- Legacy - free download available from http://www.legacyfamilytree.com/ ; I actually do have this downloaded onto my computer but can't get used to it and so I haven't really entered very much
- The Master Genealogist - available from http://www.whollygenes.com/Merchant2/merchant.mvc?screen=TMG; free 30 day trial is available. I've done the trial once or twice now since it seems to be the most popular program used by the "pros" and I keep trying to get the feel for it, but it just doesn't seem like a good fit for me
- Family Tree Maker - available from the ancestry.com store, http://www.whollygenes.com/Merchant2/merchant.mvc?screen=TMG. This is the program that really started it all for me. My father purchased this program back in the early 90s and it was really the vehicle that put everything in motion. We used this all the time and found it very easy to use and maneuver. By now, it has gone through many incarnations and there is now a 2010 version available. Seeing how I've alread used earlier versions I thought this might be the right choice for me but I've read a couple negative reviews of the product that make me nervous and I've also become aware that earlier FTM CDs are not compatible with the program. Therefore, all of the CDs my parents purchased years ago for use with FTM are worthless. I really hate that. However, there are many good options included, most of which are outlined here http://genealogy.about.com/library/reviews/aafpr_ftm.htm
With the lack of a proper program to store information, I've been taking advantage of ancestry.com's tree feature. As a paid subscriber to the website, you are able to input your information and organized several family trees to your own pages. You have the option of making the trees, however many you choose to create, public for all to see and comment upon or private. If you opt to make your trees private, you do have the option to email invitations for your friends and family to have access to the trees. I've been using these trees as databases where I've been able to add information and sources as I go, as well as note-keeping as far as what I'd like to check out, what information is pending, etc. I've found that having the information on ancestry.com also allows for cousins to see your work and connect with you. If you would prefer not to have people contact you, you are able to turn this option off. Because of this, I've connected with many people and even been able to obtain copies of photographs of family members that I never knew existed. Overall, it's been a great way to deal with the info and manage my projects.
There are downsides to this method however. For starters, there aren't very many options as far as printing various charts, different organizational methods, and complete sourcing. This is becoming a larger issue as I go along with the NGS course and ProGen which can suggest or even require charts for assignments. It will also become an issue if/when I ever get any clients who will need reports. A bigger problem though lies with the information you upload to the site itself. When you upload your tree information ancestry automatically searches its site for matches. That is, it will search the other public member trees for others who have the same, or similar, people in their trees and then let each of you know. This could be a good thing for the reason I mentioned above, but it could also be a not-so-good thing because your hard work and information is going out to everyone who has entered the same, or similar people, to do with as they will. This could exascerbate the problem of incorrect and/or unsourced material on the web. Not really something that I'm keen on adding to and this is exactly why I've been anxious to figure out what to do about my lack of an actual genealogy database, not associated with ancestry. While I enjoy having the ease of inputting someone into the tree and connecting them with things like census records, or better yet, having their name automatically bring up hits in a number of different records, since I use my ancestry.com trees as "works-in-progress" I don't like knowing that the info I place there could be making matters worse.
For now, I'm really going to try and work hard at getting comfortable with Legacy (since it's free and seems to offer the basic options that I need). But I'm not happy with it and would love a change. I wish FTM offered a free trial so I could check things out for myself....