Modern Software Experience

2010-12-28

MagiKey Family Tree Logo

genealogy software

The MagiKey

MagiKey Family Tree is a desktop genealogy application developed by The MagiKey. The latest version is 2.3, version 2.3.9 to be precise.

There never was a product named MagiKey Family Tree version 1.0. The MagiKey introduced MagiKey Family Tree 2.1 in 2009, and that version number already suggests that MagiKey Family Tree is not a new product. MagiKey Family Tree was a merely a new name for product introduced nearly a decade ago.

MagiKey Family Tree started as Issue, a genealogy application by Armidale Software, for which the first betas were made available in 2001.

datenameversionbrief remark
2001-??-??Issuebetainitial availability
2004-01-??Issue1.0first release
2004-02-??Issue1.1defect fixes
2004-12-??Issue1.2support for merging
2005-04-??Issue1.3HTML reports
2007-12-??Issue1.3.4Family Group Sheet
2009-05-03Issue2.0support for NFS
2009-11-24MagiKey Family Tree2.1name change, updates & fixes
2010-01-15MagiKey Family Tree2.1.10includes Census Tracker (Beta)
2010-03-20MagiKey Family Tree2.2Census Tracker
2010-10-18MagiKey Family Tree2.3UTF-8 support

The Armidale Software website is still around, but the link to download the beta for Issue 2.0 no longer works. The first sentence on their Issue page now notes that Issue is available for purchase from The MagiKey. MagiKey Family Tree 2.1 is Issue 2.1 by another name and under other conditions; Issue was freeware, MagiKey Family Tree is not.

The MagiKey Family Tree née Issue application has been around for nearly a decade. Yet, according to The MagiKey née Armidale Software, it has never been reviewed yet.

download and installation

Millennia loves to say that their Legacy Family Tree application is a free download, but they do prompt you for your email every time you want to download the latest version. The MagiKey thinks nothing of annoying their potential customers a lot more; to even download a 30-day trial, you actually need to register with their site first - and they do not merely want your email address, they want your snail mail address too.

It initially seemed that The MagiKey does not allow you to download and install updated versions from their site, that they only allow you to update The MagiKey from inside the application. That would be odd, because all the updater inside MagiKey Family Tree does is download and start the latest version of MagiKeySetup.exe. You can download the latest installer directly from their website once you've registered and logged in, the problem is that you cannot get to that page via their main menu. The download can be only found on the files tab of My Account.
This information is in the MagiKey Family Tree FAQ. Seriously, how to find the page where you can download the installer is in their FAQ. Apparently, when frustrated potential users asked where to find the download, it never occurred to The MagiKey that they should make it easy to find, say by adding a menu item. They decided to add step-by-step instructions in their FAQ instead.

The MagiKeySetup.exe download is a little over 2 MB. Installation presented no problems. The installer suggests a default installation directory in Program Files but allows you to change it. It does create a program group but does not create a desktop icon. It prompts you to start the application as soon as the installation is done.

getting started

Annoying potential customers is something The MagiKey excels at.
Every time you start MagiKey Family Tree trial, it prompts you for your user name and password, and then contacts the MagiKey server. By the way, notice how ridiculously wide this dialog box is.

MagiKey logon

I wondered what would happen if you installed the trial on a laptop and tried to use without Internet access. Turns out, it works just fine; that start-up prompt is not necessary, it is nothing but an annoyance.

I soon discovered that there is no need to even type your name and password, you can simply click the Continue with trial button. In fact, you do not even have to click that button, but can simply hit the Esc key. Well, at least that is how it is during the 30-day trial.

If you opt to buy a license, you do not get a registration key, but an extended subscription. MagiKey Family Tree needs to contact the server to verify your subscription. Once you've done that, the registration dialog is no longer shown.

update check

MagiKey: Update Available

MagiKey Family Tree performs an automatic update check on start-up. The Update Available dialog box not only allow you to download and install the update, but also allows you to postpone the update, and to disable the automatic update check.

