Family Tree Maker 2008 offers a departure from past versions of the popular family history program, with several new features and functions built on a completely redesigned platform. The new interface is pleasing and intuitive (although previous FTM users may find it takes some getting used to) and the data entry and management options are very robust. Where Family Tree Maker used to really shine, however, is publishing, and this new version really disappoints in this department. Many popular charts/reports not yet available, and book publishing is only available via online integration with AncestryPress.
Installation was very straightforward on my system, but I also meet all minimum suggested requirements – Windows XP/Vista (required), Pentium II or better processor, 400MB of free hard drive space, 256MB of RAM, and 800x600 resolution. If you want things to run smoothly, I’d suggest you make sure you have at least 512K of RAM, a 1GHz Pentium III (or equivalent) processor, and at least 1024x768 monitor resolution. FTM 2008 takes up a lot of space and memory compared to previous versions of Family Tree Maker. The biggest downside to FTM 2008 is that it will not install over previous versions,
When Family Tree Maker 2008 first launches you are offered the choice of creating a new file or opening/importing an existing file.
The “Get Started” screen for beginning a new family tree is simple, asking you to enter your name, birth date, and location, as well as that information for each of your parents. There is no specific guidance for beginners, however, on how to enter names and dates, such as to enter women under their maiden names. It allowed me to enter my name as Kimberly Powell and my father’s name as Larry Thomas without any type of warning or error. I’d like to see a little more “forced” guidance for beginners, since so many people neglect to read the “Getting Started” guide or watch the included DVD tutorials.
Importing a Family Tree File
I began by trying a GEDCOM import of my personal family tree. Family Tree Maker 2008 offers direct import from previous versions of FTM, as well as The Master Genealogist (TMG), Personal Ancestral File (PAF), and Legacy Family Tree. The software I generally use most isn't in the list, however, so I had to opt for GEDCOM import. FTM took just a little over 2 minutes to read and import my file, not too bad for a family tree with 8300+ names. Many users report that the program bogs down when importing extremely large files, however. FTM 2008 also runs very sluggishly with larger files (50,000+) - a known issue that the tech team is working to improve.
I got a little frantic when FTM said it had imported over 12,000 sources, but it turned out to be only because FTM identified sources with the same source title, but different citation text/detail as different sources, which is different than it was handled in my primary software program (more about this later). I would also have expected FTM to comply with the GEDCOM standard by now, but the program still doesn’t recognize certain standard fields such as NICK (nickname). As with previous versions, FTM imported the NICK field into AKA (also known as) which, in my opinion, should only be used for legal name changes, not nicknames. Some of these nicknames were lost in my initial testing, but was fixed in the first (August 2007) FTM 2008 patch.
Data Layout & Entry
Data layout and entry in Family Tree Maker 2008 was surprisingly intuitive once I took some time to get used to the new layout. I personally really like the data entry screen which allows me to see a family index, pedigree view, and family view, as well as enter an individual’s data, all on one screen. If you’re running FTM 2008 on a small monitor with the minimum suggested 800x600 resolution, you will probably find all of this information on one screen to be a little cramped, however. You can arrange the sizes of each area to fit your needs by dragging the bars between sections; for example, you can increase the size of your family view to allow you to view all of your grandparents thirteen children by decreasing the pedigree view to only show 3-4 generations. Family Tree Maker 2008 will remember these settings the next time you open your family tree.
The "People Index" in the left hand pane allows you to sort by family name, given name, birth date, marriage date, or death date. The dates don’t actually appear in the index in the default view, but if you click on the little grey bars icon at the top of the index, you’ll find the option to expand the index to include this information. For some reason you can't resize the index pane (unlike others on the main screen), but you can you can "hide" it to free up more room on your display.