Tools and Resources

TMG Refugee

2016-01-19_0-50-33Refugee status

I have been using The Master Genealogist (TMG) for years now. It’s flexible, allows infinite tweaking of charts, and I can import sources and fact types directly into a new project for each new client. I was so impressed that I started the TMG Sydney User Group in 2004. But a year or so ago TMG was discontinued and I started looking around for a replacement, with the goal that I would use TMG for as long as I could but would be using something new in a year’s time. I figured that sooner or later – a new version of Windows or lack of drivers or something – TMG would no longer work properly and I’d be stuck with all my client projects, not to mention my own family tree.

I did some looking around and from a shortlist of three programs – LegacyRootsMagic, and Family Historian, all of which I owned – I decided on Family Historian. Family tree software is an individual thing and what works for some doesn’t work for others; just look at TMG! I started a new client project from scratch, a tree that even now only has a dozen or so people in it. Last week when I was trying to add new facts I started getting frustrated and decided to import it back into TMG so I could get on with my work. Family Historian uses a GED file and so I thought I could import that file directly into TMG, but TMG didn’t like it, telling me there was no header record.

I wondered whether it was a TMG problem, and imported it into RootsMagic, without any problems, and so I went on with it in RootsMagic. And I’ve changed my mind and made a momentous decision.

I’m going with RootsMagic.

Why RootsMagic?

  • Interface Working with a family tree program is an individual thing, where the interface and navigation comes down to personal preference. Once I started using the program for real I liked it better. It seems closer to TMG, which I liked because I could see everything on the screen at once and I could move it around to suit myself.
  • Charts It uses the same software as TMG does, or at least it looks the same to me. I can select the chart that best suits my needs and then once it’s open in the charting program I can move things around to fit on a page, or join two trees together, or whatever I want. This is important to me, and is almost a reason in itself to choose RootsMagic.
  • Sources I can create templates to suit my own standards, and I can then export them and reuse them in future projects. This gets me up and running quickly on a new client, and was such a help to me when it was introduced into TMG a couple of versions ago that I was dreading being without it.
  • Android App – there is an Android app (and a iPhone one as well) that uses Dropbox to sync the tree to my many Android devices. It’s read-only, which is all I want, and I can update it directly from the file menu within the program.

The more I use it the more I like it. I’m sure I’ll have more to say when I’ve used it a lot more.

It’s a momentous decision for me because I spend a large part of nearly every day in my family tree software, working on clients’ trees. I have at least a dozen running at any one time, often more.

RootsMagic allows you to import a TMG file directly, and I have yet to do this successfully because I have to set up my source templates. There are instructions on the website to do this, and there is a helpful forum and Facebook group. I’ve ordered my Getting the most out of RootsMagic book, and it’s been a long time since I’ve ordered a printed book to help me learn something new. I think you can still buy the program at the upgrade price if you are a TMG refugee, and to be honest it’s worth the money even if you only use it for the charts. I already had the previous version so I upgraded to V7.

This could be the beginning of a beautiful friendship!

Late Edit Just for the record, I also tried to bring the GED file from Family Historian into Legacy. The import process goes into a loop and never finishes. I like Legacy but the interface doesn’t do it for me, a very subjective thing, nor the charts.

Another chance

EscalatorIt’s a new year and a new opportunity to make this year better than last year. I’ve been doing some renovations of my technology services.

Blogs 

After a recent hacking episode on my blog Social Media and Genealogy I’ve been generally upgrading all my blogs. I’ve moved this one to the same hosting account as all the others, a process not for the faint-hearted. Hosting of personal sites was free when I started, and I didn’t mind when it increased to $20/year, especially since my business account allowed a limited number of additional domains. But now the cost is $50/year, and my business account allows unlimited add-on domains, so I’ve got to make the change before it renews in a few days.

I’ve also removed some plugins and pages that I’m no longer updating,  and generally tidied up. It pays to do some housekeeping on your blog every now and then; it’s amazing how quickly shiny new pages need to be renovated or thrown out!

Internet service provider

I’ve changed my internet service provider, which is now faster (and cheaper!), and I’m slowly changing the associated email address that I’ve used for 15 years. The email address issue is what had always stopped me in the past and apparently now providers are required to keep the addresses going (in Australia) but only for 90 days. I wasn’t told this limit when I signed up and I was very unhappy when I found out, but now I’m glad I did it anyway. I’ve signed up for a $5 per month mobile broadband plan to keep our old email addresses going because 90 days won’t be enough time to change our email addresses in the many, many places that store it. Many services use this email address as my ID, and I’ve already broken my access to one service, 23andMe, by changing email addresses. So the changeover will take time.