When you choose to install the update, MagiKey presents another dialog that shows the available updates with some descriptions and lets you choose which updates you want to download and install.

The Update Available dialog even has a link to options dialog box that allows you to change the update check frequency. That's nice, but when I later looked through all the tabs on MagiKey Family Tree's options dialog box, I could not find those options there.

Apparently the only way to access the dialog that let's you change the update check frequency is to wait for MagiKey Family Tree to discover an update.
When I first tried to use the help file to find out how to configure the update options when there isn't an update, the help file did not work either. When it worked later, I did not find any information on configuring update settings.

documentation

The documentation, or rather the lack of it, is a bit of disappointment. There is no User Manual. There is no Getting Started manual either. However, there are several MagiKey video tutorials on Vimeo. You don't have to search for these on Vimeo; they are embedded on the MagiKey website.

 There is a HTML Help file. The MagiKey 2.2 help file would not display on my system. I reported this issue to The MagiKey. Perhaps they made some changes, perhaps there was some problem with my system to begin with. Either way, I am happy to report that the HTML Help for MagiKey 2.3.9 works just fine.

MagiKey User Manual: Access still denied

There is an online user manual on website, but you need to login to view it. Worse, even after logging in, I still got to see Access Denied. Half a year later, that problem has still not been resolved. Notice the sidebar with my name and the Log out link to the right of my name near the middle of the screenshot; I am obviously logged in. Yet instead of showing me the online User Manual, the site tells me Access denied, and adds Please Login to continue viewing this page. I think that it would be wise for The MagiKey to simply include their User Manual with the product, as an Adobe PDF or HTML Help file.

MagiKey Welcome Dialog

Welcome Wizard

Once you've dealt with the logon and automatic update prompts, MagiKey Family Tree shows a Welcome Dialog. Fortunately, this dialog box has the all-important Do not show me this windows again checkbox.

The MagiKey Family Tree Welcome Dialog offers three other choices

The screenshot shows how it used to be. Sadly, version 2.2.14 and later are burdened with an enlarged Welcome dialog box with more options that really don't belong in a Welcome dialog and are only of interest to LDS members.
The additional option is to turn LDS features on or off. Genealogists don't need any LDS features, and LDS members probably don't want to be reminded that they can turn these features off. Most importantly, it has nothing to with starting up.

new file

The File | New dialog box does not prompt you to choose a file name for your new project. That is a violation of Windows user interface guidelines already, but it gets worse; it does not even create a file at all!
When you choose to create a new file, MagiKey Family Tree does not create a file, but prompts you for submitter information and that's it; MagiKey Family Tree does not prompt you for a file name. Only when you decide to exit MagiKey Family Tree does it ask you whether you want to save your file, and does it finally prompt you for a file name.

save issue

This is not merely a violation of the Windows user interface guidelines, it also reveals a major defect: unlike most genealogy applications, MagiKey Family Tree does not save your changes while you are using it.  MagiKey Family Tree only saves your data when you decide to save. If the application or the system crashes, all edits done since the last save are lost.
The MagiKey compensates that MagiKey Family Tree design error somewhat with an auto-save feature; every five minutes, it automatically saves your work to a temporary file.

MagiKey Family Tree's file load and save isn't very fast, so it is only prudent to wonder what happens with large databases when the save operation it starts every five minutes takes more than five minutes to complete. I asked The MagiKey that question and they answered that MagiKey Family Tree's auto-save feature does not save the entire file, but merely saves all changes to a temporary file.

design defect

That MagiKey Family Tree does not automatically save your edits like most other genealogy applications do, and the awkward auto-save of recent changes to try and limit the impact of that issue are both symptoms of an underlying design defect; MagiKey Family Tree does not to use a real database system like most genealogy applications do, but is one of those applications that makes the mistake of using their own GEDCOM dialect as their native file format.

editing

Once you've entered submitter information, MagiKey Family Tree defaults to an empty five-generation pedigree window. It isn't a pure pedigree view, but one with something extra; below the pedigree is a table for spouses and children of the proband.

