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.

Upgrading from a Previous Version

Before you even install and open version 3, I highly encourage you to backup your existing FTM file, if you don’t routinely do so. Version 3 uses a different file format and will convert your old files to the new format when you open them. In fact, version 3 uses the same format as version 2014 for Windows, so they are now compatible with each other. Version 2014 for Windows users no longer need to use the file migration utility when you send them your FTM file. When I opened my existing FTMM2 file, the application offered to make a backup before converting, but I think it’s a better idea to use the tried and tested version 2 to make your backup. FTM also offered to link my file to my Ancestry tree, an offer I accepted. All of this proceeded fairly smoothly; after the file was converted, a “Media: processing” progress bar appeared (fig. 1), and then a notification that 1 media file was missing appeared (fig. 2).

Fig. 1. Media Processing Progress

Fig. 1. Media Processing Progress

Fig. 2. Media Missing Notification

Fig. 2. Media Missing Notification

This was a valid message, as I must have accidentally deleted the original file.

Feature Parity with Windows Version

As I noted above, one of my biggest complaints with version 2 was the lack of feature parity with the Windows version, despite costing up to 75% more. I’m happy to report that the Mac version has drawn almost even with the Windows version–with a few notable exceptions. Version 3 for Mac now includes Unicode support, hint syncing, export of media to GEDCOM files, and most of the same reports as the Windows version. However, there are still at least two features that are missing from the Mac version:

1. Smart Stories: As the Ancestry Help page explains, “Smart Stories is a narrative tool that can help you record family stories quickly by selecting facts, sources, and notes you’ve already entered in your tree; then you can drag and drop them into a special text item called a smart story. And best of all, smart story text is linked to your tree. So if you find out that Grandpa’s birth date is different than you thought, you can change it in your tree and the text will be updated automatically.” Why can’t this feature be included for the Mac version?
2. Plugins: Plugins are tools that 3rd party developers can provide for exporting FTM data. To my knowledge there are no plugins available yet, although at least one is in development. Again, why can’t this feature be included in the Mac version?

As a user, I’d like to see feature parity between the Windows and Mac versions of FTM so I only have to use the Mac version instead of having to run the Windows version from Bootcamp, Parallels, VMWare, or VirtualBox to use a feature I need. In addition, the Mac version is still a 32-bit application, while the Windows version is now 64-bit. The Ancestry.com Blog even highlighted this fact: “New 64-bit support (this is something our customers have been really wanting on the PC”. Well, guess what? Ancestry customers really want it on the Mac, too! Mac OS X has supported 64-bit applications since 10.5 Leopard, and most modern applications are now 64-bit. 64-bit applications generally run better on 64-bit systems, and, according to Wikipedia, the x86-64 instruction set “supports vastly larger amounts of virtual memory and physical memory than is possible on its predecessors, allowing programs to store larger amounts of data in memory”. Previous versions of FTM for Mac have been CPU and memory hogs and also prone to frequent crashes. In its defense, version 3 seems to play more nicely with system resources, rarely exceeding 100% of CPU or 400 MB of memory.

Pet Peeves and Previous Problems

The previous versions of FTM for Mac enabled users to merge two files, using an algorithm to match people they had in common. In the Merge Wizard you can set the match threshold on a scale of 0 to 1000 (fig. 3), with a threshold of 0 meaning no similarity and 1000 meaning much similarity (200 is the minimum).

Fig. 3. Merge Wizard Step 1

Fig. 3. Merge Wizard Step 1

I would have expected scores above 600 to have at least some similarity, but that has not been the case in the past. Unfortunately, there appear to have been no improvements to the match people algorithm in version 3. Using a host file of about 3,500 people and an import file of about 1,800 people with the match threshold set to 600, FTM found 25 people that were valid matches, all having a match score of 990 or 1000. There were a further 280 people who were flagged as possible matches. These possible matches ranged in score from 400 (even though I had set the minimum at 600) to 1000. The matches with a score between 990 and 1000 were all valid, and it seems like they should have been marked to be merged. On the other hand, none of the matches below 990 were valid and were, in fact, way out of the ballpark. Here are some examples:

Score Host Import
630 Marian Rundel Nicola-Marianne Haser
800 Anne Unknown Baerbel Gliese
600 Stewart Allen Johann Adam Riegel
844 Henry Conkle Wilfried Metzger
881 Roger Lane Josef Heume
875 Johnny Lee Abernathy Jacob Riegel

The only one that is remotely similar is the first one, where there is a similarity between “Marian” and “Marianne.” All the rest are useless, and with over 250 of them to go through, it was quite tedious to click the “Do Not Merge These People” button that many times (fig. 4).

