I was recently given the opportunity to try out this latest version of RootsMagic. If you want to re-read what Dick Eastman wrote about the version 1 pre-release, you can view it on the archives at http://www.eogn.com/archives/news0251.htm#RootsMagic.
Installation was via a privileged downloadable executable file, and it installed smoothly over my current version without any problems. You will require any Windows operating system, such as Win 95 or later (95, 98, ME, NT, 2000, and XP), 32 MB RAM (although this would be slow; I would recommend 64MB or more if you can afford it) and a CD-ROM drive to install the program.
New to Version 2
The most major improvement that comes with this release is undoubtedly the inclusion of the long awaited-wall charting facilities. Included are Ancestor, Descendant, and Hourglass charts. When you begin the process, the options allow you to select the starting person, chart type, chart orientation, and the number of generations, depending on the direction. For Background, you can select none, solid colour, or an image of your choice. Although default settings are provided, you can change the box height, width, and horizontal and vertical spacing. Colours in the charts can also be adjusted for the title, box, box borders, shadow, name, and event text. I found the ability to apply different colours to names and event a wonderful feature as it makes it easy to distinguish which is which at a glance. There is room to add a title to the chart. RootsMagic Chart allows you to resize individual boxes, drag and drop, and export to JPG, EMF, BMP, PCX, TGA, and PNG graphic formats. If you get access to a large format printer or take your file to a specialist printing service that delivers large chart printing, RootsMagic Charting can print charts up to 57 feet wide.
Default settings for the inclusion of data to the chart are the name with a Given-Surname template and data for birth, marriage, and death, date and place for each. There is room for five more items, their dates, places, and values. You can word-wrap the data, suppress or include blank lines, depending on your taste, and either include or exclude photos from your wall chart.
Also included in the charting is the Timeline Chart function. You can include everyone or selected individuals. If you include everyone, be certain that you have included all dates accurately, or you may end with some strange behaviour. For example, you may have included a partial date for an individual (such as 3 November 19..) to be later filled in when you have all the information. As such, RootsMagic will treat this as year 19AD and will draw a chart stretching from Biblical times through to the time when most of your ancestors lived. In this situation, it would be advised to rescind these types of dates to the notes section of the program, draw the chart with what information you have, then add/copy another individual and position as you see fit.
A nice feature of the TimeLine Chart function is that you don't have to include everyone in your database. You can select particular individuals, such as family units, ancestors of, descendants of, living, deceased, or select from search criteria as established from your selections.
In keeping with the theme of charting, RootsMagic 2 includes both ancestor and descendant box charts. Along with choosing the number of generations, you can include the Birth, Death, Burial, Marriage, and Divorce vital statistics. There are three forms of Data Format - single line with name, birth and death date (no boxes), name and events each on separate lines, or name and events word-wrapped (more compact). The inclusion of photos will only be in the last two data formats for obvious reasons. In communication with the author, it was suggested that the Include Photos option be greyed out in an update so as not to appear ambiguous.
Version 1 of RootsMagic had a feature that allowed you to publish your family history into some kind book format. This worked well, but in version 2, it has been enhanced to add extra features that will make your project really stand out in the crowd. Added to the Chapter Selection are now box chart reports and text pages. The box charts are exactly as you would normally create them, but instead of displaying the end result, a marker is placed in the Chapter Headings. I might suggest that you preview your book if you include these box charts as they can run over pages, and the end result may not be what you are looking for. As an example, I used my son in my own database as a starting point and went back 10 generations with name and events each on a separate line, and this part of the report required 4 pages. Changing the data event to the wrapped option compressed the report to 3 pages, and selecting single line (no boxes) reduced it to one page. With the last option, there are no boxes and no photographs if any are attached to the individual.
The Text page option allows the user to create free-style written text to be included as part of the book. This is okay if you just have text to enter; otherwise, if you want to merge text and graphics together, you will be required to use the former option, Blank Page Placeholders. These allow you to create your voluminous pages of text and graphics, using a word processor and assigning a "set" number of pages aside in your book compilation. The Text Page option also allows for you to add a title to the page, with the option also controlling both the title and fonts.
In addition to this, enhancements have been added to the cover page, title page, copyright, dedication, acknowledgement, preface, and TOC pages. There also have been some additions to the Index. The user can now select how they want the index presented as a number of columns (1, 2 or 3). As well as being able to select the fonts for both the title and index text, you can also control the data format presented in the index. There are three choices to choose from: name only (John Smith), name and birth year (John Smith [b. 1838]), or name, birth and death year (John Smith [1838-1902]).
