The “No.1 Selling Family History Software for 18 years” trumpets the CD case. That may be about to change. Family Tree Maker has been through several hands since its launch in 1989, with a new version almost every year. Some versions took large steps forward, some small. In some respects this one’s gone backwards.
Its disappointments are mainly in its omissions. Gone completely are the unique paginated, indexed, drop-line descendant charts that could be incorporated into FTM’s ‘book’. The book itself, an ordered collection of your choice of reports optionally incorporating your own text or scanned items, has gone too; at least, you can’t print it yourself any more.
Instead you have to upload it to Ancestry Press to be professionally bound and sent to you. The cost for this has emerged as an ‘introductory’ $29.95 (about £15) plus ex-US shipping for a 24-page book. You do have to agree to let Ancestry ‘distribute’ your file, apparently as it sees fit. Books produced in previous versions of Family Tree Maker cannot be edited in Ancestry Press or Family Tree Maker 2008.
Other charts and reports notable by their omission are the fan trees, the hourglass tree, the all-in-one tree and the useful genealogy report (an extensive narrative which could include every descendant and incorporate your notes). Some of these may be reintroduced in a patch promised for mid-October, already overdue.
The default People view is sparklingly new, putting lots of useful information in separate panes: person index, pedigree chart, family group, and a customisable pane. From the Person screen you can display a timeline of that person’s life, including events such as birth, residence, marriage, profession, and so on. This unaccountably omitted some children’s births although it did show their marriages and deaths. You can also incorporate world historical events.
The new Places view lists all the places in your database, gives you the opportunity of ‘correcting’ them according to its gazetteer (which defaults to similarly-named US places) and brings up a map of the place and its environs. You can choose a conventional road map, an aerial view, or a useful hybrid of both, all zooming in to show street names. There’s a 3D option but this needs a driver, currently in beta testing. There’s also an option to print the map.
Despite being installed on a machine with a permanent Internet connection, the Places view occasionally claimed that there was no connection. The database engine is apparently also new, although it still introduces spurious spaces in its Notes text.
Family Tree Maker 2008 comes in three editions: as a single CD-ROM (described as an upgrade but actually the full program, and has fourteen days free access to the ancestry.co.uk search facility); Deluxe Edition has three months free ancestry.co.uk access, a printed Getting Started Guide, and the Family Tree Maker 2008 UK Training DVD; Platinum Edition has six months ancestry.co.uk free access and adds the Official Guide to Family Tree Maker 2008 book and three free issues of Your Family Tree Magazine.