RootsMagic 4 Unwrapped – “The Book”

One of our users (thanks Herb) wanted to share the information about RootsMagic 4 with his genealogy society, so he compiled all my “unwrapped” blog articles into an easy to follow PDF file.  It covers the sneak previews of RootsMagic 4 from beginning to end making it much easier to follow than tracking backwards through the blog.

If you want a copy of this PDF file to share with others, click here to download a copy.  It’s about a 6MB file (because of all the screenshots).  If the file just opens in your browser, you can just click the save option in the browser’s PDF viewer to save the file.  Or you can right click on the “click here” link above and choose the option to save the target and then save the file.

Oh, and if you were expecting this to be about “Getting the Most Out of RootsMagic” based on the title of this article… there *will* be an updated version of that book, although it probably will ship a month or two after the release of the actual program (there just aren’t enough hours in the day for me to do both the software and book simultaneously).

RootsMagic 4 Unwrapped – RootsMagic To Go

Well, we’ve reached the end of this long journey… the final sneak preview.  As we all know, I have mentioned several release dates which have come and gone.  I admit that I underestimated the amount of time needed for a release of this magnitude.  It’s easy to predict a release date if you are just modifying existing code… but writing everything from scratch to use the latest technologies is a different story.  So I’m not going to predict release dates anymore, but I will discuss some product release information at the end of this post.

And now for the final sneak preview…

One of the most common comments we’ve seen (after “When is this going to be released?”) has to do with the size and speed of the new version.  We’ve all seen (and probably bought) programs that claimed to be the next great thing, only to find that it was bloated and slow because it was based on a framework like .NET, or based on some huge database engine that had to be installed on the computer before the program could run.  (Note to .NET programmers… we know there is a place for .NET and large database engines… it just isn’t in genealogy software.)

Well, we don’t roll that way here at RootsMagic.  RM4 is a native Windows program (no .NET bloat), and uses an embedded database engine (no huge database engine required to be installed on your computer).

So what does this programming jargon mean to you?  It means we are able to add one extra feature that other bloated programs will never be able to copy… RootsMagic-To-Go.

RootsMagic To Go

That’s right.  Not only can you have your data on a flash drive, but you can run the full RootsMagic program and your data directly from the flash drive.

Are you going to a library that doesn’t have RootsMagic on their computers?  Don’t worry.  Just use RootsMagic-To-Go to install RM4 and your data on your flash drive, and take it with you.  When you get to the library just plug your flash drive into the computer and get to work.  When you get home just move the data right back onto your computer.

So what comes next?

Next week we will release a community preview to those RootsMagic users who have signed up.  This will let us get RM4 into the hands of thousands of RM users who can help us track down any of those issues that pop up in a completely rewritten program.

After the community preview we will release a public beta to anyone (RM user or not) who is interested in taking a look at RootsMagic 4 before the official release.

As soon as RootsMagic 4 is stable we will begin taking orders and release it as a download, followed a few weeks later by the CD version (it takes a few weeks to get CDs duplicated and packaged).  When we begin taking orders you will be able to pre-order the CD and get the download early if you want to do that as well.

So that’s the schedule.  Keep checking the blog as we announce these various steps towards the release of the most exciting product in our company’s history.

RootsMagic 4 Unwrapped – More on source templates

We got a couple of interesting questions the other day after I wrote about RootsMagic 4’s customizeable source templates.  The first two questions can be answered with this screen, which is the list of source templates available in RootsMagic 4.

Source Template List

1. Will we be able to take a pre-made template and add or take away fields to make a custom template?

YES.  There is a Copy button (2) which will make an exact copy of the highlighted source template.  You can then go into that new template and modify it to your liking.

2. You mentioned that someone could help create a template, does that mean we will be able to somehow send a template to another user?

YES.  There are Export and Import buttons (1).  The Export button will save the highlighted source template to a file which can be imported into another database using the Import button.

3. Will there be the ability to create a field for a web link, so we can link directly to an online source document from within our source citation?

Not initially in 4.0, but this is an item on our todo list.

4. Will there be the ability to link to a source document in a folder on our computer from the source citation?

YES.  This is actually already available in version 3 (and will still be available in v4).  Every source and/or citation has its own media album where you can add pictures, sound or video clips, or links to any other file on your computer.

RootsMagic 4 Unwrapped – Sources… Have them your way

Sorry… got carried away fixing bugs again.

