Monday, July 16, 2007

Family Tree Maker 2008 Beta Additional Thoughts

NOTE: Family Tree Maker 2008 has been released and is no longer in beta or available for download.

**The Genealogy software program Family Tree Maker 2008 is available at The Ancestry Store and is constantly being updated and improved. **

I've been playing a lot this week with the new Family Tree Maker 2008 BETA. As with any new program, finding and doing things at first seems a bit awkward, but it didn't take long for me to really appreciate the new program. When you test a beta, even a public beta, you just start using the program without a manual. I think I have discovered a lot using this "click on everything" method of learning. I would consider myself an average user of FTM, not a heavy duty user.

The Family Tree Maker 2008 BETA is available for everyone to download. For those who are hesitant about downloading, I can tell you that downloading the beta does not overwrite your previous versions of FTM. The beta downloads into its own separate folder. And when you delete the beta, which I did just so I could verify this statement, your previous FTM program and file are still there. However, BE SURE TO MAKE A COPY of your data file to use in your beta testing, and read all the warnings on the beta page.

You many want to read My First Thoughts about FTM 2008 before you read my additional thoughts below. I've been playing with the beta for the week since I wrote that article and now I have additional observations.

More Things I like about FTM 2008:

  • The screens make it easier to see everything in one glance. The family view now combines the family tree and family group. The person view displays facts, sources, notes, and tasks in one view. I don't have to click on facts, then return to person, then click on notes, then come back to person. I can see it all on one screen. I really like this combined view because not only is it a time saver but it makes it much easier to see what I have and to spot what is missing or incorrect.

  • There is a much smarter name index. The index can be sorted by Family Name, Given Name, Birth Date, Marriage Date, or Death Date. You can also choose to show dates (for clarification) in the index or not show dates (to take up less screen space) and easily toggle back and forth between the two. There is also now an index filter so that you can filter the index to just show all ancestors or all descendants of one person. You can also filter the index by an endless combination of facts. For example, I filtered the index to find all those buried in one cemetery. I filtered to find all those who had an unknown in the name field. I filtered to find all my ancestors who had a military fact that contained the words Civil War. You can filter out names as well. I can see where the index filter will be a very, very handy feature.

  • I had already mentioned in my First Thoughts that I like the linked sources and citations because I thought it would keep the file to a more manageable size. But I also discovered that because the sources are now linked, the need to copy and paste my sources is much reduced.

  • The Place Authority allows me to resolve place names by making sure a place is spelled correctly and used in a consistent format throughout my family tree file. Last week when I first took a look at FTM2008, I had a quibble with the Place Authority because I wanted to be able to add the word "county" to Jersey City, Hudson, New Jersey, but after using the Place Authority for a bit, I have changed my mind. Using the Place Authority is very worthwhile just to have my names consistent and correct in the file. This consistency allows me to go to the Place Manager where I can see all those in my file who are associated with the same place. The Place Authority Database contains 3 million complete world-wide place names and is constantly updated. It has found counties for me in European and South American countries that I hadn't previously found. The Place Authority is a great feature, and I'm glad I kept playing with it so that I could see the advantages.

  • FTM 2008 has a separate Place Description where I can add addresses and townships in addition to the Place Name. I've also been adding the names of the cemeteries to the Place Description.

  • There is a global task management. I can enter a "to-do" or task for a person, name it, prioritize it, and even assign a due date. I'm not a due date type of person for my genealogy, but I can see where it would be valuable to get certain tasks done before a research trip or before a family reunion. The due date would be one way to tag them. I can then go to the global task management and sort all my "to-do's" by name or category or due date or prioritization. Or I can view the task list on the Person View.

  • I can open the program to be full screen and then go into Tools > Options and then check Use Large Fonts. This combination of bigger screen and large fonts is perfect for me.

  • The Person View can show the list of facts, a timeline view or relationships.
    • The timeline view lists personal, family, and historic events. I really like the time line view that adds the family events. Now only can I use it to make sure my dates make sense (no children born when mother is 3 years old and that sort of thing), but I can also see how family events fit together.
    • The relationship view that lists family relationships - parents, siblings, children along with the type of relationship.

  • I can view all of the images and media for every person from one location. I can link one media file to multiple people and then view all of the people a media file is linked to.

  • I can view all of the sources in my tree from one location. And now that I have viewed all my sources from one location, I realize I have some work ahead of me to make my sources consistent and correct. I've been inputting sources since FTM v3 back in 1995 when FTM sourcing was pretty primitive, and was trying to fix these old sources as I found them.

  • Sources have full reference notes and flexible citation, along with a place to put a source link, a place to put notes that can then be formatted and privatized, and place to put a copy of the media. When entering sources you will be able to fill in the form once, then select multiple individuals to connect that source information to. If you merge a record from Ancestry, it will add an image copy of the record to the Source Citation Media. Plus the sources can now be rated using standardized rating or your own rating system with a note for rating justification.

