Tag Archives: ftm

Managing the FTM transition

FTM TRANSITIONIt’s certainly an interesting story about Ancestry dropping their desktop genealogy software Family Tree Maker (FTM). Ancestry themselves claimed the software was “The #1 Selling Family Tree Program”. It would seem unusual that the #1 selling program would be discontinued. It’s possible FTM was some kind of loss-leader to get people to sign up to Ancestry.com, although it seems odd that they would need to lose money on the program. Other genealogy programs seem to make money. It would seem logical then that the transition is strategic, in order to get more people to use their online family tree product, which as part of their overall service, generates much more revenue for them. As a strategic decision, however, I think they made a mistake in not transitioning the features many genealogists rely on in desktop software to their online offering first, features like charts and reports, as well as better backups of data than the GEDCOM available from Ancestry’s online service.

Their initial blog post announcing the ‘retirement’ of FTM has so far generated over 8500 comments. A second follow-up post has generated another 950 comments so far. Cleary, people have concerns about how Ancestry is handling the transition.

Other companies, of course, are not sitting still. Pretty much every other major desktop genealogy software company has made announcements trying to get disaffected FTM users to switch over to their software. Here are the announcements I found:

Ancestral Quest (Win & Mac*): Ancestral Quest competitive upgrade for Family Tree Maker
Family Historian (Win): Family Historian Welcomes Family Tree Maker Users
Heredis (Win & Mac): Important information about genealogy
Legacy (Win): How to import Family Tree Maker into Legacy PLUS your questions answered
MacFamilyTree (Mac): Family Tree Maker discontinued – Switch to MacFamilyTree and Switch from Family Tree Maker to MacFamilyTree and import your family tree
MyHeritage Family Tree Builder (Win & Mac*): FTM Users: Join MyHeritage and get Family Tree Builder with an Unlimited Size Family Site for Free
Reunion (Mac): Moving your tree from Family Tree Maker to Reunion
RootsMagic (Win & Mac*): Family Tree Maker Upgrade
* These Mac versions run in Emulation using CrossOver or similar technology. This means they are essentially the Windows versions running on the Mac, with no special adaptation made to the user interface to fit Macintosh interface guidelines.

My impression was that RootsMagic was the first to come out and announce a transition plan, even launching the site ftmupgrade.com with instructional videos within a day of the announcements. Most companies have offered financial incentives to switch now as well. Ancestral Quest is offering $10 off their normal price, Family Historian is offering 20% off, Heredis is offering 50% off, MacFamilyTree is offering 50% off, MyHeritage is offering an unlimited size family tree (normally their free tree is limited to 250 people), and RootsMagic is offering their full version for $20 (instead of $44.90). Most of these deals are limited in time, so if you’re interested in taking advantage, definitely check out the programs soon.

It seems everyone suggests exporting a GEDCOM from FTM and then importing that GEDCOM. Only FTM 2012 and later support exporting media with the GEDCOM file.

One problem that seems to be common among those transitioning is how FTM handles source citations. FTM allows media to be linked to source citations, which are in turn linked to a master source. Many genealogy programs use a single master source, but not individual source citations for media. This is confusing some imports, and is not being ignored by the other software companies. I’ve noticed Reunion mentioning that they are working on a fix for this in their forum. I’m sure others are also working on this problem.

Do you use FTM? What are your plans for transitioning? Are you planning to switch to Ancestry’s online site, or moving to a different desktop program? Have you already switched? What has been your experience so far?

Ancestry just killed off Family Tree Maker

It appears that Ancestry.com just killed off their desktop genealogy software Family Tree Maker. They will continue to sell it until December 31, 2015, and will cease supporting it on January 1, 2017. That means people who use the software can continue using it for another year, and Ancestry will continue to support features like TreeSync (which allows users to sync their FTM tree with their Ancestry.com tree).
Family Tree Maker Box Personally, I was never a huge fan of the software. Of course they never fully supported the Mac platform, but I tried all their Mac versions, and even beta tested the second version for them. I had two major complaints with the software. The first was that it was buggy. That might have just been the Mac version, I’m not sure. The second, was that the user interface was very counter-intuitive to me. there were other problems, like its handling of images, and other minor complaints, but it seems pointless to go over them now. The main reasons I continued to try using it was the potential for syncing with Ancestry.com, and for sharing files with other relatives who used it, but it was never my primary genealogy software.

Unless I’m mistaken, that leaves MyHeritage’s Family Tree Builder as the only desktop genealogy software left that is paired to an online family tree site.

Interestingly both Ancestry and MyHeritage have added Mac versions of their desktop software in recent years. The only other major genealogy software to make add Mac support recently has been RootsMagic, which used the same Windows-emulation technology as MyHeritage to port their Windows software to the Mac.

I don’t know the market share of all the different genealogy programs out there, but I imagine there will be a mad scramble to try to grab abandoned FTM users. I don’t know what market share FTM had overall, but my impression is that is was significant. I don’t know if any other genealogy program is able to successfully import data from FTM files without losing any data. I imagine developers of other programs are now looking at how to improve their importing.

One technology for importing FTM files was GenBridge, which was a library developed by Wholly Genes Software, the creators of The Master Genealogist (TMG) software. GenBridge was licensed to several other genealogy software companies to allow importing of different formats, although Wholly Genes Software discontinued TMG last year, and presumably GenBridge was discontinued with it. It would be interesting if GenBridge was discontinued right before FTM users needed the capability.

I remember a company a few years ago that was developing software to sync between different genealogy programs as well as online services. The company was called Real Time Communications and the product was called AncestorSync. That product never really made it out of beta as far as I can tell (I’m pretty sure the company closed around 2012 or 2013 at the latest), but I wonder what happened to their sync technology. Someone might want to brush off some old code if it’s still able to convert FTM files.

I’m not sure Ancestry has handled the ‘retirement‘ of their desktop software so gracefully. A lot of people are undoubtedly upset about FTM being discontinued, and whether or not they will have support for a year, they still have a lot of work ahead of them to get their family trees transitioned to new software. I wonder if Ancestry’s hope is that users will just sync their trees to Ancestry’s online trees, and forget about desktop software altogether. That’s certainly the easiest option for a lot of users, but they lose a lot of the advanced features that come with desktop software (like charts, reports, media handling, etc.). I hope Ancestry will show a little more compassion for their users and provide more options in the coming year for getting their data out of FTM and into other full-featured programs. Time will tell.

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.