Modern Software Experience

2012-02-03

Behold Logo

Seventeen years in the making

out of beta

Behold is a commercial desktop genealogy application for Windows, developed by Louis Kessler. Beta versions have available for years. Late last year, Louis Kessler introduces Behold version 1.0.
Behold 1.0 has been a long time coming, a really long time coming. Development of Behold started back in 1994. Louis Kessler's own Genealogical Activities pages describes the start of the project thus:

…the concept of an Everything Report was missing from all of the hundreds of genealogical computer and utility programs that were available. They all seemed to concentrate on data input and not data output. So in 1994, to address this problem, I started working on my program: Behold. Over the course of a year, I developed a program that read from a GEDCOM file, and produced an organized, indexed Everything Report.

The first Beta release of Behold, presented as an Alpha release, became available on 2005 Mar 20.

Behold blog

The Behold blog was started in 2002, and has been chronicling Behold's progress ever since. The fifth post on that blog, dated 2002 Nov 10, is titled Version 0.99 is 80.0% complete. That was a more than mildly optimistic assessment of the state of development.
It was also a rather optimistic version number, that made it hard to increase the version number on subsequent releases. As the years went by, Behold's version number crawled towards 1.0. Some of the Behold's version number changes are for major changes to the software.

The blog is not merely about the Behold software, but about all aspect of developing and marketing a genealogy application. It frequently touches on such things as development tools, blogging tools, site hosting and emailing of newsletters. Remarks upon new releases of competing software such as Ancestral Quest or RootsMagic gives some insight into how he thinks about genealogy software. There is the occasional remark how all this development activity gets in the way of doing genealogical research, and you even learn that he gets his best ideas in the shower.

genealogy software page

One thing Behold excels at is reading both GEDCOM and not-quite-GEDCOM files created by other applications. Accomplishing this required research into existing genealogy software, and all that software was inventoried on Louis Kessler's Genealogy Software Links page.
In 2008, he converted that page into the GenSoftReviews site.

Behold home page

Behold 1.0

The Behold site is as modest as many other genealogy vendor sites. The byline under the title Behold Genealogy is A New Concept for Genealogy. A New Era for Genealogists. The original byline, presented in the 2003 Feb 18 blog post, was Genealogy software with a difference, the difference being that Behold is designed to allow you to see and work with all your data at once, which no other program does..

lifetime license

Behold is a commercial application. You can download Behold for free, and a free 45-day evaluation key costs no more than your name and email address. Until to day, the price of Behold was US$ 20 (about € 15). Now that version 1.0 is out, the price has double up to US$ 40 (about € 30), and when version 2.0 comes out, a license may be as much US$ 70 (about € 50). That does not sound cheap, but there is a twist; it is lifetime license, which means that you will never have to pay for an upgrade.

technology

The technology behind Behold is far from secret. It is all documented on the Behold blog. Behold is written in Delphi. It makes use of the TRichView control created by Sergey Tkachenko, and the ElTree control from LMD Innovative's ElPack. The help files are created using Dr. Explain and the application is installed using Inno Setup.

Behold used to be sluggish and memory-hungry, it is fast and memory-efficient now.

performance

Back in 2005, Louis tried to load a 24 MB GEDCOM into Behold, and found that Behold could barely handle it; on a Pentium with 640 MB, it needed a 1400 MB swap file to read a 24 MB file. In September 2006, he had to admit Behold could not realistically handle more than 5.000 individuals; it simply was too slow. After the upgrade of Behold to Unicode, some code profiling and some cleanup, Behold had gotten a lot faster, but still could not load the infamous 317 MB Good, Engle, Hanks GEDCOM file until he made yet more performance modifications. Behold version 0.99.2 loaded my 100K INDI GEDCOM in fifteen seconds, while Legacy Family Tree needs almost fifty minutes.
Behold earned an honourable mention in the GeneAwards 2009 for its improvements; it was upgraded to Unicode, about six times as fast and considerably less memory-hungry than earlier versions.
Behold 1.0 has a fan value of 19; it runs out of memory trying to load FAN20.GED, but loads the FAN19.GED file in about 20 seconds. Behold used to be sluggish and memory-hungry, it is fast and memory-efficient now.

Unicode

Behold started out as a code-page application, that supported many different code pages. Since version 0.99.2 Behold is a Unicode application.
Behold version 1.0 is a Unicode application, and it does not just support UTF-8 as it should, it even supports UTF-16. Genealogy application should be supporting UTF-16 for more than a decade already, but few do so. Behold is a Windows application, but it does not only read little-endian (Intel, Windows) UTF-16 files, it reads big-endian (Motorola, Mac OS) UTF-16 files as well.

Behold does not just support various Unicode encodings, its entire character set support is excellent. Bebhold does not only support all the character sets the GEDCOM specifications allows - ASCII, ANSEL and Unicode - but additionally reads many other ones, such as Windows ANSI, that are actually illegal.

GEDCOM support

Behold supports GEDCOM and then some. It not only deals with GEDCOM dialects, but also tries to deal with known errors vendors make, just so the user does not need to be bothered with it.

Late in 2010, Behold even added explicit support for FTW TEXT, the ostensible but definitely-not GEDCOM files produced by Family Tree Maker Classic. Thus, Behold can read GEDCOM files produced by Family Tree Maker Classic, while New Family Tree Maker cannot read them.

