Sunday, December 16, 2012

Software Review: Evidentia

I've mentioned in some previous posts that I have been beta testing some new software lately.  The software is designed to supplement and complement your research - meaning you won't have to abandon your current genealogy program.  As a matter of fact, (as of this writing) this program won't even touch your current data.

The software is Evidentia.  It is designed to help you organize and analyze your research in such a way that it is easier to reach a "soundly reasoned, coherently written conclusion." 

One thing that drew me to this software was the fact that it supported the Genealogical Proof Standard (GPS).  This happens in several ways:
1. You cannot enter a claim without a source.
2. You cannot reach a conclusion without fully analyzing all of the evidence.
3. Provides an overview of all sources consulted for a particular claim, to determine if a reasonably exhaustive search has indeed been accomplished.
4. Complete and consistent source citations.

First Impressions:
I like the look and feel of it.  The colors are subtle (read: not annoying).  The layout itself is pretty simple, but in my opinion, it should be.  When you're working on proof arguments, the last thing you want is to be distracted by all the bells and whistles of your software.

Data Entry:

This is pretty intuitive, and there are plenty of tool tips to guide you if you need it.  

When you begin working with the program, the first thing you'll do is enter your sources.  Evidence Explained-based templates are provided for most common sources (I think there are around 170 templates).  You can also add your own customized source templates as well.

After you enter your source, you will add a citation with the details of your source (page number, etc.).  Then you begin adding "claims."  These are the assertions made by the particular source ("John Brown was age 22 in 1887").  You will attach the claim to a subject - your ancestor - and the claim type (birth, death, occupation, etc.).  Then you will select the quality of the information (primary, secondary, unknown).  (You will be amazed at the number of claims ONE source can make - I think I had around 35 claims for one census record).


Once you have your sources and claims entered, you can analyze your evidence by clicking on (appropriately named) "Analyze Evidence."  You are then asked to choose a subject and a claim type.  You do this by selecting from the drop-down menus.

All claims related to that subject and claim type are presented so they can be analyzed, which encourages you to weigh the evidence (or lack thereof), and identify and resolve any conflicts.  In some cases, it could lead you to realize that you've been looking at your data all wrong (I wouldn't know anything about this at all) and lead you in a completely different direction altogether.

After you have analyzed your claims, the summary window will unlock and allow you to write your evidence-based conclusion.


Now your proof report is ready to print.  Just select "Reports," choose which report you want to print, select your font, and click OK.  Voila!  The reports are consistent in their formatting and easy to read.  (This is not an actual proof report - it's just an example)

Drawbacks:

You can only print your reports in HTML.  That means you need to take the extra step to print to PDF in order to save it.  I'm hoping that sometime in the (very) near future, there will be other options for the reports.

You have to manually enter your sources.  The "clone" option is helpful, but ultimately it would be nice to just import them.  You can, however, copy/paste your source information directly from your genealogy program (as I do from RootsMagic).


The only other major issue I have with the sources at this time is that once you enter a source, then make a citation for it, any future citations for that source will not auto-fill the citation information (for example, if you have individuals listed in the 1880 Census in the same enumeration district but on several different pages).  You have to copy/paste and then edit.  I have logged this as an ongoing issue, and hopefully it will be addressed soon.

Conclusion:

After playing around with pretend data for a week or so, I started inputting my data for real (which led to a couple of pretty good blog posts).  It has been so much easier for me to see that I really haven't done a reasonably exhaustive search, but more importantly it has shown me how to really "listen" to my sources.  Turns out, they have quite a bit to say - and a lot that they don't say.  So, in my opinion, drawbacks aside, it is worth checking out.

Bottom Line:
Retail price is $24.99.  However, a little birdie told me that Evidentia will be released tomorrow (Monday, December 17) for download at an introductory price of $19.99.  So you'll want to get it before the price goes up.  If you're interested in purchasing it, you can get it here (affiliate link).


More Info:
The Evidentia website has a lot of videos and tutorials available to help you navigate through the program and answers some questions that are likely not addressed in this post.



**In the interest of full disclosure, I was provided a free license for the software in return for beta testing like a boss! (which means I broke it ... a lot)**
**no puppies were harmed in the writing of this post**


Do we share any ancestors? 
Please email me at lostancestors [at] gmail [dot] com

4 comments:

Tonia said...

I'm trying out the trial version right now. Thanks for the heads up on the product. It looks really interesting.

Jenny Lanctot said...

I'm glad the review was helpful, Tonia. I really have enjoyed using it and find that I'm getting a lot out of it from a "you still need to do some research" standpoint.

www.HungarianFamilyRecord.org said...

Jenny , I was wondering how Evidentia worked. Thanks for the screen captures and details .

Magda & Merry Christmas to you and yours .

Jenny Lanctot said...

Glad to help, Magda! In my opinion, the first thing Evidentia does is change the way you view your information. That alone has been a HUGE help for me. Hope you are able to get some positive results!

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