Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Dear Randy: Do Family Tree Maker 2011 Smart Stories have any practical function?

In a comment on Adding a Smart Story to Family Tree Maker 2011 - Post 1, reader Rick wrote:

"I haven't been able to figure out how to make good use of Smart Stories. Do they have any practical function? Wouldn't it be a lot more useful if Family Tree Maker could create a regular Register report in HTML format? Or if you could save a Register report as an RTF file with embedded codes so you could edit the file and then generate a name index? Now that would be a real smart story. "

I'll address the second issue about Register reports in another post, but I want to add my opinion about the practical value of FTM 2011 Smart Stories.

I noted in the earlier post that the FTM 2011 Help section says this about the purpose of Smart Stories:

"Smart Stories allow you to compose documents that include free-form text as well as fielded text and images from the records of the people in your tree. Fielded text (presented in the Options pane) is linked to the facts, events, notes, and source citations for the individuals in your tree and is automatically updated in your Smart Story when any of its associated date is changed. Smart Stories can be saved as media items linked to people or as publications and can be included in books."

Those features are, of course, provided when a user creates an Individual Report, an Ahnentafel Report, or a Descendants Report using the "Publish" workspace. 

As pointed out in my post Adding a Smart Story to Family Tree Maker 2011 - Post 2, there are some limitations to the story creation.  Users have to intentionally create one for every person in the database that the user wants, which is fairly time consuming.  Users also have to create a new Smart Story for any person that has Facts added to their "Person" page.

The Search Support page has an article titled "In Family Tree Maker 2011, what are Smart Stories and how do I use them?"  Users with an interest in Smart Stories should read this article.

Here are my views on why and Family Tree Maker 2011 created Smart Stories:

1)  The main reason that created the Smart Story concept is because many users that create Ancestry Member Trees online have added text to the "Stories" tab on the "Media Gallery."  Those "Stories" are visible to all readers, whereas the "Notes" for each Person is not visible to anyone but the owner and designated editors of the Member Tree.  The "Story" in an Ancestry Member Tree is downloaded with the Member Tree data into a Family Tree Maker 2011 database, and put in the "Media" workspace.  Therefore, the information in the Story is not lost - it appears in FTM 2011 as a "Smart Story."

2)  A "Smart Story" created in FTM 2011 is in a discrete file - and that file can be saved to a user's computer and shared with another person via an email attachment.  It will also upload to an Ancestry Member Tree and be placed in the "Media Gallery."

3) wants users to create MyCanvas Books.  MyCanvas obtains information from Ancestry Member Trees.  The "Story" in an Ancestry Member Tree can be saved as an RTF file.  Stories saved in an RTF format can be added to the MyCanvas Book (but not any other format, like a Microsoft Word document), according to the FTM 2011 Search Support article here.  Note: users can also do a copy-and-paste from a separate document to add narratives to the MyCanvas Book. 

4)  This is all about integrating Family Tree Maker 2011 with Ancestry Member Trees and MyCanvas Book creation.

So the practical use is to permit Stories in an Ancestry Member Tree to download to an FTM 2011 database, or vice versa.  And to permit those Stories to be easily added to an Ancestry MyCanvas Book. 

The usefulness is in the mind of the individual user.  If I wanted to create a MyCanvas book, I would create Smart Stories in FTM 2011 for selected persons to be included in the Book, upload the FTM 2011 database to a new Ancestry Member Tree, and then create a MyCanvas Book. 

Thank you, Rick, for the question.

Disclosure:  I am not an employee or contractor for or its subsidiary entities.  I pay for my US subscription.  I have accepted travel expenses and Family Tree Maker software from in the past.  I was not remunerated to write this post.

UPDATE 3/10:  Russ Worthington has several posts about Smart Stories - see his latest post Family Tree Maker 2011 - Smart Stories that describes his effort in creating a book in Family Tree Maker 2011. 


Carol Yates Wilkerson said...

Thank you Randy, for explaining the uses and why they are that way. Seems like a lot of work unless you are new to FTM and begin using Smart Stories from the get-go.

Cousin Russ said...


Thank you for this series of Blog posts on one of my favorite features of Family Tree Maker Version 2011.

I have just posted my experience with this feature.

Perhaps this will help answer the question you were asked.

Thank you,


Rick Crume said...

Randy, thanks for explaining why Ancestry added the Smart Stories feature to Family Tree Maker. Your reasoning makes sense, though I have to agree with the comment that they're more work than they're worth.

Cousin Russ said...


I do not disagree with Randy's assessment about this feature. However, I would invite you to check out the Blog Post that I posted in the comment just about your comment. I have a different experience with the Smart Story feature.

Thank you,


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