Software Review: Family Tree Maker for Mac

Software Review: Family Tree Maker for Mac

Mac users seeking a high-powered genealogy program with all the features they've ever imagined will want to snap up this long-awaited version of the reigning Windows software.


* NOTE: Ancestry.com has announced that Family Tree Maker will no longer be available after 2015, and support will end Jan. 1, 2017.

Ease of use

Building on years of mostly Windows development, Family Tree Maker for Mac offers all the bells and whistles you might want — and a sometimes-steep learning curve to match. With so many features, the program inevitably boasts a plethora of buttons, drop-downs and windows. It’s got separate views for People, Places, Media, Sources, publishing and Web Search, as well as something called Plan, which even features a Twitter feed. Because Family Tree Maker for Mac can do so much, too, many actions require clicking through multiple dialog boxes.

Family Tree Maker for Mac
Price: $69.95 (includes six-month subscription to Ancestry.com)
Manufacturer: Ancestry.com, (800) 262-3787, FamilyTreeMaker.com
System requirements:Mac OS X 10.5.8 or later
Demo/trial version: None
Biggest draws: Lots of bells and whistles; charts, reports and book publishing; integration with Ancestry.com and web searching; help options and companion guide
Drawbacks: Learning curve; no independent web publishing; buggy merging of online data

Nonetheless, you can get started without reading a manual, and most tools and gizmos are intuitive. When you do need help, Family Tree Maker for Mac shines: Answers can be found in a built-in Help file, an online help center and a 311-page companion book that comes both as a PDF and a paperback. 

File management

Switching from another program is a snap, with lickety-split import of GEDCOM and Family Tree Maker 16 for Windows files. You can download trees from Ancestry.com. Multiple trees can be open at once in Plan view. Going the other way, you can export GEDCOM 5.5 or GEDCOM for FTM 16 files.

Charts and multimedia

As users of the Windows version have come to expect, Family Tree Maker for Mac excels at producing charts — 10 different types, with more customization options than most users will ever need. All are under Publish.

The Media pane lets you add and manage images, videos and sound clips, which you can link to individuals and sources; photos of multiple people can be linked to more than one ancestor.

The integrated Web Search lets you add media to sources when merging online data into your own, as well as “clip” pictures from non-Ancestry.com sites. In practice, though, this feature doesn’t always perform.

Documentation and publication

Source management is slick yet simple, letting you easily create, assign and copy citations. You can assign each source a rating of one to four stars — a nifty way of dealing with iffy resources. (We wish, though, that highly rated sources appeared above lesser ones, or you could drag them into a desired order.)

Under Publish, you can crank out standard pedigree and family reports (the family group sheet hides under Relationship Reports) and more. A Book option generates a publication you can print, save or share as a PDF, or customize with Ancestry.com’s MyCanvas. You can upload all or part of your tree to Ancestry.com or MyCanvas, but there’s no direct way to output a complete website to upload to your own server space.

Searching

An Index of Individuals lets you scroll through everyone in your tree, or you can use Edit>Find Individual to search by name and other criteria. The Web Search feature works like a browser, automatically filling in search criteria for Ancestry.com and search sites Google, Yahoo! and Bing. Once you’ve found an ancestor, the program walks you through merging data. This can be flaky in practice: Census records, for instance, insist on merging as Residence facts rather than Census, and subsequent records refuse to stick.

The verdict

Mac users seeking a high-powered genealogy program with all the features they’ve ever imagined will want to snap up this long-awaited version of the reigning Windows software. Beginners who need only the basics and those who prefer to manage their family websites outside the Ancestry.com umbrella might want to look elsewhere.


From the May 2011 issue of Family Tree Magazine

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