Updated on 7 Feb 2018
Now that Family Tree Maker 2017* has been out for 6 months, I’d like to follow up on my initial review. While the consensus is that it’s faster, and FamilySync, the TreeSync replacement works for most people, a small but significant portion of users are still having major problems, judging by the comments on my review and in various user groups. In this follow-up I’ll focus mainly on the problems our readers and I have experienced in the areas of functionality, along with a few cosmetic issues. I’ll also offer a few suggestions for improvement.
Many users still report problems syncing their trees with Ancestry, ranging from inability to sync at all, to duplication of profiles or other corruption issues. Other users experience frequent crashes or freezes, especially on Windows, sometimes necessitating a computer restart.
- Another problem some users have reported and I have experienced in FTM for Mac (don’t know about Windows) is that relationships are sometimes mixed up in
Web Merge, e.g., husbands with wives or fathers with mothers. For example, when merging a record from Ancestry such as this one,
the mother, Gertrude, was called the father, John Cornelius Riegel, and was incorrectly matched to the father in my tree. However, the father in the record was correctly matched to the father in my tree. I have also had wives incorrectly called husbands. See
Figs. 1-3. When going through the web merge wizard, husband, wives, fathers, and mothers should all properly match up with the relationship to the person being merged.
UPDATE: According to a Software MacKiev representative, the problem of incorrect relationships originated from the Ancestry server, not FTM. They solved the problem of wives being called “husband” by referring to them all as “spouse.” However, The mother in Fig. 1 is still being referred to as the father and matched as such. If you find any record where the relationship is wrong, please report it to MacKiev, providing the link to the specific record.
- A glaring error in the Plan workspace is that it states, “Family Tree Maker can import the following file formats: Family Tree Maker (version 5 and newer)” (Fig. 4). However, it cannot. FTM 2017 for Mac can only open files from FTM for Mac through version 3.1
and FTM for Windows 2014 and later; the Windows version can import only versions 2008 and later. This is also a problem with FTM 3.1 and 2014.1.
FTM should be able to import ALL prior versions of FTM. Even RootsMagic can open nearly all FTM and FTW files prior to the MacKiev versions. It’s ridiculous that users with old versions must first convert their files using the Family Tree Maker 2005 Starter Edition.
- A problem I’ve found in both Mac & Windows is that the Filter tool does not filter out dates that are blank. If you follow these steps:
1. Click on the Filter button
2. Filter In Individuals by Any Fact Places contains a place name.
3. Filter Out Individuals by Any Fact Date Is Blank
The filtered list should not contain any individuals that have blank dates. However, the filtered list does contain individuals that have blank dates. Functions should work as documented and expected.
Clicking on a search result from Ancestry in the Web Search workspace sometimes results in the message “Cannot clip the media item” (Fig. 5), even though I’m not trying to clip a media item or there isn’t even a media item to clip. The message also says I must be connected to the internet, but I am connected. The resolution is to click the OK button and the message goes away, so it’s a low priority item. However, it should not occur unless there actually is no internet connection and the user is trying to clip a media item.
From reader Marc Rafferty:
- “Results of Ancestry searches now display a preview media, even for census records. While preview media work well for certain types of records, namely photos, they are really unnecessary for census records. You can’t read these preview media (too small) and they bulk up the list of search results, causing one to have to scroll, scroll, scroll. A simple list is best. I went directly to Ancestry in my web browser to perform a similar search thinking that this might be a result of changes at Ancestry, but actually I can still get that nice, concise list of results on the website. I have no idea why FTM made this change.
- “By default, new searches launched in the web search window of FTM select the “Exact” button for the First/Middle and Last Name fields. I never start searches using that selection as you can miss some important results. So I searched for a way to change this default, but no dice. You have to de-select these two buttons every time you search.”
From reader Rick:
“FTM 2017 for Windows (and probably earlier versions) use Internet Explorer as the browser connected to Ancestry and Family Search” (confirmed by MacKiev tech support). However, effective 1 Feb 2018, FamilySearch will no longer support IE (Fig. 6). Whether this means FamilySearch will stop working completely, or just may not work perfectly, I don’t know; probably the latter. In any case, MacKiev must update the integrated web browser. Ideally they would use something open source, like Chromium or Mozilla.
