1. Unicode support. In addition to the Western European characters that are available in the ANSI and ANSEL character sets, I needed access to Turkish, Polish, Bulgarian and Bengali characters to properly document the personal and place names that appear in the history of my extended family. While some programs claim to offer Unicode support, they still do not render characters other than those that appear in the ANSI character set.
2. Event sharing. Some but not all popular genealogy programs offer some form of event sharing beyond that of the obligatory sharing provided in spousal events (marriage, divorce, etc.).
3. Context sensitive help. Most programs offer an ‘out of the box’ help facility that requires you to type into a text field the subject you need help with. In my experience, half the time when I attempt to use such a help feature, I get little or no help. With context sensitive help, the program is aware of what you are doing and serves up help specific to the task at hand.
4. Compartmentalized storage of external files. Before Microsoft developed the NTFS file system for Windows, experts recommended partitioning large hard drives into multiple partitions to cut down on wasted storage space due the inefficiencies of the old FAT file system. I bought a new, larger capacity hard drive, and following the above-described recommendation, I set up three partitions: C: for Windows; D: for application programs; and E: for data. I copied the commercially available genealogy program I was using at the time to drive D: and its database and the linked files to E:. The program loaded and accessed the database without a problem, but it could not find the linked document and multimedia files. When I called technical support to report my problem, I was told that the absolute path of each linked file was stored in the database at the time of the linkage and could not be changed. I was told that I would have to reimport each file individually. I told them that I would reimport the files, but into a different program. That program turned out to be GDMS, later to be renamed rootstrust. The vehicle used by rootstrust to prevent such a problem from occurring is the File Cabinet. In rootstrust, the paths of linked files are not absolute, rather they are relative to their File Cabinet. The absolute path of a given linked file is then the path of the File Cabinet plus the relative path of the file. So, if a File Cabinet contains 5,000 files and you move it to a new location, you only have to change the path of the File Cabinet to reconnect all your files. File Cabinet paths are editable in rootstrust.
5. Place linkage. Some places are connected to others either administratively or historically. For example, prior to the end of World War II, the Polish city Słupsk was the German city Stolp where my father-in-law was born. In my database Stolp and Słupsk are linked and share common notes. I grew up in a community on Long Island, NY called Floral Park that straddles the border between New York City’s Burrough of Queens and neighboring Nassau County. In 1890 the large, previously rural Queens County was split into Queens County and Nassau County. Unfortunately, the new border passed through the middle of several communities including East Hinsdale which was renamed Floral Park. My database has Floral Park (Queens), Floral Park (Nassau), and East Hinsdale. All three are linked and share common notes.