Online Help

• Nov 5, 2018 - 17:46

I would like to propose (and help implement) some changes to how to organize our online help.

Right now (2.3.2), from within MuseScore, there is under the Help menu items for Online Handbook, Ask for Help, and Report a Bug. In 3.0 builds, we see the same but also a Leave Feedback item, and also toolbar buttons for reporting a bug and leaving feedback. My sense is those toolbar buttons are temporary, to help collect data during alpha and beta periods, but the idea behind them isn't bad and I'm not opposed to keeping them in some form. but I want to step back and look at the bigger picture here.

First, a user encountering some sort of problem in MuseScore doesn't usually know if it's a bug or not. So we get lots of bug reports that are really support questions. And we also get people asking for help in the forum without first looking to see if the question has already been asked and answered, in part because "Ask for Help" goes straight to creating a new topic. In addition, we end up with people not knowing how to find the forums any other way and unable to followup on their own requests except by starting new threads. And we end up with people never taking advantage of the other resources that are available (the tutorials etc) because there is no direct path there. As a related issue, we have people who are just more comfortable with because they already engage there in other ways, and they tend to avoid resources on because they expect to get what they need from the site they already visit.

It's a confusing picture, and I want to improve it.

My proposal is to replace the existing Help menu items I mentioned with two new ones: one to access a local copy of the Handbook, and a general "Get Help Online" item that would go to a greatly improved of the current page that could help direct people better from there. I want to make that page equally visible from, and easily accessible from other places like the MuseScore Discussion and Support page on Facebook, etc. So there would be one main starting point for people to get help, whether they come from the Help menu MuseScore or pretty much anywhere else. This page would clearly lay out the different options in a more appealing way than the current Support page.

I'm open to thoughts and suggestions on any of this!


I think a "Report a bug" link in a release version is a very bad idea due to the large number of support requests and user errors being reported there. With the new issue reporter, Support request has been removed as an option. Now, anyone wanting to find a real bug has to sort through bogus bug reports that have been closed and look just like legitimate bug reports.

Doing this will put part of the onus on us regular contributors to either properly direct users to the correct bug reporting page via a link in our response, or entering bug reports ourselves. I already do the latter when someone from another language forum finds a legitimate bug. FYI "Enter a bug report." is not a good answer for someone unfamiliar with the .org website and should never be used as a reply unless it followed by "at" This is what I mean by directing the user to the correct bug reporting page. Most noobs see that they have started a thread in the Support and Bug Reports forum and think they have actually reported a bug. The same idea applies to the Feature Request forum.

An improved landing page for "Get online help" would be a big improvement and should make the experience for new users better.

In reply to by mike320

Most noobs see that they have started a thread in the Support and Bug Reports forum and think they have actually reported a bug.

True that! I also thought that in the beginning. It's better than people thinking the Issue Tracker is a place for general discussion, though. :-s

In reply to by mike320

I agree with all of this, and I do think a clear "online help center" as a starting point will help a lot. Sometimes I wish it were possible to simply move threads from issue tracker to support forum or vice versa, but I figure that's not likely to happen. So just making sure it is easy to give people pointers, and making sure we do it, will be good.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

"... a clear "online help center" as a starting point will help a lot

I do agree totally. Even after several years of using MuseScore, I find it quite difficult to navigate to the relevant section in the Handbook. Too often - in frustration - I fall back to a Google keyword search, which gets me to the right Handbook page much quicker!

If the new "Online Help Centre" can start with a small number of top-level topics and quickly burrow down to specific guidance, this would really help.

In reply to by DanielR

To me that is more about the organization of the Handbook itself - I'd prefer seeing the main help center page just have a link to the Handbook, then have the main Handbook page be organized more simply. But it's not out of the question to add that info to help center, either - definitely something to keep in mind as we design it!

In reply to by neGjodsbol

Yes, I agree. Although I would say that having support questions in the wrong forum is less troublesome than having them in the issue tracker. The main problem with having them in the issue tracker is that only developers tend to see them, rather than the general community who might be able to help, also the issues disappear when we close (as they rightly should) them making it harder to search for others with the same question even if you wanted to, plus they interfere with the metrics we are trying to collect on open issues to help gauge the progress of 3.0, etc.

In reply to by Marc Sabatella

Regarding the local handbook, been there done that. MuseScore 1 had a local handbook. It's an infinite pain to have an up to date and useful manual inside a released version, in 50+ languages. We do provide PDF downloads for the handbook but delivering it with the software, it's hard, really (and large...)

In reply to by Nicolas

Nor did MuseScore 1 have regular updates. Even without leveraging the resource manager, I think people would appreciate having a local copy of the Handbook that is only as out of date as their last program update. But indeed, there is a question of how to deal with multiple languages if we don't do it as a separate resource, and I can see we don't want to just automatically include all languages.

Without knowing how you want to present this, it would be nice if How to's and Tutorials were presented in a more 'handbook' like fashion, including the possibility to translate these.

In reply to by neGjodsbol

More excellent ideas! I have no idea what's involved in setting that up, but would certainly welcome it. One thing I am trying to keep in mind is the wish to avoid overwhelming the user. It's great to have lots of help available, but people avoid reading the Handbook as it is because it seems so overwhelming. So I want this help center to focus on a few of the most high-value resources that are clearly identified, with other contributed resources available as well for those who want to dig deeper.

It might be an idea to distingush between a "Help center" that is focuses on finding help for the user who is get stuck, and "Learning center" focused on teaching how to use MS.
Help center:
Handbook, How to's and forums
Learning center:
Videos, tutorials, tours ...

In reply to by neGjodsbol

This is a very good point. On the other hand, we already have confusion with users not understanding the difference between the issue tracker and the forums, and once you end up in the wrong place, you are unlikely to find your way to the other. Also, a common workflow is to first look for info, then if you can't find it, ask for help.

So my feeling is that there should probably be a single place to go first - a single page on, a single link in the Help menu - and that page will then hopefully make it clear that there are both "learning" and "support" resources, so you can choose the one that suits you. All of the the "learning" resources should also have a clear path to the "support" side, so if you don't find what you are looking for, it's easy to get to the forum to ask. Maybe that's just a link back to the main help center page, maybe it's a search box, maybe it's a link directly to the Support forum, most likely some combination.

To me, the English word "help" includes both "learning" (reading manuals, watching tutorials, etc) and "support" (asking questions and getting answers), and the standard menu in most applications is Help, so to me, that's the natural top-level name to use.

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