- RootsMagic 6
- Ancestral Quest 14
- Reunion 10
- MacFamilyTree 7
- Heredis 2014
When I am talking about genealogical database programs, I mean those programs that you purchase for use on your personal computer. Of course, there are a multitude of choices for parking your family tree information online. But most serious genealogists still believe that having your own program on your own computer is preferable to relying on online sources.
In analyzing the genealogical database program market worldwide there seems to be a core of programs that have wide enough circulation and sales to appear as main participants in the genealogical community. There are, of course, dozens of other programs, mainly developed by individual programmers, or developed in the open source world of genealogy. Whenever I write about software programs, I always get comments about some of these other programs and how wonderful they are. One of these that is often mentioned as the program Gramps. But even that program is in version 4.0.2.
I guess my question is why there appears to be so little innovation in new programs for genealogy? it seems to me that genealogy is reached the same plateau as word processing programs, spreadsheet programs, presentation programs, and all of the other categories of software that seem to have a few entrenched software products with no realistic challengers. In some of these areas it is obvious that any challenger to the leading products would have to have a massive amount of financial backing to go up against software providers such as Microsoft and Apple. But with the exception of offerings from Ancestry.com and MyHeritage.com, most of the genealogical database programs come from smaller software development companies.
In the area of Apple compatible genealogy software, the whole genre is vastly underrepresented. None of the Apple products for genealogy are actively promoted at conferences or in the genealogical publications. Even in the Windows realm, very few of the existing genealogy programs are actively promoted. Even at a big genealogy conference such as RootsTech, there are only a small handful of genealogy program vendors.
One argument for the reason that there are so few new programs is that the existing programs are more than adequate and there is simply no room in the market for new programs. However, what I think is more likely the case is that the innovations in the genealogy software industry are currently almost entirely directed towards online programs.
There are certainly some areas of the genealogy programs that need innovation. For example, in my experience none of the merge functions in the programs that I have used work more than marginally well. That is just one example of a long list of functions that are in most cases adequate but could be improved. Data entry and almost all of the programs is painfully slow and as I have recently pointed out over and again, moving data from one program to another relies on antiquated procedures.
My observations are not intended to be a criticism of the existing programs, some of which are extraordinarily useful and have some extremely beneficial features. But it is interesting to contemplate what might happen if someone approached the issue of recording family history from a holistic standpoint with economic backing to actually move into the forefront of the community.
It was not my goal in writing this commentary to include an exhaustive list of every genealogy software program available, so please do not feel offended if I did not mention your favorite program.