Friday, April 13, 2012

You Think My Software Is Ugly and Unfriendly!

I enjoy reading reviews of genealogy products ~ software, websites, applications, subscription services, books, archives and libraries, tools and gadgets ~ anything that will assist me in learning how to "do genealogy" more efficiently with best practices and great results.  This morning Dick Eastman re-posted a press release from (in the Google+ Stream) of a review of Legacy Family Tree Deluxe 7.5 by Jill Duffy. As is often the case with these press releases, Mr. Eastman had no accompanying comment so I don't know if he read the review, agreed with it, disagreed with it, or had any thoughts on the matter. Within moments, Tamura Jones re-posted the review on Google+ and included his thoughts which were interesting and program-related.

Disclosure ~ I am a current Legacy Family Tree user. I have purchased and used two other programs: RootsMagic4 which has several features I like but does not feel as intuitive to me as Legacy, and Family Tree Maker which I stopped using because I got tired of the constant paid updates, freezing, and too close interaction with ~ a subscription service I use but do not want syncing with my database. That said, I read the reviews and comparisons of all the major genealogy database software and add-ons and work with them for different purposes. Armed with my morning coffee, I went over to to read the Legacy review.  The full review can be found at Legacy Family Tree Deluxe 7.5 Review.

Following are some of Ms. Duffy's comments and my reactions:

  • bottom line ~ Legacy has all the tools you'll need to record personal history, but the user experience could be better.
    • how so ~ what did you find difficult and what steps did you take to learn
  • pros ~ well structured and feature rich
  • cons ~ ugly interface, has a learning curve
  • user experience can be daunting, particularly if you are new to genealogy
    • isn't most software daunting if you are unfamiliar with it
  • "fine option if you are well versed in genealogy and/or you're looking for a piece of software to use for a long time"
    • this is definitely a good selling point in my view
  • not the most attractive design, ..."well organized beneath a layer of mustard green backgrounds and extra large sized tab fonts, with no proselytizing to be found"
    • did you check out the customization tab which includes colors, sizes, wording, and backgrounds ~ if not, you should have if you were going to judge the program 
    • proselytizing ~ really, that comment is a bit odd ~ does she normally find software contains proselytizing? I found this comment insulting and it was not directed at me. I have never met a genealogist who proselytized and I have been to the Family History Library on several occasions - I have found the LDS representatives at the FHL to be respectful of all researchers' beliefs, professional and super helpful.   
  • "isn't an ideal piece of software to use if you're only looking to dabble in your family history"
    • dabblers probably aren't going to purchase software ~ who are these reviews for?
  • does have some powerful features that might pay off 
    • she spent time working with Research Guidance
      • interestingly this is the feature I use least
    • she spent time working with events/facts
      • good choice but I don't get the impression she really played with this feature
  • upset that upon entering her name, Legacy "immediately opened up a slot for my non-existent husband" 
    • this has never happened to me and when entering a person I usually get a prompt for parents (and we all have those)
  • had trouble figuring out how to enter her mother's two marriages and assign children correctly
    • this is where the help section and tutorials come in handy
  • charting appears to be a program within a program and more modern appearance 
  • "feature rich (myriad field for recording details, as well as suggestions for sources, enables you to do real and long-term research in a highly organized matter)"
    • and this is a good thing!
  • not particularly user friendly
    • ah this hurt my feelings ~ I think Legacy is plenty friendly  
  • seven screen captures highlighting her points 
    • really odd choices 
      • the chronology color bar ~ how about showing customization tab with several choices 
      • how about showing a chart 

At the outset I always wonder if a reviewer is familiar with the subject matter of the review (i.e., beginner, intermediate, advanced user) and how much time the reviewer spends putting the software through its paces. Specifically as to this review, does the reviewer have any experience in genealogy, does s/he use a database management program for genealogy? Does the same person review all the products in the same category (here all the genealogy software)? What skill-set does the reviewer bring to the review? Does the reviewer make use of tutorials and/or help sections included with the software?