Fig. 4. Merge Wizard Step 2

Fig. 4. Merge Wizard Step 2

The algorithm that is used to determine possible matches appears to be faulty if only scores over 989 are even close to matching.  As a user, I expect to be presented mainly with viable matches, so either the algorithm needs to be fixed, or only offer matches with a score of 990 and better.

Another pet peeve of mine is how past versions of FTM handle AKAs in GEDCOM files. FTMM3 (and all previous versions) exports the “Also Known As” fact using the ALIA tag in GEDCOM files. According to the GEDCOM 5.5 specification, this is incorrect. In GEDCOM 5.5 and the later draft versions, the ALIA tag is “An indicator to link different record descriptions of a person who may be the same person.” It should conform to the structure, ALIA @<XREF:INDI>@. FTM does not use it this way; FTM uses it as a personal attribute for a nickname or AKA within the same record, such as Jack Smith for John Smith, not a cross-reference from one record to another. There is no tag for AKA in the GEDCOM 5.5 standard (probably because it expects alternate names to be contained in different NAME records). FTM should use a user-defined tag beginning with the underscore character (_), just as it does with the Military Service field and other fields. I suggest using _AKA so it’s not confused with the standard ALIA tag. Although some other genealogy applications are able to import the ALIA tag in GEDCOM files created by FTM, not all do. In order to conform with the current standard (as old as it is), FTM should not abuse the ALIA tag.

Another problem in past versions that has carried over into version 3 is that there is significant lag when editing media details. When editing media details like Caption, Date, or Description from the Collection pane of the Media workspace, the app is extremely laggy. I can type fairly quickly, but there is a significant lag between my keystrokes and when the characters show up on the screen. The program also hangs for up to a minute  (beach ball spins) at other times, like when renaming a media file. This has also been a problem in FTMM2 (although it wasn’t always; it just showed up sometime in the past year). Editing media details from the Detail pane of the Media workspace, the Media tab of the Person workspace, and the media tab of a Source citation are not a problem.

FTM allows users to find and merge Ancestry.com record information in their tree, to include source citations for the record. On the Summary screen of the Web Merge Wizard, there is an option to edit the Source-Citation to be added. After clicking the Edit button, there is an option to choose a different Source title. After clicking this button, all of the source titles in the database are presented, but they are not in alphabetical order (fig. 5), which makes it very difficult to find the correct source title.

Fig. 5. Source Titles Not Alphabetized

Fig. 5. Source Titles Not Alphabetized

How hard can it be to change the software so that it sorts the source titles alphabetically? That way users can find them more easily. I submitted this request to Ancestry Support in Oct 2012 and was told, “The problem has been reported to our developers and hopefully will be corrected in the near future.” It still has not been corrected in version 3. Source Titles under the “Source Citation Information” drop-down box on the right-hand side of the Sources workspace are also not alphabetized. They should be so users can easily find the one they want. Users who carefully document their sources and put them in proper bibliographic format (such as Evidence Explained) will find this very frustrating. I have almost 700 sources in my main tree; scrolling through a list of them in random order is a waste of my time.

One problem that I’ve written about before is the Sync Validation Failed error. Sometimes the sync button changes to an exclamation point in a triangle. Clicking this button brings up a window that says, “Sync Validation Failed. It appears that the online tree has been deleted. Online tree name:” (fig. 6).

Fig 6. Sync Validation Failed Error

Fig 6. Sync Validation Failed Error

This error  occurs even though my online tree has not been deleted and is still linked to my FTMM3 tree, as can be seen in the lower right-hand corner of the screenshot where it says under the Web Dashboard, “Ancestry Trees, Riegelbaum Pruned.” Also notice in the screenshot that there are two options: Attempt to restore the link to this online tree (which is grayed out), or Confirm the unlinking of this tree to the online tree. From past experience with FTMM2, I know that I should NOT click the “OK” button. The first time I got this error, I did, and of course FTMM2 dutifully unlinked my tree with my Ancestry tree, and I spent hours uploading it again. I have found an easy workaround until Ancestry fixes this bug: click the “Cancel” button, close FTMM3 and reopen it. You will see the normal sync button again and should be able to sync your tree, barring any other problems. I reported this sync validation error bug to Ancestry.com Support on several occasions and they finally said, “We’ve forwarded your feedback on to our developers for consideration on the next version of the program.” This is a fairly serious defect (even though there is a workaround, which most people probably don’t know about), and it appears not to have been resolved yet.

