Reunion 9.07 Review

The traditional, mature, feature rich, and pricey Macintosh genealogy application against which all others are measured.

Product Overview

Reunion 9 is the leading genealogy data management software for Macintosh. With it one can store, update, explore, and report on family history data. The data can consist of names, events, facts, sources, notes, and links to multimedia files (images, video, sound). Interacting with family data is modeled after a stack of cards called family cards, on which information regarding a family unit is presented. Family cards are linked to other family cards, making navigation feel natural. An extensive selection of charts and reports can be customized, viewed on-screen, and printed. Some charts can be printed as wall charts.

Licensing

Reunion 9 is compatible with Intel and PowerPC Macs running Mac OS X versions 10.3.9 (panther) to 10.5 (leopard). It is available as a download or physical package with a CD. Surprisingly, it’s the same price, $99.00 USD, for both versions. An upgrade from a previous version costs $59.00 USD for CD or download. A demo is available with the following limitations:

  • Each family file may contain no more than 50 people
  • Importing and exporting data is disabled
  • Charts and slideshows can’t be saved
  • Printed materials are watermarked

Observations

A comprehensive table of features is provided in the Macintosh Genealogy Software Feature Comparison. This section describes remarkable functionality and behaviors observed or found lacking during my evaluation. Each application reviewed in this series was subjected to the same set of scenarios designed to represent normal usage.

Data Entry and Citations

Manually entering surnames and place names is quick thanks to the “speed names” feature. Names can often be entered by typing only the first one to four letters.

There are numerous types of “fact” types pre-defined and one can create custom fact types. I needed to do this for military service numbers, a fact type I expected to be built-in.

Source citations are entered once and can be applied to other fields thereafter by selecting from a list. This is handy in that one needn’t enter all the the information about a cited source multiple times. It is not as convenient as it could be. Selecting a previously used source is needlessly tedious when entering multiple pieces of information from the same source. These steps must be followed for each piece of cited data after the first one from a source is entered:

  1. Enter the data into a field from a source
  2. Click the “Add Source” drop-down
  3. Select the citation from the list in the bottom of the drop-down (the top one will be the most recently used citation)

This may not seem bad to you. In fact it didnt to me either until I entered the same data and source information into iFamily for Leopard. Its “active source” feature eliminates the repetitive selection of the source. Try it. I think you will be surprised by how natural it feels.

Reunion does have a feature for assigning a single source to all data about a person (not a couple), called “general source.” This is adequate when all data about a person comes from the same source. It becomes ambiguous if one adds data about that person from a different source. Assuming that all data not specifically marked with a citation, comes from a general source applied to a person may be incorrect. It could be that the citation was not entered with the data by mistake.

The “source tools” offer several functions for managing source and citations. One can list or mark all people for whom a selected source is cited. Another tool lists unused sources. This is a good spring cleaning task to perform, as is cleaning up unlinked people. The source list can be exported as a report as can the usage of all sources. Source detail can be searched separately from other data. Finally, there is a match and merge tool for sources much like the one for people.

Management Tools

Reunion’s support for multiple relationship types (e.g. adopted, step, and foster children) is clumsy at best. It’s based on creating “duplicate children” to include on the family card(s) of the other parents. This means that the child appears on more than one family card. While the “preferred parents” can be identified, the solution has the feel of a kludge.

The ID numbers Reunion assigns to people cannot be changed and therefore renumbered; However there is a “user ID” field available for manual numbering.

The application can simultaneously have ancestor (ahnentafel), descendant (register system or legal system), and or relative (a combination of ahnentafel and legal numbers) numbering with multiple people as the source. All this could be terribly complex to the point of uselessness except that Reunion allows numbering options for all the systems. For instance, a “user-defined prefix” can specify the source person.

Data Import and Export

Reunion 9 will import files from previous versions 5, 6, 7, and 8. Reunion 4 data cannot be imported directly by Reunion 9; It can be emailed to Leister Productions for them to convert and send back to you.

The program also does a remarkably good job of importing data in a tab- and return-delimited file such as those a spreadsheet or database can export. Data can also be exported in a delimited format. I assume the functionality is rarely needed, but it’s there and it works. On the other end of the utility spectrum is GEDCOM import.

Starting a family file with a GEDCOM file is a simple matter. Similarly, adding data to an existing family file from a GEDCOM file is easy. After selecting the GEDCOM file, one is presented with some helpful options: automatic flag/mark, automatic source, and strip extra commas from place fields. One also has the ability to change the mapping and naming of person and family fields. Reunion was able to correctly import all the records in my test files.

