Monday, April 13, 2009

Transitioning from PAF -- Part Two

Economically, free is hard to beat. The fact that Personal Ancestral File is essentially a "free" program makes for a difficult sell. As it states on the FamilySearch Website:
Personal Ancestral File (PAF) is a free genealogy and family history program. PAF allows you to quickly and easily collect, organize and share your family history and genealogy information.
It also helps that FamilySearch has a Google Page Ranking of 7 out of 10, and according to Statbrain, gets about 44,000 visits per day. It also helps the popularity of the program that thousands of LDS Church Family History consultants help people download and use the program.

As a volunteer in the Mesa Regional Family History Center, I teach many classes supporting PAF and commonly find that PAF users are not even aware that they can use an alternative program. Many of the users are older computer users that only have a vague concept of the whole idea of computer programs. Even if the PAF users are familiar with purchasing software, one of the very first questions asked is how much will it cost me every year to keep current. By and large, at least from my perspective, genealogists are not wealthy people and they are mostly very budget conscious. This seems like a huge obstacle for third party program promoters to overcome.

Another issue with PAF users is that they are accustomed to the program and cannot visualize how some other program might be better or easier to use. When I demonstrate third part software, many PAF users comment that they didn't know what they were missing. If I teach a large group of people and ask how many use some other program besides PAF, I might get one or two out a group with most of the students not understanding what I am asking.

Although the LDS church has a link on its New FamilySearch Website that is called "More Great Products," most of the users of New FamilySearch in my classes have never clicked on the link. It is interesting that the New FamilySearch Website has this link, because as long as the PAF program is readily available for free, there is little incentive for any of the users to purchase the new programs, even if they are demonstratively superior in almost every way. I assume that this fact has been discussed by all of the parties involved.

One issue that will become a factor as time passes is the incompatibility of PAF with other programs and with the New FamilySearch program itself. For example, New FamilySearch uses a Person Identifier Number to specify each individual copy or file of an individual stored in the database. Two of the newer programs that synchronize with New FamilySearch, RootsMagic 4 and Ancestral Quest 12.1, automatically incorporate those numbers into the local file when the file is synchronized with New FamilySearch. However, when you export the file from either program and import the subsequent file into PAF, PAF has no field for the number and so the information is lost.

One program that has partially solved that issue is Family Insight from Ohana Software. As a PAF add-on it creates a special field in PAF for the Person Identifier Number.

This may not seem like much of an issue, but the whole New FamilySearch program is keyed into using these Person Identifier Numbers. Obviously, you solve this problem by moving to a third part program.

More to come.

1 comment:

  1. I just want to say thank you for discussing new FamilySearch and what it means for PAF Users. So many people have been told that they can no longer use PAF for genealogy research. Although PAF doesn't interface directly with new FamilySearch it is still a very useful tool. FamilySearch has even put out a nFS compatible PAF add-on list which includes Family Insight. PAF Users can use it when they need to sync with nFS and then get right back to work in PAF5.

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