Modern Software Experience

2009-05-07

FTW TEXT Primer

  1. FTW TEXT

FTW TEXT

problem

The FTW TEXT article explains what FTW TEXT is, and how Family Tree Maker for Windows users are misled into creating an FTW TEXT file when they want to create a GEDCOM file. That is a problem, because few applications support FTW TEXT.

There are many FTW users who think they saved their data to GEDCOM format, but actually only have an FTW TEXT file. That raises the issue of how other applications should deal with FTW TEXT files.

This article demonstrates the FTW TEXT problem by showing what happens if you present an FTW TEXT file to various genealogy applications that expect a GEDCOM file.

practice

RootsMagic 4

RootsMagic 4 is confounded by FTW TEXT files. RootsMagic 4 seems to import the file but then puts up a dialog box saying There is more data on another disk. Insert the disk with filename.G00.

RootsMagic expected a GEDCOM file and tried to read the FTW TEXT file as such. A GEDCOM files ends with a TRLR statement, but an FTW TEXT file does not. Because there was no TRLR statement, RootsMagic assumes that it is a multi-part GEDCOM file, and therefore asks for the second part.

RootsMagic 4 FTW TEXT import

At least, that seemed the obvious logical explanation for this behaviour. However, when I added a TRLR statement at the end, RootsMagic either kept asking for the next file or just kept displaying the busy icon without any message about the import.
I tried adding a HEAD statement at the beginning, but that did work either. With an early RootsMagic 4 release, it made the import crash. The current release seems to be done importing in a flash, but does not recognise the tags and imports nothing.
RootsMagic 4’s GEDCOM import was obviously created without FTW TEXT files in mind.

Legacy 7

Legacy 7 is similarly confounded by FTW TEXT. It puts up an messagebox to ask Is this a multiple-disk GEDCOM file?.

Legacy 7 FTW TEXT Import Question

If you answer yes, Legacy prompts you to Insert disk No. 2 with the file filename.G00 on it, if you say no, Legacy puts up a message box that quite rightly remarks that This is not a valid, complete GEDCOM file. It is missing information and does not have the required 0 TRLR at the end., yet continues to give you an option to read it anyway: Would you like Legacy to read what it can from the file?.

Legacy 7 FTW TEXT is not valid GEDCOM

If you say yes, Legacy puts up a warning dialog box stating that One or more unrecognised items have been found in this GEDCOM file. Would you like to see a list so you can convert them to recognised GEDCOM entries?. If you choose Yes, Legacy shows its dialog box that lets you map all the unrecognised tags to GEDCOM tags, so you can continue to try

Legacy 7 obviously does not support FTW TEXT.

New Family Tree Maker

It is reasonable to expect that newer versions of Family Tree Maker read the files created by older versions, but New Family Tree Maker does not live up to that expectation. New Family Tree Maker does not even read FTW GEDCOM 5.3 files.

Most old FTW TEXT you are likely to encounter are similar to FTW GEDCOM files based on GEDCOM 5.3. All these FTW-created files are rejected by New Family Tree Maker because it will only import GEDCOM version 5.5 files.

FTM2009 refuses FTW TEXT

Family Tree Maker 16 defaults to creating FTW GEDCOM and FTW TEXT files based on GEDCOM version 5.5.
FTM 2009 imports such FTW TEXT files as if they are FTW GEDCOM files. There is not even a message informing you that it really is an FTW TEXT file.

Brother’s Keeper

Brother’s Keeper does not support FTW TEXT, but does react somewhat intelligently when you try to read import FTW TEXT files as if they are GEDCOM files. Brother’s Keeper shows two message boxes in immediate succession.

BK6 GEDCOM does not contain abbreviated tags

BK6: FTW users should specify abbreviated tags

The first one tells you that The gedcom file you are reading was not created with abbreviated tags. and the second one instructs you on how to solve the problem: When you create a GEDCOM file with FTW specify abbreviated tags and no indents.

Although it is nice that Brother’s Keeper tells FTW users what to do, there is a lot wrong with this. Brother’s Keeper should not be showing two message boxes in immediate succession, but a single message box instead. The text in these boxes should capitalise GEDCOM. The worst error shown here is that both messages use the phrase abbreviated tags without even putting in quotes, as if it were a valid concept, thus reinforcing and perpetuating Family Tree Maker’s misrepresentation about what’s GEDCOM and what’s not.

Behold

Behold tries to be flexible in what it accepts, and seems to import FTW TEXT files, but adds INDIVIDUAL1, INDIVIDUAL2 etcetera to all the names in the file, and who knows what else goes wrong. It certainly isn’t a flawless import, and that is because Behold does not really support FTW TEXT, Behold just tries to be flexible by accommodating common GEDCOM errors.

Behold does not put up a messagebox warning about error and it does not generate an import log either, but it does show a post-import report when import terminates normally.
It does not recognise the file as FTW TEXT, but does list several problems with the ostensible GEDCOM file:

Behold FTW TEXT as GEDCOM Problems

Possible GEDCOM problems:
The HEAD record is missing. This may not be a GEDCOM file. Behold will use what it can from it.
1 blank line(s). Blank lines are not allowed in valid GEDCOM. Behold will simply ignore these lines.
64 indented line(s). This is not allowed in GEDCOMs, but Behold accepts them. However, it may indicate a problem with your input file.

GEDCOM Explorer

The GEDCOM Explorer program is brief and to the point: Not a valid Gedcom file, Error processing "FTW16FTWTEXT55.GED", Processing aborted.

GEDCOM Explorer refuses FTW TEXT

Except for the fact that GEDCOM is not capitalised, and that the three lines seem out of order, that is a correct error message that clearly states the real problem: FTW TEXT is not GEDCOM.

Cognatio

Cognatio’s response to an attempt to import an FTW TEXT file as if it were a GEDCOM file is crystal clear: Serious errors were found when searching the GEDCOM file. The import was cancelled..

Cognatio response to FTW TEXT

The log file it creates is just as clear:


Error on line 1: Unknown tag.
0 HEADER
  ^

Error on line 2: Illegal line format.
  1 SOURCE FTW
^

Aldfaer

You do not need to understand Dutch to make sense of this import summary.

Aldfaer failed FTW TEXT import

Aldfaer quite rightly complains that the file lacks a HEAD record, and imported zero records. The irony here is what the Aldfaer message actually says is that the file lacks a HEADER record, while a HEADER record happens to be exactly what the FTW TEXT file does have instead of a HEAD record that GEDCOM files have.

MyBlood

MyBlood creates an import log file, but for the FTW TEXT file, that file contains nothing but the start and end time. Nothing gets imported. There is no error or warning message.

conclusion

This sampling of genealogy applications that support GEDCOM shows how problematic Family Tree Maker’s FTW TEXT format is. Most GEDCOM readers do not expect FTW TEXT at all, they do not support nor recognise it, and their response when they presented with one varies greatly.

Some applications silently fail to import it, others get confused. Some present well-meaning but incorrect messages. The best ones produce an error message that clearly states that the file you tried to import is not a GEDCOM file. Problem is that although that is an accurate response, that message is not likely to really get through to users who still believes they have a GEDCOM file.

Some genealogy applications do support FTW TEXT, and silently accept it as if it was valid GEDCOM, without even informing the user about the problem, thus reinforcing the erroneous impression created by Family Tree Maker Classic that these are GEDCOM files.

updates

2011-01-03 Behold FTW TEXT

Louis Kessler has updated Behold to explicitly support FTW TEXT. The latest version, 0.99.17, released on 2010-12-28, now imports FTW TEXT files with nary a problem, and has informative messages in the import log.

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