RootsMagic iPhone/iPad App — #Genealogy #Software #Review, #RootsTech

by C. Michael Eliasz-Solomon

RootsMagicAppThis jester has been a big proponent of Ubiquitous Genealogy – i.e. genealogy is portable and everywhere. I have used the Ancestry App for a long while and am well satisfied. They use a concept of synching the App with  your tree and their website. Now that the kinks are worked out, I am well satisfied. There are also MyHeritage and Heredis  Apps too. These do not synch over the “air”. You need to use your iTunes application on your desktop/laptop to move files into the App’s “sandbox” via synching your iPhone/iPad with the laptop/desktop over the iPhone/iPad cable. Tethered synching is ok but a hindrance.

Ok so the new App on the block is an offering called RootsMagic.   Stanczyk likes the Roots Magic laptop application as a full blown offering for working on your genealogy and documenting the tree and finding data on the Internet and keeping track of to-do lists, publishing your tree on CD/Web and all sorts of work that you do when your research spans years (or decades) – does anyone ever finish their genealogy? Its modern and uses Universal Character sets (so us Slavic Researchers can use our slashed Ł’s  or Cyrillic  Я’s) and other features that the Internet Genealogists have grown up with.  So I was hopeful when I received an email from Roots Magic touting their iOS offerings – Its free!

The App starts with the familiar Roots Magic splash screen that you may have grown accustomed to from the laptop application. You are then presented with a list of files from their sandbox (ugh, tethered synching). Once you select a file to work with, your family tree is presented in a Pedigree form (with three generations visible on iPhone/ four generations on iPad). At the top left is a green/white button with three lines (see image)  that will allow you to pick a particular person with whom you wish to work upon. At the bottom of the screen are four buttons:

Files,   Views,   Lists,   Tools

Files – Lets you select the family tree file you want to on from your Device or from DropBox (a cloud-based file storage service). It also has HELP (files??) which tell you how to use your Device or DropBox to get a file loaded into the App. Sadly,  the RootsMagic app does not read standard gedcom (ged)  files. It only reads files with rmgc extension (i.e. created by Roots Magic laptop application). However, it does load their database extremely fast from those rmgc files.

Views – Lets you choose to view the data in a PEDIGREE tree  or a FAMILY tree or in a DESCENDENTS outline  or in the detailed FACTS (events), NOTE, direct family members of the current INDIVIDUAL. I prefer working in FAMILY (as seen in image) view mode, then switching to INDIVIDUAL view mode for any details on that person. Clicking on NOTE really gives you access to NOTE(S), SOURCE(S), and MEDIA for that individual (and a BACK button at the top to return to INDIVIDUAL view mode).

Lists – This just gives a list of your: Sources, To-Dos, Research, Media, Addresses, Repositories, Correspondences, and PLACES. I liked places (which showed that this jester really needs to make his Places (Locations) conform to some kind of standard).

Tools – Date Calculator, Relationship Calculator, Soundex Calculator, and Calendar. Unimpressive to say the least. Lest you get your hope up, the Calendar tool only displays the Calendar for a Month/Year of your choice [I did not verify the Julian/Gregorian boundary to see if it calculates a proper month calendar for dates before 1582]. It was not worth the effort as I did not see why I would want to see what day  June 3rd, 1700 would fall on (Thursday) if you are eyes are young or your glasses are a good prescription to read the day name. Otherwise, you not notice the day names on an iPhone  [perhaps a black font, instead of gray, would give better contrast]. The Soundex is only American Soundex – why not Daitsch-Mokotoff or Bieder-Morse codes too? Really, we Slavic researchers get short shrift in the software world.  Never fear, just create a desktop icon of Steve Morse’s Soundex page to see all three Soundex/Pattern Matching methods for your family names.

iPad vs iPhone

For some reason the iPad interface treats the buttons (Files, Views, Lists, Tools) differently on the iPad. That was a bit confusing until I got used to the difference. Rotating the iPad to landscape, also brings the Surnames/Search view along side whatever view you are in. The Calendar is a bit easier to see on the iPad, but I’d still like to see the day name text in black (or at least a MUCH darker gray).

UbiquitousGenealogyThe app is strictly for viewing your family tree (et. al.). There are no tools for modifying the tree for re-import into the desktop application. Shortcomings aside, it is still a very good first effort by Roots Magic. If you have the Roots Magic laptop application, then download the free app for your smartphone or tablet and go Ubiquitous. If you do not have the Roots Magic laptop application and do not have a way to get your ged converted to Roots Magic format (rmgc) then do NOT bother to download the app – you will not be able to use it.

P.S.  Do you spell  “DESCENDENT”  – as  D-E-S-C-E-N-D-E-N-T   or    D-E-S-C-E-N-D-A-N-T ?  Both spellings are correct, but I guess I use “DESCENDANT” all of the time and so the Roots Magic use startled me.

I also would love to see the REUNION app (the Mac Software vendor) make their iOS App free or low-cost – then I’d review it here too. I am a BIG Apple eco-system fan and as such have used REUNION Mac software for a very LONG time. I would be remiss not to mention that REUNION App does exist, but its cost is a bit steep relative to the other iPhone genealogy APPs in this article.

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