Friday, October 30, 2009

Can you do genealogy on a Mac?

One of the most re-occurring questions asked me at the Mesa Regional Family History Center involves running genealogy programs on a Macintosh computer. Very frequently, during a class on Ancestral Quest Family Tree or RootsMagic 4, someone will ask if the programs can be run on an Apple Computer. The answer is yes, but with qualifications and the solution is not necessarily simple.

There are three main stream solutions to running genealogy programs on the Mac:

1. Purchase a Macintosh based genealogy program.
2. With newer Macintosh computers with Intel Processors, run Boot Camp and install a Windows partition.
3. Use a program like Parallels Desktop on Intel based Macintosh Computers to run PC based programs.

You can avoid the whole issue by using a Macintosh based genealogy program. There are many, but the leader is Reunion 9 from Leister Productions. For a partial listing with links see About.com Genealogy.

In June of 2005, Apple announced that it would begin producing Intel-based Macintosh computers in 2006. Since that time all of the Macintosh computers sold now use some type of Intel processor, in some cases the same or very similar processors used in many Windows based PCs. The two options above only became a practical reality with this introduction. It is true, that there were Macintosh programs that would run PC program in emulation but they never gained a very big product base and were by and large difficult to use.

With the newer processors the Macintosh can run a Windows based operating system. The Boot Camp program creates a separate "partition" or portion of the hard drive and then you can load a Windows operating system. Yes, you do have to own a copy of whatever level of operating system you install, Windows XP, Vista or 7. This solution works very well. The resulting Windows portion of the Macintosh runs as well or better than many PCs. The main drawback is that to use the PC you have to quit your Macintosh programs and operating system and reboot into Windows. It is more like owning two different computers in one box.

The last solution is Parallels Desktop. This program creates a Virtual Machine on the Macintosh which with the addition of your copy of a Windows operating system, becomes a PC. Early on, this solution was slow and clunky. On one of the faster new Macintosh's with the new Parallels Desktop 4, it is amazing. The main drawback is that running a PC on your Mac is like towing a house trailer with your Porche. You might be able to do it, but you better have a good reason to do it.

In short, you can run almost any PC program made, including virtually all of the popular genealogy programs on a Macintosh. If you really want to do so.

Stay tuned for my review of the new Windows 7 and why you might want to upgrade (or not).

1 comment:

  1. I've used Family Tree Maker for about 12 years, but I recently helped someone with a Mac. He'd never done any genealogy, but I had him start with Reunion and he went to his local library to use Heritage Quest and ancestry.com. He had been watching me use my FTM, but it was easy for him to learn Reunion. We had no problem working together, and he is on his way to filling out a Mayflower lineage for membership.

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