Software Review: Family Tree Maker 2011
2/18/2011
Family Tree Maker 2011 is a good choice, especially if creating wall charts and using Ancestry.com are high priorities.
  • Price: $39.95 (includes two-week subscription to Ancestry.com US Deluxe Edition) or $27.97 upgrade from any previous version
  • Manufacturer: Ancestry.com, (800) 262-3787
  • System requirements: Windows XP or newer
  • Demo/trial version: None
  • Biggest draws: Wall charts, Ancestry.com searching
  • Drawbacks: Printed reports, slow program launch and operation
Ease of use
Version 2011 closely resembles last year's version (reviewed here), remains easy to use and includes online access to a Quick Start Guide, a 340-page Companion Guide and a Knowledge Base. The program is easy to navigate, combining pedigree, family and individual views plus a name index all on one screen, along with separate tabs for other tasks. Still, important functions, such as chart templates, are sometimes hard to find.

Family Tree Maker 2011 rating 4.5 out of 5 starsFile management
Version 2011 starts slowly, taking a minute or longer in my tests. By running two instances of the program, you can have two family files open at once, but it's hard to view them side by side.

Family Tree Maker still doesn't preserve the correct spouse order when importing GEDCOM files, even if dates are present for all the marriages.

Charts and multimedia
Family Tree Maker creates outstanding wall charts, all highly customizable. Now you can create a 360-degree (full-circle) fan chart as well as the 180-degree (half-circle) fan chart from version 2010. A handy new feature lets you hide or show page breaks in the chart preview.

You can enhance your charts with several attractive new embellishments and background images. Family tree templates combining images, borders and fonts that fit a theme make it easy to quickly design an attractive chart. Family Tree Maker 2011 still has the same seven templates as version 2009. And they're harder to find than they used to be: Click the Use Saved Settings icon, then Custom Template, and hit the OK button (vs. the single click required in versions 2008 and earlier).

Documentation and publication
Version 2011 introduces Smart Stories, which let you insert facts, sources and pictures from your tree and drag and drop them into your text. Whenever you update facts in your tree, the changes are automatically reflected in your story. Smart Stories don't number names, though, so they're no substitute for Register Reports, and you can't save them in HTML format for posting online.

If you'd like to publish a family history book, you now can choose from more numbering systems. Your book will include sources only for births, marriages and deaths, however, even when you check the box to include all sources. Likewise, you have to manually select facts other than birth, death and marriage to put them in narrative reports. To include data and places for custom facts in a family group sheet, you also have to manually change the setting to include the date and place for that fact.

To publish your family tree on Ancestry.com, you upload your Family Tree Maker file to an Ancestry Member Tree. You then have to upload your whole tree again in order to update it -- Family Tree Maker doesn't automatically sync your offline and online trees the way Family Tree Builder software syncs with trees on MyHeritage.

Searching
You can search your file for a term anywhere in facts, notes, sources, media and tasks. Family Tree Maker's integration with Ancestry.com -- automatically working in the background and alerting you to matches -- simplifies searching. The program also makes it easy to import trees and records from Ancestry.com, and the Web Dashboard now displays messages from Ancestry.com.

The verdict
Family Tree Maker 2011 is a good choice, especially if creating wall charts and using Ancestry.com are high priorities. This version has many minor improvements, but nothing major, so it's an optional upgrade for current users.

From the March 2011 issue of Family Tree Magazine.
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