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Kimberly Powell

Mac or Windows for Genealogy?

By December 14, 2010

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My laptop has really been struggling this past week - three reboots required just this morning! It's a lot of unproductive time wasted, so I think I'm going to treat myself to a new laptop for Christmas. But what to buy? After almost 20 years with a Windows machine, I'm thinking about finally switching back to Mac. Can all of you genealogists out there using Macs tell me what you're using and why I'll love the switch? I'd love to hear suggestions for your favorite genealogy and productivity software as well!

December 14, 2010 at 11:35 am
(1) Fred Gates says:

Been a MAC person since the first one came out. Never had an urge of any sort to go to windows. Reunion for MAC is the best genealogy software. I would use a MAC just to get to that.

December 14, 2010 at 11:38 am
(2) Rea Williams says:

I have tried several different Genealogy programs over the years but I always come back to Legacy Family Tree by Millennia. I has just about all of the features needed.

December 14, 2010 at 11:51 am
(3) Mary C. Kanta says:

I have been a Satisfied user of Mac for over 25 years. I have used Reunion for many years and am happy with it. The Apple-Mac Store is very user friendly. Have great teachers in a 52 week tutorial program. Stand behind their products. I don’t think they can be beat. Can find a user group easily.
You will be glad you put a Mac on your desk top, I am sure.

December 14, 2010 at 11:52 am
(4) Jenn says:

I love my Mac. I switched about three years ago and haven’t looked back. And unlike my PCs, I still have the same MBP running great that I bought three years ago.

December 14, 2010 at 12:05 pm
(5) Michelle M. Roy says:

I’m on a mac for a few years and tried Reunion, but always loved the way my Family Tree Maker worked well with ancestry.com membership so I used to run FTM on a Windows partition set up on my Mac. Luckily, Family Tree Maker just came out with a mac version, and I am thoroughly enjoying it.

December 14, 2010 at 12:06 pm
(6) Susan says:

I’m using a Mac – 3 years and still loving it – but haven’t found a Mac genealogy program worth the trouble of changing. I’m still running Legacy using Parallels (runs a virtual pc on the Mac). It’s not ideal, but there’s too much time involved in transferring everything to a new program. Frankly, I don’t love any of the genealogy software. Citations are a nightmare with all of them, linked files don’t transfer. Ugh. Not worth changing.

The Mac is lean, stable, fast and hasn’t given me any trouble since I bought it. My favorite programs are cloud based and more programs are running on Mac (other than genealogy ones).

December 14, 2010 at 12:15 pm
(7) LeRoy Eaton says:

I have used a Mac since the first SE was on the market. I now use and old G4 Mac in a tower. My laptop is also a 800 Mhz G4 both perform extremely well using Reunion. It is the best program of the many I have tried for the Mac. I would recommend switching to the Mac. The software and the computers cost more but im my opinion are worth it.

LeRoy Eaton

December 14, 2010 at 12:42 pm
(8) Charles Bourland says:

The Mac is clearly superior for several reasons. (1) Reunion is excellent software with easy to use shortcuts and formats consistent with professional standards; (2) The Apple/Shift/4 subroutine’s ability to pinpoint pieces of a photo, web page or screen is unsurpassed as a means of saving only what is needed; (3) the Mac’s ability to handle graphics and photos is important; (4) Reunion’s ability to run on an iPad is where we will all be in the near future as we travel to explore our ancestors; and (5) Reunion’s implementatio0n of the Register standard from NEHGS has no equal.

December 14, 2010 at 12:48 pm
(9) Linda Guyan says:

It took me years to make the leap from PC to Mac and I wish I had done it sooner. My biggest obstacle was fear of transferring my Family Tree Maker files. I finally discovered Mac-based Reunion genealogy software and the customer service folks there gave me step by step instructions. I worried for nothing! I’ve now been using Mac and Reunion for several years and am very happy I made the switch. Mac is much more reliable and Reunion is a wonderful genealogy software with terrific customer support. You’ll be glad you made the switch!

