Modern Software Experience

2008-12-22

GeneAwards

GeneAwards 2008

contenders

There is no lack of eager contenders. Most vendors will gladly inform you that their product is the best, but each category has only one winner.

RootsMagic 4

Many users were disappointed to learn that RootsMagic 4 isn’t one of the contenders. Bruce Buzbee has been blogging about the many new and improved features of the imminent version 4 since 2008 Jul 10. If RootsMagic 4 were only half as good as the blog suggest, it would still be a serious contender for the most coveted award, the Best Genealogy Product of the Year.

On 2008 Sep 18, Buzbee was still confident that RootsMagic 4 would be released later this year. On 2008 Dec 8 however, Michael Booth had to admit that it looks like it probably won’t be ready in time.

Their offer of a free upgrade to RootsMagic 4 for any copy of RootsMagic 3 bought on or after 2008 Dec 8 may make RootsMagic this year’s best buy. Still, with the release pushed back to next year, RootsMagic is yielding any chance to win the award to the competition.

Legacy 7

Millennia released the much-anticipated Legacy Family Tree version 7 and found themselves drowning in orders from users eager to obtain the latest version. They were also served with a trademark infringement suit from that competing vendor that still advertises their own product as the number one selling genealogy software.

Legacy 7 offers a SourceWriter, integration with Virtual Earth, and surprised with extensive data integrity checks, but has the same dated interface, lacklustre performance and mediocre GEDCOM import as version 6, and still does not support Unicode.

Millennia has still not announced any strategy for dealing with the fact that Legacy is based on FoxPro, but did release the fast and good-looking Legacy Charting written in Delphi, and that fuels hope and anticipation for an impressive Legacy 8 rewrite.

FamilyLink

FamilyLink is certainly the most daring of the big-name genealogy companies, embracing emerging technologies and platforms with almost reckless abandon.

FamilyLink already had its own We’re Related genealogy application on Facebook, but still bought MyFamily, which is available on multiple social networks, including Facebook, Bebo, Hi5 and friendster.
Their new WorldHistory site, still in private beta, can be accessed from a mobile phone.

FamilyLink seems eager to devalue the word revolutionary by using it as an adjective for every step they take, but it sure is a company willing to take advantage of today’s technology in a traditional field filled with vendors that stick to what they know already.

Best of 2008

GeneAward Best Product 2008

Best Genealogy Product of 2008: Google Earth

The one genealogy related program that has shown marked improvements is Google Earth.

Google Earth integrates well with other applications; application can use its data, but it also allows displaying third-party data inside Google Earth. There are many plug-ins that add additional functionality, and Google Earth itself has improved too.

Google Earth 4.3 improved the navigation controls. Google has discontinued Google Earth Plus, but only to add the features of that edition, most notably GPS support, to the free edition.

Google did not just add more 3D models for current cities, but the wonderful Ancient Rome 3D as well. Google has further improved the free SketchUp program that lets you model your own buildings and place them on Google Earth.

Google keeps investing in StreetView and is addressing the privacy issues. Google bought exclusive online mapping right to the pictures of the new GeoEye-1 satellite, which offers the highest resolution commercial earth images yet, more than two pixels per meter.

Google has added support for the Apple iPhone and its own Android platform to the already existing support for other phones. Google has released a Google Earth Browser plug-in for Firefox, Safari and Internet Explorer.

The built-in flight simulator is hardly a secret, but did you know that Google offers the ability to track Santa’s whereabouts using data provided by NORAD? The Santa Tracker goes live on Christmas’ Eve.

honourable mention

An honourable mention goes to Steven Morse for his One Step Web Pages. He keeps extending and improving them. It now supports yet more databases, more calendar conversions, more transliterators and phonetic name matching for better results than soundex offers.

GeneAward Best New Product 2008

Best New Genealogy Product of 2008: Legacy Charting

Legacy Family Tree version 7 is a solid upgrade over version 6, that offers some worthwhile and much anticipated new features, but the more exciting Millennia release was the all-new Legacy Charting program.

Legacy Charting was a very pleasant surprise. Legacy Charting has an easy to use modern interface, offers a nice variety of charts. Legacy Charting also impresses with solid import technology that includes direct import from various proprietary formats in addition to its speedy GEDCOM import. Millennia markets Legacy Charting as charting program, but it is so fast that you can use it as a viewer.

honourable mention

Relatives 1.0 has trouble dealing with large files, has dialog boxes so awkward it that it makes TMG look good and it is short on features too, but it contains a most impressive core; Relatives features speedy high-quality GEDCOM support with accurate error and warning messages. The import recognises the trees that make up a database forest, in support of the fast auto-layout engine for Relatives’ graphical tree interface, which is remarkable for its non-glacial performance.

GeneAward Best Organisation 2008

Best Genealogy Organisation of 2008: Privacy International

Privacy International demanded attention for serious privacy issues involved in various DNA services when they filed a complaint about Ancestry.com’s DNA Services in the United Kingdom.

honourable mentions

Facebook does not earn high marks for either privacy or security, but they still get an honourable mention for creating a social networking site that is such an attractive development platform that several companies decided to make genealogy applications for Facebook instead of the web.

A small honourable mention goes to FamilyLink for making WebTree a social genealogy site that lets you delete your databases when you want to.

