Family Tree Maker for Mac 3 New & Enhanced Features

In the first part of my review of Family Tree Maker for Mac (FTMM) 3 I noted that the application now has virtual feature and price parity with the Windows version. I also covered some of the problems from previous versions that have carried over into the latest version. In this, the second half of my review, I’ll go over what Ancestry.com touts as the new and improved features.

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Family Tree Maker for Mac 3 Released, Brings Feature & Price Parity

It’s been over two years (24 Oct 2011 on Amazon) since Ancestry.com released version 2 of Family Tree Maker (FTM) for Mac. Ancestry.com, and the developer of FTM for both Mac and Windows, Nova Development, spent most of 2013 improving the then-current versions rather than releasing a paid upgrade. I applaud them for their decision, given the many problems with version 2012, especially its TreeSync™ feature, which enabled changes made in FTM trees to be synced with their Ancestry.com counterparts and vice versa. Ancestry.com released the 2014 version of FTM on 10 Sep 2013, but Mac users had to wait a little longer. Like the new Windows version, version 3 for Mac includes enhancements and new features, including an improved TreeSync™, a new Family View, user interface updates, task simplification, and new and enhanced reports. In fact, with a few notable exceptions, the Mac and Windows versions have moved more closely together in terms of feature parity and even price. These improvements address most of the complaints I had in my review of version 2. This review updates my previous review, and I now can recommend FTM for Mac.

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Family Tree Maker for Mac 2 Sync Error Work-around

As Ben pointed out recently, Ancestry.com released an update to Family Tree Maker for Mac 2 (FTMM2) back in July that supposedly fixed the TreeSync issues that many people had been experiencing, including me. I had been unable to sync my FTMM2 tree with Ancestry.com for 7 months, due to sync errors. So I happily installed the update, compacted my file, and, since it was no longer even linked to Ancestry.com, attempted to upload and link the tree. Unfortunately, despite numerous attempts at different times of the day on a wired (not wireless) connection, the upload always failed, usually at around the 75% point. I even tried exporting my tree from charts to a new file, since this usually gets rid of any corrupt items, but the export process never reported any errors. I finally gave up trying. [Read more...]

Family Tree Maker for Mac 2 Review

Fewer Features for More Money

Introduction

Family Tree Maker for Mac (FTMM), released in late 2010, was the first Mac version of the best-selling genealogy software released by Ancestry.com (hereafter referred to as Ancestry). The only previous version for Mac was Family Tree Maker Deluxe Edition II for Macintosh, released by Brøderbund in 1997. There have been reviews of FTMM (see, for example, this review at PC Advisor UK), but many people want to know if version 2 is worth buying or not.

TreeSync

Prior to the release of FTMM2, the feature I wanted most but didn’t get from FTMM was the ability to sync with my family tree at Ancestry, so when Ancestry announced they would include this feature, which they call TreeSync, in FTM 2012 and FTMM2, I was very excited. In a comment to one of Ben’s posts on this website, I said, “if the Mac version includes this, it will be worth buying, although it would be nice if FTM adopted price parity as well as feature parity.” Now that I’ve used FTMM2 for two months, I’ve been able to evaluate whether the TreeSync feature meets my expectations. I’ve also compiled a detailed list of the pros and cons of the product. Bottom line: TreeSync is great in concept but lacking in implementation. [Read more...]

Comparison of Mac Genealogy Software Features

Comparing features helps when you’re choosing a new genealogy application. Seeing which ones support the features essential to your genealogy workflow and practice is also helpful.

I just compiled a set of tables I hope you’ll find helpful in comparing features of Mac genealogy software. I published it on the Family Tree Maker for Mac 2 buyer’s guide page.

I was able to complete this much more quickly than the one for PC genealogy software feature comparison because I had already been maintaining similar tables. I updated the tables where appropriate and made the criteria match those for PC genealogy applications. This way you can compare features not only between Mac genealogy software, but also PC counterparts–it’s a sad tale across the board.

