My dream genealogy software
My dream software would offer two basic ways of working:
starting with a source, and starting with a person.
I started my family research like probably most people: By entering myself, my parents and grandparents. The first PACTs I added were usually name, birthday, date of death -- just things I knew from the top of my head.
My dream software should let me enter things like that easily, on one screen per person.
It should ask for sources for every thing I enter. It should explain to me, why sources are important. It should offer to put something like "my personal knowledge" down as a source for the beginning. It should ask me how sure I am of the things I enter. It should definitely allow to turn off all reminders and tips.
My dream software should also allow me to start with a source.
Just recently, I received a photocopied document: the history of the town in east prussia that my grandfather spent most of his youth in, handwritten by a former mayor from memory years later. The copy isn't too good, and the handwriting takes time to get used to.
I would like to transcribe the whole document (lots of pages) and then save that transcription with scans of the pages (maybe in djvu file format?). I would want my dream software to let me add this file in a "repository", along with notes and surety/confidence. Then, I would want it to help me collect all the info from the document that I believe might be relevant to my family, step by step. I would want a input screen that helps me find the right types of events that I want to record. I would want helpful templates for names, places and events, but always be able to not confirm to a template. I would want to copy and paste from my transcription, add notes, and see the surety/confidence that I gave the source, so that I could override it if needed.
When I'm finished with squeezing data from that document, my dream software should offer me an overview of what I found. It should give me smart hints for linking the new information to existing information. My dream software would be very accurate in suggesting links, and present its "reasoning" to me. It should also allow me to ask for more far fetched links. It should never link anything by itself, it should always ask for my confirmation and analysis.
There should be a overview screen of all my sources and the evidence I gathered from them. Linking sources to others should be possible, as should be linking or grouping of evidence. Tom had a great visual metaphor: snippets of paper that are dragged around. There should be other (more conventional) ways to display this screen, too.
The screen used to present the main data about a person should also be used for editing that data. I shouldn't have to visit a source-screen to correct a typo, or even enter new data. Entering a source should be quick and painless, using a popup of already used sources or similar shortcuts. The software should help me (with templates?) to put my source in the right category, and allow linking of sources.
My dream software would allow me to remove single sources or pieces of evidence without corrupting the rest of my data. It would find where I used that evidence, and offer to help undo the changes made based on that evidence. The removal of data would usually not be a physical deletion, more like a flag to mark the data as irrelevant.
My dream software would let me enter locations and dates any way I want to, but it would try to help me to "generalize" the information. It should keep free-form "evidence" dates and places seperate from the "conclusion" generalized information, but it shouldn't tell me about it (if I don't explicitly ask for these details). It should keep track of the locations I enter, and offer auto-completion and smart hints for possible linking to previously used locations. There should be a location screen that lets me gather as much information about a place as I want. I should be allowed to link places to other places, people and events, and give dates for PACTs of places. There should be templates available for streamlining locations. The program would make an educated guess to offer a fitting template for the place and time, but allow me to use any template or none. It would offer to connect to online databases to find places or fill out the details of places.
My dream software would help me in setting up tasks and objectives for further research. It should be able to show me where the biggest holes are, like missing data, missing sources, orphaned data, conflicting evidence and unlikely conclusions. It would be great if it could offer intelligent hints on how to fill the holes (using the wisdom of others on the web?).
My dream software would have lots of ways to display my data. Most of these would be done as a plug-in to keep the basic program small. The reports should print well, big trees using many sheets of paper should be possible. A time-line for people and places would be great.
My dream software would ask me for a "researcher profile" on first startup. If I don't want to enter anything there at first, that should be fine. If I were to export data, it should ask me again for my profile, and explain why.
My dream software would allow me to export all my data or parts of it. It would be able to export every single thing I entered or linked: sources, files, notes, urls, places..., and round-trip that data. It would have easy-to-use tools for selecting persons and PACTs to export. It should be possible to export only selected parts of a person record (e.g. anything but the notes). There should be easy privacy management, with different levels of privacy possible. Some info is OK to give to close family, some things can also go to more distant relatives, some things should be hidden from only a few people. Ideally, my software would offer alternatives to just leaving out a person totally or hiding a PACT completely.
My dream software should give me full control when importing data. It should never change the "foreign" data. It should allow me to browse the "foreign" data freely. It should offer me to find possible links to my data, and then present these and the reasoning. I decide, what I want to import. The software should never forget which pieces of info were imported from where, whom, and when. It should strongly advise against importing unsourced data (but still allow it, if I insist). It should ask me for my overall confidence in the new data, and use that as a default for all imported information, to be overruled bit by bit if necessary. The previous owner's surety/confidence should also be kept as helpful info.
My dream software would play nice with other software. I might use another software for printing trees, or for presentation on the web, or just for some analysis and reports. Ideally, the other softwares would be able to import all of my data. If that's not possible, I would hope that they get the most important parts of the data (e.g. the tree-printing program does not need the sources). There might be old software that isn't updated to use the BetterGedcom, so there needs to be a converter that gets the most essential bits of my data from BG to Gedcom.
My dream software would be open source, well supported and free. It would run on every system and be fast, stable and easy to install. My dream software would have a interface and look that would be easy to tweak and configure. The default appearance and fields would be "best practice" but I would be able to customize things to my liking. Every input field would have a helpful tooltip, also there would be a well written helpfile included, and tutorials and videos online. My dream software would have a large developer base that keeps adding new plug-ins and reports. My dream software would be so good that everybody would want to use it :)