Sunday, March 11, 2012

My Love/Hate Relationship With Legacy Software

This is probably going to sound like a rant but I don't really mean it to. I wouldn't have even thought to write this article but Susan Clark asked me to. ;-) Her question was, "Why do you use a genealogy database program?" It seems to be a popular topic these days as just yesterday someone else introduced the topic on their Google+ page. There must be something in the air. For what it's worth, here's my two cents.

I have both Legacy Family Tree and Roots Magic on my desktop computer. I'm currently using Legacy and I occasionally play around with Roots Magic. When I first got interested in genealogy (many, many moons ago) I used Family Tree Maker and I was quite happy with it. But then as my database grew I continually got frustrated with its limited search capabilities. That's when I switched over to Legacy. I think I was using FTM 5.0 at the time. I'm sure their search capabilities have improved since then but at the time they weren't adequate. I don't remember which version Legacy was on at the time but I know I've upgraded at least a couple of versions since then. I'm currently using Legacy 7.5, Deluxe Edition.

I have a love/hate relationship with Legacy. I love that it is such a rich program and offers many reports styles, copy and paste of events (a big favorite of mine), source templates, and vast search capabilities. At the same time I hate Legacy because it is such a rich program (in this instance that's a nice way of saying complicated) that in spite of my many years of genealogy research, being pretty darn techo savvy, and having a basic understanding of how databases work, I still find myself far too frequently unsuccessful at getting what I want out of the program.

I have never mastered tagging and yes, I bought the DVD and watched it. It seems like a cool and helpful tool but I can't seem to remember how to use it. By that I mean that it isn't intuitive even after having watched the video. Whenever I want to try tagging again I have to pull out and sit through the video again because the sequence of steps involved doesn't make sense to me. I also have never mastered searches and this is probably the most frustrating thing for me. Sometimes I get names that have nothing to do with my search parameters and sometimes I'll get results that don't contain a person who I know has info that should land them in the results but doesn't. And yes, I bought that DVD and watched it too.

Sadly, these aren't my biggest complaints with Legacy. My biggest complaint has to do with needing to under utilize the program because I lose stuff when I upgrade to a new version. For quite some time now, I have been only entering data and sources into Legacy. I'd love to link photos and documents to individuals in the database but I've done that a couple times before only to lose all that work somewhere along the way... probably during an upgrade. One day they're there the next day they are gone. True I can re-link them but I get tired of trying to remember which of my hard drives a given file folder is on. And no, Legacy can't seem to find it among my several drives either. I finally gave up and I just use the most basic functionality. I could buy yet another DVD that would probably tell me what I'm doing wrong but I'm tired of spending money on learning this program. I'm just not willing to do it anymore.

Just a few days ago I updated to the latest version of Legacy 7.5, the one that has the 1940 Census tools in it. Once the new version was installed my color settings had reverted to the default and Baptism had reverted to Christening. Big deal? No. But it makes me think that if I'd had links to photos and documents those settings might have reverted to default too. And then I'd be frustrated trying to find them again.

Am I content with Legacy? It may sound like I'm not but actually I am. Once I accepted that mastering it is more trouble than it's worth it and I lowered my expectations of what I can expect out of it I find that I am content. You won't hear me singing its praises but I don't steer people away from it when they ask me what software I'm using and if I'd recommend it. The way you enter data in it makes sense to me. I find it pretty easy to do. The choice of reports is nice. The company's webinars are well done and quite informative. I liked the charting better in Family Tree Maker but that's personal preference. There are some very nice charts available in Legacy.

If I could change one thing about Legacy, do you know what that would be? Not any of the things I've mentioned so far. What I'd really like to see in Legacy is the ability to use the Polish keyboard so I can enter my long and lovely, consonant-laden Polish surnames WITH the diacritical marks that are a part of the Polish language. Maybe some day. And on that day... you'll hear me singing its praises!!!

I know what you're thinking... what about Roots Magic? I play with it from time to time but it just doesn't feel intuitive to me. I have to look and look to find things. They never seem to be where I think they should be. And the GUI is visually confusing to me. Too many lines, not enough boxes.

So now back to Susan's question... "Why do you use a genealogy database program?" I use it for organization. First and foremost it's a way to organize and reference the names, events, and dates of the people on my family tree and the sources where I found that information. Legacy does that for me and the basic data entry required is easy for me to do.

Thanks for asking, Susan!