Family Tree Maker 2008 Revealed

by JL Beeken on 8-31-2007

I have now had a chance to install and try using Family Tree Maker 2008.

It started out with importing my Legacy database file directly and that really impressed me. I didn’t have to make a gedcom first. It took about 20 minutes to import almost 10,000 people and their information.

Family Tree Maker 2008

It picked up 38 dates from Legacy listed as stillborn, young, or infant, and marked them all as errors, i.e. did not import anything. It appears not to allow anything but dates in the date fields.

Family Tree Maker 2008

It imported multiple copies of my pictures, anywhere from 1-25 extra copies of each, totaling about 700 MB for 100 MB of pictures. They’re all numbered Media0001, Media0002, etc instead of by file-name. The extras can only be deleted one at a time. I tried importing a new photo and it did not bring the IPTC info with it. Tsk.

Family Tree Maker 2008

After a long time, I found my Legacy Notes under Timeline. It works like this: Events are in the large area on the left, and any notes associated with the events show up in the sidebar on the right. It’s a nice way to lay that out. I like it. However, all the notes show up with their formatting in html. i.e. if you underlined something in Legacy, it shows up between and here. And that also carries over into the Reports. Bummer.

In order to find my General Notes from Legacy I have to go down the timeline to Notes and then they appear on the right. That’s not where FTM intends for General Notes to be. They should go in the bottom left which means they’d all have to be cut and pasted there. Same with a few other items that don’t belong in the Timeline. For several thousand people.

Family Tree Maker 2008

I like the overall layout much better than in previous versions. There’s more information to be seen at any point in time which makes me feel more connected. The downside of that is that it’s all very small and unless you’re 20 with pristine eyesight or have recently upgraded your bifocals it would be very tiresome to work with.

The navigational confusion started to dissipate after the first couple of hours. The navigation’s actually quite functional. Once you get used to it, it’s easy to switch between views, although changing windows is slow and jerky in places.

Family Tree Maker 2008

It doesn’t like the location formats I use in Legacy and wants to change them all. I can choose to leave them the way they are but I would have to tick off the ‘Ignore’ box for about 2,000 locations one at a time. Otherwise, it will throw up an error message for every single location until the end of time. It has a sidebar on the opposite side of the page showing all people associated with a particular location. It might be useful but Erie Co., OH or Columbus, Franklin Co., OH are not considered the same place as plain old Ohio.

Family Tree Maker 2008

In the middle is a handy 2D or 3D (Virtual Earth Beta) map. I do like that. Once a location is in a format FTM recognizes, you can click on it and up comes the map in a variety of formats. Road, Aerial, Hybrid. Very nice. Its best feature, I think.

Family Tree Maker 2008

Although it lists all the sources in a handy sidebar, the sidebar width is non-adjustable so I can’t see them.

Family Tree Maker 2008

OK, so all new software’s a little buggy.

The Web Search feature is very appealing. If you have a subscription to it plugs you in directly. You click on a person you’re interested in searching. Their name, birth and death dates and places are automatically entered in the Search box and you’re right there with an option to search Historical Records, Family Trees, Stories and Publications, Photos & Maps, just like going the long way around on the web. If you choose to merge a record or part of a record, it’s all done with a few clicks of your mouse, and it imports the source, and image, into your database as well.

Family Tree Maker 2008

You can search Rootsweb,, Google, Yahoo, Live Search and any others you want to add to your Search list in this same way. Or you can just use the address bar to go wherever you want. There’s also a web clipper button for pasting information and images directly into specific fact fields from as many places as far away and fast as you can travel to find them. At the bottom of the Web Search screen it says “WARNING! Some pages on the Internet are protected by copyright.” Now they’ve made it so easy to grab stuff, yah, I guess it would be a good idea to pay attention to that.

This is a just a broad overview of one night’s work. Family Tree Maker 2008 has some good features. It actually looks like a genealogy database, a lot more than it used to. It’s nice in a nicer sort of way. If you’re just starting out and not trying to import from another database you’ll find it easier, maybe even attractive. It’s a leap forward in design for FTM and die-hard FTM fans may appreciate that. What can I say? It’s not my rocking chair. Legacy 7.0 is due out soon and I’m on the edge of my seat.

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