GEDCOM Import Problems
MacKiev president Jack Minsky previously committed to making FTM GEDCOM 5.5.1 compliant. That was supposed to happen in FTM 2017 but was undoubtedly overcome by events. I hope and expect that it will happen in a very near future update, not the next bug-fix release, but soon thereafter.
- Tag NPFX is incorrectly imported into the Title field. GEDCOM tag NPFX should be imported into a separate Name Prefix field (UI change required). Title should only be used for Nobility Titles (King, Queen, Duke, Countess, etc.).
0 @I003@ INDI
1 NAME Marija /Roskovenski/
2 NPFX Mrs.
2 TITL Countess
- Tag NICK is imported into the Also Known As field. It would be better if it had a separate Nickname field of its own (UI change required).
0 @I003@ INDI
1 NAME Marija /Roskovenski/
1 NAME Mary /Ruzkovenski/
2 TYPE aka
2 NICK Maria
- Tag ALIA is incorrectly imported into the Also Known As field. Per the GEDCOM 5.5.1 Standard, ALIA must not be used this way. Rather, it is a kind of cross reference, “An indicator to link different record descriptions of a person who may be the same person.” Example:
0 @I003@ INDI
1 NAME Marija /Roskovenski/
1 ALIA @I008@
0 @I008@ INDI
1 NAME Märîjá /Rüßkövęñškæ/
1 ALIA @I003@
- Tag REFN on an individual imported as “Person ID.” It would be better if it were called “User Reference Number (Person)” to more closely match the GEDCOM standard, but that would require a change to the UI. Example:
0 @I003@ INDI
1 NAME Marija /Roskovenski/
1 REFN 1
- Import log incorrectly listed GEDCOM tag ASSO as invalid, even though it is valid and was correctly structured:
0 @I009@ INDI
1 NAME Johann /孔子/
1 SEX M
1 ASSO @I003@
2 RELA Godfather
- Failed to import a multimedia record note:
0 @M2@ OBJE
1 FILE /Users/Keith/Pictures/1900 US census population schedule.jpg
2 FORM jpg
2 TITL 1900 U.S. census, Winslow, Jefferson, Pennsylvania
1 NOTE @N12@
0 @N12@ NOTE Census Place: Winslow, Jefferson, Pennsylvania, Record for Stephen Larco; Roll: 1417; Page: 31A; Enumeration District: 85; citing NARA microfilm publication T623
- Tag PEDI adopted in a FAMC structure was incorrectly imported as a birth child instead of an adopted child.
- Failed to import a correctly formatted address structure attached to a RESI structure. There was nothing in the import log that it would be ignored. Also, the import log incorrectly listed the following tags as invalid, even though they are valid and were correctly structured: FAX, EMAIL, WWW. Here’s an example of a correctly formatted address structure:
2 DATE 1891
2 PLAC Winslow, Jefferson, Pennsylvania, USA
2 ADDR 987 Elm St
3 CONT Winslow
3 CONT PA
3 CONT 98765
3 CONT USA
3 ADR1 987 Elm St
3 CITY Winslow
3 STAE PA
3 POST 98765
3 CTRY USA
2 PHON 987-654-3210
2 FAX 987-654-3211
2 EMAIL email@example.com
2 WWW www.countessmaria.com
GEDCOM Export Problems
- While the Address Structure in the Header for the CORP is formatted correctly, Submitter and Repository addresses are not correct. They should be formatted the same way as the CORP, i.e., using the ADDR and CONT tags. They may also use the ADR1, CITY, STAE, POST and CTRY tags, but per the standard:
“The address structure should be formed as it would appear on a mailing label using the ADDR and the CONT lines to form the address structure. The ADDR and CONT lines are required for any address. The additional subordinate address tags such as STAE and CTRY are provided to be used by systems that have structured their addresses for indexing and sorting. For backward compatibility these lines are not to be used in lieu of the required ADDR.and CONT line structure.”
