The Sad State of Mac Genealogy Software
I’ve recently been experiencing a renewal of interest in family history research. About 4 or 5 years ago I did quite a bit of work on my genealogy, but what with kids (and Ruby!) I’ve only recently rediscovered that passion.
Unfortunately, this renewal of interest coincides with my adoption of Mac OS X. I say unfortunately, because I have looked and looked for a decent genealogical program for OSX and am frankly astounded by the lack.
“Lack” is probably too strong of a word. There are actually quite a few applications for the Mac, and a few of them are even free. But I have been less than impressed what what I’ve seen.
- Reunion by Leister Productions appears to be the suite of choice for most Mac-using genealogy enthusiasts. Unfortunately, it is also butt-ugly. I can’t emphasize that enough. I’m sure there are plenty of ugly Mac programs, but I can’t believe people would pay $100 for something this hideous. It’s like they couldn’t decide on a color schema and so went for as many pastels as they could find. And the list of children, there at the bottom? What’s with the bizarre diagonal layout?
- Heredis is a bit better—it at least looks like a Mac application. But it follows a philosophy of “make everything available in a single window”, which I found a bit overwhelming. It also took forever to import my database (20k individuals), which doesn’t exactly make me confident in its ability to handle large databases. Not something I’m willing to spend seventy bucks on.
- MacFamilyTree is the most visually appealing of the three commercial apps I checked out—I was very impressed by its look. However, my impression of it is that it would make a very good application for a beginning genealogist, who has a very small database. It doesn’t handle rapid data entry well at all, and it cannot handle databases larger than a few thousand individuals. It also uses the GEDCOM file directly as the persistant storage, which does not scale. (A side-note: I cannot understand why so many programmers of genealogy software persist in thinking that a raw GEDCOM file is a good way to store genealogical data. It is a data transfer format, for crying out loud! Any program that uses the GEDCOM directly as the database is unsuitable for my uses, because the raw GEDCOM file as data storage mechanism cannot scale to tens of thousands of individuals. Figure it out, people!)
I also looked at several free applications for the Mac, and they either were extremely minimal, funtionally, or they used the GEDCOM file directly. (I’ll forego a second rant.)
I know there are some decent apps that run under X11 (like GRAMPS), but (for one) I don’t want to have to install all the million little dependencies those have, and (for another) I’ve never found those apps very well suited for my style of research.
Frankly, the only genealogy application I’ve ever really liked is the Personal Ancestral File versions 4 and 5, which only runs on Windows. I really don’t want to have to do all my research on Windows. Really. I cannot use Windows anymore without becoming extremely frustrated.
So, unless someone can point out another option for the Mac that I haven’t already looked at, I’m thinking about writing my own. (This is one of the “need” applications I mentioned in my last post.) In general, web-based genealogical programs are very difficult to use for anything other than browsing one’s database, but I’ll probably use a simple Rails-based interface so I can work out the data model, and then I’ll try and learn ruby-cocoa in order to make a prettier UI.
- Scale to tens of thousands of individuals.
- Easily navigate the database, not only from parent to child and child to parent, but jumping to specific individuals quickly.
- An evidence system that isn’t just an afterthought. Sources are critical to genealogical research, a fact which too many apps seem to overlook.
Anyway, we’ll see what comes of this. Regardless, I’ve got to find something.
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4 Oct 2006
iFamily for Tiger Version 1.20 is now available for purchase at the following link
Goulds Genealogy http://www.gould.com.au
Maybe you know someone who has a Mac who is interested in genealogy
Regards, Keith Wilson
10 Oct 2006
I did have Family Tree Maker with my previous IMB pc and liked all that it did. Now I have Mac OS X and want to move things into my Mac. I read all the above and get very confused. My question is simple: What progam works best with OS X? Does it save things well? Where may I get it??
Bob Priest <bobandjudy>
3 Nov 2006
I liked Gwen Cryer’s suggestion best: get Steve Jobs involved. I am a newbie to storage of genealogy on my computer and began searching for ideas for a program. Thank you for this web site; it’s been very helpful. I have an iMac with Panther, so I hope you can develop a FTM that I can use.
