This free offering is really a "lightweight version of RootsMagic version 4," which normally sells for $29.95. RootsMagic Essentials contains many of the core features found in the full RootsMagic program, although not all the features. As such, it serves as a great introduction to the full program. Want to take the program for a test drive? Download the free RootsMagic Essentials. It is essentially the same thing, only with some features disabled. It is a great way to get familiar with RootsMagic’s operation and basic capabilities.
Of course, there is no requirement to upgrade to the $29.95 version of RootsMagic. The free version is an excellent product all by itself, and I suspect that many people will continue to use RootsMagic Essentials forever. However, if you do use the free version and then decide to upgrade to RootsMagic 4 at a later date, the upgrade requires only a minute or two. In fact, all you do is pay the upgrade fee and then receive a "key" that unlocks all the features of the full program.
Do you want to share your genealogy information with a distant cousin? If that person uses Windows and does not yet have a genealogy program, have him or her download RootsMagic Essentials. You can then send your data to the cousin, either as a native RootsMagic file or as a GEDCOM file. Even if you use a different genealogy program, on a Windows, Macintosh, or Linux computer, you can send a GEDCOM file and your cousin can import your GEDCOM file into RootsMagic Essentials.
Anyone who is using an older free genealogy program, such as Personal Ancestral File, also should download and try the free RootsMagic Essentials. I believe you will be very impressed with the extra power and capabilities built into RootsMagic Essentials and not found in simpler programs.
Both RootsMagic and RootsMagic Essentials will operate on any Windows XP, Windows Vista, or Windows 7 computer. I have also installed RootsMagic Essentials on a Macintosh, using the free VirtualBox virtualization software from Sun Microsystems along with (not so free) Windows XP. RootsMagic Essentials should work equally well on any Macintosh OS X system that uses Parallels or VMware Fusion virtualization software. See my earlier “Genealogy Programs for the Macintosh” article at http://blog.eogn.com/eastmans_online_genealogy/2009/06/genealogy-programs-for-the-macintosh.html for details.
So what is different between the two programs? What is missing in RootsMagic Essentials? Here is a side-by-side comparison of the major features of the two programs:
RootsMagic Essentials (Free) RootsMagic ($29.95) Yes Yes Runs under Windows 7, Vista, XP, and 2000 Yes Yes Support for international character sets through Unicode integration Yes Yes Integrated backup and restore help safeguard your data No Yes Back up directly to CD No Yes Customizable tool bar No Yes Free technical support Yes Yes Easily switch between navigation views using tabs Yes Yes Pedigree View (5 or 6 generations) Yes Yes Family View No Yes Descendant View (2-7 generations) No Yes People List View (Customizeable) No Yes Built-in WebSearch No Yes RootsMagic To-Go lets you run RootsMagic (program AND data) directly off your flash drive Yes Yes Family members are automatically linked as you add them Yes Yes Automatically checks for duplicates as you add people Yes Yes All information for a person is shown on a single streamlined 'Edit person' window Yes Yes Easy to use Explorer-like help system Yes Yes Open multiple databases on screen at the same time Yes Yes Easily track multiple relationships, such as adoptions, foster parents, etc Yes Yes See a person's age at every event on their edit page Yes Yes Enter place history, latitude and longitude for each place No Yes Create your own user defined fact types, and add any number of roles No Yes Sharing events among multiple people lets you assign witnesses or other people involved in an event No Yes Craft your own customized sentence for each fact or role from the live-edit pane in "Edit person" window No Yes DNA test recording No Yes Add private events that you can suppress from printing or exporting No Yes NameFind lets you easily find people by married name or nickname No Yes Narrative reports (register (NEHGS), indented descendancy, Henry descendancy, and D'Aboville descendancy) No Yes Calendars with birthdays and anniversaries No Yes Relationship chart shows exactly how two people are related No Yes Address labels for mailings No Yes Timeline (or chronology) list that can include events of other people No Yes Custom report designer, with fields that can span columns or rows and even include notes No Yes Make Shareable CDs to give to others, with custom menu and a read-only version of RootsMagic
A longer and even more detailed list of the differences may be found at http://rootsmagic.com/RootsMagic/Features.aspx.
Indeed, RootsMagic version 4 and RootsMagic Essentials are the same program, if you consider only the basics. The advanced features are generally available only in RootsMagic version 4, however.
There is one warning that applies only if you want to install both RootsMagic version 4 (the full program) and RootsMagic Essentials on the same computer and then wish to switch between them. Because they are both based on the same program, both of them will default to an installation in the same subdirectories. That is, whatever you install first will work perfectly until you install the second program, which then overwrites the first. There is an easy work-around: install them into different subdirectories.
I suspect this will affect a minority of users as most users will only want to have one version installed at any given time. If you first install the free RootsMagic Essentials and then later decide to upgrade to the paid RootsMagic version 4, simply follow all the defaults, and the new program will install properly, replacing your earlier free program. All your data will remain in place untouched and will immediately become visible to you when you launch RootsMagic version 4.
I believe that RootsMagic Essentials is one of the best bargains available to genealogists today. It is an excellent genealogy program for basic capabilities with a great price tag: free.
RootsMagic Essentials is an excellent replacement for the free Personal Ancestral File, which is very old-fashioned and hasn't been updated in years. The producers of Personal Ancestral File (often referred to as PAF) announced three and a half years ago that the LDS Church will not expend any more funds to develop a modern version of Personal Ancestral File. Instead, PAF is being replaced by NewFamilySearch. You can read more at http://blog.eogn.com/eastmans_online_genealogy/2006/10/the_end_of_paf.html.
Not only is RootsMagic Essentials a much more powerful program with many more capabilities than the aging PAF, but it is also actively supported with new updates expected every couple of years.