MagiKey Family Tree

MagiKey Family Tree does not just open that window, but immediately throws a dialog box on top of that prompts you to edit details for a new individual. That's annoying.

Edit New Individual Information

The Edit New Individual Information dialog itself focuses on the genealogy basics, like name, birth and death, christening and burial, and gives prominent placement to sources for the events.

MagiKey: Edit New Individual Information

That seems a good idea. This way, the Edit New Individual Information dialog encourages documenting your sources by having source fields on the dialog itself, not some other dialog you need to bring up first. Well, it encourages documenting sources as long as you do not have to many of them. The source selection on the Edit New Individual Information dialog box is a simple drop-down box; that may seem handy when you have just a handful of sources, but isn't very practical when you have thousands.

Add More Information...

The Add More Information... button brings up another dialog box, the Individual Editor dialog box, where you can add other events. It would be better if these two separate dialogs where two tabs on the same dialog box, but otherwise this design, which focuses on getting the basics right, seems fine - until you try to use it.

MagiKey: Individual Editor

As soon as you choose OK on the Edit New Individual Information dialog, MagiKey seems to decide that you'll never need to see it again, even if you chose OK without entering anything. The next time you double-click that individual, MagiKey does not show the Edit New Individual Information dialog, but this Individual Editor dialog box instead. You can enter the basics through the Individual Editor dialog box, but it is not as straightforward.

events

To add an event to an Individual, you choose the Add... button next to list of existing events on the Individual Editor dialog box.
Choosing that button brings up the Edit Event Information dialog box, where you can choose the event to add from a drop-down box.

MagiKey Edit Event Info: drop down event list

event PAF MK
AdoptionYY
Adult ChristeningYY
BaptismYY
AnnulmentYY
Bar MitzvahYY
Bas MitzvahYY
Batch NumberYN
BirthYY
BlessingYY
BurialYY
CensusYY
ChristeningYY
CircumcisionYN
ConfirmationYY
CremationYY
Custom IDYN
DeathYY
DivorceYY
Divorce FilingYY
EmigrationYY
EngagementYY
ExcommunicatedYN
First CommunionYY
GraduationYY
HospitalisationYN
IllnessYN
ImmigrationYY
LDS ConfirmationYN
MarriageYY
Marriage Bann/NoticeYY
Marriage For Time OnlyYN
Marriage ContractYN
Marriage LicenseYN
Marriage SettlementYY
Military ServiceYN
MiscarriageYN
MissionYN
MoveYN
NamingYN
NaturalisationYY
OccupationYN
OrdinanceYN
OrdinationYY
ProbateYY
ReligionYN
ResidenceYN
RetirementYY
SeparationYN
WillYY
   
OtherNY

Upon a first look, you are likely to notice that it supports major events, but I also immediately noticed that its drop-down list is shorter than the list in PAF's dialog box, so I had a good second look and quickly noticed that neither marriage nor divorce is on that list.
Those events are on another drop-down list. The screenshot shows events that pertain to individuals, there is another list that pertains to relationships.

To get to that list, you need to leave the Individual Editor dialog box, choose the Marriage Information context menu item on an individual in the pedigree view, to bring up the Marriage Editor dialog box. To add an event, you must choose the Add... button next to the list of Marriage Events. Choosing that button brings up the Edit Event Information dialog box, where you can choose the event to add from a drop-down box.

I find it less than intuitive and somewhat convoluted that I am expected to close the Individual Editor to add an event for that individual. That the context menu displays shortcut keys, that allow you to quickly bring up one of the Editor dialog boxes does not change that.

