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Problems exporting publications from Family Tree Maker

Problems exporting publications from Family Tree Maker

Answer ID 5448
Why am I having trouble exporting publications from Family Tree Maker?

Charts, reports and books in Family Tree Maker are great ways to consolidate information into a very presentable, highly readable format. However, you occasionally may run into issues either with generating or exporting these items, especially when they are very large files.

While there is no set limit within Family Tree Maker for publication item size, other external limitations may exist on your particular computer.

This article discusses the following:

Potential Computer Constraints

There are several factors on any given computer that may make publication generation and exportation go slowly or fail. For example, Family Tree Maker, like all programs on your computer, utilizes a portion of your RAM (Random Access Memory) to function. When you run several programs or background tasks at once, the amount of available RAM depletes, causing functions to stall. In the same spirit, your computer’s processor can only handle so many tasks at a time, so running multiple programs at once can attribute to a bottleneck in your processor power.

The more RAM and processing power you have available, the better chances a given program has to complete the task you’ve had it engage in. If you find that you’re having trouble with publication items going slow or freezing, try closing some programs or background tasks and starting the process again.

While less of a concern with more modern computers, a low amount of remaining hard drive space can also cause undesirable behavior since it impedes the amount of virtual memory available. As a general rule, you should stop filling a hard drive with information when you reach about 90% capacity.

The amount of virtual memory on a computer can be manually adjusted. If you have chosen to do this, be certain you’re not setting it too low. The best option is to let your operating system decide what amount is right for you. For Windows, click here to learn how to adjust your virtual memory allocation. For Mac users, click here to learn more about the different types of memory on your machine.

Charts and Reports

While typically smaller than books, charts and reports in Family Tree Maker can still be quite sizable. In more recent versions of the software, the number of generations you can include in these publication types can go up to 99 which is much, much more than the average user would ever need. To give a little perspective of this, a 10 generation report of only ancestors (no descendants) would be just over 1020 people. With an average of 5 people per page, you’d end up with about 204 pages (most literary novels are between 200 – 400 pages).

With that in mind, we’ve outlined some of the format limitations you may run into with the more commonly used export options.


  • Charts
    • 200” x 200” in poster layout
  • Reports
    • Poster layout not available for reports

Note: These figures are more about the PDF format’s memory limitation than its physical dimensions. As such, these numbers are only approximates. Depending on the amount of text, number and size of photos, etc. that you have on the chart/report, your size mileage may vary greatly. Should you exceed the memory limitations of the PDF format, you will only see a giant, red X across the viewer when trying to open it. If you encounter this, you will need to decrease the amount of information you have in your publication item. This is covered in the Troubleshooting section below.


  • Charts
    • 2GB in all layouts
  • Reports
    • Not available in reports.


  • Charts
    • Not available in charts
  • Reports
    • Unlimited size but the programs used to open this format have limitations
    • 512MB in Microsoft Word


Because books are simply charts and reports connected together, the same rules apply in terms of export limitations. The only difference is that books cannot be exported in image formats. Due to the nature of the book function, users tend to make them exceptionally bigger than they normally would an individual chart/report. While this fine in most cases, still keep in mind everything discussed previously in this article.

Bigger books can put more of a memory footprint on your system and tax your processor more heavily when trying to generate.


If you run into trouble while trying to generate a publication item, there are several things you can try.

  • If your system seems to be slowing down while generating or exporting, try closing other programs or background tasks. You can also try from a different computer with more RAM or a faster processor.
  • If your computer or the export option is running out of memory while exporting an item as a PDF, try an EMF or RTF instead.
  • EMFs are typically better for very large charts due to the way they’re handled. Windows users can export to EMF or other images formats. Unfortunately, the EMF options are not available to Mac users but there are other image formats you can try on that operating system as well.
  • Some PDF programs have larger memory buffers than others. Switching to a different reader like PrimoPDF (Windows only) can sometimes allow you to view larger PDF files.
  • If your item is still too big to view/export successfully, you may want to consider either splitting the publication or removing extraneous information. Some examples of this would be to use lower resolution photos (if included) or delete the photos altogether. You can even do something like running one publication item for each of your parental lines (maternal side vs. paternal side).
  • Limiting your item to a certain number of ancestors and descendants can also be helpful.
  • Charts in poster layout allow you to drag the person nodes around the chart area. Where real estate is a factor, this can allow you to reduce the number of inches/pages for the chart manually.
  • All charts have a spacing option that will allow you to decrease the distance between the person nodes which may also fix some size issues.
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