December 14, 2010 at 1:08 pm
(10) Mike Reich says:

I switched from Windoze to Mac about 4-5 years ago and while I don’t regret that for a second, I found most of the genealogy software in the Mac world didn’t measure up to the program I’d used for years on a PC, RootsMagic. I found that I can run RM3 on my Mac using a great (and inexpensive) program called Crossover, which enables running a wide variety of Windows software on Macs (without actually having to install Windows). It’s basically a Wine implementation customized for Macs. I use it to run about 3 programs that I like more than OSX counterparts, but otherwise, I’m OSX all the way.

December 14, 2010 at 1:15 pm
(11) Eddie says:

Have used Macs sine the SE and for those rare occasions use emulation (have used PCs too)

I have tried many genealogy programs and, while each has features and designs that work well, for me its GEDitCOM II. While it can be used by the beginner “out of the box” the scriptability of the program beats the others hands down.

December 14, 2010 at 1:17 pm
(12) Joe says:

Windows is a Mac operating system ripped off by Microsoft in the 80s is what I’ve been told. I have used both at work (large university) and play. You can’t beat a Mac. If you buy one locally you can get a one-on-one person to help you for a year for $99. I use Reunion, which is the only genealogy program written exclusively for the Mac. Good luck.

December 14, 2010 at 1:31 pm
(13) Whitney says:

I used Reunion for years, but I’m now running RootsMagic through a Windows emulator called Crossover. It works pretty well… There are a few bugs (ex: Caps lock gets stuck sometimes), but all-in-all it’s a good trade off for the functionality that RootsMagic gives. I’ve tried all the mac “biggie” genealogy programs and never felt like the offered the professional functionality that RootsMagic has.

December 14, 2010 at 2:03 pm
(14) Harold says:

I have been using Apple produces since I bought an Apple II many many years ago. Had to use a windows machine when I was working, hated it, windows is just not very intuitive.
I have been using Reunion for many years now and the file now contains over 95,000 records for our research group. I like the way Reunion works and the fact you can have two file open at the same time. The personnel at LeisterPro.com are a cut above the others. Their response to questions is accurate and very timely. LeisterPro publishes a daily mailing that contains questions from Reunion users and responses from both Reunion users and LeisterPro. Reunion will also run on an iPod so you can take it with you when researching at archives and other areas, as well as with family.
Our local Mac club uses Reunion as the program of choice for our Genealogy subgroup.

December 14, 2010 at 2:09 pm
(15) Peter says:

I’d give my vote to MacFamilyTree. It’s made by the German software developer Synium Software (www.macfamilytree.com).
I think it’s way better than any Windowsware that I’ve seen.
I’ve been on Mac’s since the SE and today I use a MacBook Pro and a MacBook Air.
There’s also an app for my Iphone that also runs well on my Ipad. I can easliy export the whole database from my Mac to my phone or Ipad and add data and then update the database on the Mac at the next sync.

December 14, 2010 at 2:13 pm
(16) Bret Petersen says:

Be sure to check out http://www.macgenealogy.org/
for the lastest information about all the various programs for doing genealogy on the Mac.

December 14, 2010 at 2:23 pm
(17) William G. Bates says:

I am extremely proud to say I am an Apple Junkie since 1982 when I worked with the SE in college while taking Programming, Scientific courses. Since then I have had a Coleco (IIe emulator in an expanded 10wpm printer with dual streaming cassette style tape drives and a TV for monitor) graduated to a IIgs before going to the Mac (Presario 1015) and now have an Intel 20″ flatpanel along with an old PPC G4 iMac 700 dome. I also worked with just about all the old PC style machines during 25 years with the government and I can attest to the stability of the Mac in that I have had only ONE major failure and that was caused by a bad OS Upgrade disk and Apple walked me through (by phone) the restoration process without a loss of any data then was on the phone with me when I reinstalled the OS after arrival of new disks.