Worst of 2008

Worst Genealogy Product of 2008: The Master Genealogist 7

Wholly Genes tactically released The Master Genealogist version 7 on the one but last day of 2007. They thus ceded the Worst Genealogy Product of 2007 award to Family Tree Maker 2008, and arranged themselves a whole year to improve, be forgotten or outdone by something worse.

The Master Genealogist (TMG) is lacking in basic features; the GEDCOM support is incomplete, the ANSEL support is defective and the UTF-8 support is non-existent. The help file is no help and the ostensible HTML output isn’t HTML at all. Its import feature and the import listing it produces cannot be relied upon. Long-standing defects have still not been fixed. The horrendous user interface is not just immensely user-unfriendly but even literally insultingly. The whole program is slow, and its import is snailtacular. All in all, TMG 7 is decidedly below par.

TMG is based on the no longer supported Microsoft FoxPro database system, and Wholly Genes has still not announced any strategy for moving forward.

dishonourable mention

Family Tree Maker 2009 is just FTM 2008 Service Pack 4, and that is putting it nicely. It still compares unfavourably to FTM 16.

Another dishonourable mention goes to MyHeritage Family Tree Builder 2.0 for being a danger to your data.

Worst New Genealogy Product of 2008: Map My Ancestors 1.0

Map My Ancestors’s GEDCOM import is not just slow (already slower than TMG), it is also followed by an even slower resolution phase during which it tries find coordinates for place names.

Even a simple operations are glacial beyond belief. MMA fails to import perfectly fine GEDCOM files and does not appear to support ANSEL at all. Its resolution logic fails to match most place names and many of its ostensible matches are in fact spectacular mismatches.

Map My Ancestors’s magnificent unaccomplishment is that it is slower than TMG, shoddier than FTM 2008 and less useful than a photocopied paper map.

dishonourable mention

A dishonourable mention goes to Dynastree Home Edition (introduced as It’s Our Tree Home Edition) for being a danger to your data.

A second dishonourable mention goes to Family Tree Pilot 1.0 for offering no data import or export, and making Windows Paint look good.

Worst Genealogy Organisation of 2008: Ancestry.com

Ancestry.com (The Generations Network, or whatever they call themselves nowadays) prolongates its Worst Genealogy Organisation of 2007 title.

Ancestry.com did not just continue to push FTM 2008 out, when they should have recalled every copy of this pathetic product and apologise profusely for ever releasing it.
Ancestry.com slapped an FTM 2009 label on an FTM release that contains the same dated technology as FTM 2008 and then annoyed FTM 2008 customers with the FTM 2009 Upgrade Debacle.
While many issues that earned FTM 2008 the Worst Genealogy Product 2007 award remain unresolved, and FTM 2009 is still a downgrade from FTM 16, Ancestry.com kept promoting FTM 2008 and 2009 as the best software program of its kind!

Ancestry.com also decided to sue Millennia because the Legacy 7 packaging is allegedly too similar to the FTM 2008 packaging. Just why Millennia would want Legacy 7 to be mistaken for FTM 2008 remains unexplained. It seems a frivolous nuisance lawsuit, and Ancestry.com’s own Jiapu logo bears remarkable similarities to the GenLighten logo…

Ancestry.com needs to downsize its legal department and start competing on product quality and service.

dishonourable mentions

A dishonourable mention goes to the Catholic Church for deciding to deny the Latter Day Saints access to historical parish records.

Another dishonourable mention goes to FamilySearch for their continued focus on database quantity over quality, for abandoning PAF and neglecting GEDCOM.

Special Recognition 2008

GeneAward Special Recognition 2008

Most Innovative Genealogy Product of 2008: Relatives 1.0

Relatives is not just fast, it also features a deliberate innovation; its perfect handling of non-standard tags. Yes, perfect.

The GEDCOM specification allows programs to ignore unrecognised tags and many do so. Some other programs make the serious mistake of molesting your database by inserting comments for each unrecognised tag. In the first case, the unrecognised tags are lost after importing and exporting again. In the second case, the tags are lost and your database is messed up with weird comments. You do not want either.

Relatives does the right thing; it does not ignore the tag by throwing it away and it does not molest your database by inserting comments either. It will simply import each unrecognised tag as a tag and - this is the crucial bit - will export it again later. This enables round tripping of vendor-specific GEDCOM extensions. What’s more, on export, all invalid GEDCOM extensions are changed into valid ones by prepending the mandatory underscore, to avoid creating invalid GEDCOM files.

If only all genealogy programs were as smart about handling non-standard tags…

not awarded

Best New Genealogy Organisation of 2008 and Worst New Genealogy Organisation of 2008 have not been awarded.

updates

2008-12-23: Tracking Santa back story

The Official Google blog posted an entry about the Santa Tracker.

2011-04-23: FamilyHistoryLink, WebTree, WorldHistory

The FamilyHistoryLink domain is defunct. The broken link has been removed.

FamilyLink abandoned WebTree. See WebTree no more. The broken WebTree link has been removed

The WorldHistory domain is defunct. The broken link has been removed.

links

best

worst

Special Recognition

honourable mention

dishonourable mention

articles

Legacy & Legacy Charting

Ancestry.com & Family Tree Maker 2009

The Master Genealogist

FamilyLink

other

more

Google Earth

RootsMagic blog

FamilyLink