Avanquest Family Tree Maker Review

Family Tree Maker (FTM), one of the most recognised genealogy software packages for the PC. Now produced by Avanquest under licence from Ancestry, it has been released by one publisher or another for 17 years now.

The family history market is a crowded one, with competitors including Family Historian and RootsMagic (both of which come in UK editions), as well as the free download Legacy Standard.

FTM has traditionally been a big success – but the program’s reputation nosedived in 2008 after a shiny new rewrite actually rendered it slower to load and run, and also left it minus a number of cherished features. Last year saw FTMv2010 regain those lost features, again becoming a contender for best-seller. FTMv2011 takes that claim further, adding more useful features, not least the fact that it loads and runs faster (in Windows XP and 7) than its predecessor.

One fascinating new feature is Smart Story, a text writer that lets you incorporate facts, sources, and notes you’ve already entered. What’s new and different is that those included items stay linked to your data, and change whenever you change the original fields. You can convert Smart Stories items to free-form text but then they won’t be updated. Smart Story text can also be added to your book’ reports but only as separate extra pages.

FTMv2011 also adds four more variations on a fan chart, plus new backgrounds, borders, and fonts. Reports too, have been improved and in some cases simplified. A new, free iPhone app uploads your family tree to Ancesty.co.uk, letting you share it – although before uploading anything to Ancestry’s web pages, check that you’re happy with the small print.

Useful features from FTMv2011’s predecessor have been kept, with easy recording of your research data and impressive production of reports, charts and maps. There’s a good selection of charts, timelines, and family group sheets. You can categorise your media as photos, videos, audio clips, or scanned documents – or create your own media categories.

Photos imported into FTM can be linked to individuals and organised into slideshows. Maps are more accurate, defaulting to American alternatives less frequently. Reports include the Family Book feature – which assembles a book’ from your choice of trees, reports, and placeholders, tied together with a table of contents and index. One feature you’ll like that has been retained from its predecessor is the interface that puts most-used information, previously buried beneath tabs and menus, all on one screen. FTMv2011 will also search Ancestry’s online databases for your ancestors (for a trial period, after which you’ll need a subscription).

If you have a GEDCOM file, you can import that. Data entry can include free-form notes for each person, plus separate research notes. You can also add new sources in one of several formats based on de facto (American) standard templates.

This time, FTM is also available for Mac computers (though we reviewed the PC version), based on the features and functionality of Family Tree Maker version 2010 (see our review of that edition here). It costs £60.

There are still four PC editions: Deluxe (as reviewed), Platinum, World, and Upgrade. Although described as an upgrade, the latter is, in fact, the full program, which is the same for all editions, with only the extras changing.

These extras include on-disc copies of the Quick Start Guide and the new Companion Guide, interactive tutorials, and graduated free access to Ancestry’s online databases. These free trials will nevertheless ask for your credit card. The World Edition also offers backup software and the web-design software WebEasy with 14 days’ trial web hosting, including a subsidiary domain name.
Verdict
FTMv2011 has extended its presentational capabilities, whilst retaining its core functionality and ease of use – particularly when it comes to performance improvements and memory usage. Its interface, putting all your most-used information together on one screen, makes adding and referring to your data especially convenient.

Company: Avanquest

Contact: 01480 496666

Tags: ancestry ancestry.com windows xp rootsmagic avanquest genealogy family tree maker shareware

Post Author: alexprudcky