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    This can be an expensive hobby, so I take advantage of free stuff whenever possible.  OpenOffice and FastStone come immediately to mind.  And while that doesn’t mean I never pay for anything, it does mean I take full advantage of free trials and make *sure* it’s going to do what I want it to do before I shell out any cash.  This is one reason I’ve never used RootsMagic or The (now defunct) Master Genealogist.  Most of the functionality I want to use is disabled in the free version of RootsMagic, so there’s no way to test it (and I just tried it again recently).  As for TMG, with its hefty price tag, I wasn’t going to pay for it if I couldn’t figure out how to use it.  And I couldn’t.

    I continue to struggle with organization.  For one thing, I can’t seem to find a system that “does it all.”  Doesn’t help that what “all” is keeps changing — my continual “what ifs” keep getting in the way.

    I tried Clooz several years ago, before Elizabeth Kelley Kerstens sold it to Joe Bissett.  It was so long ago, I don’t remember much about it, probably because I didn’t have a chance to really use it.  As I recall, the trial consisted of a limited number of uses and I couldn’t get it to run.  So I used up all my “tries” without ever seeing a template.  This was probably during the few months I was using Vista.  *shudder*

    Then I read that Clooz had been sold and Joe intended to release an updated version at “some time in the future.”  I followed the Clooz list for awhile waiting for an announcement so I could try it again, but after awhile I moved on — these things take time and life got in the way.  It’s been several years since I’ve been able to work on my own “stuff,” so this kind of thing wasn’t at the top of my to-do list.

    Recently, I’ve decided to start digging again, and Clooz came to mind.  I was happy to see that Clooz 3 had indeed been released and that they offered a free 14-day trial.  Downloaded, installed, it runs!  Yay!  Over the first hurdle!  That was easy!

    That was where the easy part came to a screeching whoa!  LOL!

    Like any program that does complicated things, the learning curve for Clooz is considerable.  Not a problem, I’m thinking, I’ve got today to mess with it.

    Now, I didn’t expect to become an expert Clooz power user in one day.  But I didn’t expect to be sitting there with a “Doh?!” look on my face, either.  At almost $40, Clooz is right on the edge, budget-wise, so I wanted to make sure I could use it before buying it.  Unfortunately, I didn’t seem to make much progress in the day I had to play with it.  Doing some quick math, I realized my schedule wouldn’t allow for enough unencumbered days to figure out the program before the 14-day trial ended.  So I didn’t work with it any more.

    There are a lot of “pros” for Clooz.  While I have to think long and hard about the $40 price tag, it’s only because our family finances took a big hit a couple of years ago and we’ve never recovered from that.  It’s *not* because I think the program is over-priced — it isn’t.  There’s been a lot of work done there.

    Unlike so many programs, there’s been a concerted effort to provide a user manual and help file.  I was able to find quite a few things in the documentation, but these manuals are hard to write.  For one thing, you have to know how the program works to write about it, of course.  This can be a problem, though — it’s hard for someone who already knows how to do it to put themselves in the shoes of a newbie.  There were a couple of occasions where I found what I was looking for, and what I could do when I got there, but not HOW to get to that particular screen in the first place.  I still consider this not a “con” but a “pro” that’s a work in progress.  🙂

    If you are using certain genealogy programs, you can import your people into Clooz — Legacy Family Tree is one of them and I do use that.  So the import went smoothly.  What didn’t go smoothly was the export, but I’m sure that was only because I didn’t understand how to do it, and I ran out of time to work on it.

    The “cons” are most likely related only to my own particular circumstances, not the least of which being that I’m still on dial-up.

    1.  The 14-day free trial isn’t long enough.  For some programs this would be fine, but Clooz isn’t one of them.  I’ve downloaded programs with 30-day free trials and knew within less than an hour that it was just what I needed — or not.  Clooz offers so much functionality, if you’re brand new to it, you really need more time to work with it.  So, if you don’t have other things going on, like jobs and such, and can really devote the time, 14-days would probably be more than adequate.  In these types of situations, sometimes if you contact the developer they will extend the trial for you, but I didn’t do that.

    2.  Lack of a consolidated user community.  The Clooz site has a link to “Community” which lists a link to their email list (which you are automatically subscribed to when you register to download the program), their Facebook page, the Rootsweb mailing list and their Google+ page, and links to several other sites that are probably useful, but not dedicated to Clooz itself.

    The Constant Contact email list page from the site link (which I’ve never used before) was confusing.  The first line says “Update your profile.”  Sounds good.  But the next line says “Please enter your email address below to sign up for our mailing list.”  I understood I was already subscribed.  Then a form to collect information.  What I was really looking for was the list archives so I could get a feel for the program and see if they were discussing similar issues to what I was having.  I don’t know if I’m subscribed to the list or not.  If I am, it’s not very active — I haven’t yet received a message from it.

    The Rootsweb mailing lists have easy to access archives, so I headed over there.  But it seems most recently it’s pretty much an announcement list.   There were a few questions that were answered by the developer (which is a definite plus!), but nothing very technical.  It just doesn’t appear to be a very active list.

    As far as the Facebook and Google+ pages — here’s where the dial-up part comes in.  Though I belong to both, I don’t use them regularly because it takes forever for them to load.  Facebook, in particular, did some kind of update this year that makes it almost impossible for me to access anything from home.  When I’m at work, well, I’m working!  LOL!  I’m usually trying to find answers as I run into problems — at home.

    What I was hoping to find at the “Community” link was a user forum.  I’m just guessing that there is an active user community out there — probably on Facebook.  But I’d like to throw in here — while most of the sites I do for people include a Facebook page, we learned early on that, in general, only a fraction of our users are members of Facebook and even fewer actually use it.

    It looks like the much anticipated Clooz 4 release might be sometime in 2015.  I’m definitely looking forward to trying it again!

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