Mac Genealogy Software Recommendations

There is an article over at Genealogy Tools, What Genealogy Software Do We Recommend? that you should check out if you get a chance.

What Mac Genealogy Software Do I Recommend?
For years, when people have asked me, I inevitably send them links to the major Mac genealogy software developers and tell them to download the demos and try each of them out. With the exception of Family Tree Maker for Mac 2, all of the actively developed Mac genealogy apps have demos that you can download and try out. Some are even free.

I’m not avoiding the issue. It’s just that because genealogy software is something that you will be spending so much time with, I think it’s something where you should be willing to download several of the applications and try them out for a day or two, or even three. For an application that you will probably be using for many months, if not years ahead, it’s worth putting the time into finding the one that meets your needs and that you feel comfortable with. Different people have different needs and tastes, as well as requirements.

I could fill this post up with all kinds of stats and charts, and maybe I’ll do one of those in the future, but for now I’ll try and make recommendations based on very specific circumstances, and I will include links to the websites where you can download demos or even the full Mac genealogy applications. I’m only going to discuss actively develop Mac genealogy apps that are available right now and that have been updated one way or another (such as Reunion for iPad/iPhone). That leaves Heredis Mac X.2 out as it’s successor is still in development and there are no demos available. I’m also leaving out MyBlood and Osk as there have been no signs of active development for those two since 2009-2010.

I’m going to list them all, and then group some of them by categories.

Full List – Alphabetical Order (Last updated)
- Familienbande / Family Ties – Free, (Jan 2012)
- Family Tree Maker for Mac 2 – Ancestry.com Commercial, No demo, (Jan 2012)
- GEDitCOM II – Commercial, Free “Reader Mode” (Feb 2012)
- GenealogyJ – Free, Java, Open Source, (beta 2012)
- Gramps – Free (Oct 2011)
- iFamily for Leopard – Commercial, 16-day Demo (can’t export GEDCOM) (Jan 2012)
- MacFamilyTree 6 – Commercial, Demo (can’t save/export) (Feb 2012)
- ohmiGene – Commercial, Demo (Watermarked, limit 509 people) (Jan 2012)
- PAW2U (PAWriter II) – Free (Sep 2011)
- Reunion 9 Commercial, Demo (50 people, import/export disabled, etc.) (Aug 2010)
- The Next Generation of Genealogy Sitebuilding v9 Commercial, Online Demo (Feb 2012)

Special Interests
- Mac Genealogy Software – Unicode, UTF-8, and GEDCOMs
- Mac Genealogy Software that supports LDS/TempleReady options

Free and/or Open Source
On the open source side of things, Genealogy J and Gramps are the two apps you want. PAW2U is probably the best of the free genealogy software, but Familienbande (Family Ties) looks to be pretty solid as well.

What if you liked Personal Ancestral File?
PAW2U is going to be your best bet. The developer of PAW2U considers it to be a spiritual successor to PAF, and I tend to agree. He very much looks to what people liked or were used to with PAF.

Want iPhone, iPod Touch, or iPad Support?
- iPhone, iPod Touch, iPad – MobileFamilyTree Pro – iTunes Store (MacFamilyTree)
- iPad only – ohmiGene for iPad – iTunes (ohmiGene Plus)
- iPad only – Reunion for iPad – iTunes (Reunion)

Note: MobileFamilyTree doesn’t just easily sync with MacFamilyTree, it now supports importing of GEDCOM files. I would mention Ancestry for iOS, but it’s not necessarily tied to any one Mac genealogy app (namely Family Tree Maker for Mac 2). It’s more of a front-end to Ancestry.com.

Mac App Store
Do you have an iTunes Gift Card? Only one Mac genealogy application is available through Apple’s Mac App Store – MacFamilyTree – Apple Mac App Store.

What if I’m European?
Most of the Mac genealogy applications have multi-language support, but MacFamilyTree, ohmiGene, Familienbande are all developed in Europe, so it’s something to consider. Heredis as well.

What if I have a native language that is not supported in most genealogy apps?
Gramps is probably for you – It supports English, Albanian, Brazilian Portuguese, Bulgarian, Catalan, Chinese, Croatian, Czech, Danish, Dutch, Esperanto, Finnish, French, German, Hebrew, Hungarian, Italian, Japanese, Lithuanian, Macedonian, Norwegian (Bokmål and Nynorsk), Polish, Russian, Slovak, Slovenian, Spanish, Swedish, Vietnamese.

Want to Customize the Interface?
GEDitCOM II is for you. You can extensively customize the user interface.