PAF uses two different event lists too, one you access from the Edit Individual dialog box and one you access from the Edit Marriage dialog box, and the actual selection of an event is arguably even more awkward, yet somehow I do not find it half as annoying to work with.

dialog boxes

Perhaps the explanation lies in some of the differences between MagiKey Family Tree and PAF. PAF's Family view already shows birth, marriage and death events for two marriage partners, and all that information remains visible when I choose to bring up a moderately sized Edit dialog box, while the MagiKey Family Tree Editor dialog boxes are so large that they obscure all the information in the current view. That is a general problem with the MagiKey Family Tree user interface; its dialog boxes are too large.

MagiKey Family Tree's Edit Event Information dialog box combines events with sources and notes into a single dialog box. That seems a good idea for a view, but not such a great idea for a dialog box. It combines conceptually different things on the same dialog box. Apparently, MagiKey figured that out themselves, and the <<Less button reduces the dialog box to just the event and sources. I find that smaller dialog box more pleasant to work with.

All MagiKey Family Tree requires from you, the user, is that you discover and memorise the EVEN tag type values used by popular genealogy software…

events

Looking at the events drop-down list of PAF and MagiKey Family Tree, I was struck by just how many more events PAF supports.

The table lists the events that PAF and MagiKey Family Tree support. I may have made a few mistakes, but it is clear that there are many events that PAF does, but MagiKey Family Tree does not support. There is one only event that MagiKey Family Tree does, but PAF doesn't support: Other.
The Other event allows you to add any event you like. When you choose Other, MagiKey Family Tree adds another edit box to the dialog, in which you can enter the name of the event.

That way, you can add any event that PAF or any other software supports - well, assuming that you know all the codes used for these events by heart. MagiKey Family Tree stores all Other events using the generic EVEN tag with subtag TYPE. The text you enter in the Event edit box for events of type Other, is used as the value of the TYPE.

The GEDCOM standard does not provide a list of approved type values, but type values used by popular genealogy software (e.g. Hospitalization used by PAF) may be supported by other genealogy software. So, if you use any of those values, many other applications will have no problem understanding what event it is.
All MagiKey Family Tree requires from you, the user, is that you discover and memorise the EVEN tag type values used by popular genealogy software…

event support

You could enter a separation into MagiKey Family Tree by choosing  the Other event and typing Separation in the Event field. The resulting GEDCOM will contain an EVEN record containing TYPE Separation, which is exactly how PAF encodes separation events.
However, not only is having to enter major events this way ridiculously awkward, it simply isn't good enough.

Being able to enter an event isn't the same thing the same as having ready-made support in the application. There is a more to support for an event type than the ability to enter. It is not just about the convenience of picking an event from a list, using a consistent set of event names or avoiding typos. It is also about having sentences for these events when you generate a report.
I tried several MagiKey Family Tree reports, and did not find any information about the separation event on any of them.

user interface

Apart from the rather large dialog boxes, the MagiKey Family Tree user interface is not out of the ordinary. I did notice that its menu seems surprisingly empty until you start working on some project; instead of greying out the menu items that only make sense for an open project, MagiKey Family Tree removes these menu items entirely. MagiKey Family Tree shows its regular menu once you open a project.

options

Although the auto-save frequency isn't one of them, MagiKey Family Tree does have plenty of options. This includes options for consistency checks.

consistency checks

Many developers seem to think of consistency checks as nice-to-have extras, I do not. I consider consistency checks to be a fundamental must-have feature for genealogy applications. I was happy to notice that MagiKey Family Tree features consistency check and decided to give these a whirl by choosing Tool | Find Problems....
It took MagiKey Family Tree just a few seconds to complete a consistency check of the 100k INDI database and then present a text report. That report seems to be in no particular order, and many of the sentences it uses are too convoluted to make immediate sense, e.g. birth date of 27 JAN 1885 is outside expected range of BET 1866 AND 1884, based on a child's miscellaneous event. Those sentences clearly need some work, but MagiKey Family Tree performs consistency checks a lot faster than Legacy Family Tree, so I decided to try it on a database containing roughly a quarter million individuals.

