Happy 30th Birthday, RootsMagic!  Part 12: Growth and New Products


NOTE: This is Part 12 of our ongoing series documenting the history of our company. If you’re just joining us, be sure to read Part 12345678910, and 11.

Once RootsMagic 4 and RootsMagic Essentials were out the door, we tried to concentrate on upgrading the software and adding new functionality.  But we were hearing from our users that they wanted to be able to take their data on their new tablets they’d gotten for Christmas. The only problem was that we had no programming skills on tablets, either iOS or Android.

Rather than hire new programmers just to write apps, we decided to outsource them.  We got a bunch of bids from companies all over the world, but finally ended up selecting a local company here in Utah.  We knew that genealogy software is actually very complex, and this company was actually already familiar with RootsMagic and genealogy software in general.

If you’ve ever hired out programming, you know it can get very expensive.  And we were faced with the decision how to recover the costs of creating these new apps.  In the end, we decided to leave them as read-only to keep our costs down, and to make them available for free.  We released our iOS app in Dec 2012, and didn’t know it would take another year of development before we could get the Android version out.

RMapp

Back when we released RootsMagic 4 we assumed we’d never have to rewrite the program again.  But as we got more and more requests for a Mac version it became clear that we might get to do just that.

We knew there were a couple of options… write a separate Mac version (or have another company write a Mac version for us), or rewrite the program so that we could compile the same program to both Windows and Mac.  We’ve seen too many programs where their Windows and Mac versions are quite a bit different (both interface and functionality), so we really didn’t like the first option. The second option would ensure that both Windows and Mac users would always have the same functionality, yet redesigning the program again seemed daunting.

So in the summer of 2014 we began rebuilding RootsMagic so that we could compile natively to both Windows and Mac.  But having done this multiple times, I knew firsthand how long it could take, and the Mac users were getting more and more vocal.  So as a temporary fix, we contacted a company called Codeweavers that wrote software to let Windows programs run on a Mac. We had them build a custom wrapper for RootsMagic, and in September 2014 we released MacBridge.

Since we had to pay Codeweavers for every copy of MacBridge we distributed, we sold it as a separate program so we could keep track of the numbers.  The MacBridge program allowed you to install the Windows version on your Mac, but the process was somewhat unwieldy, and it was hard to explain to users how it was supposed to work.

We decided we needed to simplify this whole Mac “wrapper” thing, and worked out a license with Codeweavers where we could pay a flat amount every month and be able to distribute unlimited copies.  This not only allowed us to create a “RootsMagic for Mac” standalone installer, but also meant we could distribute free RootsMagic Essentials with the wrapper as well. And yes, we continue to eat the cost of that monthly license to this day 😉

While we continued to work on the new Mac/Windows version, we decided to release a new version of RootsMagic based on the older code with some exciting features we had been working on.  RootsMagic 7 included a new feature called WebHints, which would display hints from FamilySearch, MyHeritage, and FindMyPast, and let you click on a little lightbulb to jump to those sites to see the hints.  We also announced MyRootsMagic, where registered users could easily post free websites of their family tree.

Then in December 2015, Ancestry dropped a bombshell that they were discontinuing their Family Tree Maker program.  About this same time they contacted us and asked if we were interested in working with their API and integrating RootsMagic with Ancestry.  Of course we jumped at the opportunity. I had been asking Ancestry to work with their API for years without any luck, so this came as a very pleasant surprise.  After crossing all the T’s and dotting all the I’s, we jointly announced that we would be working together on February 2, 2016.

We optimistically guessed that the new Ancestry features would be done by the end of 2016, but we underestimated the complexity that lay before us.  And as we began work on the integration, we noticed that our RootsMagic 7 sales were dropping. We realized that users were holding off buying RootsMagic until the Ancestry features were released, so we announced that the Ancestry features would be a free update to version 7.  Sales immediately picked back up, but we realized this meant that RootsMagic 8 which we were working on separately would have to be put on the back burner until the Ancestry integration was done.