I need to work with Ancestry.com, FamilySearch.org, etc.
Family Tree Maker for Mac 2 and MacFamilyTree are your best bets.

Cross-Platform
Want an application that runs on both Windows and Mac OS X and possibly Linux? Familienbande, GenealogyJ, Gramps, and ohmiGene.

PowerPC
Still running on a PowerPC Mac? ohmiGene, PAW2U, or Reunion are your best bets. Gramps has a PowerPC build (see the Gramps page in the hardware section). GenealogyJ should run as well, but it requires Java Virtual Machine 1.6 (possibly only PPC running Mac OS X 10.5).

Online Software
I prefer The Next Generation of Genealogy Sitebuilding v9. I know that there are some open-source projects out there, some of which have forked, but TNG is well-supported, constantly updated, and has a very active community. Well worth the $32.99 new.

I need to work with relatives who use Family Tree Maker for Windows
Obviously you will need to go with Family Tree Maker for Mac 2 – Ancestry.com. Yes, you can use most of the Mac genealogy applications and just export/import GEDCOM files, but you can also lose a lot of genealogy data when you export to GEDCOM from FTM (of any platform). FTM for Mac 2 is your best bet when dealing with relatives who use FTM for Windows.

What if I like GenSmarts? Or another Windows application?
A lot of us like GenSmarts and want a GenSmarts for Mac OS X. I can’t tell you if it’ll ever happen, although the GenSmarts folks seem interested in it, but I can tell you that you can use your Mac genealogy software to export a GEDCOM file and then import that into GenSmarts 2.

As far as running GenSmarts 2 or any Windows genealogy application..
- Boot Camp from Apple – You have to reboot into Windows (and need a Windows license). You lose the ability to use your Mac at the same time. Not my preferred option.
- CrossOver XI – It’s commercial (starting at $39.95), but it’s well-supported, and I’ve used it with a number of Windows genealogy apps as well as GenSmarts. You don’t need a Windows license. It has bits of Wine powering it (see below). It’s not a full virtualization environment – it (and Wine) are about as close as you can get to running Windows applications natively within Mac OS X. CrossOver (and Wine) can be tricky if you run more than one Windows application at once and want them to interact.
- Wine – Free. Not as well-packaged as CrossOver, but the same concept – it does not require a full virtualization environment. It can take more tinkering than CrossOver.
- VirtualBox – Free virtualization software. It requires a copy of Windows (which is not free). Unlike Boot Camp, it runs within Mac OS X – you are basically running a copy of Windows in a window. You can run all kinds of Windows applications at the same time.
- Parallels Desktop for Mac – Like VirtualBox, a virtual environment for Windows and does require a Windows license. Unlike VirtualBox, it’s commercial, but it’s very well supported with an active user community.
- VMWare Fusion – Similar to Parallels Desktop and VirtualBox.

Note: I’ve used different versions VMWare Fusion and Parallels Desktop since they first came out, not too long after the transition from PowerPC to Intel. For Windows genealogy applications, they are both incredibly solid in my view, and if you have to pick one, then pick whichever is on sale. They may differ in a few small areas, but they are not areas that are going to affect your Windows genealogy applications. They also make it incredibly easy to migrate from Windows to Mac OS X by basically letting you take a copy of your previous Windows PC with you – you can do a copy of your old Windows PC or laptop, and they will import it into a virtual version of your old PC, running right there within Mac OS X.

I have this old MacOS 8 genealogy application that I really love and want to run on Mac OS X
What? Oh, sorry. You’ll probably need to try out SheepShaver. I wish you the best of luck and recommend you move your genealogy data into a modern Mac OS X genealogy application. For me, SheepShaver has been hit or miss at times. It does support MacOS 7.5.2 through 9.0.4.

I need to run a DOS genealogy application?
You do know that GEDCOM 5.5 came out after Windows 95, right? But I know the reasons for needing access to DOS. VirtualBox, VMWare Fusion, and Parallels Desktop all support various flavors of DOS, but for the Mac genealogist who wants to keep things simple, DOSBox is what you want. Once you understand how it works, you’ll find it incredibly easy to use and to move data back and forth between DOS and Mac OS X. I use it quite a bit for old DOS games, but can verify it will run older genealogy programs. You maybe even able to run Windows 3.1 within it.

Windows 3.1, I have to run it.
VirtualBox, VMWare Fusion, or Parallels Desktop should help you out. I would recommend VirtualBox because it’s free and Windows 3.1 isn’t exactly cutting edge.


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