Rewrite the Entire Macrium Reflect Manual


Author
Message
CerebralFreeze
CerebralFreeze
New Member
New Member (36 reputation)New Member (36 reputation)New Member (36 reputation)New Member (36 reputation)New Member (36 reputation)New Member (36 reputation)New Member (36 reputation)New Member (36 reputation)New Member (36 reputation)New Member (36 reputation)
Group: Forum Members
Posts: 17, Visits: 58
I don't have a profession in the computer industry but I know a little about computers; however, I have no idea what Reflect is trying to say in its manual.  I'll read a sentence over and over again and I still won't understand what I'm supposed to do.

Now, that's just figuring out what to do.  There is no way to figure out "why" I'm supposed to do something because it doesn't state instructions in proper English.  It's like they used the hardest words and then put them the words together in the hardest way possible so it's extremely difficult to understand.

Macrium Reflect truly has to rewrite its Instruction Manual.  Right now, I just choose options and hope it's correct.

The second most important detail on my wish list is that I wish Macrium Reflect wouldn't take 5 minutes to respond to each click of the mouse.  Why does it take so long?!
jphughan
jphughan
Macrium Evangelist
Macrium Evangelist (15K reputation)Macrium Evangelist (15K reputation)Macrium Evangelist (15K reputation)Macrium Evangelist (15K reputation)Macrium Evangelist (15K reputation)Macrium Evangelist (15K reputation)Macrium Evangelist (15K reputation)Macrium Evangelist (15K reputation)Macrium Evangelist (15K reputation)Macrium Evangelist (15K reputation)
Group: Forum Members
Posts: 10K, Visits: 65K
I do work in the IT industry, but I've actually found Macrium's documentation better than most, both in terms of comprehensiveness and clarity.  Just out of curiosity, can you provide an example of a section where you didn't understand a sentence even after multiple reads and/or didn't understand why you were expected to do something?  (One possible conflict I can see here is that if the instructions explain not only WHAT to do but also WHY you're supposed to do them, that might increase both the length and complexity of the instructions if the "why" requires understanding rather complex technical details.  So in that case I could see some other users saying, "I don't really care how Reflect does what it does.  Just tell me what I need to click in order to make it do this, not the "theory" behind it.  Image backup and restore functionality cuts across a LOT of technical concepts: partition layout schemes; properties of different partition types, file systems, and physical disks; VSS snapshots; network authentication; BIOS vs. UEFI boot methods; drivers; and on and on.)

I definitely haven't had responsiveness issues on any of the Reflect installations I use or support for other clients at any point in the years I've been using it.  I wonder if Reflect on your system might be trying to do something in the background and silently failing and timing out?  Here again it might be helpful to provide details as to what exactly you're doing when Reflect seems to hang.

Edited 3 June 2020 12:04 AM by jphughan
CerebralFreeze
CerebralFreeze
New Member
New Member (36 reputation)New Member (36 reputation)New Member (36 reputation)New Member (36 reputation)New Member (36 reputation)New Member (36 reputation)New Member (36 reputation)New Member (36 reputation)New Member (36 reputation)New Member (36 reputation)
Group: Forum Members
Posts: 17, Visits: 58
jphughan - 2 June 2020 11:56 PM
I do work in the IT industry, but I've actually found Macrium's documentation better than most, both in terms of comprehensiveness and clarity.  Just out of curiosity, can you provide an example of a section where you didn't understand a sentence even after multiple reads and/or didn't understand why you were expected to do something?  (One possible conflict I can see here is that if the instructions explain not only WHAT to do but also WHY you're supposed to do them, that might increase both the length and complexity of the instructions if the "why" requires understanding rather complex technical details.  So in that case I could see some other users saying, "I don't really care how Reflect does what it does.  Just tell me what I need to click in order to make it do this, not the "theory" behind it.  Image backup and restore functionality cuts across a LOT of technical concepts: partition layout schemes; properties of different partition types, file systems, and physical disks; VSS snapshots; network authentication; BIOS vs. UEFI boot methods; drivers; and on and on.)

I definitely haven't had responsiveness issues on any of the Reflect installations I use or support for other clients at any point in the years I've been using it.  I wonder if Reflect on your system might be trying to do something in the background and silently failing and timing out?  Here again it might be helpful to provide details as to what exactly you're doing when Reflect seems to hang.

Hi, JP, maybe it's because you're in the IT industry so you know what all the words mean but I'm just lost most of the time when I read the manual.  I don't think I'm being overly picky but I think the writing style is just off.  For example, I just downloaded the Macrium Reflect's newest manual (version 7.2).  And, I if you click the first section, it's confusing right out of the gate.  Try clicking the Chapter Rescue media and Windows PE.  The first paragraph says:

If you lose your Windows operating system, you can start your PC using Macrium Reflect rescue media on CD,
DVD, or USB stick. This makes creating rescue media the first thing you need to do with Macrium Reflect. It contains
a bootable, lightweight version of Windows and a full version of Macrium Reflect.
This lightweight version of Windows is called the Windows Recovery Environment (also known as Windows RE or
WinRE) and is supplied with Windows 7 and later operating systems. For Windows XP, Vista and systems without
WinRE, Reflect will download the Windows Pre-installation Environment (also known as Windows PE or WinPE)
directly from Microsoft.