1 Dec 2006
Hi, I hear you on Mac genealogy software. Right now I’m using Gene and am ready to spend more money on a genealogy program that can print a decent copy. The author of Gene has not responded to the questions I had and I cannot print a copy that doesn’t force me to get out the paper cutter to cut and paste. Argh! Any news there? Thanks. Carolyn
21 Dec 2006
Yep, one of the few weak software categories on the Mac.
Have you considered a Web-based app like The Next Generation of Genealogy Sitebuilding (TNG) at http://lythgoes.net/genealogy/software.php ? (Mentioned in a post above.) I find this approach very appealing as I only have time to dabble in tracking down my family history. I’d like to get others in the family to collaborate on the research, and an online app would make it easy. I have no idea how TNG scales though.
If you’ve considered a Web-based approach, have you started a Ruby on Rails app yet? I’m toying with the idea of learning a bit of programming, and am considering either Ruby or Python, with the idea of working in Ruby on Rails or Django. Haven’t checked to see if there’s anything out there in Ruby/Ruby on Rails yet, but have only found GRAMPS in Python, and it appears to run on the workstation, not on a host.
Oh well, there’s so much else to love about the Mac, and I don’t really have time to spend on genealogy right now any way. Maybe in a few years when I do, there will be a good Mac-based appl
29 Dec 2006
I used iWeb to generate a genealogy site with photos/stories/family histories/etc. and integrated TribalPages into it. TribalPages is a wonderful and easy to use tool that Mac folks should look to for ideas for their own product. You simply upload a GEDCOM file and then you can easily and very quickly make updates to your site, add photos (up to 1000). I was frustrated with the Reunion (piece of crap) so I went this route. If anyone is interested in seeing what I’ve done, email me and I’ll send you the link and password. [email protected]
8 Jan 2007
I’m just now getting interested in putting family genealogy onto our Mac10.3 computer. Anything that is free and can incorporte online work that was previously done by others would be fantastic. Sounds like you might have what I am looking for.
1 Feb 2007
iFamily for Tiger V2.002 is now available for download at http://www.ifamilyfortiger.com
4 Feb 2007
You can get Osk at www.studlar.net, real easy to use and has no problems to handle really large databases, like over 100.000 people.
11 Feb 2007
Please try Keith Wilson’s iFamilyforTiger – It is a very good program and has finally allowed me to ditch the PC I kept for using Family Tree Maker.
Mac Family Tree was probably the best genealogy program on the Mac for my 800 persons family tree, but I never really liked the look and feel of the software and whilst I don’t understand the limitations of Gedcoms, I apperciate that it is not the best file format.
iFamilyforTiger, probably doesn’t have the best name, and it isn’t available for anything less than OSX 10.4, but it is a great piece of Mac software and I find it easy to use and visually perfect for my needs
23 Feb 2007
I’ve been using Reunion since version 6 and I feel like I’m stuck with it since I will NOT do Windows anything (having to deal with it at work is more than I can stand). The one really strong point is its source detail. I use it faithfully. I also link complete writeups about the families, including stories about how the couple met, immigrated, etc, and insert my sources into those as citations. So Reunion does work for me on that front. HOWEVER, it’s DISMAL on report capabilities. The commenter who said they are “rough” is too kind. I’ve repeatedly suggested improvements on their reports, but no response-
and the improvements listed for v.9 include a just a nod toward improved reports by allowing for rtfd’s etc. Not much of an addition, since I can always create that from Word if I needed it. I’m looking for report LAYOUT options-snazzy templates, etc. that one could export into. Why not allow a Mac-only program to export into PAGES and then take advantage of the different source links in the gen program by turning them into manipulable footnotes or endnotes in the Pages end document? But I’m a dreamer, aren’t I?
5 Mar 2007
I would like to try a demo for ifamily but none of the above addresses seem to be valid. What gives?
