Choosing genealogy software can feel like looking for a new car. There are so many choices and so many things to consider that it feels overwhelming. Even though you're not spending as much on software as you would a car, you're still investing your research time and effort -- not to mention that it's going to be "carrying" your ancestors around! Here's how to sort through everything and choose the best genealogy software for you.
Note that I said "the best genealogy software for you." There is no single "best" genealogy software. What works for me may not be the best for you. Here are some things to consider as you make your choice.
What Features Are Important to You?
You wouldn't buy a car because it has the highest towing capacity if you're not going to be towing anything. Similarly, genealogy programs can do all kinds of things, so it's important to focus on the features that are important to you.
Do you need a variety of reports? How much control do you want in generating those reports?
Do you want to sync with an online tree?
Do you need it to work on a Mac? (Unless you're going to run Windows on the "dark side" of the chip, you're going to have fewer options.)
Is it important to have a mobile option? Do you want to be able to sync it to your smartphone or tablet?
Does it need to handle characters with diacritics, such as é or ñ?
Do you want to export in a variety of formats, such as PDF or HTML?
Ease of Use
Don't overlook the importance of how easy you find a particular program to use. Face it, if you're frustrated every time you go to enter a source, you're not going to enter sources.
Each new program will have a bit of a learning curve. However, if the interface isn't one that you can get comfortable with, it probably isn't the best software for you.
Finding a New Genealogy Program
Start by asking your genealogy friends what software they use. However, don't leave it at that. Ask what they like about it. More importantly, ask what they don't like about it.
Many genealogy programs will let you download a trial version. Take advantage of that. When you do, put that program through its paces. Do all of the things that are important to you and see how it handles them.
Look for a Facebook group for users of that program. See what questions and problems real life users have. Also see how quickly those issues are resolved, either by the company or by other users helping out.
Choosing the best genealogy software is a personal decision. You want to be comfortable using it. After all, you're going to be spending a lot of time using it! By focusing on the features that are important to you and judging how easy it is to use, you'll find the program that's right for you.