I know this sounds a little nit picky but it really isn't when you're a total newb and don't know what's going on.  3 years ago, I would have been totally lost, reading this first paragraph.  What do you mean by lose your operating system?  Who could the Macrium Reflect recue media help?  Is the CD, DVD, or USB stick applies to the PC or Macrium rescue media.  What is a rescue media?  And, why would it be the first thing I should do?  Shouldn't making a copy of my data be better?  What would the rescue media do?  Would it help me repair my operating system so it works correctly again?  Then, the 2nd paragraph is even harder to follow.

I think there is too many new vocabulary in each sentence.  Our brain can only memorize so much at once but our brain is pelted with new words again and again.  Instead of using new vocabulary, I think they should just call it something simple so there isn't any memorization.  For example, don't even mention the Windows Recovery Environment.  Then, they introduce another term, Windows pre-installation Environment.  What is that?!

Drac144
Drac144
Guru
Guru (1K reputation)Guru (1K reputation)Guru (1K reputation)Guru (1K reputation)Guru (1K reputation)Guru (1K reputation)Guru (1K reputation)Guru (1K reputation)Guru (1K reputation)Guru (1K reputation)
Group: Forum Members
Posts: 688, Visits: 2.7K
Cerebralfreeze,

You make some good points.  The language is definitely assuming a certain level of computer knowledge.  Possibly adding a glossary of terms to cover some the basics or an overview of backup software including recovery and rescue media would be a better start for the manual.  This assumes that the target audience includes beginners.  A college level text does not have to include information so a 4th grader can understand it.  It may be that Macrium has written the manual for a more technical audience. I am not saying that is good or bad.  The manual may be just fine, as written, for Reflect's target audience.  An it may only require the addition of some general backup concepts and terms to make it useful for a larger audience.
jphughan
jphughan
Macrium Evangelist
Macrium Evangelist (15K reputation)Macrium Evangelist (15K reputation)Macrium Evangelist (15K reputation)Macrium Evangelist (15K reputation)Macrium Evangelist (15K reputation)Macrium Evangelist (15K reputation)Macrium Evangelist (15K reputation)Macrium Evangelist (15K reputation)Macrium Evangelist (15K reputation)Macrium Evangelist (15K reputation)
Group: Forum Members
Posts: 10K, Visits: 65K
I guess I find Reflect's documentation commensurate with the target audience of the application itself, which I see as power users.  You don't have to be an IT expert to use it, but as Drac says, it does assume a certain level of knowledge  And in fairness, most people making image backups (who would also know how to restore them if the need arose, which surprisingly seems to be a good-sized gap among the user base) are typically power users.  There are certainly easier backup solutions, although all of the ones I'm aware of come with functional tradeoffs.  But in order to use Reflect competently, you do need to understand concepts such as Full vs. Diff vs. Inc backups, the considerations that would influence designing a scheduling and retention policy setup appropriate for your purposes, how to boot your PC from an alternate device, and how to restore a backup.  And that's before even getting to other areas of knowledge that might come into play in a subset of Reflect user scenarios, such as troubleshooting network connectivity and permissions issues, custom restore scenarios that might involve resizing/reordering partitions, ReDeploy and the possible need to supply additional drivers, and other edge cases that Reflect can handle -- if you know what you're doing.

I've seen threads come up here before asking for Reflect to be simplified.  They're nowhere near as common as the threads praising Macrium for having a more intuitive interface than competitors that offer similar functionality, but there are clearly some people who came to Reflect expecting a turnkey, "click once to set it and forget it" experience.  And that's not what Reflect offers.  My own perspective is that Reflect has a fairly intuitive interface for the amount of functionality and flexibility it offers.  I have some suggestions for making it better what I wrote up in a Wish List thread that Macrium received positively, but I think that dumbing it down too much would require removing such functionality or flexibility, or at least making it harder to use for people who need it.  Someone else -- maybe it was even Drac -- put it more succinctly: "If you make something too idiotproof, then only an idiot will want to use it."

I guess I might have a similar feeling about the documentation.  If I use an application that seems clearly oriented to power users, I would expect its documentation to match.  I would NOT want it to have dumbed down documentation, because that would require either omitting technical detail I might want or else making the documentation a LOT longer.  Drac's idea of a glossary I guess would ensure that the added length was in a different section so that people with more expertise wouldn't have to read through what would (for them) be unnecessary and time-wasting explanation.  But it would still be a lot more work for Macrium, and most of the terms that might need a glossary aren't unique to Reflect.  You could find out what those terms mean in all sorts of other places.

Then there's the unfortunate reality that relatively few people even bother reading the documentation in the first place, and in my experience helping people on forums here and elsewhere, it's ironically enough the less knowledgeable people who are more likely to skip over reading any documentation, even though they would typically be the greatest beneficiaries.  And this is true even in cases where the documentation in question is NOT overly technical.  So investing time to make documentation simpler to understand for people who are less likely to read it in the first place might be a poor value proposition.

