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Published 20 October 2011
By: Rick Roberts, Biography & Archived Articles
The new 2012 version of the ever popular Family Tree Maker (FTM) software program arrived here recently. Pre-release advertising materials promised some powerful new tools and I was anxious to try them out. Here's what I found.
Before we go any further, readers need to know that our company (GlobalGenealogy.com Inc) is a retailer of Family Tree Maker as well as other software programs, books and supplies for history and genealogy enthusiasts. That said, this review is not a sales document. All comments and evaluations reflect my personal experiences while evaluating the program. Negatives have not been left out, and postives have not been embellished.
Family Tree Maker 2012 - use as full program or upgrade:
As you would expect, Family Tree Maker 2012 is a complete software that can be used as a new installation for someone who has never used Family Tree Maker before. Or it can serve as an upgrade to any earlier version of FTM. In my case I am upgrading a previously installed FTM 2011 although my comments will address first time users too.
As usual, the installation of FTM is a simple task. Just slip the installation disk into the CD/DVD drive in your PC and close the drawer.
The installation takes several minutes. Be patient, the installation program looks after everything. For most people, the defaults provided by the program will be your best choice. Advanced users can optionally specify an alternate directory for installation.
I was pleased to see that the user agreement contains a provision that registered owners can legally install FTM 2012 in up to two computers in your household. That is especially helpful for users who have more than one device -- possibly a laptop and a desktop computer.
Installation for first time Family Tree Maker Users:
For those who are installing and using Family Tree Maker for the first time, your installation will result in a screen where you can begin adding family information into a family file. I recommend that you begin with yourself, and then add parents, and grandparents to start your family file.
Installation for users of previous FTM versions:
Upgrading from FTM 2008 or newer:
Linking to your existing family file/s is completely automatic for those upgrading from FTM 2008 and newer.
Upgrading from FTM 16  or older:
During installation an easy onscreen "Upgrade Guide" pops up for those upgrading from a pre-FTM 2008 version of FTM. This is a great idea insofar as linking to your family file that was created in FTM 16 or earlier, though easy to do, is different than if upgrading from FTM 2008 or newer.
This screen appears during installation to assist those who are upgrading
from an early version of Family Tree Maker (FTM 16 or older)
The software "knows" when you are upgrading from FTM 16 or earlier. Knowing this, Family Tree Maker will display a simplified user interface that looks more like the version you're accustomed to.
Searches your PC for, and finds pre-version 16 FTM files:
We often receive calls from people who are not sure how to locate version 16 and older FTM family files on their computer. During the installation process FTM 2012 looks for and list all early FTM files that you have.
The default is for ALL to be checked off for import to your list of available files in FTM 2012. The user can uncheck all or some files that you don't want to import at that time. Files remain where they were and can be imported later if desired.
I chose not to add those pre version 16 files to my list of imported file because I no longer use them, and had forgotten to delete them.
In previous recent versions of FTM you could download the tree that you created on Ancestry.com (.ca, .uk, etc), and you still can in FTM 2012. However, there is a new and easier to use feature in FTM 2012 that synchronizes your PC based family file with your online family file.
That means that if you make changes in the FTM family file on your computer, you can click the TreeSync button and automatically update your Ancestry.com online tree and your desktop tree with the new information. This is a powerful tool insofar as it saves you time and effort whether you are working alone on your genealogy or are collaborating with one or more other persons.
When collaborating, you may have allowed someone to have access to add to your online tree. When you click TreeSync on your desktop, that new information is automatically updated on your FTM family tree. Those who are collaborating online with you do not need to have an Ancestry subscription, only an invitation from you to participate.
There are some exceptions to which data fields can be updated which are clearly outlined in the provided digital Companion Guide. For instance, in FTM 2012 you have the ability to make notes in a number of different places for an individual (birth, death, etc). The TreeSync only updates those notes that are made in a person's main Individual Notes field.
The following is a quote form the FTM advertising material on this subject:
TreeSync as it has been introduced in FTM 2012 is a powerful feature for coordinating your desktop and internet (Ancestry) family files. It is also a powerful project collaboration tool for people who are at a distance. A natural extension of this feature that I would like to see in a future release, is to include all of the data fields that are in Family Tree Maker so that the TreeSync bridge could also be used to help users synchronize their complete FTM family files between the various users' computers of those collaborating on a single family history project.
Blended family view — shows combined families, including step families and adoptees at a glance:
This is the best solution that I have seen in any genealogy software program that deals with displaying blended families. It's good enough that it will probably be copied by their competitors in the future.
Most genealogy software programs include a method to define relationships, and to include persons in more than one family group. However this feature has always been a bit clumsy.
