Neal relations at Cuckoos Cup, The Wrekin

Family Tree Maker 2017 What’s new, what’s useful

See the main Family Tree Maker notes page for a few useful tips.

Keeping in sync with Ancestry

The first version of FTM fully developed by new owners Software MacKiev (SMK) introduces ‘FamilySync’, to interact with trees on the Ancestry website – the previous TreeSync system has been switched off. Another genealogy software company – Roots Magic – has produced its own take on synchronisation to Ancestry – see our page Sync trees between Ancestry and your computer.

New features

On top of replacing the old Ancestry connectivity. Initial feature announcement (posted on FTM users Facebook page mid-Feb):

  • Colour coding: an individual can be assigned up to 4 colours (out of 8), showing descendants or ancestor links, family group, or membership of a defined List.
  • Person index filters (in Tree view) can be saved as Lists, which can have colour coding applied, or be easily used again later. Note that these lists are not dynamic – if you add a new person who fits the filter, they won’t get automatically added to the list.
  • Ability to sync an Ancestry tree to more than one computer/FTM file. See this SMK info on ‘Three computers. One Ancestry tree. No problem“.
  • connectivity: hints from genealogy data held on this site can be switched on, in addition to/instead of existing Ancestry hints (the two have different symbols), also search and merge (add). FTM help says: “you can get … Family Tree match suggestions automatically, search 1+ billion of FamilySearch Family Tree names, and merge found records into your tree”. FTM in fact displays limited information from FamilySearch’s overarching Family Tree, so not anything like hints/search with Ancestry, although there may be later improvements.

FTM 2017 also comes with “Photo Darkroom” button – a Faded Photo Repair Tool, basically a contrast/brightness adjuster.

Extra features

Not announced in advance.

  • Places workspace: Bing controls for Maps have been updated, with additional options such as Ordnance Survey (for UK), Streetside (eye level images).

Minor changes against Ancestry versions

This refers to the Windows edition, with particular reference to FTM 2014/2012. Mac edition features up to version 3.1 weren’t quite the same.

Subtle and not so subtle differences in sort order

  • In Person Index (People workspace >Tree) those without a surname now appear at start of list sorted by surname (Family name), and those without a first name appear at the start when sorted by first name. Logical!
  • Media workspace:
    • FTM didn’t previously differentiate between UPPER and lower case in sort order. v2017 lists those items with a Capital letter in the name first.
    • With ‘caption on’ selected (Tree>Options), non-Ancestry citation media items without captions show in rather random order.
    • Using filename rather than caption, FTM shows in Windows Explorer full path order, rather than just filename order (and ignoring folder names).


  • The ‘Start a New Tree’ screen has had a makeover around the ‘Download a Tree from Ancestry’ feature. It is clearer, more informative and potentially allows for more than one FTM tree to link to an Ancestry tree. Note that the ‘Delete Tree’ button, bottom centre, allows you to delete the selected tree on Ancestry – account password has to be entered to confirm. Also note that the icon used here to show trees are linked (in any state) is the same as used elsewhere in FTM to show that they are in sync.
  • The drop-down menus from the Sync icon (top right on all screens) and the Sync Now button have been tweaked. These now include an ‘Unlink’ option * and the ‘About Synchronizing Trees’ (web link) has been removed. * See comment re ‘sync/link icon on Ancestry’, below.


Possibly not so minor!

  • The sync log splash screen no longer has a 60 second countdown before sync automatically continues. You have to press Continue (or Cancel), so no real excuse for not checking the change log looks right before allowing the process to go ahead. (You can tick a box to not see the log screen – bad idea.)
  • There are extra features to help prevent accidental deletion of people from trees. See SMK’s ‘New tree safety features‘.
  • Not everything from the the old FTM 2014 TreeSync process carries over to FTM 2017, for example web links. This may change.
  • There is a rather strangely named (some would say strangely conceived) ‘Sync Weather Report‘, which should pop up to let you know when going to do a sync if SMK is aware of any possible issues before proceeding (assuming you have sync set to manual, which is a good idea). Amber for caution, red for sync disabled – you shouldn’t see green for go apparently, just an absence of the weather pop-up.

Minor removals

  • The FamilySync panel section ‘Sharing’ only lists tree guests who have accepted an invite to the tree – it used to include those pending. Also the panel no longer shows when guests last viewed the tree.
  • Internet speed selection has been removed from Options (a rather dated feature!).
  • There are probably more.

Possible downsides

Some of these may be temporary ‘bugs’ or otherwise open to a quick fix by SMK.

When using the Media tab for a Fact, in Person view or F3, previous versions auto-selected the media item when moving between facts. Now you need to make sure that the right media is selected before clicking on ‘Open file’ button, for example.

Checking for unlinked media items, under Media>Person, can be slow to process. Any media attached only to shared facts show (wrongly) as being unlinked.

The count of places in the Places screen is slow to reflect deletion of a place. The right number appears after closing the tree and re-opening.

Some features no longer remember previous selections, e.g. ‘Use Existing Source Citation’ for a fact.

Web Search Ancestry search results: no ‘See more Ancestry member trees’ at the start of results but potentially a long list instead, or mixed in with record results.  (You can still switch off hints from trees.)

When merging a record from Ancestry we’ve experienced identical names in the merged item showing as alternate name – just an annoyance in that you can change this to ‘discard’. This is with Merging default set to ‘alternate’.

The link/sync icon on Ancestry (left) disappeared April 2017, and now there is no indication (at this end) of the tree being linked to an FTM file or alternative program. The option to unlink trees, previously under Tree Settings in Ancestry, is therefore missing. FTM has gained an Unlink option, of the Sync drop-down – a slight worry that this could block an “escape route” if a FTM tree gets a serious sync issue and can’t be opened.

Wish List

Features that could be improved or added. Add your thoughts in the comments!

Ability to add colour via pop-up person edit card (F3) – could then use via reports selection. Or another way of adding colour via reports.

Ability to use saved filters in reports.


7 responses to “Family Tree Maker 2017 What’s new, what’s useful

  1. wayne ruck avatar
    wayne ruck

    the ftm2017 screen originally looked different from the ftm 2014 screen, but after syncing it reverted to the ftm 2014 screen. Why?

    1. Cutlock & Co avatar

      Do you mean the FTM start-up splash screen? All the other screens/views are pretty similar between 2017 and 2014. Have you opened up the wrong version in error, perhaps?

      1. wayne avatar

        not sure. I just remember the first time I opened up the ftm2017 screen it was vastly different.

  2. Linda avatar

    “Ancestry search results: no ‘See more Ancestry member trees’ at the start of results but potentially a long list instead, or mixed in with record results.” This is irritating! Sometimes there are hundreds of trees. The person I’m researching right now has over 500 trees. Since they show up first, I often can’t count on using the merge feature for hard data such as censuses, because it takes too long to wade past the trees. So my wish list would include a “negative option” to not include a certain type of record.

    I used to be able to click on the “browser options” tab to open the search results in my preferred browser (rather than the automatic IE). Now it just opens a blank search page. I really miss that.

  3. Beryl Bartholomew avatar
    Beryl Bartholomew

    Unable to sync my Family Tree Maker 2017 with Ancestry. When I press Sync Windows closes FTM program down. Any ideas would be gratefully received

    1. Cutlock & Co avatar

      I see some people on the Facebook FTM users group today report it freezing on sync. What version of Windows are you on? You may need to resort to MacKiev’s “Live Chat” (online texting) for help – may take some patience and persistence!

  4. Cindy avatar

    on the 2017 version I see the number of people invited to view the tree, but don’t see how to invite additional viewers.

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