I did not start genealogy until 1997 and was using Genie as my main program until it was not quite powerful enough for my vastly expanded database (70K individuals) and switched to GEDitCOM (which I still have on the PPC machine) and have expanded the database to 200K+. I upgraded to GEDitCOM II and it has allowed me to really customize the index such that I can now search for events in any of the columns. Both the last two are customizable using AppleScript, among others, for not only reports but the program itself can be customized to suit your style of organization, within GEDCOM constraints, and GEDCOM’s can be directly used by both the old and the new. This last is greatly expanded by the all files being stored in GEDCOM format giving quick, and EASY, access for file transport and utilization by just about all other genealogical applications. Add to that the GREAT customer service, many times directly from the apps programmer but also from other users.

December 14, 2010 at 2:48 pm
(18) arlene miles says:

I use a PC and am loving it. The program I use is Roots Magic because it is easy to learn and it has everything that is needed to keep track of any type of information you enter. There are many pre-defined reports available as well as design your own. If you are just starting out, add the GenSmart program, which analyses the information you enter into RootsMagic, and gives suggestions on where to search for additional information right from the screen if you are a member. There are also suggestions to libraries and societies along with film numbers/call numbers to explore. Even an experienced researcher can appreciate the ease and depth of these two programs. Good luck.

December 14, 2010 at 3:46 pm
(19) Lynda says:

Are you crazy?? Who would want MAC??? No one in the REAL world uses it!!!! We used to teach it in S. Florida in the schools and then when the kids went on to the real world they had to learn Windows.
Hubby says about the only reason you would want to use Mac is if you were a graphic designer – “that’s about the only thing that it does better than Windows!”

Just our thoughts on Mac…wouldn’t have it if you paid me.

December 14, 2010 at 5:33 pm
(20) Glenda says:

I changed to a iMac a year ago and am loving it. I am committed to Legacy Family Tree so bought Parallels and Windows 7 to run it. I am loving the ease of the Mac and the help that is readily available if I do have questions or have a problem. I too use One to One. Fabulous.

It is quite a change from the frustrations I had with various old PC’s. I don’t think you would be sorry to change to a Mac.

December 14, 2010 at 5:34 pm
(21) alicia arter says:

I use Family Tree Maker on a PC and love it, since it syncs with ancestry.com. I stick with PC’s. I use MACs at work and don’t really like them. They are slower (even though they are new). Even my MAC-fanatic friends are adverse to putting new programs on theirs because of crashing and slowness. It’s a tech struggle, regardless of what you have. But my PC’s have been uber reliable for 25 years.

December 14, 2010 at 5:47 pm
(22) Mike Amato says:

Remember, the newer Macs can also run Windows, so you have both operating systems on one computer! Plus Macs run a version of Unix and are difficult to crash and have almost no viruses. Studies show that Macs are easier to use and people who use them are more inclined to spend more time operating their computers.
Mac OS runs on Mac computers while Windows runs on a lot of different computers which increases the difficulty of matching the two.

December 14, 2010 at 6:16 pm
(23) Jan says:

I switched to an iMac this summer when my 6 1/2 year old VAIO laptop started running rough! Using Parallels 5 I run The Master Genealogist under Windows 7. I can paste back and forth between the Windows side and the MAC side so I really do not need the MAC for anything else except for the program I use to access work remotely. There is a MAC version but the windows version work better.

My son started the shift when he went to college 3+ years ago. My husband followed a year or so ago.

The book Switching to the MAC by Pogue was great!

December 14, 2010 at 11:36 pm
(24) Jeff says:

I think you want to switch to a Mac, so I won’t really chime in on that. But, if genealogy is your main use, I find it interesting how many people swear by their Macs but purchase Windows 7 (multiple times the cost of any genealogy program) and possibly an emulator just to run one genealogy program…

Best of luck with your choice…

December 15, 2010 at 7:21 am
(25) Dick Ammann says:

I have been using computers since pre-DOS days (who’s ever heard of CPM and Osbournes?). I’ve tried most of the genealogy software programs along the way. I’ve been using The Master Genealogist for many, many years. At one point my employer got me to use Apples, and I tried the Reunion software. I couldn’t even cite the connection between parent and child. I gave up on Apple / Macs when printers took days to hook up, it seemed. I even tried to run Windows on the Mac. I went back to TMG in the Windows world and have never left. It is a much more thorough genealogy program than anything I discovered in the Mac world. I just updated to Windows 7 and am very, very satisfied. TMG should create a Mac version; it would outshine everything else.