Let's say that a couple have a child and the natural father dies when the child is an infant. The mother of the child remarries and the second spouse adopts and raises the child. In most genealogy programs, including FTM, you can define the relationships as "natural" to the mother; "natural" to the first husband; "adoptive" (or other) to the second husband. Where programs have had difficulty in the past is that the user had to then link the child into the second marriage. That confused many users and was not appropriate for others.
This new feature in FTM 2012 allows you to leave the child in his/her natural family unit, but be added to the second family unit by merely clicking on the blended family button which brings the child into the new marriage and automatically defines the relationships visually. Nice!
It may be easier to explain with pictures.
The image below is of a full screen shot of the FTM 2012 PEOPLE screen that includes a family that has a father, mother and child. This is a second marriage for the mother who had a first husband who died shortly after the birth of their children. The child that is shown in this image is a child from the second marriage.
The above image shows the area where the Blended Family button is found (red-circle)
This is a close-up of the area where the Blended Family button is located
When you click on the Blended Family button, the children from the previous marriage are added to this second union. The paternity of the children is defined graphically so you know how they are related without having to go to the relationships screen to check. The button is a toggle switch that allows you to do, and undo at will.
The above image now includes 2 children from the first marriage and 1 child from the second marriage
This close up shows how the children are related to this couple (second marriage)
The key to knowing how this blended family relates to the couple are the figurines that are circled in the above image.
I tested this feature with some very complicated families and it worked like a charm. Two thumbs up!
More obvious panel reductions on PEOPLE > FAMILY screen
Some FTM user like a less busy Family view screen. FTM versions 2008-2011 included a not so obvious tool that allowed users to change the sizes of, or even temporarily eliminate a panel form the PEOPLE > Family view screen. FTM 2012 has added larger icons to make panel eliminations more obvious.
The above image shows the areas where the icons to expand, contract, and eliminate FAMILY view panels are.
The red circled icons (new in 2012) can eliminate a panel. Click again to bring it back.
Those in blue can be dragged to make the panel the size that you want.
Here is a close-up of the new panel elimination icon
Customized fact sentences
This is a welcome new feature. Family Tree Maker Genealogy Reports and Smart Stories automatically construct sentences around the information that you have added to your family file to create a narrative. This is a feature that has been in FTM for a long time. However, in past versions the user could not change the sentence structure. FTM 2012 now has an easy to use tool that empowers you to reset those sentences.
Changing the automated sentences is as easy as clicking on EDIT, then click on MANAGE FACTS. A dialogue box pops up that includes a list of all the Fact categories that you have. Click on the Fact that you want to change the sentence structure for. Click on PROPERTIES, and change the sentence to that which suits you best.
The items in brackets are those that are retrieved from information that you added.
In this example the words that can be changed are "address was".
Users can also remove the bracketed information and make other changes by using the check boxes.
PUBLISH - Charts and Reports
Improved Notes Report that is in FTM 2012
Notes Report as it was in FTM 2011
Improved Report - Family Group Sheet now includes a blended family choice.
Family Group Sheet options now include
a blended family choice in FTM 2012
Family Group Sheet options
as they were in FTM 2011
New Report - Index of individuals report.
New Report - Index of individuals report in FTM 2012
Accents in the source citations in genealogy reports (both ahnentafel and descendant)
A reader called to ask if I was to do a review of FTM 2012, that I check to ensure that the accents (international characters) are included in the sources when included in the ahnentafel and descendant reports -- they are
An example of a source citation at the end of a genealogy report. The accent was added to the second "e" in "December".
When the report was created, the accented "e" remained accented in the source citation that was produced in the report (second line from the bottom).
The same reader asked that I check to see if the "Other Spouses" option in the Family Group report still shows the heading of "Other Spouses" on all people in the report whether or not they had multiple spouses. It does use the term "Other Spouses" for everyone in the report though it only includes a name/s of the other spouse/s when there is one recorded in your family file. Otherwise the category is left blank.
Processing speed for very large family files (greater than 50,000 people)
A reader inquired if improvements had been made in FTM 2012 to help improve the processing speed for those who have very large family files. I wasn't able to duplicate the described slowness in FTM 2012 so I requested comment from Family Tree Maker's media relation department. Here is their response on 06 October 2011:
The new FTM 2012 Companion Guide provides some helpful solutions for those with huge files that want to improve processing speed. The last one on the list seems to me to be the one that would speed up those 50,000 person plus files:
"Family Tree Maker is running slowly. What can I do?
Source: Pages 342, 343 FTM 2012 Companion Guide
There are likely many more new things to find in Family Tree Maker 2012. I'll leave it to you to have a much fun finding and using them as I had putting this review together.
Canadian Genealogy & History Resources from GlobalGenealogy.com: