Tuesday, October 09, 2007

My Interview with Ben Nettesheim, FTM Brand Manager

I had an opportunity to speak with Benjamin Nettesheim, the FTM Brand Manager, and asked him if he would answer a few questions about the new Family Tree Maker 2008. Even though Ben has since started the Family Tree Maker blog, he still graciously took the time to answer my questions, some which have not been asked on the official blog. I applaud TGN's communication with the genealogy community. If you have a question that I didn't think to ask, please post the question in the new FTM 2008 blog. Here are my questions with Benjamin's answers.

Kathi: We've heard that some of the genealogy reports will be added to the program through Service Packs to be distributed as a free download in mid October. Can you tell us what reports are planned for the October patch? Can you tell us if you are planning additional Service Packs during the next year?

Ben: The October update is scheduled to include the Hourglass chart and the Vertical Ancestor chart. It is also scheduled to include Register and Ahnentafel reports. Additional Service Packs beyond this are not currently planned at this time.

Kathi: Some people, especially those with very large database files, have reported performance issues. Is this something that Ancestry will be able to address?

Ben: The first update that was released included some performance improvements. The October update will also include performance fixes. Additionally, we currently have a Family Tree Maker developer dedicated to looking into the issue further. This is something the development team is constantly working to improve.

Kathi: One of the things I miss the most is the search and replace feature. I also miss the global spell check and Facts spell check. Are there plans to add these features to FTM 2008?

Ben: We realize these are important features and are working hard to have these available in a future version of Family Tree Maker.

Kathi: Will more flexibility be added to the Place Name Authority allowing us to add historical place names, or add the word county or parish as a preference?

Ben: Likewise, this is something that is getting prioritized for a future version of Family Tree Maker.

Kathi: Does Ancestry plan to become FamilySearch Certified to interface with New Family Search (NFS) API?

Ben: This is another feature that is being evaluated for a future release of Family Tree Maker. At this point it is likely a lower priority then the last two feature sets that were mentioned.

Kathi: Some people are concerned about privacy using Ancestry Press for books and would prefer to build their books completely on their desktop computer. Are there plans for books that can be built on a person's own computer?

Ben: Yes there are. It was and still is our intention to include an offline book building solution similar to the one in previous versions of Family Tree Maker. Due to the complexity of this project, we anticipate it will not be ready until next year. We still plan to make it available free of charge to all Family Tree Maker 2008 customers.

Kathi: What plans are there for the plug-in option? Does Ancestry plan to publish the Family Tree Maker API for 3rd parties?

Ben: Family Tree Maker has published their API for 3rd parties. Some of them are currently developing plug-in products for Family Tree Maker. Anyone interested in this 3rd party API should contact Benjamin Nettesheim at The Generations Network.

Kathi: Because the program is so new and different with so many new features, are there plans to hold online classes to help people learn how to use the new program? What do you recommend as the best way to learn to use the new program?

Ben: A Webinar is scheduled for the evening of October 25th. It is a free online seminar that should run for no more than one hour starting at 8:30 p.m. EDT. The Family Tree Maker blog will have steps on signing up for the Webinar.

Training videos were also included as part of the Family Tree Maker 2008 package. In the past these were sold separately, however Family Tree Maker 2008 includes them for free as a DVD. We highly recommend watching them.

Finally, The Official Guide to Family Tree Maker 2008 is also available for sale in The Ancestry Store. This is a 380 page resource that gives step-by-step instructions to accomplish various tasks in Family Tree Maker 2008.

Kathi: What do you see as the major advantage of FTM 2008?

Ben: Personalization would be one. Family Tree Maker 2008 can give you whatever view you want, whether that be a pedigree view only, a family view only, or a combined view. We received a lot of feedback as to how frustrating it was to switch between the pedigree and family views. Family Tree Maker 2008 gives you either or both. Additionally you can adjust the index and edit panels.

Along those lines is the ability to see more information in a single view. Some customers have told us that they discovered they had more data than they were aware of because Family Tree Maker 2008 allowed for more information in a single view.

Another advantage is the huge global place name authority that provides consistent spelling for places as well as complete place name elements. The place mapping is also a nice addition.
The linking function is also very beneficial. It provides the ability to link a single source to many facts. You also have the ability to link a single media item to many people or facts. This is a huge time and computer resource saver.

Overall, in usability testing we found that beginner and advanced users had more success and faster success creating and building a tree with Family Tree Maker 2008 than with previous versions.

Kathi: Thanks, Ben, for taking time to answer my questions.

Family Tree Maker 2008


Matt Whitby said...

You say to post comments on the FTM 2008 blog but I don't believe you can.

Either way - it's an absolutely awful, awful product. Far less usable than the previous version and with missing features found in earlier versions.

Kathi said...

You can post comments to the FTM2008 blog. Go to http://blogs.ancestry.com/ancestry/2007/11/28/service-pack-2-rev-2/

and scroll down a bit until you see "Write a Comment" and "Type your Comment Here"

Many of the missing features have been added with Service Pack 2. The URL above shows the re-introduced features.