Tag Archives: ftm

Genealogy Apps in the Mac App Store (Update)

Over two years ago I wrote about the launch of the Mac App Store, Apple’s resident app store available on all modern Macs, and the three genealogy-related applications that launched with it. At the time the three applications available were MacFamilyTree, Family Tree Maker, and Date Calculator.

Two years later, what is the state of Mac genealogy in the App Store? There are now six applications that show up if you search ‘genealogy’:

Six Genealogy Apps in the Mac App Store

MacFamilyTree and Date Calculator are still there, while Family Tree Maker has been dropped from App Store. Newly added applications include Heredis, My Family Tree, GedScape Gold, and MemoryMiner.

Why did Ancestry.com drop Family Tree Maker from the App Store? I have no idea, but there are a few possibilities. The coding standards for applications in the Mac App Store are very strict, and they’ve gotten stricter over time. It’s possible one of the those restrictions made it difficult for Ancestry.com to comply with the rules of the store. It’s also possible that the lack of a clear upgrade path in the App Store was a bigger issue. Ancestry.com sells annual upgrades to their genealogy applications, and the App Store doesn’t make this very easy. If anyone purchased Family Tree Maker on the App Store, I’m curious if you received any notification that the app was pulled, and for what reason.

Heredis had a major update recently, and that included launching it into the Mac App Store, as well as a free version for iPhone and iPad. Heredis calls this version the ‘Blue Suite’ and includes interperable version on PC, Mac, and iOS. I haven’t used this new version of Heredis, but it looks quite impressive. There’s actually a 20% off sale going on now for Heredis, through February 24, through the app store or through their web site. They have a free trial version also, so it’s worth checking out first. Two of the more interesting features to me include the ability to create illustrated charts (i.e. a tree superimposed on an actual tree graphic) and the ability to generate a book. I’ve published a genealogy book before, but it required a lot of work in Adobe InDesign, and took months to finish. Imagine being able to generate a book with a single click? I haven’t used this feature, but it’s something I think all genealogy application should offer in some form.

My Family Tree and GedScape Gold are two apps I’ve never heard of before. My Family Tree seems to be a chart-based genealogy app that keeps an updated chart that you can add people to, but they show no other features in their description, and no trial version on their web site. According to reviews in the App Store, there are some bugs and support is not easy to get. It looks like an early version of an app that could offer a simple genealogy option to some, but it isn’t quite ready yet (or supported well enough). GedScape Gold is a program to browse GEDCOM file and output a web version of your family tree. The application seems to have mixed reviews, although unlike My Family Tree, there is a support site and a free trial version available to test before buying. I suppose there is a purpose for GEDCOM viewers, but I certainly lean towards more full-featured applications.

MemoryMiner is an application I really like, and am happy to see it’s in the App Store. This application fits in my visual sensibilities, where you can take a large number of photographs and link each person in the photo and can switch between looking at photos fro ma specific place, or of a specific person, etc. It’s very powerful, and also includes the ability to import a GEDCOM file to populate the person database. My only big problem with the app is that while you can import a GEDCOM, it’s very difficult to subsequently update information on the people you import. If you’re working on a project over a long period of time, chances are your family database will be updated, and it would be great if you could import those changes easily. Another problem is the web site of the company hasn’t been updated since 2011. Hopefully this is still an actively developed application, as it is unique in the way it allows you to tell a visual story of your family.

One last note. In my post last year, I mentioned that Date Calculator was created by the same company that puts out GEDitCOM II, a very interesting genealogy program for the Mac. GEDitCOM II has some very advanced features I’ve never seen in any genealogy program on any platform, including scripting using Applescript, Python and Ruby (including an online library of downloadable scripts), allows you to completely customize the user interface (including downloadable UIs), outputting a book using LaTeX (see this PDF of a book output of the Windsor family), etc. It’s really quite an impressive program, but even though its been updated to work with application signing for OS X (a feature needed to show that a program is from a reliable source), it is not yet available through the App Store. I’m sure there are some good technical reasons for it not being available through the App Store, but it’s really a shame as I think GEDitCOM II is underrated and could use the extra publicity of being available through the App Store to gain marketshare.

New iPhone and iPad App from Ancestry.com

If you use Ancestry.com and you have an iPhone or iPod Touch, you might know about their Tree-to-Go app that came out awhile back. It was a very basic application for viewing the family trees that you had on Ancestry.com. Frankly, it wasn’t particularly useful, as it only let you view the trees you had uploaded to Ancestry.com and wasn’t very interactive. In addition, if you had an iPad with its larger screen, it was not optimized for that, and could not show anything more on the iPad than on the iPhone.

Ancestry on iPhone

That all changed yesterday with the introduction of a new app, now called simply Ancestry.

This new version seems much more polished, and adds some major features.

First off, it fully supports the iPad, and can take advantage of the larger screen. You can now see not only the trees you have on Ancestry.com, but those that are shared with you from other users.

Also, if you’ve attached records to people in your tree, such as a census record, you can now view those records on your device (see the picture on the right).

For those who use both Ancestry.com and an iOS device (iPhone, iPod Touch or iPad) this seems like a very useful application, especially if you share trees with other Ancestry.com users. They also announced that they are ‘carefully considering’ the creation of an Android version as well, although I wouldn’t hold your breath waiting for an Android version.

The interesting thing to me about this seemingly very polished application is the contrast this illustrates with the Mac application they also recently introduced. Why is their iOS app so much more polished than their Mac app? It might seem odd that the iOS app, which is free, has had more attention in its design than their Mac application for which they charge quite a lot. I suspect the answer to this question is that the development of their iOS app is done by a completely different team than the one that handles Family Tree Maker. I’m not sure either of these applications are developed in-house by Ancestry, but either way it seems the teams working on these are completely different.

