Genealogy.com’s Family Tree Maker (FTM) has always excelled at producing a wide assortment of graphical family trees customized to suit your tastes. But instead of adding even more graphical capabilities, the program’s latest upgrade, version 11, boasts several practical improvements. Read on to learn about FTM’s fantastic new features—and what still needs work.
You never know when disaster will befall your computer, so it’s important to back up your files regularly. Your family files are probably large enough that you’d need to back them up on multiple 1.44MB floppy disks. But FTM now lets you copy your files directly to a 650MB CD-R (recordable compact disc), which should hold all your data and cut down on clutter.
Here’s a look at the program’s other key improvements:
Building family books: Want to create a book with your choice of narrative reports and charts, a table of contents and an index? It’s a snap with FTM. This new version also lets you preview the book on screen, go back and make any necessary changes, and then save the book as a PDF file for easy e-mailing to your relatives.
Merging files: When someone sends you info about people already in your file, FTM conveniently merges the duplicate data.
Opening files side by side: You can have two FTM files open on your screen at the same time. This makes comparing data and copying and pasting between files a cinch.
Not making the grade
All these enhancements make FTM a better tool for organizing your family history, but the program remains essentially a one-trick pony. Pretty charts are nice, but most genealogists need additional features.
More well-rounded (and cheaper) programs such as Legacy Family Tree, Personal Ancestral File and RootsMagic provide superior tools for entering information, exchanging data and creating reports. Since its debut, FTM has gone through 10 major upgrades, yet still remains weak in several important areas:
Navigating: FTM has no pedigree view that lets you quickly navigate around your family tree without a lot of scrolling.
Documenting sources: While you can reuse sources, you can’t use the same complete citation for a series of records. You have to find the master source each time you use it, and you must retype the page number and quoted text for each citation.
Exchanging data: Most genealogy software supports dates represented as a range of years, such as “from 1862 to 1877.” But if someone sends you a family file with dates in that format, and you try to import it into an FTM file, the program will ignore the data, and you’ll lose the information.
Creating printed reports: An important part of genealogical research involves creating timelines showing the events in an ancestor’s lifetime. But instead of listing events in chronological order, FTM’s printed reports show them in alphabetical order.
When creating a book-format report, most genealogy software converts events to a readable narrative, such as “Carlos Luverne Crume was buried on December 30, 1904, in Moorhead, Clay County, Minnesota.” FTM, on the other hand, just adds lines such as “More About CARLOS LUVERNE CRUME. Burial: December 30, 1904, Moorhead, Clay, Minnesota.” The program can’t print numbered pedigree charts, either.
Building Web sites: You can publish your family tree for free on FTM’s Web site, but you can’t create a report in HTML format for your own Web site.
With its latest upgrade, FTM remains the leader in creating graphical family trees, and offers several handy new features. But if graphical charts aren’t your primary focus, other genealogy software might better suit your needs.
FTM 11 requires Windows 98 or higher, 32MB RAM and 150MB hard disk space. It costs $29.99 from Genealogy.com (800-548-1806, ). Or you can pair the program with a subscription to Genealogy.com’s online offerings (prices range from $69.99 to $199.99). Version 10 users can upgrade for $19.99; upgrades from earlier versions cost the full $29.99.