Thursday, August 18, 2011

Dear Randy: How can I sync my files with my brother?

I received an email this week from a reader who asked:

"I have Family Tree Maker 2011. My brother also has FTM.  We were trying to figure out how we might be able to sync our information with each other.  I have the program on a laptop and desktop.  I’d like to be able to update one or the other that I’ve entered new information in.  My brother called Ancestry, but they didn’t know of a program that would do that. 

"I’m wondering if you know what the best way to sync my laptop and desktop and/or share information between two trees without getting a lot of duplicate information."

My response:

You want a method to synchronize the same information between at least three computers - your desktop, your laptop, and your brother's computer. 

Most researchers keep a "master copy" on one system and then copy their file to a second computer using an external hard drive or a USB drive.  I add content to my database only on my desktop computer (unless I'm on the road), and then use the USB drive to copy it to the laptop every once in awhile. 

For your brother to share files with you, you could send him a CDROM or a USB drive every one in awhile.  Or you could use a service like Dropbox to transfer files.  Look at Dick Eastman's articles on Dropbox.  They offer 2 gigabytes of space for free.  There are webinars available about using Dropbox to synchronize files.

That works great for your syncing between your desktop and laptop computers - any time you're on the Internet it sync the files in the special folders.  I don't use Dropbox yet.

Any time either you or your brother changed the file, it could sync to Dropbox and you could have the other "pick it up" through a link to the file at Dropbox. 

I'm not sure if this would work, but it's worth looking into:  If your brother and you had one common Dropbox account, then any time you, or he, changed the file, then the file on the other computer would be changed.  In theory, that works as long as you keep the same file name.  One problem may be that if both of you change the same file at the same time, Dropbox may get confused.

Another site that has 5 gigabytes of free storage is SugarSync.  I'm using SugarSync now to sync some of my files (presentations and databases) between my desktop and laptop computers.  

Obviously, this works with other file types, like photographs, documents, spreadsheets, etc.
If my readers know more about this task, please comment with your observations and recommendations.

1 comment:

Russ said...


A long time, many times asked question. Good answer.

I do use Dropbox. I use it with Family Tree Maker Version 2011 and it works very well. I also use it for other things. Dropbox has helped with addressing this task of file sharing / two or more people working on the same tree.

There are two issues that need to be taken into consideration. 1) Who is working on the file and When, and 2) Data Entry formatting.

I don't know about you, but I have a way that I format my data input, where I put pieces of information, and an issue that you have addressed many times, Source and Citation input.

If the two users can agree with this 2nd item, you should be good to go.

But, watch for working on the same file at the same time.

However, there is another solution, which you have also talked about recently.

From talking and working with other Family Tree Maker users, the solution might be that Ancestry Member Tree (AMT). That is Free, and the other two issues are minimized.

An example: much like your reader's question. A friend of mine was working with his grandmother doing their family research. They used the AMT. After listening to his 'story' that feature really made sense to me.

There are other online tree sharing options available to us, but since your reader already uses Family Tree Maker, the AMT option might make sense.

To add to that, is your posting about Family Tree Maker Version 2012, currently, from my understanding, in Beta.

From what I have read, the one CON: Only one user can download the AMT into FTM2012. That is the owner of the AMT.

But that CON: may also be a positive. Why would is be a PRO: the owner is the one who could download (or Sync) the AMT and do the Charts and Reports that are within Family Tree Maker. Since the Charts and Reports can generate PDF files, the tree Owner could email the PDF to the non-tree owner.

The PROs: accomplish the task of two, or more people, Editing, Contributing, and sharing their Family Research. The formatting of the data isn't an issue, as the AMT takes care of most of that.

The owner of the tree can update the tree in FTM2012 or online.

Just some random thoughts about how to resolve this question. I should do a blog entry on how to use Dropbox, shouldn't I.

Thank you for posting this question and offering your solution.