MagiKey: Insert the Next Disk

I repeatedly tried to load my database by importing a PAF 5.2 UTF-8 GEDCOM, but without success. The first time, MagiKey Family Tree decided to crash after just a few seconds. The second time, MagiKey Family Tree decided to prompt for the next disk after about eight minutes and when I dismissed that messagebox, it crashed. The third time it prompted for the next disk after about four minutes and again crashed as soon as dismissed that messagebox.
I've seen the Insert the Next Disk messagebox for many files I've tried but it seems to appear quite reliably for larger files that take several minutes to import, so I wonder whether MagiKey may be crashing because it decides to auto-save the file while it still hasn't been fully imported yet…

project load

Once you've dealt with the annoying logon dialog and Welcome Dialog, you will most often start your session by opening your project, and project load is surprising slow. Loading the 100k INDI database takes about fifty seconds, during which you are expected to twiddle your thumbs. This another issue caused by the decision to not use a database system, but use GEDCOM as the native format instead. A fifty seconds GEDCOM import time would be great, but this is a fifty second project load time. A slow project load is common shortcoming of applications with this design mistake.

That is why MagiKey Family Tree takes fifty seconds to loads its database. Sadly, it only takes fifty seconds if the database load succeeds. More than once, MagiKey Family Tree became not responding during project load, demanded the next disk, and crashed. Then you have to start over again. By the way, MagiKey Family Tree is so unstable that if you even dare to move the import dialog a bit, say because it covers another window you want to look at, it will immediately become not responding, demand the next disk and crash.

MagiKey Family Tree frequently crashes upon opening its own files!

crash-prone

MagiKey Family Tree is remarkably crash-prone. MagiKey Family Tree crashes rather easily. It often crashes when you try to import a GEDCOM file. Even worse, MagiKey Family Tree frequently crashes upon opening its own files! That is completely unacceptable.

import phases

MagiKey Family Tree's GEDCOM load has four distinct phases, and the load dialog box restarts the progress bar for each phase. The first phase loads the file, the second converts to a standard format and phase three performs some consistency checks. MagiKey Family Tree often merely loads the database, but sometimes decides to performs phase two and three as well. When it decides to do so, merely opening your database takes minutes. It is not clear why it does not always perform all three phases, or what the converting to standard format really means.

The fourth last phase is the merge phase. The merge phase only happens when you import a GEDCOM into a database that already contains some data. The merge phase cannot be cancelled, but the matches that it may pop-up can be cancelled.

The first time MagiKey Family Tree showed the Individual Match dialog box, the two names were nothing alike, the birth dates more than a hundred years apart, and the birth places on two different continents! Subsequent matches were equally unimpressive.

merging

multiple submitters

By the way, MagiKey Family Tree keeps track of multiple submitters. According to the help file, these are the details of data (GEDCOM files) that you merged into your database. MagiKey Family Tree does not keep track of the original GEDCOM file that some data was imported from as a source, but remembers the submitters for each individual instead. So, if you have multiple GEDCOM files from the same submitter, you can no longer tell which a record was imported from.

MagiKey Family Tree crashed again

merging

Starting a merge operation in MagiKey Family Tree seems simple; just choose to import another GEDCOM file. However, I tried merging a few small GEDCOM files, and MagiKey often complained about the GEDCOM file or crashed.

The first time I tried a merge, MagiKey Family Tree did not complain or crash, but almost immediately showed a Verify Individual Match dialog box with an individual from the already loaded GEDCOM on the left and an individual from the GEDCOM that I was merging into the project on the right. Below each individual it showed the submitter of the original GEDCOM file. The first time MagiKey Family Tree showed the Individual Match dialog box, the two names were nothing alike, the birth dates more than a hundred years apart, and the birth places on two different continents! Subsequent matches were equally unimpressive.
The obvious conclusion is that MagiKey Family Tree's matching algorithm still needs some work, but I noticed something else; in my experience, MagiKey Family Tree always shows the Verify Individual Match dialog and always shows it exactly once. That hints at a defect other than the matching algorithm itself. I decided to simply dismiss that dialog box.

