Note: This article was updated on 1 Jan 2017 to include additional information from Software MacKiev.
Less than a year after Software MacKiev acquired the Family Tree Maker (FTM) software from Ancestry.com and promised to improve both the Mac and Windows versions with bug fixes and performance improvements, they have fulfilled their commitment and officially released final versions of the updates. People who signed up for the FTM newsletter should be receiving an email from Software MacKiev president, Jack Minsky, announcing the release (I received mine last night). I know a lot of people have been waiting for this update. I also know that a long 10 months of development and testing went into it, and I think FTM fans will be pleased with the performance improvements compared to Ancestry’s last versions (2014 for Windows and 3 for Mac; MacKiev’s versions are 2014.1 and 3.1, respectively). In fairness to Software MacKiev, I should point out that they offered to provided updated versions to anyone who felt they needed them almost from the beginning and recently opened an update center on their website, making it even easier to get the latest build for anyone who had registered his or her software.
So should you go ahead and update your FTM? Certainly, with the usual caveat to keep backups of your trees in a safe place (not just an automatic backup, since these are overwritten every time). I’ve been using an updated version and have found it to be stable (rarely crashes) and fast for all but the most resource intensive operations, like loading an extended family chart for a large tree. Are there still bugs? I think it goes without saying that no complex piece of software is bug-free, but I’m not aware of any critical bugs that could corrupt a tree or result in loss of data. If you do find a bug, MacKiev has made it easy to report them on their website.
I’d like to explain how to get the update, since at first the process seemed a bit redundant to me, but then I realized why. First, you will not update FTM from within the app itself; if you try, it will say you have the most current version. According to Jack Minsky, “The Newsletter went only to those who were signed up for the mailing list to receive updates AND had a registration in our database,” in order to keep their promise about the updates without overloading servers. Next they’ll contact everyone else in the Newsletter database. After that, they’ll turn on the update notification for the MacKiev edition and try to do the same for the Ancestry edition, although MacKiev doesn’t yet know if they’ll be able to do it for the latter.
So everyone will use the FTM Update Center website to get the update. Here are the steps, and again, these are just for the update; owners of older versions will have to purchase an upgrade at the FTM website.
- Make sure your latest version of FTM is installed and then manually backup your trees (File>Backup). MacKiev recommends including your media. Copy your backup files to a safe location, like an external hard drive. If for some reason you lost your copy of FTM, you’ll have to request a replacement copy from MacKiev on their support website and then install it, since the updater looks for an existing copy.
- Make sure you already registered your copy of FTM. If for some reason you never registered your copy, it’s easy to do so from within FTM for MacKiev editions (Family Tree Maker>Register Family Tree Maker). Obviously MacKiev will receive your registration right away for current versions. If you’re not sure if you registered an Ancestry version, you will not be able to do so from within FTM. However, Jack Minsky told me, “Users are given a chance to present proof of purchase right in the Update Center if their registration for an Ancestry edition is not found in our database . . . . All information they need and including the ability to include files will be right there (they won’t need to write to technical support). Those registration forms will be reviewed quickly (no more than one business day) and then people will be added to the database.”
- If your tree is linked with Ancestry.com and you want to continue syncing, do not unlink it.
- Go to the FTM Update Center once you receive the email notifying you of the update. I’m not providing the link here because MacKiev is gradually rolling the email out to all Newsletter subscribers in order to avoid overloading servers (to include Ancestry.com).
- The first screen you see will capture your information so it can check your registration status. See Fig 1.
- The next screen will list the status of your information; since my registration was found, it looked like Fig 2. If your registration is not found, make sure you already registered and entered the same information in the registration check screen. If you still have trouble, you’ll be given the chance to upload proof of purchase (see above).
- On the next screen (Fig 3), you can either choose the free update license or a family pack license for $20, which gives you a license to use FTM on up to 3 computers, both Mac and Windows. This is a good deal if you work primarily on one platform but occasionally would like to use the other, or perhaps one of your family members uses a different platform. If you already own a Family Pack, you do not need to buy another one here. Just download the free single computer update and apply it to any licensed computers you own. You’ll also have the chance to buy a CD or USB drive, and there will also be about four screens offering products like Elizabeth Shown Mills’ Evidence Explained.
- The next screen is an order form, which I thought was redundant at first, but then I realized ordering is different from the registration check (Fig 4). However, it does seem like the order form could pre-populate with data from the registration information. Anyway, go ahead and fill it in.
- The next screen is the payment screen (not shown); since I ordered only the free update, I paid with the pre-filled coupon code.
- The last screen is the order confirmation containing your download link (Fig 5). You will also receive two emails: one from Software MacKiev Support with your order confirmation, and one from Family Tree Maker Support with your download link—definitely save the latter in case you need it again, and the former if you actually purchased anything.
That’s it! Once the update installer finishes downloading, install it the way you usually do for your platform. For MacOS, the installer will actually install a new copy of FTM called “Family Tree Maker 3.1;” your old copy of Family Tree Maker 3 (the Ancestry version) should still be present. You can either trash the old copy or keep it. Presumably the Windows version is installed similarly.
After I updated to the latest version, I can confirm that my tree was still linked to Ancestry.com, and sync still worked, too. According to Jack Minsky, “As long as you’ve purchased a MacKiev edition, syncing, search, and Ancestry’s shaky leaf hints are all here to stay,” even after 1 Jan 2017. The sync technology will change at some time in the future, but sync will still exist. MacKiev has also added a nice feature to password-protect exported tree files (including GEDCOMs). There are a few other enhancements, as well, but most of the improvements were performance related. Overall, this update was worth waiting for, and the best part is that it’s free for owners of Ancestry’s last versions.
If you’re interested in a detailed list of changes to the updated versions, you can find links to them in the FAQ that’s linked to the Update Center. Since it’s not obvious where to find them, here are the direct links: FTM Win 2014.1 and FTM Mac 3.1. Among other things, MacKiev fixed a few GEDCOM issues; they committed to full GEDCOM 5.5.1 compliance, which I’m pleased with and will continue to follow closely.
If you haven’t received the update email yet, be patient just a little longer, and be on the lookout for an email from Family Tree Maker with the subject, “Family Tree Maker News – New Years Edition.” Happy New Year!