capsule review

MacFamilyTree 4.4

MacFamilyTree 4.4.6 is an OS X-native genealogy program (with the familiar Cocoa look and feel) that takes full advantage of your Mac’s built-in hardware and software. It uses your iSight camera for capturing video clips and photos, and uses your mike for capturing audio. The program also makes it easy to use images from your iPhoto library. The software has several unique reporting features, such as a latitude/longitude database that, after you search for a city name, uses its built-in map or Google Earth to let you visually pinpoint where your family came from.

MacFamilyTree imports and exports standard GEDCOM files (a genealogy format readable by almost every other genealogy program on the market) and is also able to print your family tree in a variety of tree styles, such standard family or descendant charts, as well as genograms, graphical symbols that allow you to view hereditary patterns and emotional relationships in a family tree. Once you’ve collected all your relatives’ information, the program makes it easy for you to save your data in HTML, export it to a CD, or save it to your iDisk.

After you’ve add a new family member, MacFamilyTree allows you to include certain events in that relative’s data file, such as a marriage, divorce, birth, or adoption. The program ships with 49 predefined events, plus a catchall other in case none of those events suit your purposes. Oddly, the program classifies some non-events as events, and as a result, the data fields for those events don’t really make sense. For example, Social Security Number and Nickname are listed as events. The fields associated with these events are Description, Dates, Cause, and Age, which are not really appropriate for the type of information you’d enter for such items. Also, the program provides only basic support for the ordinances of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints—baptism, confirmation, endowment, initiatory, and sealing of a child.

I did experience some odd behavior with some parts of the program. For example, one feature is a very useful latitude and longitude database. When you add the name of the city where one of your relatives was born, MacFamilyTree can retrieve a list of all the cities with that name and then pinpoint each city’s precise geographical coordinates. I discovered a problem with this feature when I began searching for a city using the most common format—city name and state, separated by a comma—and got no results. I discovered that I had to search for the name of the city alone and then pick it from the resulting list. Once I figured out how the city names were formatted, I used the correct format instead. This feature would have been much more valuable if the program were intelligent enough to figure out that, for example, Alameda, CA, was the same as Alameda-CA.

Another user interface quirk: double-clicking on the name of a city didn’t add it to the record. Instead, it made it appear that the city name was editable. Double-clicking other items in the application exhibited similarly unexpected behavior.

Macworld’s buying advice

MacFamilyTree 4.4.5 is an effective and visually pleasing genealogy program that makes excellent use of your Mac’s built-in audio and video tools as well as your iPhoto library. But its interface is not nearly as polished as other genealogy software on the market. And if you’re looking for more than casual religious references, this program would not suffice.

[ Jeffery Battersby is a regular contributor to Macworld . You can read his blog at jeffbattersby.com. ]

MacFamilyTree provides an easy-to-use interface and several features not found in other genealogy programs.
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