Tuesday, August 31, 2010

I'll wait on Family Tree Maker 2011

Ancestry.com announced the release of Family Tree Maker 2011 today - Miriam Midkiff has the press release on her Ancestories blog here. The Ancestry.com Blog also has a post about it.

I don't see many significant changes in the descriptions provided. I rarely use the features that are claimed to be improved. For instance, media management: I don't have many media items attached to persons in my own genealogy database yet, and I won't until I get the genealogy database in better order. It is not a priority for me in my genealogy life. To each their own.

Concerning uploading and downloading to Ancestry.com: I don't add content or media to my Public Member tree on Ancestry.com because I want to keep control of my latest database on my own computer. When Family Tree Maker is able to synchronize a family tree database with Ancestry Member Trees, then I will do more media attachments.

What do I mean by "true synchronization?" In FTM 2011, as in previous versions, the user has to upload a whole family tree file from Family Tree Maker to Ancestry.com, or download a whole family tree from Ancestry.com into Family Tree Maker. It becomes a new tree file, whether on Ancestry.com or in Family Tree Maker. If a user is changing data in both places, some of it may be lost or will have to be re-entered. A true synchronization would find changes in one place (either in the software database or the Member Tree database) and add or edit information in the other place without creating a new file. Perhaps even automatically at login. When a true synchronization is available, then Family Tree Maker will have a significant market edge.

Ancestry.com has released a new version of Family Tree Maker every year since 2008, and has charged users each time. The major Windows competitors, RootsMagic 4 (released in early 2009) and Legacy Family Tree 7 (released in summer 2008) , have updated their offerings many times since the initial release without charging users, their retail price is lower, the software runs faster and they offer equal or better features.

I still use Family Tree Maker 16 to manage my genealogy database because I am very familiar with it, and it serves my purposes well. I have and use RootsMagic 4 and Legacy Family Tree 7 for specific tasks, including unique reports and charts. I appreciate that they both offer free versions of their software with some crippled features - and I recommend them to beginning genealogists to start a family tree database.

So - I will wait to order Family Tree Maker 2011 until I am convinced that I really "need" it.

Information about Family Tree Maker 2011 can be found at http://www.familytreemaker.com/. The Ancestry.com Store has it for sale at a retail price of $39.95, and has an upgrade for current Family Tree Maker users for $27.97.

Disclosure: I have purchased every version of Family Tree Maker from Version 10 to 2010, and have received free copies of Family Tree Maker 2008, 2009 and 2010 from Ancestry.com at promotional events and conferences. I have donated the free copies I received from Ancestry.com to my local genealogical societies or have given them to society colleagues. My comments above are my own and I have received no remuneration or considerations for writing them.


Unknown said...

A release every year?? I just started using FTM 2010 like last month I think. I thought I'd try it because I had heard about the ancestry.com integration, which is nice. I like it some, but like you said it is slow. Which is a big downfall in book. TMG, which I also use, doesn't even load that slow. And the lag FTM 2010 creates on my network is unbelievable. I have no plans to upgrade my pc or network anytime in the near future. So, I think I may just write FTM off for a while and switch back to TMG, at least until I can afford to do some upgrading to my pc.

Aylarja said...

Randy, although I may well go ahead and purchase Family Tree Maker 2011, I have to agree with you that the list of enhancements over previous versions of the program is underwhelming. Most of these items are user-experience tweaks, quirk-fixes, and minor enhancements. Almost none of them, from my read, will substantially improve my ability to conduct genealogical research.

You have written eloquently of late about your past “sin” of “name-gathering,” and the distress this has caused you as you have gained a deeper appreciation of scholarship in your research. FTM is an excellent tool for name-gathering, as represented by the enhanced ability to download trees from ancestry.com. But while it does provide a sufficient capability for source citation, it provides only the simplest of tools for organizing research, developing theories, and tracking work in progress.

I wonder if there is any interest in the online genealogy community to demand that its software tools advance beyond the “name-gathering” adolescence of tree-making to become serious family-history research tools? We have seen some movement in this direction over the last couple of years as many genealogy programs added templates to enhance source citation. But even that seems like a halting baby step compared to what is possible. I ask myself, would I be better off moving to a less-polished, perhaps slightly dated program that already supports more of these research features? Am I foolish to hope that FTM’s polished interface can ever be melded to a more-robust research toolset, rather than being simply a hook for expensive subscriptions to ancestry.com?

Cousin Russ said...


As you know, I AM a user of Family Tree Maker. I will be posting some of the new features from Version 2011 later today and for the next couple of days. My CD was in the mail this morning.

I am not for upgrading with each version and, as you point out, it's up to us to look at the features and see if any of them meet our needs.

I post a tree on Ancestry, just to make sure it works, and to see how it works, so that I can post that on my Blog.

I know that the Mass Categorizing of Media Items has been asked for by many users. I have been doing that all along, so, like you, that wouldn't be a drawing point for me.

I am, however, interested in the Smart Story (text item) feature, which will probably be my first posting.

Thanks for your Blog post on your Blog. I hope others look at the 100 features and see if enough of them meets their needs.


DearMYRTLE said...

Hiya Randy! I agree 100% with the problem of "syncing" one ancestor's updated info between Ancestry.com Trees and an FTM database. I thought at first I was missing something when I first started using the online Ancestry tree. I still use it to find the "quick & easy" record groups, and advise my readers to look every other month for each ancestor.

However, the data must be typed in.

What FTM needs to do with the Ancestry.com is similar to what's happening with programs that truly sync (not just read) new.FamilySearch.org.

As the old familySearch.org website goes away, and everyone has access to what is now in new.FamilySearch.org, then this sort of "sync" both ways feature will become the norm.

Geesh, I need to make a blog entry about this.

Thanks for writing "I'll wait on FTM 2011."