsylvania,
United States, the Place becomes Wilkinsburg, Allegheny, Pennsylvania
and the Abbreviated Place becomes Wilkinsburg, Allegheny, so I can select either
for reports. Unfortunately I had to perform this outside Rootsmagic but it would be an easy option
to offer users within the program.
Well that forms a pretty long lists of asks and on the face of it might make Rootsmagic
version 6 look pretty dysfunctional. I must restate that Rootsmagic version 6 has probably the greatest
number of Place related features however they have become fragmented over time as they have been introduced
as bolt-ons rather than being built into a common user interface.
The potential is there for all these features to be brought together and streamlined into a
new single user interface where hopefully the development team can make most features a single click away and
obvious to all.