I will be glad to publish the information for any genealogy program, but I do not have time to research all possible software. Please email me with up-to-date info about any program you are using!
SUMMARY OF THE PROGRAMS
People often ask, what is the best genealogy program? That's kind of like asking, what is the best car model? People have different preferences. Some features of a program important to one person are not important to another person, who has a somewhat different set of features important to him/her. So, I'm not going to really try to go into detail here. A few years ago, I used to go into more detail on this page, but over time, I found that as new versions of programs came out, I didn't have time to try them out. So unfortunately I have resorted to giving a bit of history of each program and not much more than that.
In the sites I have looked at that do give more detailed reviews/comparisons, I find that Legacy, Family Tree Maker, and RootsMagic tend to be the best rated programs, but not necessarily in that order. For example, this review lists 1) FTM, 2) Legacy, 3) RootsMagic. However, the review here lists 1) RootsMagic, 3) Legacy, 5) FTM, with a couple other programs (one of which is TMG) in slots 2 & 4.
I am not a FTM fan, having switched away from it in the 1990s as it grew to be commercialized and lagging behind other programs in features like citing Sources (see more details about this in the FTM section below).
I personally use Legacy, and I highly recommend it. However, I understand that some people prefer RootsMagic. I have not tried RootsMagic enough to have an opinion on it, so I urge people to make their own decision between the two.
The other program that some people will want to consider is TMG. It tends to get lower ratings than FTM / Legacy / RootsMagic because its features tend to be harder to use. But in more detailed ratings, even when TMG is rated lower than these other programs, it gets the highest ratings in terms of the features offered. I.e., it has the most features, but it can take awhile to learn to use theses features well. If you are frustrated with shortcomings of other programs, you want to customize your data and reports in ways that other programs cannot handle, and you are willing to invest the time to learn how to use advanced features of a program, then TMG is probably for you. But if you are just starting out with a genealogy program, and you are moreso wanting to get started quickly, then I tend to recommend looking at Legacy and RootsMagic first.
Having said that, here are the main genealogy programs, with links to their websites and a little general information about each one:
Ancestral Quest (and PAF) - Ancestral Quest is an easy-to-use program similar in features to FTM and BK. At one time, PAF (Personal Ancestral File) was the official program of the Latter Day Saints (LDS) church (which incorporates genealogy into its religious doctrine). In 1999, a Windows version of PAF was announced by LDS. It turned out that the new PAF was simply a customized version of AQ. I don't know all the details of the customization, but I believe it included special tags for LDS ordinances and so forth - extra features that non-LDS'ers can simply ignore. PAF stayed around for a long time, but as time went on, its feature development lagged behind that of other genealogy programs. In July 2013, PAF was officially discontinued by the LDS church. The information page recommended that PAF users migrate to either Ancestral Quest, Legacy, or RootsMagic.
- You can download this shareware program from their web site. You
try it for free, but they encourage you to pay a registration fee if
you keep it. In Nov 2005, version 6.2 was shown on the web site. In
Jan 2014, version 6.6 is shown on the site.
Family Tree Maker - The most popular genealogy program. When I first started doing genealogy, FTM was the first program I used. I liked it because it is easy to use and offers a lot of fancy types of charts/graphical reports. However, as my genealogy researched deepened, I noticed that FTM had shortcomings compared to other programs in areas like tracking of Source information. The makers of FTM also seemed to be more interested in having the program make money for them than to deepen genealogy research. For example, I was excited the first time they offered a feature to produce one's tree into a website. I expected the program to output web (html) pages which I could upload to the website of my choice. It turned out there was no option to do that, but clicking on the button to produce a website would automatically upload one's data to the site which the makers of FTM controlled; they could then charge people a membership fee to join their site and search the data uploaded by others. Faced with these things, I moved away from FTM to Legacy. I suggest that before buying FTM, you should try out a couple of other programs. For example, RootsMagic essentials and Legacy standard edition are both available as FREE downloads.
Legacy - In 2000, the Legacy publishers announced that Legacy would be a free download. They also announced a "Deluxe Edition", which they sell for $29.95. I like the features it has, and I have switched to it as my main genealogy program. Even the Standard/free version is pretty powerful; it has much better features for tracking sources, merging GEDCOM files, and creating web pages than FTM. In the past, Legacy graphical style Reports were not as powerful as FTM. But recent Legacy versions have beefed up the Report formats, and for those accustomed to some of the fancier FTM reports (e.g. Fan Charts), there are a couple of Add-On programs available for Legacy, such as Legacy Charting Companion and TreeDraw Legacy Edition, which generate elaborate chart reports from a Legacy database..Roots Magic - When Family Origins was acquired by Genealogy.com and then dropped in favor of Family Tree Maker, the original developer of FO started his own company and developed Roots Magic. People who liked FO have generally said they find RM's interface and features to be even better. Like Legacy, RootsMagic has a free and pay version of the software. You can download the free version initially, then upgrade to the pay version if you choose.
The Master Genealogist - TMG is the most feature-rich genealogy program. The TMG web site includes a downloadable Excel chart which compares features of TMG and other genealogy programs. The main complaints about TMG are that the program is not as easy to use and runs slower than other genealogy programs.