Comparison of PC Genealogy Software Features

When you’re choosing a new genealogy application it helps to compare the features. It’s also helpful to quickly see which ones support the features essential to your genealogy workflow and practice.

I just compiled a set of tables I hope you’ll find helpful in comparing features of PC genealogy software. I published it on the Family Tree Maker 2012 buyer’s guide page.

My plan is to update the version I have already created for Mac genealogy software and post it in the same way.

Family Tree Maker 2012 Overview Video

The accompanying video will show you the major elements of Family Tree Maker 2012. At its most basic, Family Tree Maker consists of the following workspaces.

  • Plan
  • People
  • Places
  • Media
  • Sources
  • Publish
  • Web Search

The workspaces group related features. They are made up of tabbed views and panels that you use to plan, research, analyze, preserve, and share your genealogy.

This video will give you a feel for how Family Tree Maker 2012 looks and operates. This is more helpful than for other genealogy software because there’s no trial version of FTM 2012.
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Reunion 1.0 for iPhone & iPod touch Review

It took only a few minutes with Reunion for iPhone & iPod Touch to realize that researching and writing this review would not be a trivial effort; there’s so much this iPhone app can do! Let’s begin with the requirements so that’s clear up front.

Requirements

For Reunion for iPhone to be of any use to you, your gear (or your wallet) will need to satisfy the following requirements:

Please note that all references in this review to functionality on Apple’s iPhone apply, to the best of my knowledge, equally to their iPod touch. I don’t have one, so I can’t validate this. [Read more...]

MacFamilyTree 5.3 Beta Review

A beautiful, capable, moderately priced Macintosh genealogy application.

Product Overview

MacFamilyTree is one of the most popular genealogy data management programs for Macintosh. With it one can store, update, explore, and report on family history data. The data can consist of names, events, sources, notes, and multimedia files (images, video, sound). Interacting with family data is done via nested data entry panels and slick diagrams. A basic selection of charts and reports are provided and can be customized, viewed on-screen, and printed. The application integrates tightly with iPhoto, the web (via MobileMe or a free page hosted by Synium), Google Earth, and the iPhone (via a separate product, MobileFamilyTree).

Licensing

MacFamilyTree is compatible with Intel and PowerPC Macs running Mac OS X versions 10.4 (tiger) to 10.5 (leopard). There is a graphics card requirement (ATI Radeon 7500 or GeForce 4 MX Graphics Card or Intel GMA 950 or better) due to its stunning graphics. A new copy will cost you $49.00 USD while an upgrade runs $25.00 USD. There is a competitive upgrade incentive that will net you a 25% discount on the regular price if you can prove you bought a competing product. A limited demo version is available for download.

Observations

A comprehensive table of features is provided in the Macintosh Genealogy Software Feature Comparison. This section describes remarkable functionality and behaviors observed or found lacking during my evaluation. Each application reviewed in this series was subjected to the same set of scenarios designed to represent normal usage.

Data Entry

The MacFamilyTree interface is generally easy to navigate. The “Navigation Bar” is helpful in this regard. Bookmarks for people and families make returning to commonly or actively researched subjects quick and easy. There are fields for some data that one must navigate more deeply to reach. For example, setting the country for event locations takes an extra step. If you include the country in events like I do you may also find this annoying.

Dates

Dates are not automatically formatted upon entry. To me, this is like intermittent wipers on a car—one can manufacture a car without the feature, but why? It’s everywhere else, so the lack in this product makes it stick out like a sore thumb. Dates can be reformatted, but one has to use the “Database Maintenance Editor” to accomplish it.

Events

Event support overall is solid. Events can have associated icons which simplify locating them in a list. There is a notable, additional event type: miscarriage. Unfortunately, one cannot create custom event types. There is an “other event” type that, when coupled with descriptive text, is an acceptable work around. All event types have the same fields, so the type is just a categorization tool—it doesn’t change what data is collected.