  • There is a Converts Names Tool which can change all names in your tree to either First Name, Middle, Surname or First Name, Middle, SURNAME. I can see it would be useful to switch to SURNAME for one report, and then back again to Surname for another report. The tool is useful to make sure data files use a consistent format.

  • There is a history list displays the changes made to records in the tree for that session.

  • There is now a DNA Marker fact. I've been toying with the idea of having DNA testing but haven't done it yet, so I'm not exactly sure how the DNA Marker fact will work or if it will work well but I'm glad they are thinking ahead.

  • I can export files to FTM 2008 and Gedcom 5.5 (only) and export reports to Share to Ancestry, to Ancestry Press, or send an email as: pdf, csv, rtf, image, or html. These new formats look like they might be useful for me to send to my family who do not have Family Tree Maker.

  • There is plug-in management which I assume means that there will be additions and plug-ins developed to use with FTM2008. I have no idea what will be ready in time for the release, but it is nice to know that they are thinking ahead to improve and add features to FTM.

  • At first, I found the new integration search with the web site layout to be too squishy-looking, but I found it is much improved if I move move the bottom panel by clicking on the dotted line to give me more room. Click again to move the bottom panel back up. Even better, I found the option to open in a new browser window to keep the screen from looking too squashed.

  • Locations are integrated with Microsoft Virtual Earth in both in 2D (road, aerial, and hybrid views) and in 3D (bird's eye view)

Things I don't like:
To be clear, these are things I don't like in the beta version - the release version will undoubtedly have changes and updates based on our feedback.

  • In FTM 16, after I have merged a record from, the Ancestry record is marked as Merged in the program. I can also chose to mark the record "Done or Ignore", so that I don't repeat searches that I have already done. On FTM beta 2008, I cannot find a way to mark records as Merged, Done, or Ignore. I can merge the record into my program, just not mark it as merged. Having it marked it is a good way to know what searches I have done so I don't repeat my efforts. That leaf which appears on a person's name to show that Ancestry has matching records stays there even after record has been looked at. I would prefer it disappear after records have been checked, then reappear if there are new matching records. I'm not sure if I haven't figure out how to work this, or if this feature is just not there, or if it is a feature that is "coming soon". I did send an email to report this to the email address at Family Tree Maker 2008 BETA and I hope others who find this important will report it as well. Of course, there is no way to know what will be added to the release version of FTM 2008.

  • The new Place Authority uses today's names and boundaries, but many places in my family file no longer exist or the boundaries have changed. This feature isn't really something I dislike, but it is something to to be aware of. I'll have to give some thought to the best way to record my places where names or boundaries have changed. I can use a combination of Place, Place Description, and Place Notes, but first I'll see how this appears in my reports before I decide on how I want to enter this.

  • Now that I have consistent locations via the Place Authority, I haven't figured out how to delete garbage locations out of my Fast Fields. This feature wasn't in FTM 16 either, as far as I know, but I sure would like it now.

The more I use the Beta and keep experimenting with the features, the more I like FTM 2008. This complete redesign is a huge leap forward. This version of FTM has many new features, better functionality and is easier to use. Every time I open the program I find new features I hadn't noticed before. Many of the new features such as Place Authority, Timeline, Map Integration, Smart Index, Notes Privatization, Source Quality Ratings, Source Management and Media Management are going to be great to use.

I can't wait to get my copy of FTM2008, and start using my real data.

There are still a lot of things I haven't tried and I have a feeling that I have left many stones unturned. My file is small and contains only about 2000 people. I suggest anyone who is interested to download the BETA and make your own decision if this is the right program for you. Others may have different priorities than I do in a genealogy program. Remember this is a beta version, not the release version, and I don't know what will be changed or added before the release. For those who can't download the beta, here is the FTM 2008 What's New that is listed in the program.

Caution: Entering data into the beta should be done only to see how the program handles your information and not for updating your family files. Using a test file has allowed me to try things I might not have otherwise tried for fear of messing up my original data file.

I see using the beta and sending feedback to the email listed on the beta page as a way of having a bit of say in the program. If there is something missing in the beta version that you feel is important, write to the email address on the Family Tree Maker 2008 BETA page. If they didn't want feedback from all of us, they wouldn't have released a public beta and given us the email address.

The release version of Family Tree Maker 2008 is now available.

And I was surprised to see The Official Guide to Family Tree Maker 2008 already available for pre-order at Amazon.

Family Tree Maker 2008


Trishymouse said...

I hope they make a way to publish to websites, not just paper or make a CD. I publish all my information online and the beta doesn't have that.

Unknown said...

to delete garbage locations in FTM 16, click the "little trash can" icon that appears at the end of the line

RollittAround said...

I like to use ancestor charts in the vertical format rather than side-on pedigree charts. I have only just loaded my beta version, but I haven't find this feature yet.

Pamela Stephens said...

Does anyone know how to get the file imported from old version ftm16 to 2008? I am using Windows Vista operating system. Gets to a certain indivdual and quits

Kathi said...


Have you tried compacting your FTM16 file before the import? I got an error message when I first tried to import. I compacted my FTM 16 file and it then imported with no problems.