December 15, 2010 at 8:52 am
(26) Rich says:

A lot of Latter-day Saints are involved in Genealogical research. They tend to like programs that transport data directly into the //new.familysearch.org data base. Here is a breakdown as of my latest information:

Personal Ancestral File (PAF). This was the program developed by the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. It is free for personal use. The MAC version has not been updated for some years. The Windows version is no longer being updated. It will interface with FamilySearch by using the product FamilyInsight from Ohana Software.

Legacy – An excellent Windows program. No interface with FamilySearch as of yet.

RootsMagic – Another excellent Windows program. It does interface with FamilySearch. It also can be downloaded to a portable USB device so that it can be used on other Windows computers.

Ancestral Quest – This is very similar to PAF and was the original source of the design. It is an excellent program that interfaces with FamilySearch.

ReUniion – The most popular MAC product. It does not yet interface with FamilySearch, but they told me that this would be included with a future version. It has an Apple App that can be used on iPhone or iPad.

FamilyTreeMaker – This looks like an excellent program, available on both Windows and MAC. It does not appear to interface with FamilySearch.

The //new.familysearch.org data base is currently only available to members of the LDS church, but much of it will eventually be released to the general public. Other LDS data bases such as //www.familysearch.org and //beta.familysearch.org are currently available.

Can anyone add to this?

December 15, 2010 at 10:49 am
(27) Wild Bill says:

I’ve owned a PC since Sept 1984, IBM cost over $4000.

Why spend more money just for a MAC?, then more money for the programs?

Just bought 10 year old granddaughter a laptop for $319, and it’s 15″ w/ 2 meg ram and 160 gig harddrive, a real nice and fast pc, they just keep getting lighter and lighter….. and cheaper and cheaper………,
CHECK OUT OFFICE DEPOT, has some really supper buys….. they know their stuff and have repairs too

December 15, 2010 at 1:11 pm
(28) abby says:

I absolutely LOVE Mac’s, my little powerbook has been going strong for 5 years now and I hope to upgrade to a new Mac within the year. I plan on getting the Ancestry Family Tree Maker for Mac (FINALLY) over the holidays. I can’t wait to get started with it, anyone using the Mac version? Love to hear your feedback!

December 17, 2010 at 9:46 am
(29) Bob says:

From the above comments, you will find that most Mac users are very enthusiastic supporters of the Apple products. In the real world, there are few good genealogy programs specifically for Macs and they are more expensive. You can run Windows programs on them with some additional software. Most of the world uses Windows and that is some advantage…lots of programs and user support. I think that Windows is the best bet overall. Family Tree Maker, RootsMagic, TMG, Legacy are all good programs for genealogy.

December 20, 2010 at 7:59 am
(30) Judy says:

For those “tech snobs” who wrongly assume that Macs aren’t REAL computers, they should know that Macs are increasingly being used in the field of biotechnology, where their greater processing speed and far superior graphics rendering capabilities are valued. Plus, the Mac interface is gorgeous to look at –Windows is downright ugly by comparison. I have used both Mac and PC and given the choice would NEVER select a PC. Windows is slow, awkward, inelegant and needlessly complicated. My colleagues at work who only have PCs are constantly calling for tech support — for problems with both hardware and software. The only calls that I have made to tech support in the course of 3.5 years with the company were related to my PC. Macs are easier to use, more robust and just all around better than PCs. Connecting peripherals is simple and easy, as is installing or removing software. System preferences are easy to understand and use – no programming skills required. Choose a Mac and you will never look back!