10 Mar 2007
I have wanted to go Mac since about 1994-5, but have always been stuck with windows, since all I ever wanted to use my computer for is GENEALOGY!!! It’s very discouraging to find these comments on this site. My brother-in-law thinks I should buy a new iMac and put my Windows program on it, I prefer LEGACY, but getting a new iMac and using Windows on half the space seems rediculous to me!!! Is what’s offered on iFamilyforTiger any good? I have some HUGE and numerous small databases. I started building my own family tree and have since combined it with Presidential – celebrity – and those copied from book and publications as well as downloads and GEDCOMS. Like I said before, genealogy is my passion, and I haven’t even found time to play with books, calendars, etc., in 12/15 years. Before that, I had HUGE notebooks full of charts that spilled everytime I dropped or opened them to attempt to add or move anything. It usually took weeks or months to straighten out such a spill. Also, people at OCCCG refused to look at charts that were handwritten, anymore, fifteen years or more ago.
5 Apr 2007
I’ve looked at all the Mac Genealogy software and I guess I’m looking to see the familiarity of Family Tree Maker, but I’m not seeing it. I was spoiled by using the old Mac version in the days of OS9. So, as soon as it appears on the scene… I’ll be very, very happy. In the meantime I’ve got an OS9 that I boot to use the old FTM.
7 May 2007
Jamis – don’t suppose you’re still looking at comments from a message you posted in 2005?
In case you are, and in case you are still thinking of writing your own genealogy application, let me add my support. A Mac genealogy app from one of the guys in 37signals makes my mouth water.
Reunion is horrible, but it’s what we use.
None of the available apps gives me what I want. I want the genealogical weight of something like Reunion, and I want it be pretty. But I also want to be able to tell stories, effortlessly include multi-media, use web services like Google maps/earth to plot individuals and family movements across the world (MemoryMiner just doesn’t cut it) and share all this stuff with the rest of my family. Just think what an impact that kind of app would have.
17 May 2007
Frankly, two years after your original post, things don’t seem any better. All I have tried is expensive or buggy or inadequate for modern times or all of these. As for X11 software, I agree with you. About a year ago I tried one that seemed to generate circular references that corrupted and destroyed its own database; a few months later this unstable work went from free to pay. Mac geneology software is still in a miserable state; hopefully somebody will write something worth using and reasonable for those who are looking for something not too complex.
9 Jun 2007
I’ve recently tried (and then purchased) iFamily. It is great and I fully recommend it – it is very ‘Mac’. There is a free download available on the iFamily website, so you can check it out and import GEDCOM files and play about with your own real data before you decide to buy.
5 Jul 2007
My sister has just been bitten by the genealogy bug, and she’s actually considering ditching her iMac to get a windows maching, just to run Personal Ancestry File. Makes a chill run down my spine just thinking about it. It was great seeing iFamilyforTiger mentioned here, so I’ll be downloading and testing it out. Macworld reviewed it yesterday and gave it 3.5 mice, and the publisher has, as of today (July 12!), addressed the two big issues in the review with a new version soon to be released. If nothing else, this developer’s responsiveness makes me very happy to give iFamilyforTiger a spin. I have a feeling I’ll be very happy with it.
12 Jul 2007
IFamily for Tiger has a new version (2.237) which came out in late July 2007 that you may enjoy. A free download is available which is good for a period of time and then one can download the program for $29.95 and updates are free. The programmer has a forum where issues are discussed and he is punctual in answering e-mails. The program operates on MAC OS 10.4 and later. If you have an old program such as Family Tree Maker operating on MAC OS 9.2 or earlier, you can convert your date to GEDCOM on the old computer transfer the GEDCOM to your new MAC and the IFamily For Tiger will Import the information in a matter of a minute or so.
4 Aug 2007
Have you read this article on Eastman’s blog? http://eogn.typepad.com/eastmans_online_genealogy/2004/11/gedcom_explaine.html
GEDitCOM is based entirely on the old GEDCOM standard. But it seems pretty clear to me that a program based the XML meta tags ought to be undertaken post haste.
20 Sep 2007
I have a MacBook and use Parallel with Windows XP. PAF5.2 and Legacy operate without any problems. Transfering from Mac OS 10 to Windows is as easy as moving the mouse from one operating system to the other. The Windows XP has it own little window so it is a smooth process going back and forth. There are facits that I like in Legacy and then there are the things that I like about PAF5.2
27 Sep 2007