FTM 2017 Lessons

FTM2017 Post image


Over the past week or so, I have migrated my rather large, and numerous, Ancestry Family Trees to the new version of FTM (Family Tree Maker 2017). In this process, I have learned ‘much’ about the many changes in my recombinant environment, from how things used to work for me. Some of the changes I encountered were pleasant surprises, others were not. Where I was able to develop workarounds, I’ll share those with you in this article.

For those of you who are unaware, I am something of a ‘geek’. The environment I use to run my genealogical efforts in reflects my propensity for geekiness; it may be somewhat more complex than the one you are using. I will not explain the reasons why I chose this environment here, suffice it to say, I have my reasons.  Briefly, I run FTM and Ancestry in the following environment:

  1. FTM2017 operates in a Windows 10 Virtual PC (using Oracle VirtualBox running on a Manjaro based Linux Laptop).
  2. I share and backup my Ancestry.com genealogy files using DropBox.
  3. I use Firefox (Mozilla’s browser running on my Manjaro Linux platform) to access Ancestry.com.
  4. Mackiev FTM2017, to quote their website: “The first Family Tree Maker edition under our own steam is here! FTM 2017 brings home a year of work on a state-of-the-art syncing technology built together with Ancestry, plus integration with FamilySearch, color coding, a photo repair tool and much more!”
  5. Oracle VirtualBox provides the environment within which I operate my ‘virtual’ Windows 10 PC.

Item 1.

Although my Windows 10 computer operates in an Oracle Virtual ‘machine’, it functions as a normal Windows 10 PC, or at least it is supposed to.  Windows software packages, like FTM2017, function normally without the need for any conversion or work around.

In earlier versions of FTM, I relied upon network connected disk drives to facilitate information sharing across my computing environment. I expected that this function would have been retained in the new revision of FTM. Sadly, I was mistaken. This function has, for some unknown reason, been eliminated from FTM2017.

It took me some 8 hours to figure this out.

During those 8 hours, I tried everything I could think of to setup and access Windows 10 network connected drives in the new version of FTM. Everything I tried failed. Finally, I broke down and contacted Mackiev technical support. During my online chat, they confirmed that this function was ‘not available or functional’.

This brings me to my next point.

Item 2.

Dropbox is the platform I used to mirror my computing data content across various environments and platforms. Dropbox even provides a reasonable facsimile of platform backup (As a geek, I must note Dropbox really is not a true backup. If you want more on that topic, I suggest an article on Lifehacker.) Backups not withstanding, Dropbox is a magnificent and affordable platform. Sadly though, the lack of network drive connectivity in FTM2017 forced me to revise my Dropbox mirroring functions.

Before FTM2017, I simply connected a network drive from my Linux environment(s) to my Windows Virtual PC. Accessing the network connected drives directly from FTM2014 guaranteed that both my Windows and Linux platforms had identical images of my genealogy files. FTM2017 does not allow that functionality.

The best I have been able to create is a Dropbox-based version of file sharing between my platforms. This form of sharing causes time delays between the environments which did not exist before. I can live with the delays, but this is hardly a step forward.  Here is the workaround that roughly simulates what existed “elegantly” before.

I installed Dropbox on my Windows 10 machine. Using my pre-existing Dropbox account, I selectively linked to my primary FTM data folder, already on Dropbox.  This FTM data folder contains my media folders, FTM files, backups, etc. Next, from within FTM2017, I changed my file folder access defaults by accessing Tools-Options and next selecting the General (tab). Having opened the General tab, I modified the Default directory for new tree files to link to the appropriate Dropbox folder.

Now, my data again appears in all my environments; it’s just that it needs to be written twice and transferred over the Internet once. All of which is to say, this takes time, electricity, additional disk space, and introduces transactional risk. With the previous Network Drive connection functionality, in earlier versions of FTM, I used less disk space, synchronized almost instantly, and experienced an improved risk profile. Not anymore.

All I can say to the Mackiev people is that poor systems design is its own blight. But, the ‘good’ news is I have a functioning, albeit suboptimal, workaround.

Item 3.

Firefox, as well as other browsers I have tried, have experienced no issues, or involvement, in this transition. They work as they did earlier. You should be safe using your favorite browser to access your Ancestry.com data.

Item 4.

Aside from the Network Connected Drive issue noted in Item 2 above, there are a few additional hiccups in the new release of FTM. Here’s a short list:

  • FamilySync is more cumbersome to use than the old TreeSync functionality was. I am not certain how many more button selections are involved in the new FamilySync process but there are many. Too many in my opinion.
  • The sync process ‘seems’ to execute more slowly than before. I recognize that this is a purely subjective observation, opinion on my part.
  • I have noticed numerous FTM2017 total systems crashes when Media sync is running and I am working with Resolve This Place Name. Weird I know. But, the crashes are fatal. I recommend waiting until your Media files are synced before editing anything. I am uncertain which edit functions, if any others, will cause a software crash.

Item 5.

As it has for the past 5 plus years, Oracle VirtualBox works beautifully for me. I have noted zero conflicts or problems associated between VirtualBox and FTM2017, or pretty much any other Windows application for that matter.

If you’d like help setting up a similar technical computing environment, we are happy to give you a free time, cost, and materials estimate. Please feel free to contact us directly.