Now with all of these pet peeves and problems that haven’t been addressed, you might think that I still don’t recommend FTM for Mac 3, but they’re really rather minor in the grand scheme of things. Most of them have workarounds or don’t affect my workflow that much. Given that FTMM3 is almost on par with FTM 2014 for Windows, to include the same regular price of $39.99 for the basic version, I do recommend FTM for Mac 3, especially for Mac users who have Ancestry.com accounts and like to keep their FTM and Ancestry trees in sync or easily search Ancestry’s collections from FTM. FTMM3 is on sale now for $29.99. Click here to get it while it’s on sale!

In my next post, I will review some of the new and improved features of FTMM3, like the new Family View™ and improved TreeSync™.

Comments

  1. Ben says

    Thanks for the review Keith! I recommend FTMM3 too.

    I’m not at all concerned about the lack of the plugin feature on the Mac. As you point out there aren’t any plugins anyway. I much prefer that Ancestry remains focused on performance, stability, new features, and attaining feature parity. They’ve clearly prioritized the features they’re implementing on the Mac and I appreciate their choices.

    Here’s a tip for those who are upgrading: Click the link at the end of Keith’s review, then in the page that loads, click the “Upgrade info” link below the “Download” button. That will save you another two dollars.

    • Ben says

      It’s not difficult. It’s a matter of exporting to a GEDCOM in Reunion then importing that file into FTMM3; however, there are issues to be aware of that can arise in the GEDCOM exchange. It depends on how you store data in Reunion.

      I’m planning on writing an FTMM3 buyers guide and including that information.

      • says

        I have just started with computer based genealogy on my Mac. I bought the latest version, but it runs so slowly, I am being driven crazy. I have compacted my files, but it made no difference. It is easier to work on my iPad Ancestry or on the Ancestry Website and then sync. I am not impressed at all.

        • Keith says

          How much RAM do you have? FTM uses a lot of RAM. In addition, as I mentioned, it’s still a 32-bit app, so it’s not optimized to run on 64-bit systems, like the latest versions of Mac OS X. However, I find that it runs tolerably well on my 2008 Macbook Pro with 6 GB of RAM.

  2. Jerry says

    FTM Mac2 (once Ben’s Tutorials were digested) works greats great. I am in Canada and just wondering if Ben knows when Mac 3 will be available in this Country. Appears to be only US right now. When I try to down load I am stopped by the provider – do they check my physical address of my Ancestry Account or my IP Address.
    Jerry

  3. Jerry says

    Further to above – I tried again today and got the same rejection screen; but like magic it went on to the order screen. It would not allow me to enter out of US address, so just game my Florida Winter address and now I have FTM Mac3 up and running. I have questions on “Places” and will search around for answers – It looks interesting but not sure if it wants complete addresses or just town, county, country, etc.

    • Keith says

      Jerry, if you’d like to be able to use the place validation feature, you should enter places in the following format:

      Town, County (but do not include the word “county”), State/Province, Country

      For example, the format for St John, News Brunswick, is: St John, Saint John, New Brunswick, Canada, where “Saint John” is the county.

      The Ancestry places database does not use periods. It usually spells places the way they are spelled in the original country, except country names themselves are in English.

      If you have any more questions, please let us know.

      • Jerry says

        Thanks Keith; that’s how I enter them. But the new feature “places” seems to not recognize a lot of them. Not a huge deal and probably not use nearly enough yet.

        • Keith says

          Depending on how you entered your tree into FTM, the places are set to unresolved by default, especially if you imported the tree from a GEDCOM or older version of FTM. If you entered each place individually, then you should be prompted to correct the place names as you type them (assuming you use the Fast Fields for places in Preferences).

  4. Jerry says

    I know there’s an easy answer to this; but having a grey moment. Have retired my old MacBook and just setting up the new one. Main tree is on my iMac and Synced to Ancestry.ca and to my iPhone. How do I Sync the iMac main file/online file with my MBPro.

