Family Tree Builder 3 - Review & Opinion  

Posted by Abba-Dad in , , , ,

As you may have read on other blogs, MyHeritage came out with a new version of Family Tree Builder today. I downloaded it and tried it out. There are a lot of things I like and a few I am a bit confused about.

There's a new Premium version of FTB3 that costs. Now this might be a little confusing, so try to follow along. When I first saw the word Premium, I immediately thought it had to do with the naming of the account types on the MyHeritage website. They have Basic, Premium and PremiumPlus site accounts. You might think that someone with a Premium or PremiumPlus account will automatically gain access to all the new features, but it doesn't look like it right now. I am still trying to figure that one out.

So what are these premium features? Here's a screenshot of what they are:

The most important one in my opinion is the ability to merge SmartMatches:

Now the free version has basic SmartMatching, but the real power is the ability to grab information from another tree and merge into your own. This poses a few issues and I have yet to try out this feature fully, but my biggest concern is whether or not you can see if the new information you are about to merge is sourced properly and what is the quality of that source.

My previous issue with SmartMatches was that they were unmanageable. What I mean by that is that in my tree of almost 10K people I had no way to filter out the important people I wanted to find matches for. You can navigate through the tree and look for the little green circle, but when you're at the SmartMatch page you are basically faced with a long list that gets truncated at some point.

I know MyHeritage has been working on improving this functionality and indeed I was able to find some people who had a single match, which I couldn't see before. I really want to get my hands on the full functionality and see what else has been enhanced. Currently I'm waiting for the site to process my tree and give me the basic results. So I'll need to give an update later.

The next big deal is the SmartResearch feature:

What are these 100 most important genealogy site on the internet? I tried to find more info in FAQs and on the site but I couldn't. I am very curious to see what the results are. I already love the regular research engine they have with about 1400 sites, so this could be a great improvement.

I'm not so sure what the next one is though. Is this just a big chart of everyone related to me? It's called the All-In-One Chart:

I'm not sure what the big deal is here. I can get that in several ways from other sources (I think). If you look at your family tree on the MyHeritage website you see a very limited view, so this might be the expansion of this limited view.

And the last one is a nice-to-have in my book:

I have rarely seen people loading videos or documents before. And documents usually come in some sort of scanned format. So does this allow loading PDF files instead of JPG files? I guess I'll have to try it out and see.

This might sound like I am critical of MyHeritage or the functionality that FTB3 offers. I am not. I am extremely excited about these new developments and some of these features are fantastic. Let me tell you about a few other fantastic features you may not know about:

1) Photo Tagging. This has been one of my favorite tools so far. Not just because I can load an entire photo and say who's who (you can do that in many other sites including Facebook and Geni). The real beauty is that the software identifies faces in the photo and then tries to match them to other faces you already have in your albums. This has allowed me to figure out who some obscure people were that I had no way to identify before! It even gives you a percentage for the match. An identical picture of the person is 100% and you can determine how good or bad of a match you want the filter to be. I found photos of my grandmother that were decades apart and where at around 65%. I found a picture of my grandmother's sister that had a 75% match to my grandmother! This is truly a fantastic tool.

2) Name Translations. There's a feature hiding inside FTB that lets you translate all the names in your database to another language. This might not be important to some people, but when your ancestors came from Eastern Europe and had Hebrew/Polish/Yiddish names - this can be the difference between no clue and an amazing discovery.

3) I really love how sleek the site is. You can see these guys have put a lot of thought and hard work into making this a truly easy experience for the users. One of my biggest gripes with Geni is that it is horribly slow. Just loading the homepage takes forever and a lot of times it just freezes on you. Another thing that drives me nuts is how slow it is to update when something happens. MyHeritage has great response times and looks great.

4) FTB and the site are both very easy to use to build a family tree. The reason I downloaded it in the first place was that it looked easy to use and offered a lot of features and functionality.

The only thing is - I haven't found anyone from my side of the family on MyHeritage. I originally found one of my father's second cousins, but he didn't really have a tree. I also found my wife's niece, but she only had herself and her parents. I know MyHeritage boasts 27M users and 300M people, but I am not sure how active these users are and how big their tress are. I mean, simple math will tell us that each user has 11 people in the tree. That's siblings, parents and grandparents.

The other problem is switching your family network to a different site. I have a lot of people in my tree on Geni. How do I make them all switch after trying hard to make them join Geni in the first place.

One of the reasons I have so many people in my Geni tree is that they have the excellent tree-merge feature. You find family members and invite them to your tree and voila, your trees are merged (with some merge issue resolution here and there). That's hard to beat.

I am glad that there is competition out there because in the end, we the consumers and end-users benefit from the resulting innovation. If you are new to genealogy and are just starting out with your research I would definitely recommend that you download FTB3 and start building you tree there. And publish it to a Basic MyHeritage website account which allows you to have up to 500 people in your tree for free. A Premium account allows up to 2500 and is only $1.95 per month right now (50% off deal). I think that's a great deal.

This entry was posted on Friday, January 2, 2009 at 9:26 PM and is filed under , , , , . You can follow any responses to this entry through the comments feed .


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