RootsTech 2014


Some people eat, sleep and chew gum, I do genealogy and write...

Friday, August 9, 2013

Which programs do I really use? Part One

When I was very young, one of my earliest memories of TV was watching the Hit Parade. At that time, the song "Sixteen Tons" was popular and Tennessee Ernie Ford sang it week after week. It seems to be an ingrained trait that people like the top 10 of anything. A Google search on "top ten" shows millions of responses. There is even a top ten list of the top tens! Genealogy is no exception. Periodically, a wave of "top tens" moves through the blogging community. Usually, the top tens has to do with programs or resources or whatnot.

I wrote my most recent article on the "top ten" and didn't ever get through the list on purpose. The real question is not some arbitrary designation of top ten or top forty or whatever, but which programs I really end up using all the time. Since I spend a considerable amount of time on the computer every day, where do I end up spending my time? Unfortunately, looking at computer usage in this way diffuses the genealogical aspects of computer usage. For example, I may be writing all day using a word processing program and yet everything I write relates to genealogy. If I am preparing a presentation, I may use different programs than those when I am writing, and so forth.

Nonetheless, there are a core number of programs I use virtually every week, week after week, year after year. As new programs come along, it is possible that I use a new program from time to time. But it is interesting that "new" programs seldom become something I regularly use unless they substitute for an older program with similar functions. When you get right down to it, there are only a very few tasks that we do on a computer and for me, those involve primarily writing, searching for information or working with images. It would be very convenient, since this is a genealogy blog, to claim that I use genealogy specific programs all the time, but this would not be the reality. My genealogy related activities are very diverse and depending on current projects my needs for genealogy specific programs varies.

Along with the general trend, I use a lot of online programs. I would really guess that the number of programs I use online and the time I spend online is far greater than anything I do on my computer alone. So, in selecting a list of programs I use all the time, I have to include programs that are really only available online. For example, I regularly check the local and national news and weather. Since I only read very local and neighborhood newspapers and since we no longer have any TVs, we get all our news online, which, by the way, I find to be much more palpable than watching TV news.

Finally, I will start down through the list. At the top, without any doubt, is Google and Google programs such as all the iterations of their search engine; Blogger (of course), Google Books, Google Maps, Google Images, YouTube etc. Do I count each one of these as a separate program or do I lump them all under the Google umbrella? The truth is that the majority of my computer time is directly or indirectly involved in using some Google program. Now, do we count websites as programs? If we do, then the next program on my list is Because I teach about FamilySearch regularly, I use the website extensively. If we go beyond this level and start counting up websites, my list would very quickly become incredibly long. For example, I use twenty different iOS apps on the average every day.

As I look across the menu bar on my iMac, I have a huge number of program icons. It is fairly easy to pick out the ones I use every day or, at least, very frequently. After Google, I use an email program called Sparrow. But guess what? Sparrow is now owned by Google. Hmm. Is there a pattern to this?

Of course, since I live on the Internet, I use browser programs. Lately, I have moved entirely to Chrome. Oh, Oh. You guessed it, another Google program. This is starting to look like a Google world. Yep, and next is Picasa, Google yet again.

I do a lot of screenshots and so I use an Mac OS X program, Skitch, a screen grabber, which is owned by Evernote. I also use continually.

Then we come to all the Adobe programs I use, such as, Adobe Reader, Adobe Acrobat, Adobe Photoshop, Adobe Lightroom and others. See

I also use a variety of programs such as Apple's Calendar program, iTunes etc. I also use Parallels Desktop to run some Windows based programs, such as TroopMaster for my Boy Scout work.

Wait a minute, so far I haven't gotten to one genealogy program, excluding I guess I will have to continue this with Part Two.

1 comment:

  1. I use a free app called ManicTime that tracks what programs I use on my PC and for how long. I do it for billing purposes but its be interesting to see how much time I spend writing (Word/Acrobat), reading (Chrome) etc.