Relationships

Determining relationships is problematic in MacFamilyTree. This may be because parental relationships such as adopted, step, and foster are applied to a family not individuals. This causes inaccurate representation of relationships in the family charts, views, and reports (see the Reports section for details).

That said, the “Person Chart” graphical view of a section of the family tree clearly illustrates relationships and makes navigation simple; although, it could be improved by providing a visual indicator of connected, but un-displayed people. A new feature in the beta version of the software is the differentiation of graphical depiction of relationships in the person chart; a natural relationship is indicated with a solid line while a non-natural one is represented by a dashed line.

Citations

Source data entry and citation is generally good, but could be improved by more granularity. Sources are cited at a high level. For example, birth date and birth place are cited together in a “topic” called “birth.” Source citations can be applied to persons, events, families, and media.

Source record types cannot be customized. The source fields are limited to:

  • title
  • author
  • publication
  • page
  • abbreviation
  • date
  • place
  • authority
  • reference number
  • reference type
  • credibility
  • label
  • notes
  • media

There are a couple of wonderful surprises in the supported source data. Sources can be rated “unreliable,” “questionable,” “second hand information,” or “first hand information.” They can also be labeled “important,” “incomplete,” or “noteworthy.” Sources can contain pictures, audio, and video. These media files can also have their own source records. Very nice!

There is no report listing of all sources in the database.

Management Tools

The database tools are minimal. They provide the ability to change date formats en masse, remove “empty entries,” and search for mismatched partners.

MacFamilyTree includes a media browser. I’m not sure that it’s especially useful, but it is pretty. Audio, images, and video can be added to a person or source, but the media browser is limited to images.

There is no automated way to list people who are not connected to others. It can be accomplished manually by looking for isolated people in the “virtual tree.”

Comparing, Merging, and Splitting Trees

There is no facility for comparing, merging, nor splitting databases in their native format. While one can export a database to GEDCOM format, then import it into another database, it shouldn’t be necessary to go through all those steps.

GEDCOM Import

Joining a GEDCOM file to a database is easy and feels natural. There are two approaches that can be taken. Firstly, the GEDCOM can be joined using the “Append GEDCOM File to current Tree…” feature found on the “Special” menu. This is best used when the GEDCOM data does not include any duplicate people. After this merge, one needs only to connect a person in the original database to their parent(s) in the joined data. Be careful to establish these connections by adding the child to the family, rather than adding the parents to the child. Doing the latter will create a duplicate family in the database. Lastly, one can use a feature, also on the “Special” menu, called “Merge GEDCOM File with current Tree…” to do just that. Use this when the GEDCOM file to be joined has, or may have, entries that duplicate one or more already in the database. The software will identify the duplicates and on a case-by-case basis, allow one to indicate which entry to replace.

GEDCOM Export

The GEDCOM export file I generated as a test contained many tags that are not defined in the GEDCOM 5.5 standard. This data will likely not transfer to other genealogy databases.

Charts

MacFamilyTree includes support for common charts (ancestor, descendant, family, fan, and timeline) as well as some unusual ones.

The virtual tree is a three-dimensional view that includes ancestors and descendants of the selected person. See the virtual tree glossary entry for more information and a picture.

There is a chart in MacFamilyTree that I was previously unfamiliar with. It’s called a genogram and it’s used to depict a person’s relationships (family, emotional, and social) and medical history. Genograms typically have specific symbols to represent family and emotional relationships as well as medical conditions. Unfortunately, MacFamilyTree’s nascent implementation includes only basic social relationship symbols and no emotional or medical symbols. It also has anomalies in the information it does display. For example, the genogram incorrectly shows my maternal grandmother as deceased. It also did not include adoptive parents even after checking the box in the view options.

The Virtual globe is informative, but faulty. It plots events on a globe that can be manipulated in three dimensions. Unfortunately, the data it gets from the “Look Up Coordinates” feature is often incorrect. Once I corrected the obvious errors (e.g. Saline, Washtenaw, Michigan being on the other side of the planet in Cyprus and Fine, St. Lawrence, New York being in South America) I found looking at the geographic proximity of events on the virtual globe to be intriguing. The events in a person’s life are shown as interconnected dots.

