Thank you get much - this is very helpful.
To make sure I have it right:
Software like Family Tree Maker give me greater flexibility and searches against the information on ancestry.com via my existing account and I can have the online tree and laptop tree be in sync. So I get all the data plus better software and portability.
Ancestry.com gives me all the data but limited portability and functionality.
I assume that the big reason to keep an online tree and sync it would be so that it can be part of the "hint system"
Is that correct? If so I'll be buying the software. Thanks again for the advice