Categories and Free Space Profiles allow us to do some similar things, each has advantages and disadvantages.
In a Free Space Profile it is not necessary to think about connections or relationships to other profiles. The information can just be entered. Photos can be uploaded and there is room to be creative for tables or other material. Links can be added to both categories and profiles. Information can be entered in any form or order that we want. Privacy can be set for a Free Space. Having more than 50 names or so can make it difficult to properly manage.
A category does not exist by itself, it needs to be set up under another category. It may be as simple as a town name but can be complex. There are no privacy settings, everyone can use the category. Information can be setup in the category but it is not as flexible as a Free Space. Having several hundred profiles is not a problem.
The important difference between the two is in how connections are handled.
The Free Space is a one-way page. That is when I select a profile on the page that has a link I can go to the profile. When I am on the profile, unless additional material is added to the profile, I have no way of knowing that a Free Space exists.
This is the key difference for a category page – when the category is added to the profile, the ID is shown on the category page along with all other profiles in the same category. If a Free Space is being used to show connections it must be updated when changes are made, the connections are automatic on the category page. If we want to develop and maintain connections between profiles it is a requirement to use a category.
This problem is highlighted if there is a duplicate. When the duplicate is merged, the category page is automatically updated. Nothing needs to be done. Depending on what was done on the Free Space it may be necessary to update, but it is likely that the person doing the merge may not even realize that the Free Space exists.
Whenever showing connections for a group a category should be used. When extra material is available connecting to a Free Space can be a significant improvement.
Here are two examples – that use both the Category and a Free Space. The Free Space is one of the items in the category listing.
Category: Prospect Cemetery, East Stroudsburg, Pennsylvania
Category: Nathan Baxter and Anna Dodge 1957 Family Reunion