Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Genealogy in Unity Mode

Having recently purchased a new 27" iMac, I have been slowly migrating all of my data and projects from a Windows-based desktop to this new environment.  Not wanting to create total havoc, I've taken the migration process more slowly than some, moving files in bits and pieces, learning the iMac and iWork programs before using them exclusively, and carefully choosing which programs I can completely  leave behind.  So far, so good.

Since all of my genealogical research notes and data have been stored in Windows using Windows-based software, I considered my options for transfer of these files quite carefully.  I presently have data in three different programs--Ancestral Quest, Roots Magic, and Legacy--all Windows-based programs. While I have heard good things about Reunion for the Mac, I have yet to try it; my initial impression of MacFamilyTree is that it doesn't have strength of sourcing and other important functions; and I have yet to try the new Family Tree Maker for Mac by Ancestry.com.  That said, my first goal was to simply be able to do the same things on the Mac that I was able to do before, without a lot of trauma in the transfer.

The answer for me came by running both Windows and Mac programs on the iMac in a virtually seamless environment.  Using VMWareFusion, I installed Windows 7 as a virtual machine on the iMac.  I know some die-hard Mac users would panic at that thought, but it really is quite comfortable.  I have it set up so the Mac and Windows share the same files, eliminating the need to look in multiple places and making the transfer much easier.  And by running VMWare in Unity Mode, I have a completely seamless environment on my screen, a nice Mac dock at the bottom, with a Windows dock extended to the right and left.  The screen is large enough to have the internet browser open on the left, my database software open on the right, and an electronic research log open in the background.  I am in genealogical heaven!  Not to mention the fact that my iCalendar, iMail, iChat, and Skype are all right at my fingertips as well.

That said, I have run into a few glitches in the process.  For instance, I had two family trees open in RootsMagic, one to export a GEDCOM and another to add and edit facts and sources.  While I could literally only perform one task at a time, I did somehow manage to get the system confused such that about one hour of work was lost in RM, something I promise you should never happen based on how the program is written.  Therefore, I can only assume it has to do with my multi-tasking, shared-file on the Mac approach.  After all, none of these Windows-based software programs are written to function in a Mac environment.  For that reason, I have changed to a more safe approach: 1) having only one database open at a time, 2) closing the database each time I finish with it, and 3) actually exiting the software rather than minimizing to the dock.  The last two actions assure the database is not open for use, action, or confusion.  For now, I believe that has solved my problem.  And I'm back to running my genealogical software programs in heaven mode.