In our last episode I promised that there was a little more I wanted to mention about the new SourceWizard in RootsMagic 4.  We told you that the new SourceWizard supported Evidence!, Evidence Explained, Cite Your Sources, and the Evidence QuickSheet.  Several readers were concerned about whether our source templates would be slanted towards US sources, or UK sources, or Canadian sources, or whatever.

So what way do RootsMagic 4 source templates slant?  Any way you want them to.  That’s right, in addition to the built-in templates you can now create your own custom source templates.

Source Template Editor

Now don’t let that screen scare you.  To create a source template you just add the fields you want RootsMagic to ask for, then tell RootsMagic how to put those fields together to make the footnote, short footnote, and bibliography.  Yes, the template language is very powerful, but it isn’t overly complicated.

And don’t worry if you aren’t the type of person who would normally venture into creating a custom template.  I suspect there are some RootsMagic users who would be happy to help you create a template just the way you want.

RootsMagic 4 Unwrapped – Supercharged SourceWizard

Sources are awesome.  They are the lifeblood of the genealogist, and sometimes a frustration we would just as soon skip.  But we all know how important they are.  Documenting our family history is the greatest genealogical gift we can give our family.  Sure we can pass down a bunch of names, dates and places, but if we don’t say where we got that information they will just have to verify it all over again.

RootsMagic has always made it easy to enter your sources with its groundbreaking SourceWizard released back in 2003, which let you select a source type and then fill in the blanks.  The SourceWizard then wrote the properly formatted source for you.

And now the SourceWizard is better than ever.

Now some things work much the same as they did in version 3.  When you bring up the list of sources for a person, fact, or family, you can still add a new source, use (cite) an existing source, memorize / paste citations, etc.

But when you choose to add a new source, that’s when things start getting fun.  You are no longer limited to the 25 or so source types offered in version 3.  You can now select source types from Evidence!, Evidence Explained, Cite Your Sources (Lackey), or the Evidence QuickSheet.  Or you can just use a default “free-form” template to enter the footnote, short footnote,  and bibliography directly.  Now that’s a lot of source types, so of course we needed to make it easy to find the one you are looking for.

Of course you *could* just scroll down through the list of sources, but we have added a search / filter where you can type in words relating to the type of source you have.  For example, type the word “birth” and RootsMagic will display a list of source types with “birth” in their name or description.  Or type multiple words and RootsMagic will show you the entries with all those words in it.  RootsMagic 4 even gives you details about each source type and tells you where that format is from.

If you are like me, you tend to work with just a few different source types at any one time.  So we’ve added a favorites list where you can put those commonly used source types.  Just highlight any source type in the list, click the star button on the toolbar, and it is now a favorite.  You can easily spot your favorites (they have a star next to them in the list), or you can click the Favorites button and instantly select from there.  RootsMagic also keeps track of the source types you use, and adds them to a recently used source type list as well.

Once you select the type of source you want to enter, RootsMagic 4 will open the new “Edit Source” screen.  The first thing many of you probably noticed is that the master source and source (citation) details are together at last.  No more switching back and forth to edit the different parts of a source citation.  And yes, sources are still reusable… when you cite an existing source you will get this same screen with the source (citation) details ready to fill out.

Just begin filling in the blanks and RootsMagic will write the properly formatted source citation for you.  As always, the SourceWizard provides hints as to what it is asking for in each field.

And of course you can still enter the actual text, comments, and media for both the master source and source (citation) details.  Just click the “More” button next to the master source or the details.

Now of course this only barely touches the power of the new SourceWizard.  Most people can just select a source type, fill in the blanks, and go.  Others can use more advanced features like entering both a long and short version of the data in a field to be used in the citations.  And there is another new feature of the SourceWizard that I’m going to write about in my next blog entry.  Not because I’m trying to tease you, but because I need to get back to fixing bugs to get RM4 ready to go 😉

RootsMagic 4 Unwrapped – A Brief Note About Reports

After my last article on the new report engine in RootsMagic 4, I noticed we were getting a lot of questions and comments regarding individual reports, mainly whether we have enhanced or added a particular report.  Let me clarify a couple of things about RootsMagic 4 and reports.

As I have previously mentioned (and as you have seen from all the new features we have shown), RootsMagic 4 is a complete rewrite.  Many, many hours have gone into its design and development.  Beyond the enhancements in the report engine, it has also been in our plans to add new reports, and enhance existing reports.  While you will see some of these enhancements in version 4, there are many new unfinished reports and enhancements that we are having to temporarily remove in order to get this version out.  These new reports and options will be released in future updates.  We would be happy to put them in before version 4, if you are willing to wait another 6 months for us to release this new version 😉

RootsMagic 4 Unwrapped – The New Report Engine

Sorry about the delay since the last blog entry.  I’ve been swamped with programming and presentations so I’ll try to get these last few features out a bit quicker.