MagiKey Family Tree's GEDCOM import is a pop-up obstacle course.

GEDCOM import

The GEDCOM import procedure is simple; just create or open an project and then select File | Import... from the menu. MagiKey Family Tree does not annoy with superfluous Wizards or options, but simply shows a File Open dialog. Once you've chosen the GEDCOM file you want to import, MagiKey Family Tree starts importing it. MagiKey Family Tree shows a progress dialog box while importing, which shows some statistics. Once the import is done, MagiKey Family Tree may offer to show the import log file.

That sounds perfect, but alas, the GEDCOM import is far from perfect. MagiKey Family Tree's GEDCOM import is a pop-up obstacle course. MagiKey Family Tree may prompt you for submitter information. If it finds anything wrong, say an unreferenced NOTE record, it will pause the import and throw up a messagebox demanding your input. If it isn't the first GEDCOM file you import into the project, MagiKey Family Tree will pop up the Verify Individual Match dialog box. MagiKey Family Tree will often pop-up a messagebox asking for the next disk. Worst of all, importing a few GEDCOM files is a practically sure to make MagiKey Family Tree crash again, forcing you to restart the application, and start it all over again.
MagiKey Family Tree creates an import log, but it is no help in figuring out what made it crash.

That an application reliably crashes when you opt to go with its defaults strongly suggests that it has not been tested at all.

1 MB GEDCOM

My initial experiences with other GEDCOM files did not get my hopes up, but I bravely went ahead and tried importing the usual small and large GEDCOM files, starting with the small one, a GEDCOM file of just 1 MB.

When I created as project with the default submitter (Unknown), and then imported the 1 MB GEDCOM file, MagiKey Family Tree would end the import by asking for the submitter, and when I opted for the default (Unknown) again, it would pop up a dialog offering to merge the identical submitters, and then promptly crash. A few trials gave me the impression that the it is MagiKey Family Tree's attempt to merge submitters that's responsible for most GEDCOM import crashes.
Once I decided to create projects with the default submitter (Unknown), and then fill something else whenever MagiKey Family Tree prompted me for a submitter again, or simply answered that I did not want to merge submitters, I did not experience any GEDCOM import crashes again. That an application reliably crashes when you opt to go with its defaults strongly suggests that it has not been tested at all.

When everything works fine, MagiKey Family Tree's GEDCOM import is pretty fast, but because MagiKey Family Tree does not automatically save your project after importing the file, you have to do so manually.
On the Vista machine, import of the 1 MB GEDCOM into an empty project takes about 11 seconds; 8 seconds during which the progress dialog is shown, another second to dismiss the submitter dialog box, and another two second to manually start a save operation and wait for it to complete. Total import time: 11 seconds.

100k INDI GEDCOM

Import of the 100k INDI GEDCOM took 58 seconds.
MagiKey Family Tree showed the progress dialog box for 42 seconds, after which it offered to show the log file. Choosing to do so and switching back to MagiKey Family Tree took two seconds, choosing to save the file took a second, and the save operation itself took 13 seconds.

Well, those are the times when import of the file succeeded. Often, the import failed because MagiKey Family Tree decided to become not responding in the middle of the import.

import log file

The import log file that MagiKey Family Tree produces could be better. It does not provide import statistics. It does say anything about non-standard tags in the imported GEDCOM file.

The import log does contain some information about merges, but it is close to useless.
I imported a file, cancelled one ostensible match, was not presented with any other matches, yet found that the log file claimed that multiple merges had been performed! That is disturbing, and log messages themselves are not reassuring. The messages always reads something like Merging families John /Doe/=Jane /Doe/ and John /Doe/=Jane /Doe/ - that's right, it simply listed the same names twice. It did not list their record numbers or other information that might be helpful in verifying which records were merged.

