After much waiting, Family Tree Maker is finally available for Mac OS X. Should you be excited? Perhaps. Let’s get into some nitty gritty before I tell you my thoughts on the software.
If you have a GEDCOM file, you’re fine. Family Tree Maker will work with the data from damn near every modern genealogy application or website. Also, you can import your data from your Windows version of Family Tree Maker just as easily. There’s no need for you to re-enter any of the information you’ve already completed in another app.
On the navigation bar is a button labeled “Places.” When clicked, it takes you to a live map, powered by Bing, with the graphical representation of every location entered into your family tree. The strange thing, to me at least, is that the map has a toggle switch between 2D and 3D that doesn’t work for the Mac edition. When you click the 3D toggle, you get this error:
For all I know, this is Bing’s fault, but why have a toggle that DOESN’T WORK? If it’s planned for a later update, just put it in then. If it isn’t planned for a later update, then why taunt us? So strange.
Family Tree Maker was purchased by Ancestry.com a while back. It now has built-in integration with their services including Ancestry.com, Rootsweb.com, and Genealogy.com. In the “Web Search” tab, you’ll get an inline browser with a side bar to keep track of the search results you want to remember. It’s not perfectly implemented (No tab support, for example), but it is a nice that I don’t have to Cmd+Tab back and forth between FTM and a web browser.
Planning and Sources
One of the biggest problems for me with Genealogy is the feeling of being overwhelmed by the data. At any one time, I have thousands of names, dates, and citations I could be entering. To combat this, FTM has a planning tab. This is a way to make a prioritized to-do list for your family tree. It really shows that this is intended to be an all-in-one app for Genealogy. It goes beyond just a database interface.
Citations are very important to genealogists. Being able to show where you found your data is important when you need to go back to find more information. The sourcing tab of FTM is very robust, and it allows a variety of ways to annotate your sources any way you’d like. I appreciate that quite a bit. The content of the source isn’t always as important as the context, and I think the developers really understand that.
Media and Publishing
This is the section where I need to soap box for a moment. As a genealogist, I often get caught up in the names, dates, pedigrees, and records. I’m sure that is the case with any genealogist who researches on any sort of large scale. However, we need to remember that we’re dealing with real people that actually lived and breathed. We’re not just grinding through data here. Pictures, sound, and stories are very important for keeping the human element of genealogy alive. When I see a picture of my third-great grandfather next to his name, he suddenly becomes real to me. FTM accomplishes this well with its media management, but iPhoto or Picasa integration would have been a nice touch.
Gathering information shouldn’t be your only goal with genealogy either. Preservation and dissemination are also incredibly important. If nobody can experience the work you do, what’s the point? This is where publishing comes in. The “Publish” tab allows you to customize a layout that allows you to print your family tree. Also, you can order a printed copy of your family tree in a book. If you’re familiar with ordering stuff through iPhoto, this will be a no-brainer.
My biggest complaint is with the user interface of the tree. Adding family members other than direct descendants or ancestors is a bit clunky. I’m constantly going back and forth between the display window and the navigation bar. It’s not a deal-breaker, but it is very clumsy. We’ll see this cleaned up in the next edition for sure.
This is a pretty strong first release. We’re not on par with the Windows users yet, and that grinds my gears a little bit. With a couple of revisions, this is a product I might recommend highly. As of now, I’m on the fence. I’d be less hesitant if they offered a free trial, but unfortunately they don’t. For the time being, proceed only if you’re interested in syncing your offline content with Ancestry.com. Other than that, you’re better off with the freemium family tree webapps like Ancestry.com and Geni.com.
Disclosure: I have a working relationship with Geni.com. My opinions are my own, and they are not influenced at all by them. I purchased this software with my own money. I am a paying member of both Ancestry.com and Geni.com because I am a genealogy enthusiast.