Software Review: Family Tree Builder
1/11/2011
 Family Tree Builder Basics
  • Price: free basic version (unlimited offline family file size; 250-person, 250MB online family tree), $75 to $119.40 a year for premium versions
  • Manufacturer: MyHeritage
  • System requirements: Windows 98 or newer; online tree works on Macs running Safari or Firefox
  • Demo/trial version: <www.myheritage.com/family-tree-builder>
  • Biggest draws: ease of use, photo management, charts, online tree publishing, online searching, multilingual support
  • Drawbacks: narrative reports, source documentation  
Ease of use
Super easy to use, Family Tree Builder comes in 35 languages and has users worldwide. You can begin with a Quick-Start Wizard and download a free 320-page PDF user’s guide.
 
Well-designed screens and menus make the program easy to navigate. An innovative slider lets you adjust the number of generations displayed between three (like a family view) and five or seven (like a pedigree view). Hover your cursor over a name, and a window pops out with details on that person.
 
File management
You can have only one family file (“project”) open at a time, and there’s no match-and-merge feature to weed out duplicate people in your file. When you search other MyHeritage users’ trees and find a match, the Smart Match Merge feature lets you integrate information from another tree with yours.
 
When you create a GEDCOM, Family Tree Builder puts copies of all linked multimedia files in a separate folder—a handy feature. One limitation with GEDCOMs: Family Tree Builder doesn’t let you specify the number of generations of ancestors or descendants to include.
 
Version 5.0, due out by the end of 2009, lets relatives collaborate on a family tree. It synchronizes changes made by relatives, whether they’re working online or offline.
 
Documentation and publication
Family Tree Builder has a no-frills system for documenting sources. You won’t find any templates for specific source types. There’s no quick way to apply one source citation, including a page number, to a series of people, such as each member of a family in a census record.
 
Unlike most genealogy software, Family Tree Builder doesn’t let you link a document image to a source citation. For example, if you click the Photos button (not the Edit button), you can link a scanned marriage certificate to a marriage fact, but not to the citation describing the marriage certificate.
 
Reports include a well-designed family group sheet, as well as ancestor, descendant and relationship reports. The book report combines various charts and reports, and includes both name and place indexes, but the narrative report doesn’t use standard Modified Register or Register numbering.
 
Charts and multimedia
You can create attractive ancestor, descendant, fan and close-family charts, all graphically customizable. The all-in-one chart requires a Premium account. Unique bilingual charts show labels in both languages—even if the alphabets are different.
 
Family Tree Builder has a powerful photo manager, on a par with Family Tree Maker’s. An album can hold photos, documents, audio and video. You can drag and drop items between and within albums. If you have a group photo, you can associate faces with specific people in your family file.
 
Searching
With a premium account, you can publish your tree, pictures, videos and documents to your own family website. It serves as a file backup; version 4 lets you restore everything to your computer. Smart Matches connect people in your family tree to people in other members’ family trees, and Smart Research automatically searches more than 100 genealogy websites for the people in your family tree.
 
The verdict
Family Tree Builder’s free basic version makes it easy to organize your family tree and family photos. Step up to the Premium version and you can put your family tree online, safely back up your files and automatically search through millions of names in online family trees.
 
Overall Rating
 
 
From the January 2010 Family Tree Magazine
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