If you are researching your family history and own a computer then you will eventually want to buy a genealogy software program and use it for storing the genealogy information that you find. Genealogy software can make it incredibly easy to enter all of your information and chart it in a variety of formats. It also makes sharing info a breeze - you can print out a new family group sheet or create a GEDCOM file and have it on its way to another researcher in a matter of minutes.
With dozens of genealogy software programs available to choose from, selecting the best genealogy software for you can be a daunting task. Genealogy software programs offer a wide variety of options including the way they format data, the types of charts they produce, their ability to help you organize your research and opportunities for storing extra information such as photographs and scanned documents. They can even speed up your research by allowing you to search for patterns or interesting statistics in your data or by letting you keep a research log or to-do list right with your family data.
Entire books have been written about how to select the right genealogy program, but it basically boils down to what is right for you (bet you were hoping I wouldn't say that). Almost all genealogy software programs do a good job of letting you enter your family data and view it in a variety of formats. Prices range from free to upwards of $100 U.S. Options are a bit more limited for people who use Macintosh computers or want a program for their handheld. The best way to choose the right genealogy program, whether it is your first time or you are looking for a replacement for your existing genealogy software, is to make a list of your requirements and then try out the programs which seem to meet those requirements. Most genealogy software vendors have free trial or demo versions available just for that purpose. Most of the ones that don't offer a money-back guarantee.
Some things to keep in mind as you make your list of requirements:
- What do you want to do with your genealogy information? Some genealogists want to create beautiful wall-sized trees, some want to include photos, audio and video, some want to use the software to create a family Web page for them and some are just looking for a basic program that can store names, dates and events.
- Do you plan to share your research online with other family historians? The major genealogy programs offer you the ability to upload your family tree data online in a variety of formats right from your computer program. Some also offer simple Web-page creation capabilities.
- Will you want to write a book with the information that you enter? Some software programs offer more features for printing family history books than others.
- Do you prefer to use keystrokes to enter data or do you prefer to click from box to box with the mouse?
- What kind of charts and reports would you like your software to be able to print?
- Do you want to be able to easily read in genealogy files created in other software programs without any loss of data?
- Are you tracing your family’s history for eventual submission to the LDS church? If so, you will want to use software that supports the special fields needed to document rites of the church.
How willing are you to take the time to learn all of the features of the program? If you are easily frustrated and hate to read instruction manuals, you may want to forgo the fancy software program with all of the whiz-bang features for a somewhat simpler program which you can become comfortable with quickly.
Since you are most likely new to genealogy software, you may find yourself having a hard time even answering some of these questions right now. If that is the case you may want to consider downloading one of the free genealogy software programs or one of the ones with a free demo program and playing around with it for a while until it is comfortable for you to use. Then try out several more programs in the same manner. You will quickly learn which programs offer the features you need and are the most intuitive for the way in which you work.
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