Branches is family tree software made for beginners – sort of. It’s not the easiest program to learn, and it lacks the chart quality and scrapbooking capabilities of other genealogy programs. But if you’re new to genealogy and you don’t want to spend a lot, it’s a good option because it costs much less than other programs. Indeed, its respectable ranking in our lineup is a function of its low price. That said, if you find your genealogy hobby expanding, you’re better off with a better designed, more accurate program.
I imported four GEDCOM files to evaluate accuracy, and the software earned a C grade. It was very accurate at importing individual information on all four files but really struggled to include media files and maintain relationships. These records contained thousands of individuals and families, and I’d created one GEDCOM file with the express purpose of making it difficult on the programs, since families don’t always follow the nuclear model. With so much information to interpret, the grade isn’t surprising. Only Family Historian and Legacy Family Tree were perfect.
The navigation and data entry tools earned C grades for ease of use. The interface’s home is the pedigree chart with a toolbar at the top. The toolbar’s features aren’t clearly labeled, so you have to click on each tool to see what it does. You add information by clicking on the pedigree chart, opening a data entry window. It took me a total of 13 minutes to enter data for 10 individuals. By comparison, I entered the same information into more agile programs, such as Family Historian, in less than five minutes. If you’re serious about genealogy, you need an efficient program, and Branches simply isn’t efficient.
The software likewise earned a C for chart quality. While it provides customizable charts and descendant charts, it doesn’t have options for bowtie, hourglass or fan charts. In addition, the charts lack style. You can’t add background images or make your family tree look like an actual tree that you’d want to print out and hang on your wall. Your only option is to put names in boxes connected by lines.
The scrapbooking tools received a C–. While you can attach media files to individuals, it’s not as easy to do in Branches as in other software. I had to consult the developer’s tutorial to figure out how to access the tools. Further, you can’t create reports or books to print out, which limits your storytelling options.
Every aspect of Branches received a C grade in my tests. The software’s GEDCOM performance was the least accurate of the programs tested. Its overall ease of use was neither agile nor efficient, making it a poor option if you spend hours at a time working on genealogy.