Friday, January 22, 2010

Ancestry.com iPhone and iPod Touch App Review

I was extremely excited to hear that Ancestry.com put out an iPhone application within the past few days.  I was even more ecstatic when I found out that it was free.  The download was quick and simple.  The only thing required when I launched the app was my Ancestry.com user name and password.

Unless you are an Ancestry.com member, the app is pretty much useless for you.  It pulls your Ancestry.com online family tree into the program for use.  So, unless you have a family tree on Ancestry's web site, you are out of luck!  It is key to remember that this is an Ancestry app, not a Family Tree Maker app.  You do not need Family Tree Maker to use the app, but you MUST have an Ancestry.com membership.  I guess you could use it with a free trail, but that would only last until your trial period was up.

I personally have an Ancestry.com membership but I actually did not have any trees online.  With that in mind, I had to upload one before I could do much with the app.  If you do not have a tree already, it will prompt you to create one at the Ancestry site.  Trust me - the screen on an iPhone or iPod Touch is too small to do much data entry.  With that in mind, I opted to start Family Tree Maker on my computer and uploaded a small tree to the site, a file with about 60 family members.  Despite the small file size, it took a long time for it to upload.  Maybe the Ancestry site was busy last night with extra traffic, becuase of the new app.

It took about an hour for my file to upload but after that, the app ran quite fast.  It found my new tree automatically and opened right up.  The color scheme is nice, typical Ancestry green and antique white.  All of the basic data entry functions that you would expect are there.  You can create and edit people in your file.  You can write and edit notes and even upload photos to your file.  This is a neat feature if you have an iPhone with a camera.  You could take a picture at a cemetery and put it directly into your tree.  The best part is that the file on your iPhone is synchronized with the tree your have on Ancestry.com.  When I added a photo to a member of my tree, it was on Ancestry's site instantly.

There are a few weaknesses that I see right off.  There is no way to see an actual tree, at least that I have found.  There are no reports and I do not see any way to share/export/email information to your friends.  I also do not see how you can delete someone from your tree.  The idea here is not to be a Family Tree Maker substitute but instead a way to view and work on your tree from the road.  In that respect, it was better than I expected.  For a new app, it is very clean and looks great!

As would be expected, the app is a little buggy.  When you look at a person's photo gallery, the images are not cropped properly.  It also gets stuck between images sometimes.  It is almost like all of the photos are connected end to end, instead of being separate files.  When you scroll across the gallery, it moves like a roll of microfilm and does not seem like individual photos in an album.  I only played with program for about an hour and it did cut off inexplicably once.

I will continue to play with the app for at least the next few days and let you know if I have any other thoughts.  As of right now, I think it is a great tool.  It might actually encourage me to put my entire tree on Ancestry's site, just to get the functionality out of this app.  The only negative about putting my tree on the site is that it does not sync with my Family Tree Maker file.  I would therefore have two family trees going, one on my computer and one online.  When Ancestry gets their online trees to sync with the at-home version of Family Tree Maker, then the app will be one hundred times more important to me than it is today.

4 comments:

davisdonl said...

I wonder if there would be an app out soon for the Ipad. Not yet considered an Ipad yet, so no real hurry for me.

Anonymous said...

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Anonymous said...

This is such a great resource that you are providing and you give it away for free. I enjoy seeing websites that understand the value of providing a prime resource for free. I truly loved reading your post. Thanks!

Ellen Taylor said...

It's free-sort of, but you have to have an Ancestry.com membership, which is far from free. I love the App and will keep it as long as I have Ancestry.com. By the way, I am a Mac user, and use Reunion for the MAC. I would not change to Family Tree Maker under any circumstances at this point. Reunion has a great App for iPod,Phone and Pad, and Family Tree Maker has nothing.