But to answer your specific questions about that paragraph:
  • "Losing your operating system" means losing the ability to boot it or otherwise use it properly.  I grant that this could be worded better.
  • Rescue Media is what you would put onto the disc or flash drive you would create using Rescue Media Builder.  As described in that paragraph, it is a bootable environment that allows you to use Reflect, even if your main OS that you normally boot from is having a problem.
  • Rescue Media helps anyone who would need to restore their operating system to a previous point in time, and given that making backups of the system's OS disk is likely the overwhelming majority use case for Reflect, it could help quite a lot of people.
  • Whether the literal first thing you do is create Rescue Media or make your first backup isn't really important, since you'd need both to restore a previous backup in a system failure scenario.  But I suspect the emphasis is because as I've also seen several times on this forum, users seem to go along happily making backups without ever having created Rescue Media, and then when their system becomes unbootable, they have no easy way to restore those backups until they use some other PC to create working Rescue Media that can in turn be used to restore their backup.  I just recently helped someone who was running Reflect 7.2 and his most recent Rescue Media was from Reflect V4.  I don't even know how many years ago that would have been.
The WinRE vs. WinPE distinctions and what gets downloaded are certainly more technical than most people will understand or need to care about.  That's in the "power users might care and need to know about" category.

Edited 8 June 2020 8:30 PM by jphughan
jphughan
jphughan
Macrium Evangelist
Macrium Evangelist (15K reputation)Macrium Evangelist (15K reputation)Macrium Evangelist (15K reputation)Macrium Evangelist (15K reputation)Macrium Evangelist (15K reputation)Macrium Evangelist (15K reputation)Macrium Evangelist (15K reputation)Macrium Evangelist (15K reputation)Macrium Evangelist (15K reputation)Macrium Evangelist (15K reputation)
Group: Forum Members
Posts: 10K, Visits: 65K
Just as another bit of context/perspective, the screenshot below is the Products tab of the Macrium website.  Notice how many Reflect editions and products appear in the Business section, clearly aimed at use cases where IT experts would typically be involved.  By comparison, in the Personal section there's just Home and Free.  That might give some insight into the distribution of Macrium's user base and therefore their style of documentation.



L. W. "Dan" Danz
L. W. "Dan" Danz
Expert
Expert (727 reputation)Expert (727 reputation)Expert (727 reputation)Expert (727 reputation)Expert (727 reputation)Expert (727 reputation)Expert (727 reputation)Expert (727 reputation)Expert (727 reputation)Expert (727 reputation)
Group: Forum Members
Posts: 348, Visits: 4.5K
FWIW, a bit of updating of the existing user manual might help the OP and other neophyte users understand what's presented while still retaining deep technical information for advanced users and avoid rewriting the whole manual.
  • As new terms appear in a topic, like rescue media, that might be either foreign to some or introduce a Reflect-specific use of a common term, provide a link to a glossary entry that fully explains the term, This could be in the form of a traditional underlined link spanning the word(s), or the use of an actionable question mark icon following the term.
  • There's a lot of material that has been added as new features were added, sort of like FAQs.  Either move this material to the appropriate place in the manual or link to it from the appropriate place. Don't make the user search for applicable notes in a hodge-podge unorganized collection of such notes.
  • It's often difficult to formulate a search that would expand on concepts because a new user doesn't know what search terms to specify.  Provide a button embedded in the text that expands the subject matter with a search.  Optionally, make it search recent posts in the forums as well as the manual.
  • Use HTML controls to hide/expand technical explanations of how something works, similar to the use of TLDR; The intent here is to hide material that might be confusing at the beginner level, but make it easy for advanced users to see the material, in context, without linking to an external explanation.
    • Provide a chapter-level switch to override all embedded technical explanation switches in the chapter,
      • Remember the chapter-level switch for this session only.
    • Provide a document-level switch to override individual technical-levels for all chapters in the document.
      • Remember the document-level switch in the user preferences.
  • Add the glossary as a distinct major content item for every chapter and, within the glossary, cross-link terms when term(s) are used in the explanation of a term. 
    • Use "include" to expose terms common to all chapters in the individual chapter glossaries.   The intent of this recommendation is to have a common glossary and a chapter-specific glossary, but prevent page flipping.
  • Use a bold font to emphasize important terms and concepts.
  • Use a "computer font" to call out typed commands and/or menu items.
  • Use a convention for navigating menus and use an indication of the extent of the menu, such as "Select source partitions from Settings/Backup/Image Selected Disks/Source" .
Just some words of advice from an aging systems programmer & former technical writer who's an avid fan of Macrium Reflect.


  L. W. "Dan" Danz, Overland Park KS  

GO

Merge Selected

Merge into selected topic...



Merge into merge target...



Merge into a specific topic ID...




Reading This Topic

Login

Explore
Messages
Mentions
Search