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Saturday, March 7, 2009

What about Personal Ancestral File?

This past week, Gaylon Findlay, the President of Insight Software, the publishers of Ancestral Quest, gave a demonstration of his company's products at a seminar held in Mesa, Arizona. During his more than two hour presentation, there were a multitude of questions concerning the future of the LDS sponsored software program, Personal Ancestral File. As Mr. Findlay pointed out, PAF, as it is known, has not been updated since 2002. Additionally, the program is not likely to change in the foreseeable future. When compared to a full featured and supported program like Ancestral Quest, RootsMagic 4, or Legacy Family Tree, PAF comes up short in nearly every category.

Despite the overwhelming demonstration of the superiority of Ancestral Quest to PAF, the questions from the audience showed that there was a tremendous hesitancy on the part of PAF users to invest in new software. I have tried to analyze why there is such a resistance to changing from PAF when the new programs are so obviously superior. Here are some ideas why:

1. It is hard to put a value on something that is free. PAF is and always has been a virtually free program. If one computer program cost $19.95 and another cost $99.95, you might be inclined to compare features and try to figure out what the difference is before you buy. But if one is free, you simply acquire the free program and then live with what you get. People do not really value what they do not pay for.

2. PAF was and is an adequate genealogy program for the average user. Except for the fact that the Apple Macintosh version of the program no longer works on any current Apply Computer, the current version of PAF runs well on the newest PC you can buy. It is sort of like a timeless classic, not really better than the newer models, but adequate and useful.

3. Add-ons have increased PAF's utility. Companies like Ohana Software, have made a good niche market out of adding features to PAF. By selling inexpensive add-ons these software developers have continued PAF's life expectancy. Even Ancestral Quest advertises that it can be used as a PAF add-on.

4. Judging from the crowd in attendance at the demonstration of Ancestral Quest, the genealogy population is decidedly older, female and very outspokenly conservative. Not your best market for innovation and new features. As Mr. Findlay said, they still have people using version 1.0 of Ancestral Quest. Let's face it, most genealogist resent the idea that they have to learn computers at all, the tech side of genealogy is definitely small.

5. Family History Centers across the world have had classes in PAF for years. Only recently have any other software products even made the radar. The Mesa Regional Family History Center recently started to teach one class a week on third party software products. This is the first time anyone has dared to mention the fact that some other software program exists other than Personal Ancestral File.

6. Some people believe that since the LDS Church sponsored the program they should use it just for that reason. There is absolutely nothing in any of the literature or promotion of the Church that would lead someone to believe this, but I know for a fact that some people think they cannot change because the program is published by the Church.

It is decidedly and uphill battle to convince the otherwise conservative PAF users to change to a new program. However, the LDS Church is attempting to do just that. Prominent on the startup page of the New FamilySearch program is a link to advertisements to third party programs.

The handwriting is on the wall, it is time to change from using PAF and start out into the brave new world of supported software programs.

1 comment:

  1. I remember purchasing PAF for about $25.00. It wasn't free until I think version 4. After Gaylon gave his code to the Church.

    I believe another reason people stick with PAF is because they think it is "inspiredware". Yes, the initial programmers where inspired to build the program, but it was just a stepping point. Your not breaking any "doctrine" to leave PAF for something better.

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