Modern Software Experience

2010-12-01

official Ancestry.com performance tips

Ancestry.com blog

Ancestry.com does not just produce Family Tree Maker, they also blog about it on the Family Tree Maker blog. There is no separate Family Tree Maker blog, Family Tree Maker blog is shorthand for the Family Tree Maker posts on the official Ancestry.com blog.

Family Tree Maker: Improving Performance

The Family Tree Maker blog has presented informative post as well as a few stinkers. Their last post is one of the worst they've ever done. The title is extremely promising: Family Tree Maker: Improving Performance. The moment I saw that title in my RSS reader, I hopped over to the Ancestry.com blog, eager to discover what they are doing, or perhaps already had done to improve Family Tree Maker's lacklustre performance in their latest Family Tree Maker Service Pack. What I found was a slap in the face of all Family Tree Maker users.

six steps

The Family Tree Maker: Improving Performance blog post does not announce that Ancestry.com has fixed some performance issues or is about to do so. Instead, it consists of a six steps you should take to increase the performance. That still doesn't sound too disappointing. Perhaps it is possible to improve start-up speed by tweaking some hitherto undocumented parameters. No, not even that. These are the six step you should take:

  1. Verify that your computer meets the minimum system requirements
  2. Make sure you are using the latest version of the software
  3. Run the Compact File tool
  4. Check your tree for duplicate individuals
  5. Work offline
  6. Disable Fastfields

warm and fuzzy

These six step you can take do not make me feel warm and fuzzy about the informative and helpful advice I just received. It is remarkable that this is essentially the same information as Family Tree Maker knowledgebase article 5142: Family Tree Maker 2008-2011 is running slow, how can I fix this?, first published on 2010 Oct 3, that's about two months ago. If the knowledge base article is worth repeating on the Ancestry.com blog, then why wait two months to do so?
Anyway, let us consider these six steps one by one, and what each of those six pieces of official advice is telling us about what Ancestry.com thinks about you, Family Tree Maker user.

Verify that your computer meets the minimum system requirements

Of course it slow! What did you expect? You bought our advanced modern software in the unreasonable expectation that it would perform well on that rusty piece of antique you dare call a computer. Never mind that Family Tree Maker 16 runs just fine on it. You forgot to check our perfectly reasonable minimum requirements. Let us rephrase those minimum requirements for your slow, aging brain: You should go out and the buy the fastest machine you can find. That will solve all your performance problems. Our software isn't slow, your poor excuse of a computer is. There is nothing wrong with our software.

Make sure you are using the latest version of the software

Now listen up buddy. We are sick and tired of hearing that Family Tree Maker doesn't perform well. We don't want to be reminded that Family Tree Maker 2008 was Alpha quality software that we sold to you promising a bunch of tools to quickly build your family tree. Yes, we were lying to you, because we were just after your money. But, darn it, we gave you Family Tree Maker 2009 for free! For free! The massive drop in sales revenue cost me my year's end bonus! So don't you start whining that we had to provide a free update after releasing such an awful product. I already told you we don't want to hear that anymore. Don't remind us about the entire Family Tree Maker 2009 upgrade debacle either. You got it for free, okay, so it is only fair that we asked you to jump through some marketing hoops. Reminding us that we couldn't even organise a free upgrade isn't a positive contribution to this discussion.
It is time for you to face a hard fact, pal: Whining customers do not help us make better software. Developing software costs money. Want better software? Pay us to make it so. Don't complain that Family Tree Maker 2010 is slow, but go to our web store to buy the upgrade to Family Tree Maker 2011. And oh, don't you dare complain about the price. This is Ancestry.com software, you simply pay a premium for our quality brand. No, it isn't faster, it may even be slower, but you have to buy it anyway. My bonus depends on it. Besides, if you keep donating your hard-earned cash for the clunky software we produce then perhaps one day we will make a new version that solves the worst performance issues. Have faith, donate. I need my bonus.

Run the Compact File tool

So you bought the latest, fastest machine and bought the very latest version, and now you think that entitles you to demand that the software performs adequately? Who do you think you are (we sponsored that by the way, could you tell?). You are such an incorrigible optimist.
You saw the menu option, didn't you? Did you think we put it in for show? We'll explain it one more time, so that even you understand it: you are supposed to use it all the time. If you don't run the Compact File tool every time you use Family Tree Maker, performance will suffer. Do run the Compact File tool, and Family Tree Maker will perform way better. Really. You won't believe the enormous difference it makes.
Heh now, what's that? Wait a minute, adding the compacting time to the start-up is unfair! You can't do that. You are so mean to us. We make the best family tree software. If only you understood that, you wouldn't complain so much. Our software is great.

Check your tree for duplicate individuals

You have duplicate individuals in you tree? What are you, crazy?! Our software wasn't designed for that! We make quality software for professional genealogists, who don't make stupid mistakes like that.
What kind of genealogist are you anyway? Don't you know that you shouldn't have duplicate individuals in your tree? Don't you understand that duplicate individuals increase the size of your tree, and making navigating it inefficient? Do you have any idea how much even a single duplicate individual upsets a finely tuned application like Family Tree Maker? Having duplicate individuals is wrong, so we don't design for that.
I am through holding your hand. Our software is for professionals, not for beginners who still have duplicate individuals in their tree. Duplicate individuals! Unbelievable...

Work offline

Yes, Family Tree Maker crashes on start-up when it doesn't have Internet privileges. Of course it does. Didn't you read our Family Tree Maker 2008 press release? It clearly states that Family Tree Maker 2008 offers seamless web integration. Seamless, you know. That it crashes on start-up isn't a defect, it's a feature! That is how seamless our web integration is! Isn't our software grand?
Now, this integration really is very, very seamless, but we excel so much at creating industry-leading family tree software, that you can still turn it off using the ground-breaking Go Offline menu item. We designed this option with such care and dedication that choosing it will immediately improve the performance of the software significantly. It's like a magic performance switch and, to top it off, you can go back online any time. What's more, we'll even magically turn online mode back on the next time you use our advanced family tree software.

Disable Fastfields

We designed Fastfields to help you work faster. It is in the name, duh. We are very proud of this feature. Yes, we know that practically every other genealogy application already had it, that it is not difficult to implement, and that we are just playing catch-up. Yes, it is true that even the aging Personal Ancestral File has it, but we don't consider that fact relevant at all. We came up with the cool name, so the Fastfields feature is unique to Family Tree Maker. No other vendor has the cool name.
Now, to really work fast, you have to turn Fastfields off. The reasons for this are complicated, and a mere user like you would never understand the technical intricacies involved. However, I have been authorised to inform that it is definitely not because we messed up, and somehow managed to make this simple feature a real drag on the processor, rest assured that that is just a vicious rumour spread by jealous competition. It's complicated, really complicated. Just turn of Fastfields to enjoy fast fields.

summary

To summarise, if you don't buy the fastest PC, if you don't upgrade to the latest (and greatest! promise, ha-ha!) version of Family Tree Maker, if you don't run the Compact File tool every time, if you didn't check for duplicate individuals, if you are working online or using Fastfields, then all your Family Tree Maker performance issues are your own fault. So stop bothering us about it, okay?
It has nothing, absolutely nothing to do with the low quality of Family Tree Maker. We are the industry leader, our software is the best. Any problems you are having must therefore be your own fault. Have a nice day.

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