The statistics chart is a multi-function chart that allows one to view the following data in either a bar or line graph:

  • age of living persons
  • age at death
  • children per family
  • year of birth
  • year of death
  • month of birth
  • month of death

Reports

Several reports are supported by the application: list of persons, person, place, event, distinctive persons, and birthdays. Several other basic reports are missing. See the Macintosh Genealogy Software Comparison for details.

The Kinship Report does not correctly show half-sibling relationships. Nor does it show adoptive parents. In my tests it listed a woman as an aunt, who was neither the sister of the person’s father or mother, nor the wife of an uncle. In fact, she is the first wife of the person’s biological father. As expected, these kinship identification errors are also in the kinship section of the person report.

Integration

Integration is a competitive advantage for MacFamilyTree. One can launch Google Earth from the “General Information” panel. A separate product, MobileFamilyTree, can synchronize MacFamilyTree databases to an iPhone. When choosing images to add to a record, the application can present lists of images in the iPhoto library and albums. This level of integration is one of the aspects that make using a Mac feel so right. It’s great to be able to experience it in a genealogy application.

Help and Support

I’m giving MacFamilyTree the benefit of the doubt with respect to bugs I encountered during my review process since I’m reviewing a beta version; however, judging by the questions and comments on Synium’s online forum, they’ve got some work to do to make this product as solid as Reunion 9 and iFamily for Leopard.

The “Help” menu contains a link to the online forums where any question you may have has likely been addressed. There is a spartan users guide in portable document format (PDF) that is also accessible from the “Help” menu. Its coverage of installation and registration of the application is thorough. The main features and functions of the application are given only cursory treatment. Finally, there is a tutorial document that covers much of the same information in the users guide. It also includes answers to frequently asked questions. Its use of screenshots with call-outs make the information clear.

Recommendations

MacFamilyTree is a promising genealogy database application. It’s well suited to family historians who highly value the way an application looks. It’s a particularly good fit for those who want their data on their iPhone and those who want hassle-free, no cost web publishing.

Switching to the Mac: Leopard Edition Review

No, this book isn’t written for big, spotted, felines. It’s for people who have switched from Windows to the Macintosh or are curious about doing so. Leopard is the friendly name (unless you are afraid of cats) for the operating system. This friendly, book will help switchers and their genealogy and other files make the transition to the Mac.

Much of the content is duplicated from another book in David Pogue’s Missing Manual series, Mac OS X Leopard: The Missing Manual. That’s okay because this book presents the information differently and adds to it, making it a great choice for switchers. If you already own the Leopard Missing Manual you’ll want to skip this one. If not, have a look at this list of chapter titles to get a glimpse of the comprehensiveness of its coverage:

  • How the Mac is Different
  • Folders, Docks, & Windows
  • Files, Icons, & Spotlight
  • Documents, Programs, & Spaces
  • Eight Ways to Transfer Your Files
  • Transferring Your Email and Contacts
  • Special Software, Special Problems
  • Windows on Macintosh
  • Hardware on the Mac
  • Internet Setup
  • Mail & Address Book
  • Safari & iChat
  • Accounts, Parental Controls, & Security
  • Networking, File Sharing, & Screen Sharing
  • System Preferences
  • The Free Programs
  • Installation & Troubleshooting
  • Appendix: The “Where’d It Go?” Dictionary

The first printing of the book contains some small typographical errors. Fortunately, the publisher’s website provides a list of errata. Checking the list and making notes in the book should mitigate the problem.

Regardless of the typos, the book provides just the right coverage of the topic in a witty, readable style. I recommend Swiching to the Mac to Windows emigrants. Have a look even if it’s been a while since you switched. You will likely find information and tips that improve your efficiency so you have more time for family history research.