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Family History Monthly (UK), January 1998

Reunion 5 for Mac

Review by David Tippey

I have just received the long awaited review copy of this completely re-written package. From the start, everything about it boded well. It arrived on a single floppy disk, with a excellent manual and a useful quick-reference card. Once installed, the program folder only occupied around 3Mb of hard drive space. That alone is impressive!

Improved features started with a new look Family Card, the main viewing and navigation screen, it still feels familiar, but it looks a little different. The button bar along the top has changed, some buttons have gone, their functions to be incorporated elsewhere. Others are totally new like the web connection button, which connects you to Leister's Reunion 5 website. All the buttons now have a written label as well as an icon, to help you remember what they are for. There is also a dustbin on the button bar, drag and drop editing is now supported, so you can now throw your least favourite relatives in the bin! However it's legitimate use is to move those wrongly linked ancestors from one family card to another or to remove incorrect links. You can simply drag them off the wrong family card into the trash, open the correct family card and then pull them out again. Once in the bin you can totally delete a rogue entry too. It seems a little undignified, throwing your ancestors in the bin, but the system is very easy to operate. The new family card is also happy to accept same sex couples and even those of unknown (or undecided?) sex.

The new version Family card shows additional information such as alteration dates for each individual, and you can now mark individuals rather than whole family card. It is no longer necessary to toggle back and forwards from the facts to notes fields, they are both in view on the new card.

Child buttons are different too, the boxes are still highlighted to show the child status but there is a choice of fourteen categories now, to cover most possibilities including Family Pet? I thought that one rather strange, and similar to the programmer's humorous, Alien Abductee, until I realised it probably meant the favourite child! Additionally, the names on the child buttons become highlighted in blue to show that they had children themselves, and a small red triangle gives access to a pop-up menu of spouses where appropriate.

The data entry, "Edit Person" window for individuals has changed considerably. When opened it now presents a series of five stacked cards with name tabs which you click to bring each card forward (there are also keyboard short cuts) ie. Name, Events, Facts, Notes, Flags. The program will now allow an unlimited number of user defined events or facts per person, and up to 100 flags and 100 user defined notes in note fields that you can specify and create. As well as individual notes and events, there are family ones too. The flags allow you to mark a person to indicate anything that you want, and longer database fields allow up to 255 characters for names, places and facts. The "Edit Family" window has a similar set of four tabbed cards, which includes the marriage and children cards as well as the events and notes that I mentioned. These additional features and alterations to the data entry and editing windows make the program very easy to use, but allow great flexibility in how data is stored and used.

The program has loads of shortcuts which will speed up it use as you become more experienced. It is much faster to press a couple of keys, than reach for the mouse every few seconds. When viewing the Family Card simply typing nmc then [Return] will bring up the entry card for a new male child, typing nmcDavid/Tippey then [Return] would instantly create a male child button for David Tippey. These mnemonic shortcuts are easier to remember than many of the command key shortcuts. Reunion 5 also has a Speed Names feature which will guess at place names or last names as you type them...

Reunion now allows unlimited sources, which can now be freeform as they were in version 4 or structured to suit particular types of record eg Census or Books, where specific fields are used for each part of the source record.

...Reunion 5 supports web publishing of your family history. It will produce a neat and professional Web cover page, plus Web family cards similar to the ones you normally view in the program and Web versions of the reports...

Superchart has also been considerably improved too. It has always been one of the few programs in which you could really edit the charts once created... this has always put it well ahead in my book. Many times I have managed to squeeze a chart onto one A4 sheet where other programs would have used the three or four first suggested.

Two new chart formats stand out, the first is the Relative Chart, which includes all the ancestors and descendants of a person. This is almost the "Global" chart of all your research, that many people try to create, and includes all the relatives of a person. The Timelines Chart plots the life-spans of your ancestors against a dateline, to which you can add notes and dates of historical events such as monarch's reigns, battles etc. There are a lot more options for using colour in the charts and you can create extra linked boxes to update a chart without redrawing it and losing all your other editing. Of course you can also add pictures and graphics and labels a plenty, this is definitely the best Mac genealogy charting program.

Leister runs active and very helpful email lists for both Reunion 4 and 5. There is a lot of interaction between program users and the company within the mailing list, and Leister is very responsive to comments and suggestions ...all the users on the mail list are most enthusiastic about the new program. The company responded with an almost immediate update posted to their web site...You won't get that sort of instant reaction with Microsoft or the other software giants!

I thought Reunion 4 was excellent, but version 5 is far far better, with all the features of the best genealogy programs, crammed in a lean, genuine Macintosh implementation. If you own a Macintosh, then this has to be the program that you aspire to, start saving!

System requirements:

Unlike other recent Mac releases, it will run on any Mac, PowerMac or Mac clone, running system 7.1 +. With earlier system versions you may need to add or upgrade the Apple QuickTime extension, version 2.5 is needed for some of the multimedia and Web features. This is included on the cover CDs of Magazines such as MacFormat and Macworld or is available from your Apple dealer if you need it on disk. Leister says the program requires 4Mb of RAM, but this appears to be total RAM, not free RAM. The default memory allocation is only 1Mb each for Reunion 5 and Superchart on 68K Macs and 2Mb for PowerMacs, although you may need to temporarily allocate more memory if you Import large GEDCOM files. In these days of hard disk hungry Mac genealogy software (Family Gathering uses about 19Mb and Family Tree Maker about 9Mb) it is good to see that a fully featured Family History Program doesn't have to equate to a bloated hard disk. You only need 3Mb of disk space for the program and associated files, plus 400k for every 1,000 people in your family file.