December 23, 2010 at 6:58 am
(31) James Edward says:

Mac is the best if you are in the USA, it would be wise purchase if you buy Office Max, Wal-Mart, Target etc, and the most essential is that, there is no any hard-n-fast rule for Mac users no matter what genealogy software you use.

December 23, 2010 at 1:22 pm
(32) John Foltz says:

I have used an Apple/Mac at home since I bought an Apple 2c in 1984. It had a Windows like program 5 years before Windows was introduced. I have always thought that PCs are for programmers and Macs are for users. I have used Reunion 7 for my genealogy database since I started to pursue it seriously 9 years ago. I have been very happy with the program. A month ago I upgraded to a new iMac and Reunion 9. I still love the program and now I have an iPad with the same Reunion database that will sync with the iMac. It really makes my database portable.

December 24, 2010 at 12:05 am
(33) Ellen says:

I just bought a Mac after my last pc crashed, I have a program that only runs on windows so I have to run Parallels on it.

I bought the new Family Tree Maker for Mac software which I now regret. As soon as I brought it home I started seeing post’s on the Ancestry.com genealogy software forum that ppl were having a problem with the program “crashing” their Mac. So for anyone who is entertaining the idea of purchasing this software beware!

I will be investing in the Reunion program as soon as I get my money back for “dud” that I bought.

Meanwhile, I’m using the same old free pc family tree maker program that has served me well for 10 years now.

I love the idea of being able to go mobile with my database so I also see an IPad in my future!! thanks for the tip John Foltz

December 25, 2010 at 7:51 pm
(34) Prof D says:

I am a high-end Mac user, running multiple operating systems on the same laptop. Feel strong affinity for Wild Bill up there, in terms of going for most affordable PC in terms of raw computing power.

Assuming Wild Bill did not persuade you to resist the urge to igrate:

The best place to go to decide on genealogic, that I have found, is


Look at the top three Mac products, and read the followup linked web pages. Look especially at all of the screen shots, and the input and output formats. If at all possible, download your favorite for a trial run.

December 25, 2010 at 7:52 pm
(35) Prof D says:

In re: whether indeed to switch (Wild Bill’s last ditch attempt to persuade you not to leave the PC fold):

Have always, and will always use PCs.

BUT, I am now sold on Apple hardware and OS, because… (i) in side-by-sides, in-use PCs in my work area experienced 5-10x higher service issues, and even higher rates of service than cranky SG machines (somewhat old data by now); (ii) entire departments with which I was affiliated were shut down by infecting malware, while the graphics units running Macs ran happily along undisturbed, and (iii) I found the only solution to multiple OS needs in PCs were multiple boots, vs all OS running in parallel on same machine via VMware/Parallels solutions.

The switch of Apple to Intel chip sets sealed the deal.

And yes, Macs are higher in cost. Besides getting the above and much more — the Windows 7 innovation is not much more than MS’s finally getting a Win OS that feels like Mac OS X and runs without crashing — you have to understand that Apple computing cost is now in support of branding and image maintenance, commercial and retail operations, etc. (Compare the services and infrastructure available at your local mall-based Apple store to your local Dell, Acer, etc. PC retail outlets, in terms of training, service, etc. That is, if you are blessed, geographically to have any PC retail store at all.)

Many don’t need Apples defining features, but many do, and those are both at the retail end, and at the high-end computing/graphics ends of the spectrum. Cheers.

March 18, 2014 at 7:57 pm
(36) Norma Logan says:

would like to ask what you think about:
I have an old Power Mac computer that I loved and was using for my Genealogy…then I couldn’t get the updates to Family Tree Maker for the Mac that was I using….so have tried to do Ancestry on various computers since…..I still have that Power Mac and the Family Tree Makers CD’s etc that I was using…I now see that Family Tree Maker has these for the Mac’s
Is it possible for me to update that old Mac and use it only for my genealogy projects? If so how do I update the Mac and how much would it cost? Hated to give up using the Mac but it got so slow…..any help, suggestions is appreciated……

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