Views

Reunion provides the standard views of data as well as some unusual ones. There are several versions of the family card view. Most significant among them is the one displaying LDS events. One can even create custom views of one’s own design.

Charts

A nearly complete set of the standard charts are included (pedigree, descendant, fan, relative, and timeline). There are no charts for DNA. Chart editing capabilities are extensive. The charts displayed on screen have an anoying tendency to display only a small fraction of the diagram. A better choice would be to have them fit the diagram to the window by default.

Reports

Many reports are available and the ability to customize them is outstanding. There are notable reports missing: narrative (ancestor and descendant), DNA, place and events, and to-do lists. The destination of reports can be set to you word processor (Appleworks, Pages, Text Edit, Mellel, or Microsoft Word), Safari, iDisk, and printer (and PDF by extension). The output formats supported are rich text format (RTF), plain text, and web folders.

Printing and Publishing

Reunion supports web publishing through web folders that can then be moved to the web. Web folders are a system of folders and files formatted for display using a web browser. Naturally, making these available on the Internet involves a web host and some technical skills.

A welcome feature for family reunions and gifts is slide show creation. It will combine images linked to people and families into a slide show that can be saved or exported as a movie file. The images to be included can be limited to specific people and families and can be individually excluded. Pictures marked as “sensitive” can be automatically excluded and images selected can be limited to those marked “preferred.”

Integration

With the advent of Leopard, Reunion now integrates (a bit) with iPhoto. Pod cards enable one to take some data on the go in a very compact form. MobileMe integration is minimal in that iDisk is a destination option for reports. Similarly, some word processors (including Pages) are supported destinations.

Help and Support

The built-in help is excellent. The context sensitive help for each dialog is concise and comprehensive. It is available by simply clicking the ubiquitous “?” icon.

Updates have historically been few and far between. Fortunately this is seldom an issue because the program is rock solid.

Recommendations

It would be hard to go wrong buying Reunion 9 unless the price is an issue for you; However, there are some groups of people that would be best served by other software. See the reviews of other Mac genealogy software for those recommendations.

Comments

  1. says

    -> These steps must be followed for each piece of cited data after the first one from a source is entered:

    If you’re entering the same source on multilple items in a row you can just use

    Command-r

    after the first time you’ve used the source. This will instantly apply the most recently used source to the selected item.

    Much easier than selecting from the menu every time!!

    Roger

  2. says

    Roger, thank you for sharing that tip. The “r” command key shortcut on the family card. It is handy for avoiding repetitive trips to the menu. I too recommend making the effort to learn it and the others.

    —Ben

  3. Chris says

    I just want to make sure…. does Reunion allow me to make GEDCOM files to upload to sites like rootsweb? Or, with Reunion, do I even bother with those sites? Do I just create my own site without someone like rootsweb as my big brother? Just trying to make this as easy as possible for myself and my family.

    Thanks.

  4. Chris says

    Hello Ben,

    so, if Reunion makes the website, then I don’t need to create a website on Ancestry, or Rootsweb. I can just make my own with Reunion….

  5. Rui says

    I’m just starting out and, like Chris above, I’m wondering what the simplest and safest way to share my Reunion information online would be. I’d like to have my relatives contribute their information in some online format. Should I use my own website or use another site like rootsweb?

  6. says

    Yes, Reunion can create a website for you – albeit it’s nothing very fancy by today’s standards. Some examples are

    http://lisaandroger.com/GenealogyMisc/WebCardsPedigree/wc01/wc01_009.htm

    or

    http://lisaandroger.com/GenealogyMisc/WebCardMediaSample/wc01/wc01_003.html

    and there are more listed at http://www.leisterpro.com/doc/version9/webpub.php

    Or you can use the ability to export a GEDCOM file from Reunion into a site such as those made by TNG – The Next Generation of Genealogy Sitebuilding – an example is my great great grandfather’s page here

    http://roger.lisaandroger.com/getperson.php?personID=I16&tree=Roger

    with the exception of the map, everything on that page is exported by GEDCOM file from Reunion and imported into TNG.

    The advantage of TNG is that you can set your users up with an account so that they can add/edit if you want to do that – noting of course that once people have made updates into TNG online, your Reunion database is then out of date.

    Roger

  7. Tim Breen says

    Hi Ben,

    This review is now almost three years old. Any updates or views on the current competitive landscape? I’m new to genealogy and have done all my work so far (only ~220 people) on Ancestry.com but don’t know that I want to start from scratch in a new program.

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