    • Keith says

      Unfortunately, there isn’t really an easy way to do it. You can sync an Ancestry tree with only one FTM file at a time, so if you decide you want to sync it with your MBPro, you won’t be able to sync it with your iMac anymore. Basically what you need to do is back up your tree on your iMac, to include media files, and check the box that says, “Allow restored file to resume syncing.” Then move the backup file to your MBPro and restore it. You might have to unlink the tree from your iMac after you back it up but before you restore it.

      • Jerry says

        That’s what I figured. Might just work with the On line tree if required when on the road and it will sync to the iMac. Also have my iPhone App that is helpful for some stuff. Much appreciated.

  5. Jerry says

    Keith here is an example of how the “Places” lists each address with red “?” marks on icon in front address (not sure if you can open it):
    /Users/Martell/Desktop/FTMM3 Places.pdf

    • Keith says

      I can’t see your file, but the red question marks indicate that the place names need to be resolved. To do this, right- or control-click on each name and click “Resolve this place name.” Find the right name in the list that comes up and click “Replace,” or if it isn’t in the list, click “Ignore.” Then the red question mark will go away.

  6. Collette Minter says

    I have FTM 3 for Mac and cannot complete the media sync with a new Ancestry tree. 6400 people. 2700 media items. Keeps processing and processing. Any suggestions?

    • Keith says

      Collette, 2700 media is a lot, probably over 2 GB, so it could take quite a while before everything processes. Just make sure you leave FTMM3 open with your computer awake and connected to the internet (a wired ethernet connection would be best).

      Let me see if I understand you correctly. You have a family tree on Ancestry.com, and you tried to download it into a new file in FTMM3. Is that correct? The troubleshooting steps Ben linked to are intended for uploading a tree from FTMM3 to Ancestry.com. If you’re downloading from Ancestry to FTMM3, it will be harder to find any bad media, but you should start with any PDF files attached to your tree. Can you download and open all of them? If any of them won’t open, try deleting them from your tree (hopefully you have a backup copy somewhere).

  7. Robert Runion says

    I first bought FTM 2 for MAC about 2011 or earlier but was never able to register the product. In multiple discussions with technical support, none of the technicians, including senior technicians, were able to figure why I couldn’t register. After several years of trying, one technician suggested upgrading to FTM 3 which I did this past January. FTM 3 will not register either and none of the techs can figure why. A number of folks have told me that they have had no problem, but even accessing my computer by technicians, they were unable to register the products nor could they provide any suggestions. The product will work on my iMAC, but the usage of the ‘fig leaf’ and web site features are not possible since I can not register either FTM2 or FTM 3. A royal pain, so I remain with Reunion 10.

  8. Margaret Murdock says

    Keith, any better luck with the merge feature in FTMM3 lately? I have separate trees for my mom and dad’s lines. I prefer not to have “all my eggs in one basket” so it is easier to troubleshoot problems, faster to sync, etc. I had a LOT of problems from when TreeSync first started, and from early attempts to automatically merge files following ancestry.com’s instructions. Two years later, after a lot of learning and tedious work, my files are in relatively good shape. I am happy having them separate, but have now had autosomal DNA testing with FTDNA. You can only upload one Gedcom at a time, so I can only match with one side of my family. Ideally, I would like to be able to merge my two FTMM3 files periodically to create a single updated Gedcom for DNA matching purposes, but only if it is relatively quick, simple and automated.

    • Margaret Murdock says

      Re merging FTMM3 files: To clarify: I would like to keep two separate working FTMM3 files, and create a 3rd merged file (without media) from them for DNA matching purposes. Periodically, I would create a new merged file w/o media to replace the earlier merged file. Any workarounds? For instance, if I set the match criterion for >990? Seems to me, though, when I tried merging in FTMM3, it didn’t give me the option to set the criteria. Can’t remember, it was a few months back. What about exporting/renaming files w/o media, then merging those at >990? Thanks.

  9. Bob Runion says

    I seem to have encountered several additional problems with a REUNION 10 GEDCOM being imported into FTMM3, in addition to those in my note of 5 May 2014 above.

    I just viewed Ben Sayers video on importing a REUNION GEDCOM into FTM; however, since the video is dated 2010, it appears to predate REUNION 10 and FTMM2 and FTMM3 since some of the data has been moved around in one or all programs. The video gave some tantalizing fixes as regards the source problems after import, but stopped short of going into more details that I would like to see. I have the source problems as discussed in Ben’s video and see no solution.