GEDCOM export

Exporting the 100k INDI database to GEDCOM takes about six or seven seconds. That is fast, but then again, exporting a GEDCOM file to GEDCOM is hardly an export.

no database system

MagiKey Family Tree is not built on a database system, but uses GEDCOM instead. This is a design mistake, plain and simple. GEDCOM is a format for data exchange, it was not designed for use as a database format, and cannot not match the performance or features of a real database system. The most obvious problem is that if you make just one single change to any record, the application cannot replace that record, but must replace the entire GEDCOM file instead. As your research progresses, your database becomes larger, and saving the entire file takes more time. Generally, saving the entire file is too slow an operation to perform for every small change. That is why MagiKey Family Tree does not save changes immediately and needs an auto-save feature to compensate for that. It would not suffer these problems if it had used a database system instead.

I wanted to do a crash test; see what happens to your database when the application crashes during save, but never got round to it; every time I tried to set it up, MagiKey Family Tree crashed already.

MagiKey Family Tree demands a Unicode platform, but does not support Unicode.

character encoding

outencoding
NASCII 
YANSEL
NUTF-8
NUTF-16

When you decide to export your database to GEDCOM, MagiKey does not ask for anything more than a filename. It does not ask what character set or encoding you want to use, but always uses ANSEL.

MagiKey is only the second version of what started as Issue 1.0 about a decade ago, and the minimum platform for Issue 1.0 was Windows 98. Windows 98 is a code-page based system.

Many vendors who created genealogy application for early versions of Windows are still using the less capable Windows ANSI (code page 1252) character set, but the GEDCOM specifications is clear that use of Windows ANSI is illegal and that the more powerful ANSEL character set should be used instead.

However, MagiKey Family Tree 2.x does not run on Windows 98. MagiKey Family Tree 2.x demands Windows XP or later. Windows XP is a Unicode-based operating system. MagiKey 2.x should continue to support ANSEL export, but should default to UTF-8, to ensure it can encode anything the user enters.

A quick examination of the GEDCOM files that MagiKey Family Tree uses instead of a database system show that these use ANSEL encoding as well. The inevitable conclusion is that MagiKey Family Tree still cannot handle Unicode. MagiKey Family Tree demands a Unicode platform, but does not support Unicode.

GEDCOM import

MagiKey Family Tree can import GEDCOM files encoded in ANSEL. It also imports GEDCOM encoded in Windows ANSI. However, as soon as you try to import an UTF-8 GEDCOM, with or without Byte Order Mark, MagiKey Family Tree will simply crash.
MagiKey Family Tree does not support Unicode, and will not even read an UTF-8 GEDCOM.

reports

report types

MagiKey Family Tree can create various reports, including ancestry pages, descendancy pages, family group sheets, a five-generation pedigree chart and timelines. I tried a few, and they look fine, although I do find it odd that the reports do not use colour at all, and am not happy that MagiKey decided to crash when I merely asked for an ancestry report using the default options.

HTML

All reports are written in just one format: HTML, or to be more precise, in something that The MagiKey refers to as HTML.
I will keep saying this: there is no excuse for any error in computer-generated HTML. You'd think that a company that decides to support just one format would make sure it supports that format correctly, but the quality of MagiKey Family Tree HTML is hardly bettern than the horrendous output of The Master Genealogist (TMG).

MagiKey Family Tree does not use style sheets at all. All style and layout is hardcoded in the worst possible way, including the use of frames for navigation menus and the abuse of tables for layout.

The ostensible HTML output not only uses the deprecated font tag, but then forgets to close that tag too, omits the mandatory alt attribute from img tags, and does not even use quotes around the few attribute values it does use.
All the tags are in uppercase. The so-called HTML output lacks a doctype declaration, does not specify a content type and does not specify a character set. The entire HTML header is missing.
This kind of unpalatable tag soup was unsavoury in the previous millennium of the Gregorian Calendar already, it has no place in this one. There is no excuse.

