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Most genealogy programs store data in proprietary data forms which cannot be read by other programs. Which is fine if everyone used the same software, but they don't! If I wanted to share information from my Family Tree Maker program with a friend who used another genealogy program, I'd be out of luck unless both programs supported the import and export of data in GEDCOM format. Today, almost all of the programs available support GEDCOM, so you can share your data with just about everyone.

For instance, let's say I want to share a particular line from my Family Tree Maker file with a friend who uses a different program. To generate a GEDCOM file, I open the Family File which I wish to share, and use the Save As... command to tell Family Tree Maker to export the data in GEDCOM format. Some programs allow you to specify how information will appear in the GEDCOM file by choosing a particular version of GEDCOM, whether you wish notes included, and whether you wish tags to be abbreviated. Check your program to see what particular options you have when exporting a GEDCOM.

Sharing GEDCOM files Once the GEDCOM file is created, you can give it to your friend on a disk, or attach it to an e-mail. You can also view your GEDCOM using a word processor or text editor. Although a GEDCOM is nothing more than a text file, you should not alter it unless you are familiar with GEDCOM standards.

Upon receiving your GEDCOM, your friend can import it into her genealogy program, and voila! A data exchange has taken place. With GEDCOM you can view others' research, incorporate it into your own file, print it out, and add or subtract to it without having to type the data in by hand.

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