We tried to be as transparent as possible about progress on the Ancestry features.  Normally we wouldn’t pre-announce a new feature, but in this case Ancestry wanted it to be known that we were working on this functionality.  So it left us open to a lot of second-guessing by users as the development went past our estimated release.

During the latter part of development, I started growing a beard and started joking that I wasn’t going to shave until the Ancestry features were released.  Finally, on June 28, 2017, we announced to the world in a short live video from our “secret underground laboratories” that it was finally here.  It was kind of a ridiculous video, but was also kind of an emotional release from all the hard work we put into those features.

After releasing the Ancestry integration it was tempting to just take some time off, but we knew we needed to get back to work on RootsMagic 8 since it had been pushed to the back burner for a year and a half.  We also knew that we needed to release an update to our Personal Historian software which we had been working on prior to the Ancestry announcement.  The update was already close to ready, but we hit a little snag with the main new feature, importing from Facebook.  In order to import from Facebook, we were required to submit the program to Facebook.  Normally that would have been a simple procedure, but Facebook was in the news for allowing companies to take users data and use it in ways the user didn’t want.  Facebook cracked down on accepting new developers with products that could read data from Facebook.  We were finally able to get approved since we were able to show that we (RootsMagic) didn’t get the data ourselves; that the data was simply downloaded onto the users own computer.  At first we were concerned about releasing an update that read from Facebook, but then we realized we actually were providing a feature that Facebook users needed… the ability to get a copy of all of their data downloaded onto their own computer.  Personal Historian 3 was released in March 2018.

So where are we today?  And what does the future hold for RootsMagic?  When we started this blog years ago, the main purpose was to give a sneak preview of our soon to be released RootsMagic 4, and for the next little while we’re going back to those roots to give you a peek at RootsMagic 8.

Of course everyone wants to know what new features will be in version 8 (we all like new features).  And while we’ll have new features, let me just say that  RootsMagic 8 is being designed with our current users in mind, simplifying existing functionality, reducing “clickiness”, and other improvements requested by users.  Underlying code is being redesigned to provide us with a framework for additional functionality in the years to come.

So stayed tuned to this blog as we begin to unveil the most exciting version of RootsMagic ever.

Join us at RootsTech 2019 and get a sneak peek at version 8!


RootsTech-Booth-2017

It’s almost here! We’re pleased to again sponsor the largest genealogy conference in the world: RootsTech! It’s being held Wednesday, February 27 through Saturday, March 2, 2019, at the Salt Palace in Salt Lake City, Utah. We’ve been a part of it since the beginning and this year is no exception.

Expo Hall

Don’t miss the expo hall with the largest gathering of genealogy products and services in the country. Be sure to visit the RootsMagic booth (#1125) to meet the RootsMagic staff, ask questions, and get special discounts on RootsMagic products.


View a Map of the Expo Hall

Expo Hall hours (subject to change) are:

  • Wednesday, February 27, 2019, 6 pm – 8 pm
  • Thursday, February 28, 2019, 9 am – 6 pm
  • Friday, March 1, 2019, 9 am – 6 pm
  • Saturday, March 2, 2019, 9 am – 2 pm

And while you’re there, you can be one of the first to see our latest creation- RootsMagic 8!

RootsMagic 8 Preview

RM8-Sneek-Peak

Stop by our booth to see a special preview of our amazing new release- RootsMagic 8 (coming soon)! We’re also giving away a full license for RootsMagic 8 with every copy of RootsMagic 7. That means that you can buy RootsMagic 7 for only $20 at the conference and get a free upgrade to RootsMagic 8 at the same time. It’s your chance to get this future release at today’s prices!

RootsMagic 8 in the Demo Theater

After you’ve walked the halls of RootsTech, nothing sounds better than a soft, comfortable couch. And the Expo Hall Demo Theater is full of them! Join us for a quick demonstration of RootsMagic 8 in the theater where you’ll get a chance to relax, learn something new about your favorite software, and maybe even take a little nap.