I have noticed over the past few years that family history programs have been turning to technology more often than most. With the introduction of computers, we have found the advent of genealogical software. Laptops and PDA's have allowed us to turn our hobby into a truly mobile one without the need of being tied to a desk, and mobile phones and digital cameras have also helped. People are now able to locate locations far more easily by using global positioning systems that interact with satellites in orbit around our planet. These units can (depending on their sensitivity/price) get within feet of an object and, via a readout, inform the user of the exact latitude and longitude. This technology becomes extremely advantageous to the family historian, especially when locating those out-of-the-way (maybe hidden) graves. Also, with the help of other software currently available, you can find out the exact locations of cities, towns and many other wondrous features. So what do you do with these locations? New to version 2, and located under the Place Lists, select your location, then the Edit button, and RootsMagic will allow you to insert these latitude and longitude figures. Further to this, when creating Place List reports, you can include these figures in your database. Now an option for the Place List allows you to include these latitude and longitudes when you require a report, but just glancing at the Place List function doesn't give any indication that these extra locations have been included, and you do need to edit a location in order to see if one has been added. Room has been made for any notes that have been included for a location; an extra column should have been included, denoting that both latitude and longitude have been attached.
One of the new features I quickly employed was the ability to colour-code individuals within the database. There are 14 different colours to select from, and they can be for ancestors of the current individual, descendants of the current individual, or both, if you wish using two different colours, one for ancestors and one for descendants.
There is a Potential Problems list that can be used interactively. Some of the settings use conservative figures, so these may need adjusting to your circumstances, or they may give some strange results that create more work than is necessary. Then again, you may need to actually capture this information to be absolutely certain of your researching techniques. I did say it was interactive, which is an added bonus when compared to other software programs that merely generate reports. This latter method requires you to find the individual in the database, based on the report, and correct any of the inconsistencies, then regenerate that report. RootsMagic first gathers the required information and actually allows you to correct any abnormalities before you generate the report, should you require one. There are ten options that you can capture; of which four have age values. An example is the age of marriage between 14 and 70. Also, compared to other programs, the Potential Problems List gathers its information extremely fast and presents its findings in a two-column list of name/problem pairs from which you can select the person and edit the person or family, delegate it to the Not a Problem list, or print a report to screen, PDF, RTF, or as a TXT file.
Like the Not a Problems List, a similar list has been added to the Merge function: "Not a Match," along with a List of Matches prioritised by best match. Also added this version is a "Not Duplicates" list.
Also new to version 2 is a Descendant Register format report that adds to the present 6 narrative reports. Additional templates have been added to the SourceWizard, such as newspaper clipping, diary or journal, military service file, marriage license, website, diploma, and personal knowledge. The multimedia page now has a "Copy to clipboard" button for photos, although, alas, these images cannot be pasted into RMChart via the clipboard. The author will look into this for a future update. However, should you require these images in another piece of software that handles graphics; this is an excellent feature that makes use of your operating system clipboard.
There is a history list that remembers the last 200 individuals you have navigated through. Naturally, for this to work effectively, version 2 has incorporated Back and Forward buttons that you can include on your button bar, similar to your Web browser buttons. There is also a history function that you can use to go-to your individual in the history if you don't know how far back that individual is located in the list. Lastly, the Ctrl+Left and Ctrl+Right go back and forward respectively, should you prefer the keyboard shortcuts.
At the time I wrote this review, only a version 1 demo was available on the Web site, but a note indicated that a version 2 demo will be available soon. You may need to keep checking back at http://www.rootsmagic.com/demo.htm should you wish to trial it; however, at an upgrade price of just $19.95 US or $29.95 US for a new user license, this has to be an unbeatable value. You can order via the website on http://www.rootsmagic.com/orders.htm. by mail or telephone. Orders will be shipped via Priority Mail in the US, and by airmail elsewhere. The orders URL also has a list of stores located around the world, should you find one close to where you live.
RootsMagic 2 has delivered what we have come to expect from a high quality produced product, and then some more. Since RootsMagic appeared on the genealogical scene, I believe it has only just scratched the service, and the user is yet to see it bloom into its full potential. You no longer have to use third party software for your charts, and the inclusion of box charts was a long awaited feature. There were some omissions with no inclusion of metric settings for our International users, but I was informed that (both strangely and unfortunately) I was the only one who requested such an option. I would like to believe that there would be more who require metric, and if you do, please let the author know via the email list. The other thing I found slightly disappointing was the lack of using the multimedia copy feature to the clipboard and not being able to paste to the RM Chart function. I have, however, been reassured that this will be looked at in a future update/upgrade. Overall, RootsMagic 2 is still a winner, firmly entrenching it into the higher echelons of family history software.
Lastly, I can't help it, but RootsMagic also has a way cool new logo with this release!
About the Author
Mark Lang has authored over 50 genealogical program reviews since April 2000 and has traced his wife's ancestry back to late 18th century Scotland. He has been interested in family history since 1991, is a member of his local family history group since it began in 1996, and was their webmaster for four years. He has a degree in computer science and is currently writing a book involving a genealogical program.