Modern Software Experience



I created a few small files that demonstrate a serious defect in Family Tree Maker for Windows version 2.0, and did some tests to find how several applications react to the invalid GEDCOM files it makes.

FTW 2 and FTW 16

I FTW 2.0 itself has problems reading its own file. The good news is that Family Tree Maker 16 will read the file. Apparently, the defects is known, and handled appropriately.

FTM 2008 RC1

The bad news is that Family Tree Maker 2008 Release Candidate 1 (the Beta has been upgraded to Release Candidate status) will not read the file.


Now, you might not be particularly worried about the inability of FTM 2008 to read broken FTW 2 GEDCOM files. That is not exactly the kind of stuff to keep you awake at night.

However, when I tried to load the file, I discover something that does worry me. FTM 2008 does not just fail to read the file, it actually  does not even try to read it.

FTM 2008 demands that the input file be GEDCOM version 5.5 or higher, Despite the fact that many earlier versions of FTW wrote GEDCOM 5.3 files, FTM 2008 does not read GEDCOM 5.3 files.

FTM 2008

I consider FTM 2008’s refusal to read GEDCOM files created by earlier versions of FTW to be unacceptable. I believe an application should be able to read the files that it or previous version created.

The ability to read files created by older versions is especially important when the files it created in the past are not up to specs. After all, the obvious general advice for such files is too try and import them into the latest version of that particular application, as it may know about its own faults and correct for. It should be able to import the file correctly, and then export a better file.

In fact, this advice solves the problem - if you understand latest version as FTW 16. It will not work with FTM 2008 RC1.

not positively impressed

I can understand that moving that functionality to some external utility for very old versions, but I have no sympathy for bluntly refusing to read it. I can understand a decision to do a completely rewrite of the GEDCOM import, but I do not understand ripping out support for previous formats. I am not positively impressed.

Behold 0.98.9c

One of the applications I tested the file with is Louis Kessler’s Behold 0.98.9c Alpha.

GEDCOM reader

Louis put a lot of work into Behold’s GEDCOM reader to make sure it does not just read practically every dialect out there, but even tries to correct for defects he know about.

I have suggested that he could perhaps turn it into a utility that reads an invalid GEDCOM files and then produces a correct one, but that will not happen soon. Behold is not up to release 1.0 yet, and one major feature it still lacks is GEDCOM export.

Anyway, Behold managed to read the invalid GEDCOM file quite nicely. The key part of test is a comment with several lines of text and the entire comment was there. If Behold had simply stuck to the GEDCOM specification, it would have complained, and probably shown the first line, the last line, or nothing. It actually imported all the lines as a single comment. There was one problem though: the lines were no longer in the correct order. The last line was showing as the first line now.

I send Louis an email and attached a file. He was initially unable to duplicate the effect. It took us a while to discover that I had sent the wrong file. Mea culpa. Once he had the right file, he fixed the problem almost immediately.


2008-08-27 Behold version 0.98.9d

Behold version 0.98.9d reads the broken FTW 2 GEDCOM file correctly. Family Tree Maker 2008 still does not.

2011-04-23 Family Tree Maker Beta Site

The Family Tree Maker beta site ( returns error 403.