Time: Thursday, February 28, 2019, 4:20-4:35 pm
Place: Expo Hall Demo Theater, Salt Palace Convention Center

Other Classes and Keynotes

RootsTech also has some amazing speakers lined up including Patricia Heaton, Emmy award-winning actress; Saroo Brierley, bestselling author; Jake Shimabukuro, chart-topping ukulele artist; Steve Rockwood, CEO of FamilySearch; and Elder David A. Bednar of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles and his wife, Sister Susan K. Bednar. There are also over 300 breakout sessions taught by industry experts for beginners and experts alike.

See You There!

As you can guess, we’ve been very busy working on RootsMagic 8 and getting ready for RootsTech. We’re excited to show you a little of what we’ve been up to and to meet with so many of you in person. For those of you fortunate enough to be able to attend RootsTech, we look forward to seeing you. And if you’re not going to be able to join us there, don’t worry- we’ll be sharing more news in the near future.

New! Personal Historian 3 is here!


Today, we are excited to announce the official release of Personal Historian 3- the latest version of our ground-breaking computer software which helps you write the story of your life and of other individuals.  Are you overwhelmed with the idea of writing your life stories? Personal Historian breaks this seemingly monumental task into small, manageable pieces and then reconstructs it into a complete, publishable document.

PH3-Box-Mockup

Personal Historian creates an interactive timeline of a person’s life to keep the stories organized, give context to life events, and to allow users to write stories in any order they wish. When ready, Personal Historian will compile the stories into a finished book complete with table of contents, chapters, pictures, indexes, and more.  The book may then be printed at home, edited in a word processor, published professionally, or shared with friends and family.

New! Download and Publish Your Facebook Memories

Facebook has been in the news quite a bit lately. And if you’re like me, you’ve used it for several years to share news, pictures, and more with friends and family to the point that it contains many treasured memories and stories from your life.

One amazing new feature in Personal Historian 3 is the ability to download a copy of all your Facebook posts, places, pictures, family, and even comments right into the software. You can even print and publish a book from your Facebook feed.

New! Share and Combine Stories between Multiple Histories

As you can use Personal Historian to write any number of histories for all of the important people in your life, many users have requested the ability to share stories between their multiple histories.  Personal Historian 3 now lets you import stories, pictures, people, places, and categories from one file to another- making it easy to share and combine histories.

New! LifeCapsule Editor

One of the most powerful features in Personal Historian has been its collection of LifeCapsules- sets of events, timelines, and memory triggers which give context and color to your stories. In addition to the many LifeCapsules which come with the software (which have all been refreshed and updated in version 3), the new LifeCapsule Editor gives you the ability to create your own LifeCapsules on any subject you like. You can then import these LifeCapsules into your own Personal Historian files or even share them with others to incorporate into their own histories.

Of course, Personal Historian 3 also has many more enhancements, features, and fixes which have been requested by our loyal users throughout the years.

Join our Webinar to Learn More

To celebrate this new release, we’ll be hosting a special free webinar on Wednesday, March 28, 2018 at 10 a.m. MDT where we will demonstrating Personal Historian 3 and showing off its new features. Don’t miss this chance to learn more about the software and ask questions to its developer! If you can’t attend the webinar live, don’t worry- we’ll put up a recording of it that you can watch later on.

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Upgrade Offer

Get your copy of Personal Historian 3 now by visiting http://www.personalhistorian.com or by calling 1-800-766-8762. New users may purchase it for only $29.95 while existing Personal Historian users may upgrade for only $19.95, saving $10 off of the regular price. A free, limited-feature version named “Personal Historian 3 Essentials” is also available for those who would like to take the software for a spin before purchasing.

So if you’re ready to finally make some progress on writing the story of your life, get your copy of Personal Historian 3 today!

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Previous Articles

RootsMagic at RootsTech 2018: Draw, Share, and Win with the RootsMagic MagicWall!


RootsMagic at RootsTech 2018: The GBA.Buzz Scavenger Hunt


See you at RootsTech 2018- the Largest Genealogy Event in the World


Happy 30th Birthday, RootsMagic! Part 11: Rewriting RootsMagic


It’s Here! RootsMagic releases Ancestry Features


Questions about upcoming Ancestry features? We’ve got answers!


A Sneak Peek from the Underground Labs