Family Tree Maker 2009 Review
9/27/2009
Should you upgrade to Family Tree Maker 2009?  Our software expert's review will help you decide.
Basics
  • Price: $39.95 
  • Manufacturer: Ancestry.com , (800) 262-3787
  • Web sitewww.familytreemaker.com
  • System requirements: Windows XP or Vista
  • Demo/trial version: none
  • Biggest draws: wall charts, photo handling, Ancestry.com searching
  • Drawbacks: reports, books, sluggishness
Ease of use
The program includes a Getting Started Guide, a tips booklet and a tutorial. For more help, refer to the online knowledge base and get free support via e-mail.

Interface and navigation
The seven workspaces (Plan, People, Places, Media, Sources, Publish and Web Search) are logically organized and easy to navigate. But the program launches slowly and some components, such as report creation, are sluggish.

GEDCOM handling
You’re supposed to be able to open Legacy Family Tree, Personal Ancestral File (PAF) and The Master Genealogist files directly, but Family Tree Maker froze when I tried to import Legacy and PAF files. Family Tree Maker GEDCOMs still can’t include links to pictures and other multimedia files.

File management
You’re supposed to be able to have two family files open at once, but when I tried to open a second file, the program said the file didn’t exist.

Sources
Unlike most genealogy software, Family Tree Maker doesn’t show how a footnote will look as you enter a source citation. But it’s easy to reuse citations and attach files to them.

Charts and reports
Basic reports are poor: The default family group sheet includes only core facts. Pedigree charts don’t automatically show baptism and burial information when birth and death dates are unknown. And you can’t include pictures or an index in its awkwardly worded narrative reports (Genealogy Reports).
 
To create a book, Family Tree Maker links to Ancestry.com's MyCanvas, an online service that lets you choose backgrounds and graphics to design pages. You can purchase a printed book or print one yourself. Creating a book is frustratingly slow, and you can’t include three key components: a table of contents, narrative reports or an index. (An early 2009 update should let you include a name index.)

Adding insult to injury, you have to agree that “Ancestry may reproduce, compile, and distribute, all information about nonliving individuals in your submitted GEDCOM file.” You shouldn’t have to give Ancestry.com virtually unlimited rights to your family file just so you can create a family history book.

Family Tree Maker still produces the best wall charts of any genealogy software. Missing from the last version, fan charts return. Horizontal hourglass, bow-tie and family tree charts are new. You can customize fonts, box and line styles, backgrounds and pictures. Print the charts or save them as PDF files for e-mailing or professional printing.

Additional features
No other genealogy software has anything as useful as the Media workspace for organizing multimedia files.
The Web Search workspace lets you search Ancestry.com, Genealogy.com, RootsWeb.com, Google, Yahoo! and MSN Live Search from within Family Tree Maker.

The program comes with a three-month Ancestry.com membership and searches the site’s databases for the names in your file when you’re connected to the Internet. Green leaf icons in the People workspace alert you to possible matches.

Verdict

If you’re new to genealogy software and wall charts are a priority, Family Tree Maker is a good choice. Otherwise, RootsMagic and Legacy Family Tree are more practical and reliable.
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