New versions of MacFamilyTree and FamilyTreeMaker for Mac

In the past couple of days both MacFamilyTree and FamilyTreeMaker for Mac have received updates.

MacFamilyTree was updated to version 6.0.11 which offers some minor web-output related fixes and some localization updates. You can download the update from their website, and for those who bought it via the App Store presumably it will show up there soon.

FamilyTreeMaker for Mac was updated to version 19.2.1.241 (yeah I don’t understand their numbering system either) and fixes ‘numerous stability issues’ and adds support for the GEDCOM 5.5.1 draft among other fixes. I’m surprised about the GEDCOM update, by which I mean I’m surprised FTM for Mac didn’t already support the 5.5.1 draft which was released in 1999 and has some very important updates like support for Unicode. If you have the retail version, this update should pop up when you launch the program or select ‘Check for Updates…’ from the menu. If you have the version from the App Store, again this will probably show up soon.

I own both of these programs, but do not use them very much because of two factors:

1) It’s hard to switch from one genealogy program to another, no matter how well they support GEDCOM.
2) As outdated as the Reunion is, and how much I complain about it, I still like the general user interface of Reunion and how it displays families in the program.

I’ve written previously about trying to switch to FTM for Mac, but I was unsuccessful mainly because of the difficulty of importing all the media files, and my general confusion over the user interface which I find very cluttered. In addition, I find the Internet features, while appealing, to be very slow.

I haven’t given MacFamilyTree its due I suppose, and many people like, but as I received it as part of a software bundle and didn’t actually buy it directly, I guess it hasn’t gotten enough mindshare from me. One day I’ll have to put it through its paces.

The Mac App Store Launches, with 3 Genealogy Apps

Today Apple launches an update to their operating system, OS X 10.6.6, which includes the new Mac ‘App Store’. The Mac App Store is accessible from the Apple menu, and like the App Store in iTunes for the iOS devices (iPod Touc, iPhone and iPad) you can search for apps by keyword or see lists of featured apps, etc.

The store is almost exctly like the iOS version in iTunes, allowing you to quickly buy apps you find. It helpfully knows which apps you’ve already installed (even not through the store) so when it shows me the listing for iPhoto, it says ‘Installed’ instead of listing a price.

A quick search for genealogy apps turned up three apps in the store when it launched. The three apps are MacFamilyTree, Family Tree Maker and Date Calculator. As I have all of these on my computer already, it wouldn’t show me the price of the apps which is strange. MacFamilyTree is offering a 50% discount for the next week through the App Store, but 50% off of what? I could go look at their web site to see what it normally sells for, but instead I’m going to follow the links Apple gives out for sharing each app, and on the web it doesn’t know I have the apps. So MacFamilyTree is selling for $24.95 (I guess normally it sells for $50), Family Tree Maker is selling for $99.99 and Date Calculator is $9.99.

Interestingly, Date Calculator is a utility that was created by the same company that makes GEDitCOM II for the Mac. I suppose that means GEDitCOM II is coming to the App Store soon as well. As Date Calculator is free to users of GEDitCOM II (who buy it from the company’s web site), I wonder how that will work in the App Store – will companies be allowed to bundle apps together like that? Time will tell. Also, I don’t remember exactly, but I though Date Calculator was free in the past. Did they possibly make it a paid app just for the App Store? Does anyone remember if Date Calculator was free?

Multimedia support in FTM for Mac – a bit lacking

Continuing my attempt to transition my family tree from Reunion to FTM for Mac, I wanted to discuss FTM’s handling of image listed in the GEDCOM file.

So first, I like the fact that FTM has a Media tab where you can view all images in your family tree file. That is something I’ve wanted from Reunion for a long time. That said, it seems FTM’s handling of the imported images is a bit sub-par. For starters, even though it has the correct path for each image file, it can’t seem to find them. Reunion exports the standard Mac (and UNIX) file path to each image, which in my case begins with a tilde (~) indicating that the file is in a sub-folder of my home folder. FTM doesn’t seem to know what that means. It lets you either search manually for the file or have FTM search for it. Either option works, but it would take forever for me to do this for each image.

Reunion has one very nice feature when a file goes missing (like if you move it to a different folder) where it lets you find the new location, and then it looks at all the other images that were in the same folder and updates them as well. This is a big timesaver and something FTM should emulate. THis in combination with the Media view that FTM offers would make a large task like changing all the image locations much easier to manage.

Truth be told, however, this task shouldn’t be needed at all by FTM – if it understood file paths properly this wouldn’t be an issue.

Taking a look at the GEDCOM file itself I can see that Reunion does something very nice – it exports the image cropping information. Frequently when using an image for a specific person you crop the image so it only shows that person. This is particularly true for the ‘primary’ image that one uses to represent the person in the tree. One can also use one group photo to crop out individual face shots of many different people. Showing the full image in a small window where you only want the head would be fairly useless. It’s not clear to me if the _CROP tag that Reunion uses is part of the GEDCOM standard or some kind of generally agreed-upon way to share that information, but it seems to me that FTM ignores the information. Worse, and the likely reason, I can’t figure out any way to crop photos in FTM at all.

I have a lot of complaints about Reunion’s handling of media. I think it should offer to keep a library of thumbnails or even web-resolution images itself, so that it doesn’t need to spend so much time doing image conversion when doing things like creating a web site based on your tree. I think it needs a central media view where you can manage all the images in your tree and make sure all the files can be located, etc. I think some integration with iPhoto would be nice. I think being able to tag photos with information on the people in them and the location information would be incredibly useful. Even with all of these complaints, FTM seems surprisingly inadequate when compared to Reunion in this area.