Modern Software Experience

2011-01-03

Lone developer embarrasses billion-dollar corporation

FTW TEXT

Support for FTW TEXT isn't some historical issue, but a current one. Family Tree Maker 16 is probably still the most-used version of Family Tree Maker, simply because many users who tried New Family Tree Maker found it so awful that they changed back to Family Tree Maker 16. There is certainly no doubt that there are still many people using Family Tree Maker 16, and Family Tree Maker 16 writes FTW TEXT files…

It is utterly ludicrous that I am giving feedback to a third-party developer implementing an FTW TEXT reader - it is Ancestry.com's format and responsibility.

GEDCOM and FTW TEXT

One of Louis Kessler's goals for Behold is to read every GEDCOM file. Well, to be more precise, to read every file that users believe to be GEDCOM - and that includes FTW TEXT files.
Development of Behold slowly approaches the release of version 1.0. Last year, as he was testing how the current version handled his collection of *.GED files , he came across several FTW TEXT files - and decided to add proper FTW TEXT support; not FGTEWDTCEOXMT support, but proper FTW TEXT support, without messing up the GEDCOM reader.
He added initial support for FTW TEXT back in September of 2010. We exchanged some emails on some remaining issues and he made additional changes. The quick tests I've done with the latest version of Behold, version 0.99.17, indicate that its support for FTW TEXT is fairly mature now.
It is utterly ludicrous that I am giving feedback to a third-party developer implementing an FTW TEXT reader - it is Ancestry.com's format and responsibility. Sadly Ancestry.com seems to have just as much sense of responsibility regarding FTW TEXT as FamilySearch has regarding GEDCOM; none whatsoever.

FTW TEXT reader

Behold isn't the first application to read FTW TEXT files; that is Family Tree Maker Classic itself. However, Family Tree Maker Classic pretends to be reading a GEDCOM file, just as it pretend to be writing a GEDCOM file when it creates FTW TEXT files.
Behold does not pretend that an FTW TEXT file is a GEDCOM file. On the contrary, the first message you'll find in the import log for an FTW TEXT file is This is an FTW TEXT file. It is not a GEDCOM file. The FTW TEXT tags will be mapped to their GEDCOM equivalent.
This is good. Behold lets you know the ostensible GEDCOM file is really an FTW TEXT file, so now you'll know what the problem is when another application, such as RootsMagic or Legacy Family Tree, not only fails to read the file, but even shows messageboxes with messages you've never see before (The FTW Problem shows how several applications react to FTW TEXT files.).

Behold tries to recognise GEDCOM tags occurring within FTW TEXT. When Behold does not recognise a tag as an FTW TEXT tag, it will try to recognise the tag as a GEDCOM tag. If that fails too, it will produce the error message: "TAG" is not a valid FTW TEXT tag. It is not a GEDCOM tag either

Family Tree Maker: GEDCOM file must be version 5.5 or greater

Family Tree Maker 2011

Behold's GEDCOM support isn't perfect yet, I noticed a few small problems, but is likely to improve further with subsequent releases. In contrast, Family Tree Maker 2011, the latest version of Family Tree Maker, has decidedly poor FTW TEXT support.

When you try to import an FTW TEXT file, Family Tree Maker is likely to display a File Import Error messagebox that complains that GEDCOM file must be version 5.5 or greater.
That is because Family Tree Maker will only import a file when the header says it is based on GEDCOM version 5.5, and like many FTW GEDCOM files, most FTW TEXT files have a header that states they are based on version 5.3.

If you manually change VERSION 5.3 to VERSION 5.5, Family Tree Maker 2011 will read the file. Family Tree Maker does not have a GEDCOM reader, it has an FGTEWDTCEOXMT reader. Of course, having to manually change the file to get Family Tree Maker to read is ridiculous. Family Tree Maker should recognise and read all FTW GEDCOM and FTW TEXT files created by earlier version of Family Tree Maker without any complaint.
By the way, that Family Tree Maker has an FGTEWDTCEOXMT reader instead of a GEDCOM reader is a defect; a FGTEWDTCEOXMT reader is neither a good GEDCOM reader nor a good FTW TEXT reader.

You should not have to modify a file created by Family Tree Maker to get Family Tree Maker to read it. Family Tree Maker should support Family Tree Maker.

I do not recommend manually changing VERSION 5.3 to VERSION 5.5, as it is way to easy to accidentally make other changes, for example by accidentally saving the file using another character encoding that it originally used. Limited experience with a few GEDCOM files suggest that Family Tree Maker is likely to become not responding after reading an adapted FTW TEXT. These are practical considerations. If you know what you are doing, you can still do so.
Another objection to modifying the file is a principled one; You should not have to modify a file created by Family Tree Maker to get Family Tree Maker to read it. Family Tree Maker should support Family Tree Maker. The current version of Family Tree Maker should read all the FTW TEXT and FTW GEDCOM files created by earlier version of Family Tree Maker, regardless of the GEDCOM version they are based on. Applications have to read their own files.

embarrassing

The current situation is highly embarrassing for Ancestry.com, a company with a stock market valuation of more than one billion dollars. Even the very latest version of New Family Tree Maker still cannot read all the GEDCOM and FTW TEXT files created by previous versions of Family Tree Maker, and Behold can. The billion dollar company with its eleven-person full-time Family Tree Maker development team has been embarrassed by a lone developer working in his spare time.

links

Behold

FTW TEXT