    1) My installation in 2011 of FTM for MAC 2 went well (I’ve done it at least a dozen times or more over the years) and despite the inability to register the product, I did prepare a GEDCOM file from REUNION and was able to install it many many times. Unfortunately, since I could not register the product, the ‘fig leaf’ hints were inoperable.

    (2) In importing the GEDCOM under both the ‘Standard GEDCOM’ and the ‘Custom(Reunion) GEDCOM’ options, the ‘Suffix Title’ from REUNION (Jr, Sr, Rev., I, II, III, IV, Major, etc), is imported into FTMM 3 as the SURNAME! E.g. – In my case, ‘ROBERT SURNAME, Jr’, becomes listed in FTMM 3 as ‘Jr’, as does my Father’s name of ‘ROBERT SURNAME, Sr’ which becomes just ‘Sr’. I have hundreds of names in file that are erroneously displayed in this fashion;

    (3) I imported my backup file from FTMM2 that had been saved. This file now shows in FTMM3 that although I am ‘ROBERT SURNAME, Jr’, my name becomes listed in this FTMM3 as ‘ROBERT SURNAME’, as does my Father’s name of ‘ROBERT SURNAME, Sr’ becomes ‘ROBERT SURNAME’, also. No resolution appears to be available and I dread trying to manually correct several thousand Jr, Sr, I, II, III, Rev., Major, etc, persons in my file.

    (4) I even prepared a GEDCOM from an old LEGACY file I have on a DELL PC running Windows 7. Once installed in FTMM2 and/or FTMM3, the same issues continue – no registration possible, nor can I activate my Ancestry subscription. Needless to say the foregoing name and source problems continue.

  10. Keith says

    Margaret, as long as you set the Match Threshold to 990 (under Advanced Options), you should be fine (fewer false positives). As you said, first you’ll have to export the files to be matched without media before matching them. Personally, I keep all of my family lines (even collateral lines and unrelated lines) in one file of 4700 people. I find it too cumbersome to be switching back and forth between files. I have not had any TreeSync issues in quite some time. I also think your suggested procedure is an invitation to introducing errors into your merged file, because every time you merge the files, there’s the possibility of merging records that shouldn’t be merged.

  11. bearpawz says

    Keith~ I apologize, but this is going to be a dumb question.. :0( I’ve had TFM3 for Mac for maybe 2 months and I’m so confused with how it works that I rarely even log on anymore. I realize I can read comments on ancestry com from others who are talking about it, but it seems like the majority of people having there are just talking about syncing or other problems with it. So my dumb question: Is there’s a guide… a manual…. any sort of instruction on how to get started on FTM3 for Mac? Thanks so much! (and sorry!).. :/ sherry

    • Ben Sayer says

      Hi Sherry. An electronic version of the FTM 3 Companion Guide comes with the software. You can access it by clicking “Help” on the menu bar then clicking “Companion Guide.”

      Let me know if there’s anything in particular that I can make videos to cover for you.

      —-Ben >@<

  12. MpPierce says

    Have you had, or heard of, any issues in converting source information from FTMM 2 to FTMM 3? I just tried it 2 different ways and my thousands of source citations are completely gone after the conversion. I’ve tried searching around for an answer and I can only find a few discussions around converting from another program entirely and/or GEDCOM imports.

    Here’s a link to what I end up with after the conversion completes:
    https://www.evernote.com/shard/s30/sh/c7e74821-9120-45c7-9851-230c40d71e11/a90f9affe86322a819ea83f917b52f0d/deep/0/Michael-Pierce-Family-Tree.ftm.png

  13. Carolyn Henderson says

    Well, thanks all I won’t be buying FTM until Ancestry.com get their act together for MAC. I don’t have the patience of a Saint to fiddle around trying to get something to work that should have been sorted out prior to production.

    I did have it for my PC for 2 months huge amount of work done and not backed up but prior to PC dying the FMM worked wonderfully.

    Silly me just expected/assumed they would have made a great programme work on MAC

  14. Kevin says

    I am picking up genealogy again and want to update my old files. I’m a little embarrassed to say that I have not used the files since FTM 2002 (ver 10) for Windows XP. I’m now on a Mac (Mavericks) and am looking to buy the software all over again. The 2002 version is running ok on Windows 7 in Parallels, but I really should upgrade the files and the software.

    Can anyone say if FTM for Mac 3 would be able to import these old .FTW files? Or maybe only the PC version can import them?

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