I do wonder if reviewers play around with the software ~ perhaps in this instance checking out the customize tab and working through setting up the software to fit a user's needs and wants. Ms. Duffy did show a customization screen but it was for heading colors in the chronology report ~ not a very good or representative example of customization in Legacy (or in any other program). I was surprised to read that she did not find Legacy user-friendly because I chose Legacy as my database software primarily because I found it so intuitive and user-friendly. This just goes to show that you have to test software yourself to find what works best for you. I was especially impressed with Legacy's well-designed help section available at every step of data entry. 

I freely admit that I am a reader and am willing to play around with software. I played around with the free version of Legacy, read through the help section and watched the introductory tutorial. After I purchased the software, I downloaded the Legacy User Manual, read it and highlighted areas of importance to me. I also made a point of playing around with software, clicking on every tab to see what it would do ~ I am not afraid that I will break something. I was not worried about the changes I made because I knew I could hit the reset to default button (no harm no foul). 

My approach to learning new things is to read, watch and do. In order to get the most and best use out of anything I either purchase or check books out from the library (i.e., Microsoft Access, Excel, and Publisher, genealogy research methodology, etc.).  I do not expect that I will learn everything about a software program or application in one sitting. I hope that a program will have enough features that it will grow with me and be capable of expanding to fit my increased needs over time. I realize that we live in a world where things are "dumbed down" for us, but I don't think genealogy is or should be one of those things. Do I expect my television remote to work without much thought on my part? Do I expect my washer and dryer to work without reading complicated user manuals? ~ Yes to both questions! Do I expect that my genealogy software should work with little or no thought? The answer is a resounding No! 

Genealogy is a process and it requires at least a question, some research and thought, analysis, data entry, source citations, report writing, and perhaps photos, charts and/or stories published in some format. In all aspects of this process I need to think about what I am doing, why I am doing it, how I am supporting my conclusions, and how I want to present my findings. In this regard, I think Legacy (and several other software programs) do a very good job. Like many things in life, effort is required to get the best possible outcome.  Take the time to play around with software yourself, find what is intuitive, and then spend the time to learn the ins and outs of your software and make it work for you. Ms Duffy's two main criticisms of Legacy can be easily resolved ~ customize your software program and take the time to learn how to use it. 

I decided to take a look at the comparison chart and found that Ms. Duffy reviewed Legacy,, Ancestral Quest and Family Tree Maker 2012. Definitely take the time to check out those reviews and if you use those programs you might add a user review. I was surprised and disappointed that RootsMagic5 was not included and there might be other programs that should have been included. I don't really consider that should have been in this grouping, perhaps it should be with online database programs. What do you think?

Perhaps for other genealogists (as well as myself) Ms. Duffy's top selling point for FTM is something that gives me serious pause ~ "There's no need to dig around libraries and county halls anymore because Family Tree Maker and puts centuries of documents at your fingertips."  Oh no, another version of "you don't need to know what you're looking for, you just have to start looking." Another of her top selling points for FTM relates to the tight relationship between FTM and However, by doing this she skews her review of stand alone software (in terms of product and cost) and her review and editor's choice amounts to a comparison of apples and oranges. FTM earned the editor's choice with 4 of 5 points while Legacy earned 3.5 of 5 points. I could not find a review of RootsMagic5 which I expected if an editor's choice award was going to be given. There are only three user reviews on the site ~ I would love for more genealogists to weigh in with their reviews of the software.

So, what do you think of the recent software reviews in What genealogy software do you use and love (or use and hate) and why?


  1. Tessa, I think you pretty much nailed it. Of course the mustard color is ugly (I changed it long ago). Anyway her reviewing skills are seriously deficient.

  2. I think genealogy software program ranking is like choosing one favorite car model--sometimes you need a minivan and other times a subcompact.
    For photo management, I need My Heritage Family Tree Maker because it coordinates my online/offline image files automatically. It has face detection that plays nice with Google tagging so I only have to enter the detail once.

  3. I used to use Legacy, and I didn't really agree with her either. The only reason I left Legacy was because RootsMagic allows me to create my own source templates. Legacy 7.0 (the last version I used) allowed me to override their templates, but I prefer to create my own. That's just what is important to me, though, and I know others don't care so much about that feature. Her review was obviously aimed at the general public and not at the genealogy community. She annoyed me too when she kept mentioning that Legacy was only good for "long-term" genealogists. That's exactly why I left FamilyTreeMaker for Legacy.


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