For our purposes, software can be divided into family history and general 'computing' programs. Family history programs further divide into database  software and companion software. Database software will provide a dedicated repository for your information on all your relatives - and maintain their correct family links - with little effort from you. It may also produce narrative 'reports' and illustrative charts or 'trees'. Companion software works with database software variously to help to write better reports, draw more versatile charts, or map your ancestors' origins. Database software comes as either lineage-linked or event-driven formats. Almost all database programs will produce additional reports, usually in list form showing the descendants or ancestors of a selected person. Lists can often include more information than charts and use less paper. Some programs let you produce your family history as a book, often complete with scanned-in pictures. With some software, you can also generate slide shows with added sound and even video. Whilst there is no consistency in how the individual programs save their data - programs cannot, in the main, use each other's files - there is a common file transfer format called GEDCOM, which will let you move your data between programs. Family history does, of course, need factual information, and some programs will also give you space to record notes, places, sources and so on. With these you can build up detailed information for each individual. Your family history will be that much better for the personal memories and anecdotes that you can easily incorporate using family history software. Don't forget to add your own contribution - the minutiae of your own apparently mundane life will fascinate your grandchildren
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Copyright James Taylor 2010
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