Cloud backups

I’ve been organising my cloud backups and consolidating (and replicating) them across different providers – Mozy Sync, Dropbox (two accounts), Google Drive (two accounts) and OneDrive (Microsoft, formerly called SkyDrive – don’t you hate it when major services like Microsoft and Google change the names of their products?). The uploads are quicker than they used to be (see above) and I use CloudHQ to copy everything from one service to another and keep them in sync. Mind you, this only works if the service easily allows you to control what gets downloaded to the same or another device. OneDrive clearly shows whether something is available offline or online only, and it shows you how much space the folder uses, not just the individual files, which I really like. I have two Dropbox accounts (one personal, one business) and the personal one uploads/downloads automatically and the business one requires manual uploading, which works well for me. I can upload and share files with clients when I am ready, without having to store a second copy on my computer.

I’ve been using Mozy for scheduled backups for years, and when they introduced Mozy Sync I thought I may as well take advantage of the storage I was already paying for to synchronise working documents between laptops. It works well and synchronises quickly while I’m working on documents, although it’s a bit slow to start up again if the device has been asleep. But the storage is now quite expensive relative to other services, and it doesn’t work with CloudHQ, so I’m replacing it with Dropbox. I’ve had to lash out and pay for extra storage on Dropbox but it means that I can cut down on Mozy storage, and CloudHQ can copy everything to Google Drive and OneDrive automatically and remotely without me having to do anything, and without storing an extra copy on my computer.

Hardware

Speaking of laptops, I now have a Microsoft Surface Pro 3, which I absolutely love! It’s light enought to carry around with me wherever I go, and big enough to actually be useful. The stylus is the best I’ve ever used, and makes handwriting a realistic option for the first time ever. Plus it runs all the Windows programs I use. I tried an Android tablet for this but the MS Office substitutes would lose the formatting and I couldn’t run TMG and it was all too much hassle to synchronise the files I needed without running out of space.

The Surface Pro 3 has made Microsoft’s OneNote a viable alternative to Evernote for the first time, and I’ve now changed how I work yet again. I’ve been slowly scanning paper files and storing them in Evernote, and they are much more easily searched and accessed than they ever were on paper. But Evernote has drawbacks and I don’t find it as useful as it could be for day-to-day work. It uses tags for categorising notes and the notebook structure is therefore quite flat, and this really bothers me. The handwriting feature isn’t smooth and responsive, and I don’t use it much despite my preference for handwriting notes.

OneNote, on the other hand, allows a more hierarchical structure between and within notebooks, and notes can be drawn anywhere on the page. The handwriting feature is a delight to use, and the stylus included with the Surface Pro 3 is integrated with OneNote. I do find the synchronising of OneNote notebooks a bit clunky and the file locations a bit mysterious but all in all I really like it. I now use OneNote for day-to-day research and other work, and Evernote for longterm filing, storage and retrieval.

Family tree software 

The Master Genealogist, or TMG, is another issue. I’ve been using this family tree software for years, for my own research and for clients. Even simple jobs are easier to visualise if you can see the family relationships in a relational database that displays in a format you are familiar with. But TMG has been discontinued and is no longer supported. Very upsetting, not least because I have so many client projects, and I have systems in place to make creating new projects quick and easy. So I will have to start again with something else. TMG still works, and I’m sure it will continue to work for a while, but one day something will go wrong – after a Windows upgrade or something similar – and I will be stuck with client projects that may not even open. I can’t take the chance. So I have to find a replacement, and I’m fairly sure it will be Family Historian which has added new features to make the transition from TMG easier.

That will be this year’s challenge – testing and configuring the software, converting all my existing projects, and working out a new system to start new projects quickly and easily.

Happy New Year!

New FamilySearch Family Trees

Enter your tree

Enter your tree here

The new FamilySearch Family Tree entry for those of us who do not belong to the LDS Church is now available. I couldn’t help myself – I had a look to see what I could make of it.

It’s not really intuitive.

For example, have a look at the tree above and tell me what you think I should do next. Where do I put my father? My mother? Where does it explain that if I put living people in (and I wasn’t initially willing to) they won’t show up anywhere? Where does it tell me that they won’t show up anywhere?

The add and search screen are the same, so if you enter someone’s name hoping to add them and then fill in the fields for parents and spouse, you are not adding the parents and spouse, you are just searching for the person with these people connected to him/her, and you have to add them separately. And because the chart shows two people in each box where you would expect to see one, it’s difficult to work out where to put anyone at all.

I’ve added five people so far, including myself, and I can only see three on the tree, so I’m not spending any more time on it.

I have every respect for the work that FamilySearch do, but they really need to find some decent web developers and analysts.