Because of all its features, TMG is generally the most expensive
genealogy program. The Gold edition is $59 and the Silver edition
(which doesn't have as much report/publishing capabilities) is $34.
Genopro - This seems to be a new program that I was made aware of in Feb 2004. I haven't tried it yet, but the website does have a version available for FREE download. It looks like this program is specifically for generating graphical style reports.
Genealogical Software Report Card - Uses an objective scale to rate genealogy programs. Keep in mind that you should not simply blindly buy whatever program scores the highest. For example, I didn't see a criteria/score for "ease of use" (he does list which programs have "Advanced" features, but Advanced may or may not mean hard to use) or for speed (of importing, generating reports, etc). And different people may find certain screen layouts subjectively better than others. Still, this is an excellent site in terms of comparing features of different programs.
Cyndi's List - Genealogy Software - Links to genealogy software from Cyndi's List.
Utilities - has over 75 utilities. Unfortunately doesn't
generally show web sites or current versions of the programs.
Hopefully after you install any of these programs, the program itself
would point you back to its website from which you could check for program
GEDCOM Utilities - at the time I checked it, only 2 utilities were listed on this page.
Windows 95 Utilities - This page is oriented towards Windows95, not genealogy, but it does include a couple of GEDCOM utilities.
For more general information on GEDCOM, see the list of GEDCOM references in our links page.
- For a brief review, see Dick
Eastman's newsletter site. Look for his Oct 29, 2001 issue.
I believe the review was of some vintage of Version 3, and as of Nov
are up to Version 4. They advertise it for $49 with "MacFamily
Ancestry Writer II - According to the author,
"Consider PAWriter to be a possible next step in the development of
Macintosh PAF had its develpment not been discontinued after release
2.3.1, i.e., 'what might have been.' PAWriter is not meant
to have the bells and whistles that are in the current crop of
genealogical programs. The emphasis is on maintaining a genealogical
database from which the user can write books and/or post web pages about a
family." The program is available for FREE from the author's
Macintosh - I'm not a Mac person, but from what I have been
told, this is the genealogy program against which all other Mac-based
programs are judged. Version 8 has been advertised as the latest
version since at least April 2003 (which is two years ago at this present
time). A couple of websites where I
priced this in April 2005 listed it in the $89 - 99 price range.
Linux genealogy software was reviewed in Dick Eastman's newsletter - look for his Nov 5, 2001 issue, which devotes a good portion to Linux as an OS in general. The software listed in this section is specifically for Linux, notwithstanding that some Windows-based genealogy software may work under Linux via a Windows emulator.
A very old program with a command line interface; no graphics or mouse
Ftree- Runs in an X-windows environment; does have mouse support, but is not really graphical.
Gramps - According to Eastman, "Gramps seems to have more features available than the other Linux genealogy programs but still does not yet approach power of the free Windows programs: Legacy and PAF."
Ancestors and Descendants - From their web page: "We, the owners and management of Adventures In Ancestry, have decided to suspend the marketing and sale of Ancestors and Descendants® (A&DTM). This is to allow us to devote our full resources and attention to research and development efforts. This change in company strategy became effective on December 1, 2000."
- This was the program that Don Thompson, GCSGA President, had recommended
as the best program for beginners. Unfortunately, it has been
discontinued. From their web page: " As you may know, Genealogy.com
created Family Origins in collaboration with a third party developer. We
regret to announce that the third party has chosen to discontinue
development of the software. Because of this decision, Genealogy.com will
be unable to continue support of Family Origins products as of June 30,
My personal opinion is that it was moreso because Genealogy.com also owns FTM, which sells better and thus is more of a cash cow, that the decision was made to drop FO. In fact, the web page which announces FO's end also tries to get users to switch to FTM.
A bit of good news is that the original developer of FO has formed his own company and created an entirely new genealogy program called Roots Magic. See the regular section above on this web page for more info about it.
Generations Family Tree
- I am pretty sure this program has been discontinued. This program
was developed by Sierra and then acquired by Broderbund, which at the time
owned FTM. Just as they discontinued UFT, I think their approach
likewise was to stop all efforts on Generations in favor of FTM. At
the present time (2005), I cannot find an official support page for
Generations on any company's website.
I still see Generations Grand Suite Version 8.0 for sale at a few places like Amazon.com, but they must be selling inventory that is several years old. For instance, the web page I saw at Amazon said that Generations runs on Windows 95 & 98. No mention was made of Windows ME or XP, implying that this version of Generations was produced in the 1998/1999 time frame.
PAF - See the main section above under Ancestral Quest.
Ultimate Family Tree-
This was a very full-featured genealogy program, but in May 2000, it was
announced that further development on UFT was being stopped. (See
this notice in genforum.) Reading between the lines, the
company that owned FTM had acquired UFT, and they decided that FTM was
more popular and thus a better money maker than UFT, so all the
development efforts would go into FTM. It was really too bad,
because UFT was a much more fully-featured program than FTM. But FTM
had been marketed better and was considered easier to use, thus appealing
to more beginner-level genealogists (where the
mass market is for retailers).