Modern Software Experience

2012-11-07

genealogy software feature

important

Genealogy consistency & plausibility checks are important. I've argued that more than once, in articles and reviews. I still stand behind what I wrote in The Importance of Being Consistent: Consistency checks are not a nice-to-have advanced feature, they are a must-have fundamental feature that separates tools from toys..

If your so-called genealogy editor does not offer consistency and reasonability checks, you should upgrade to something better.

Not all genealogy software offers consistency and reasonability checks yet, and the checks offered by those that do may not be perfect, but that is no an excuse to avoid those checks.
Genealogy software that does offer consistency and reasonability checks is available. If your so-called genealogy editor does not offer consistency & plausibility checks, you should upgrade to something better. That does not even have to cost you; Personal Ancestral File (PAF) and RootsMagic Essentials are two free applications that do include consistency checks.
You do not even need to abandon what you are using now. You can also take advantage of the checks offered by others genealogy applications to complement your current software choice; I regularly export my database to perform consistency & plausibility checks using other applications.

I regularly export my database to perform consistency & plausibility checks using other applications.

editor versus viewer

It often makes sense to distinguish between genealogy editors and genealogy viewers.
A genealogy editor is genealogy application that lets you load, edit, and save a genealogical database. A genealogy viewer is genealogy application that lets you load and view a genealogical database, but does not let you edit it and save your edits.
A genealogy viewer does not change your data, and because of that, does not need to offer features that are essential in a genealogy editor. Most significantly, a genealogy viewer only needs to import genealogy databases, it need not export them.

Genealogy viewers do not only include actual viewing applications, such as MudCreek GENviewer, PAF for Palm OS and GedStar Pro for Android. Charting applications such as Legacy Charting and Progeny Charting Companion, analysis applications such as GenSmarts and GenDetective, GEDCOM validators such as GED-inline or VGedX, GEDCOM-to-HTML converters such as Gene Stark's GED2HTML, and reporting applications such as The Complete Genealogy Reporter are genealogy viewers too.

genealogy software

The current state of genealogy software suggests that there are still many genealogy software vendors and users that do not agree with me that genealogy consistency & plausibility checks are a must-have fundamental feature of genealogy editors.
I do consider that cause for concern. There is still a lot of work to be done by genealogy vendors and educators.

I've been making the distinction between genealogy editors and genealogy viewers for years. I've often said that genealogy consistency & plausibility checks are an important must-have feature of genealogy software. Just now I wrote that genealogy consistency & plausibility checks are a must-have fundamental feature of genealogy editors, but only because I want to stress that I consider it an important feature of genealogy viewers as well.

A genealogy application without consistency & plausibility checks hardly deserves to be called a genealogy application.

Genealogy consistency & plausibility checks are an important must-have feature of genealogy software. A genealogy application without consistency & plausibility checks hardly deserves to be called a genealogy application.

That some product is merely a genealogy viewer instead of a genealogy editor isn't sufficient excuse to do without consistency checks either. The job of charting application is to create charts, but the charting app that alerts you to apparent issues with your database is a better one than the one that lets you waste your money on an impossible chart without any warning. You use a GEDCOM-to-HTML converter to create and publish web pages to the world-wide web, but it sure would be nice if it tried to prevent you from world-wide embarrassment by warning you about data that does not seem right.

Admittedly, not all genealogy viewers need genealogical checks as much as charting, reporting and web publishing applications. Tools such as GEDCOM validators are about the validity of GEDCOM files, not the data contained therein, and some users might even find inclusion of genealogical checks in addition to GEDCOM consistency checks confusing.
However, in general, genealogy viewers do benefit from consistency checks. More precisely, users benefit from consistency & plausibility checks in genealogy viewers, because it helps them avoid wasting their money and being unnecessarily embarrassed by mistakes.

menu item

Genealogy applications that provide consistency & plausibility checks often perform some basic checks during data entry and provide a menu item that triggers a check of the entire database.

Although it would be nice to ensure that data is consistent before creating a report, consistency checks do takes time, and may take considerable time for large databases. Trying the user's patience by making them wait on a complete database check every time they want to generate a small report would not provide an enjoyable user experience.
The approach most vendors take today is merely providing the checks through some menu item, and hoping the user has already taken advantage of this feature when they generate a report. That's understandable, but many users never take advantage of that menu item, because it takes time and isn't very enjoyable, and because no one reminds them that they should.

Many products regularly remind users to make backups. It would be nice if genealogy software regularly reminded users to perform consistency & plausibility checks.

consistency check reminder

Many users would never make a backup, because it takes time and isn't very enjoyable, if no one reminded them that they should.
Many products regularly remind users to make backups. It would be nice if genealogy software regularly reminded users to perform consistency & plausibility checks.
Just like backup reminders, the frequency of consistency check reminders should be user-configurable, but the basic idea would be to remind users depending on extent of changes of to the database since the last check, the results of the last check, and the currently chosen activity; it does not make sense to suggest it all the time, or bother a user while entering a note, it does make sense to suggest performing a check when the users is about to order an expensive wall chart.

updates

2012-11-18: reasonable replacement

Throughout the text, replaced reasonability with the more appropriate plausibility.

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