- Imported tag IDNO correctly but exported it using EVEN instead of IDNO. Example of how it should be exported:
1 IDNO 123-45-6789
2 TYPE US Social Security Number
- Tag SLGC (LDS Sealing Child) was missing required tag FAMC when exported. Example of how it should be exported:
2 FAMC @F1@
2 DATE 1882
2 PLAC Salt Lake City, Salt Lake, Utah, USA
- Facts undefined by the GEDCOM standard with only Description elements should be exported as FACT.TYPE instead of using custom tags.
Suggested Feature Improvements
For the Web Search work space:
Provide a way for users to filter out either family tree or record matches. I often don’t want to see family tree matches, or I want to look at them separately. It is possible to do this on the Ancestry website.
- Do not show matches where “This Member Tree record is not currently available. It may have been removed or it may not yet been indexed. Please check again later” (Fig. 7). These are a waste of space and time, since they provide no information, and the user cannot do anything with them.
- In the FamilySync Change Log, most changes and additions are clearly listed. However, for deleted persons, the sync log just shows “<Deleted> person” (see Fig. 8). It seems like there ought to be a way to capture which person was deleted when it occurred so it can be listed on the log.
- The Edit Source Citation dialog of the Web Merge wizard often contains text like “Record for Johann Riegel” in the Citation Text box (Fig. 9), when it actually belongs in the Citation Detail box. The Citation Text box should only contain text quoted from the cited portion of the source.
- Include a way to filter on, search for, or report on Private facts, media and notes. Currently it’s possible to mark these items as private, but there’s no way to go back later and find everything that is marked “private.” In FTM 2017 a workaround is to export to GEDCOM and search for RESN tags, but that’s not a satisfactory solution. It would be nice to find them from within FTM, and it doesn’t seem like it should be that hard.
- Offer a time-limited (not feature-limited) trial version of FTM. At a nickel short of $80, it’s one of the most expensive genealogy apps on the market. All other major applications are either free or offer a free trial. Granted that apparently MacKiev provides refunds to disgruntled customers, but they could avoid the hassle by offering a free trial version.
- From reader Sandra:
With the increasing availability of high-resolution monitors (4k and such-like), FTM for Windows needs to be modified to display properly on at high pixels per inch (aka HiDPI scaling). Although I don’t have a Mac with a Retina display, I was able to simulate a HiDPI display (144 DPI), and FTM 2017 for Mac displayed just fine.
In addition to the points in my review, there are some problems with the Web Clipping function in Web Search:
1. The text “Click here for more help with web clipping” is not hyperlinked to any help page
2. The gray text in the Web Clipping box is barely distinguishable from the gray background (not good for people with visual disabilities)
3. The state of the Web Clipping button when off versus on is hard to distinguish. The tool tip text provides no clue, since it always says “Enable Web Clipping” whether it’s already enabled or not
See attached screenshots
The Index of Individuals button in the People workspace Person view got moved in one of the last builds. Now it’s too close to the Father and Mother buttons (Fig. 11). It should be centered in the space between the Father & Mother and the Add button.
One final problem I’d like to highlight that has been raised by many readers is the slow and unresponsive technical support from MacKiev. Part of the frustration stems from the fact that “they don’t have operators standing by;” the only options are Live Chat or submitting an online help request form, to be answered by reps based primarily in Ukraine. Both avenues can be time-consuming and may not result in a satisfactory resolution for the user. MacKiev really needs to up their game in this area. In the past they’ve been able to get away with using this type of support because most of their products were relatively problem-free, but FTM is a different animal. They inherited a flawed product from Ancestry, especially the Windows version, and on top of that had to implement a new Application Program Interface for the FamilySync feature. Despite countless man-hours spent fixing bugs, the released version still caused major problems for some users, which no doubt cost MacKiev in terms of lost credibility and customers. I can’t tell them how to fix their support problems; I’m just stating the obvious. MacKiev has stated an updated version of FTM will soon be released that will contain “improvements in syncing, performance and security, some frequently requested enhancements to our new 2017 features,” and was supposed to have been released by about 14 Oct 2017, according a newsletter from MacKiev. While the update, when it comes, should reduce the number of problems and thus customers who need help, MacKiev still needs to improve their tech support.
*Family Tree Maker, FamilySync, TreeSync, FamilySearch, and RootsMagic are trademarks or registered trademarks of their respective owners.