As with the rest of RootsMagic 4, the report engine has received an overhaul to not only add new functionality, but to make it easier to share your reports as well.

Choosing A Report

Here’s where you select the report you want to print.  Select a category and choose the report you want (the little report icons will actually have images of the report on them in the final release… not just a bunch of white papers).  The categories are also subject to a few changes before release as well.

When you highlight a report RootsMagic will display a brief description of that report.  You can also type in search terms to find a report if you aren’t sure what it is called.  For example, if you type “ancestor” into the search box you will see all the ancestor reports, regardless of which category they are in.

Report Viewer

The Report Viewer (or “Print Preview”) has been significantly beefed up.  Rather than individual pages which require you to click Next or Previous, the report viewer lets you easily scroll up and down the preview.  And if you need to change one of the options for the report, just click the Settings button (1), make the change and RootsMagic will regenerate the report right there.

You no longer have to choose the destination up front (screen, PDF, RTF, etc).  Just click the Save button (2) from the Report Viewer, choose the format you want to use, and save your report directly from the viewer.

And it is now easier than ever to share a report with your family and friends.  Just click the Email button (3) and RootsMagic will let you choose what format you want to send the report as.

Select one and RootsMagic will create the report file, attach it to an email, and all you have to do is type in the email address (and a message to the person if you want).


And of course the Publisher has been enhanced and simplified to make it easier to combine those multiple reports into a single book.

Other Enhancements

Most the of “graphical” reports (like pedigree chart, group sheet, box charts, etc) are not limited to just PDF anymore.  You can now save them as Rich Text (RTF) files as well (including in the publisher).

And on reports which provide an index, you can now have both a name index *and* a place index.  The place index can be printed with the places either as-is, or reversed to group them together geographically.

And here’s a cool new feature.  When you print a report or book with an index or table of contents, the page numbers in the index will hot-link to the page in the report.  Just click on a page number in the index and RootsMagic will jump to that page.  This works both in the print preview and when exporting your reports to PDF.

Well, we’re almost there.  Just a couple more features to go.  Next up is sources.  And oh what we’ve done with sources.  I may not be able to fit all the amazing new source stuff into a single blog entry, but I’m sure you won’t be disappointed if I have to stretch it out into a couple.

RootsMagic 4 Unwrapped – Evolution

Way back when I first started previewing RootsMagic 4, several eagle-eyed readers noticed that the file extension of the RootsMagic database had changed from .RMG to .RMGC.  There was some speculation (quite accurate speculation I might add) about what that simple change actually means.

One thing that it means is that RootsMagic 4 has been rewritten from the ground up (now you know why it has taken so long).  After the release of version 3 several years ago, we realized that it was time to take RootsMagic to the next level.  And we weren’t content with just cobbling a few new features onto old code like is done so often in the software world.  But we also wanted to make sure we didn’t leave out any of the existing features that have made RootsMagic so popular all these years.  We’ve shown you a lot of the new stuff we’ve written, but here are just a few of the non-visual reasons we have spent so many long hours rewriting RootsMagic.

Unicode Support

So what is Unicode?  Basically Unicode support means that RootsMagic isn’t limited to just “western European” languages anymore.  RootsMagic 4 can now handle Polish, Cyrillic, Kanji, and most any other language you can throw at it.

And while many of us don’t use these other languages every day, there are times where we may want to enter the name of an ancestor in their native language, or keep a transcription of an old document in its original language.

If you would like to learn more than you could ever possibly want to know about Unicode, check out this Wikipedia article.


Shortly after the release of version 4.0, we will be releasing tools to allow the translation of RootsMagic into other languages.  We will provide more information about this then, and will be looking for volunteers interested in helping out with this important project.

Single File Database

And after 18+ years of Family Origins and RootsMagic using over 30 files for each and every database, one of my favorite features in RM4 (and our tech support people concur) is the new single file RootsMagic database.  I know most people probably don’t even care about this, but for those of us who have ever had to copy or move a database, it’s nice to know I won’t accidentally leave a piece of my database behind.

There are still 3 more features I want to tell you about before we light this candle.  There are actually a lot of things I haven’t had time to show, but I figure I’ll just leave a few things for you to find out about by experimenting.