Ancestry report

MagiKey Family Tree's idea of an ancestry report does not correspond with mine. The image shows an ancestry report for AhnenNumbers.ged. The One_export.ged file mentioned in the report header is the automatically generated filename of a downloadable file. You can opt to include the original GEDCOM file or no file at all.

MagiKey: Ancestral Report

The output uses frames to provide a menu, a deprecated practice. There is an option to do without frames, but then there's no menu at all. Most remarkable though, is that that The MagiKey refers to this report as Ancestry Web Pages, and the report title starts is Ancestors of, but it is hard to discern any ancestry here, it is really a bunch of descendants reports for the ancestors. The unexpected addition of _____ wherever there is no given name makes the output for this file particularly unpleasant to read.

report options

MagiKey includes various report options, including the option to exclude living individuals from reports. A less commendable option is the ability to confuse readers by using an antilogical date format. Vendors should not provide that option at all, they should not promote confusion, but ensure that all reports use logical date formats exclusively.

file transfer

MagiKey includes an FTP client, to immediately upload the reports to your web server. A rather useless feature considering the low quality of the MagiKey output. MagiKey Family Tree would be a better product if The MagiKey had spent its effort on the reporting module itself instead.

bookmarks, sort-of

MagiKey allows you to bookmark individuals, but in an awkward  way. You cannot simply choose too bookmark them and then later pick them from a small list of bookmarked individuals. Instead, you have to add tags to individuals, and then you have to remember those tags. There is no list of tags to choose from.

This is an awkward system with an unfortunate name. This tagging ability is easily confused with a custom tag, but that is exactly what it is not. It is like the Custom ID supported by PAF and uses the standard GEDCOM tag REFN.
The correct use of the standard tag is great, but it would be nice if user interface on top of it was more like a bookmarking system.

Census Tracker

MagiKey Family Tree's prominently promoted feature is the Census Tracker. Superficially, the Census Tracker is similar to the input forms that Geves supports. I wanted to try it, but got too frustrated by the frequent crashes, that make MagiKey Family Tree practically unusable.

conclusion

The MagiKey could it make it easier to get MagiKey Family Tree downloaded and installed, but they should focus on improving MagiKey Family Tree itself.

That MagiKey Family Tree is a ten-year old application shows in more than the slightly dated look of the button bar.  The current version demands Windows XP, yet it still doesn't support Unicode and its ostensible HTML output is a tag soup that was embarrassing in the previous millennium already.

Database loading and saving are slow because but uses GEDCOM files as its native database format, the import procedure is pop-up happy and the import log file contains little of relevance. The MagiKey Family Tree dialog boxes are very large, support for events is limited and its consistency reports use convoluted sentences. All that is bad, but the number one problem with MagiKey Family Tree is that it is extremely crash-happy. MagiKey Family Tree even crashes when you try to perform a simple action using the default options.
FamilySearch gave this crash-happy product a FamilySearch Certified logo, but that logo says nothing about the quality of the product overall, only about its integration with NFS. The frequent crashes make this product practically unusable.

GEDCOM extensions

MagiKey Family Tree uses several GEDCOM Extensions. The MagiKey provided me with a list of those, summarised below.

tagbrief description
_CKPTCheckpoint. Used for detecting identical files when merging.
_ATLSAtlas. Place list.
_CENRCensus Record.
_FSIDFS ID.
_INILLDS Initiatory Ordinance.
_ISTATInternal Status.

import speed (on Vista PC)

file1 MB GEDCOM100k INDI GEDCOM
time11s58s
time in seconds1158
INDI per second442,001752,29
bytes per second95.990,45668.955,05

product details

propertyvalue
productMagiKey Family Tree
version2.3.9
organisationThe MagiKey
websiteThe MagiKey
priceUS$  € 29,95 (approx. € 22,50)
requirementsWindows XP, patience
noteno database system
Verdictcrash-happy
Ratingunusable

links

video tutorials