Family Tree Maker v6.0 vs. Personal Ancestral File v5.1

As of February, 2002 Family Tree Maker’s most recent version is v9

Genealogy software review FTM vs. PAF


As an amateur genealogist, I have logged many hours in front of the computer with both programs. In my mind, PAF (Personal Ancestral File) is a step above FTM (Family Tree Maker).  PAF is more intuitive and user friendly.  Both programs are very good, and if you already paid for FTM you didn’t get ripped off, it’s an excellent database. Both have more options than I have used, so the scope of this review will be limited to those functions which I feel are the most commonly used (the ones that I have used). I have not really used Family Origins, but it appears to be more like PAF.


The first thing will be a chart of features to compare, below the chart is a detailed review of the different types of features.


The Chart:


Family Tree Maker

Personal Ancestral File

Single view front end.

Three tiered front end which includes family, pedigree chart and list of individuals. Highlighting one in any view takes you there in the other views.

Charts, detailed info, and other views replace the current view.  You can only see one thing at a time.

Charts are done on a separate program file, you can have them both open at once and switch back and forth, and you can view a chart that is in a different place than the family view. Detailed info opens a separate window so you can continue to see where you are in the family file.

Detailed info is not a template. Custom info is added each individual on an as-needed basis.

Detailed info is a template. Facts can be added to a template, or you can make your own custom template.

Both have lots of charts.

Charts open in separate program.

Exports file to RTF or TXT

Exports file to many word processing programs. Seems to have more formatting options.

Fairly easy to use. 

Easier to use. More “Windows” like.

Costs $30-$100

Database is free, add on to print charts and books is $14

Both allow you to go on-line to update genealogy databases.

Both allow you to go on-line to update genealogy databases.



The Detailed Review:

For general ease of use, PAF is more windows-like than FTM. It gives you pop up windows in places where FTM takes you on a ride through layers of screens, and it has a more powerful front end.


Comparison of features:

As I said, I’m an amateur. Even though I have spent gobs of time in front of these programs, I don’t know what all the features are, and I’m sure there are features in each one that I am unaware of. With that in mind, here is a comparison of the most common features:


The “front end” is what you see most of the time when using these programs to input data, or to cruise around the family.


FTM has a single paged front end, and that is the family page. It contains the basic information for the individual and spouse, and names and birth dates of children, as well as tabs for the parent’s and children’s family pages. By basic info, I mean that FTM contains individual and spouse’s birth, death, and marriage dates and places. The FTM family page contains no info about the individual’s parents.


PAF has a three paged front end with tabs at the top for each page. The first page is the family page which contains basic info about the individual who’s page it is, as well as basic info about their parents and names and birth dates of their children. You go to parent’s or children’s pages by clicking on the arrow instead of a tab – basically the same thing. The basic info contained in the PAF family page is the same as FTM minus the marriage place. It does not contain the marriage date of the individual’s parents.


The second page of the front end is a Pedigree chart for the highlighted individual which contains five generations including the individual. This is very useful when trying to find your way around. In FTM you have to go to one of the regular charts and they are not made to fit five generations on one screen. This functionality just doesn’t seem to be there. 


The third page is the list of individuals. This is really handy and easy to use. You scroll up or down to find an individual, highlight the individual, and when you click on the family or pedigree page that is the individual on that page.


Detailed info is of particular importance. Both contain places to put all of your detailed information.


FTM has a button by each individual which is labeled “More.” Click this button to go leave the family page and go to a page which contains facts for that individual, as well as buttons for pages containing addresses, medical info, lineage info, and notes. This gives you the appearance that you have “left” the family page because it is “gone,” all you see is the page for the type of info you are entering. On the facts page you can select a fact then enter info about it.


In PAF you double click the person that you want details about and a window opens up in front of the family page containing the extra info. This gives you the appearance that you have not left the family page since you can still see it (I guess it’s a comfort thing). This window contains certain facts about the person that you can fill in. You can add new facts, or set up a custom facts page containing the specific facts that you want to be presented with. It also contains buttons for notes, sources, addresses and multimedia.


The charts are an important part of this for some people, I haven’t really used them except to see what they do.


FTM has buttons on the top of the page for the different charts. Click a button to see the chart instead of the family page, then click another button to go back to the family page.


PAF does not have buttons. To get the charts you need to open PAF Companion, which can be opened right from the ‘Tools’ drop down, but is a separate program.  It is an extra click or two to get to the charts, but I like it better because you can have both open at once, a chart and the family page, which you can’t do in FTM. This also gives you the ability to keep a particular chart open while moving back and forth within the family pages and pedigree charts.


Exporting the family tree to a word processor or text file is fairly easy with PAF, and the file can be created in one of five different word processors, and in several versions for some of them. I had a more difficult time finding the right combination of buttons to export the tree to a file in FTM, and it only supports two options, RTF and text file.