Behold GEDCOM dialect

An important question is how well its Behold's own GEDCOM files stack up; will other applications have difficulty reading Behold GEDCOM files?
The simple answer to that question is that Behold 1.0 does not create GEDCOM files. Behold 1.0 only reads GEDCOM files, it does not write GEDCOM files. There is no Behold GEDCOM dialect yet.

Behold 1.0 isn't a genealogy editor, it is a genealogy viewer.

genealogy viewer

The most important genealogy software feature of a genealogy editor is the ability to get your data in and out again. Today, that means it should be a Unicode application with GEDCOM support. Behold is a Unicode application with excellent GEDCOM support, but it does not have that feature yet; You can get your data in, but you cannot get it out.
Luckily, there's no need to get it out yet, as you cannot use Behold 1.0 to modify your data.

Behold 1.0 isn't a genealogy editor, it is a genealogy viewer. However, Behold wasn't envisioned as viewer, it was envisioned editor. For years, the Behold blog has been telling us how great editing in Behold is going to be. Now, Behold 1.0 is here, but the editing is not.

The Behold blog has been clear about version 1.0 merely being a viewer, and the Behold Future Plans page makes it clear that it is version 2.0 that will offer editing, but I still don't like it.
I simply do not agree with the version number. Behold has always been promoted as a genealogy editor, so version 1.0 should be an editor. This is only a viewer, so it isn't the Behold we've been promised yet, and does not deserve to be called 1.0.

version 1.5

The Behold Future Plans page states that GEDCOM output is planned for version 1.5. It even promises to Export only valid GEDCOM 5.5.1, even from invalid input. and to Ensure exported GEDCOM will read in without errors and will export again identically..
By the way, that page also states that Behold 1.5 will be not only be available as a 32-bit application, but as a 64-bit application as well. That makes Behold the first Windows genealogy application for which a 64-bit edition has been announced.
That sounds great, but it took 17 years to get version 1.0 out, so it is only natural to wonder how long will you have to wait for version 1.5…

Everything Report

The Everything Report is what Behold is all about. Back in 2006, in his blog post on MudCreek GENViewer, Louis Kessler remarked that other programs load data quickly but take time to generate reports every time you want one. Whereas Behold takes time to load initially but then its report is ever present.. That was true back then, it isn't now. Today, Behold 1.0 loads GEDCOM files much faster than Family Tree Maker 2012 loads its native databases.

Behold FAN4

This screenshot shows what Behold looks like. There's a menu and a toolbar along the top, and and a status bar at the bottom, with two windows in between; a tree view on the left, and the Everything Report on the right. Think of it as a document with a navigation bar. Many desktop genealogy applications offer multiple views of your data, this document view is Behold's only view. The idea is that everything is in the Everything Report, so you don't need anything else.
The document is extensively hyperlinked, so you can easily navigate from a child to its parents and vice versa. Even with large files, performance is snappy; scrolling is smooth and and clicking a hyperlink immediately jumps to another section of the Everything Report. You can browse your data without getting annoyed by a sluggish application. The problem with Behold 1.0 is that browsing is all you can do.

Behold reads GEDCOM files, it reads GEDCOM files, it even reads FTW TEXT files. If Behold does not does read your file, it probably does not even resemble a GEDCOM file.

conclusion

Behold 1.0 isn't the Behold we've been promised. Behold 1.0 isn't an genealogy editor, it's a genealogy viewer. It is a pretty impressive genealogy viewer though. Behold 1.0 is a fast, memory-efficient, Unicode-based genealogy viewer with more than excellent GEDCOM support.
Many vendors treat GEDCOM support as nothing more than a checkbox feature they add to please the genealogy masses, Louis Kessler has done just the opposite; he has gone out of his way to make Behold's GEDCOM support nothing short of outstanding. Behold reads GEDCOM files, it reads GEDCOM files, it even reads FTW TEXT files. If Behold does not does read your file, it probably does not even resemble a GEDCOM file.

However, it is still just a viewer, and one you have to pay for. MudCreek's GENViewer Lite is free and loads GEDCOM files even faster than Behold does.

The obvious conclusion is that you may want take a look at Behold 1.0 to see whether you like this genealogy viewer, but will probably want to wait for Behold 2.0 before buying a license, even though the Behold 2.0 license is more expensive. However obvious that conclusion may seem, I think otherwise.

I do not recommend buying Behold 1.0, nor waiting for Behold 2.0, but looking out for version 1.5. Behold 1.5 will still sell for the same price as Behold 1.0, but promises to offer a killer feature. Behold 1.5 will include GEDCOM export, and if the quality of the exported GEDCOM is as high as promised, its flexible GEDCOM import and quality GEDCOM export will combine to make Behold a must-have GEDCOM to GEDCOM conversion utility.

update

2012-02-08: Review Review & Windows Compatible

Louis Kessler has reviewed this review of his product.
Behold has received the Compatible with Windows 7 Logo.

product details

propertyvalue
productBehold
version1.0
companyLouis Kessler
websiteBehold Genealogy
fan value19
priceUS$ 40 (about € 30)
requirementWindows 2000 or later (XP, Vista, 2003, Win7)
notelifetime license
VerdictFast GEDCOM viewer
RatingReal Soon Now…

links

Behold

Behold blog

genealogy software

GEDCOM

performance

Unicode

technology