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Suggestions for New Features

Writing a suggestion

Manifold users are strongly encouraged to send in suggestions for new features or alterations in existing features. Every new Manifold release and update includes numerous additions that have been prompted by user suggestions.

This page provides tips for effective suggestions. For information on how to submit bug reports, please see the Bug Reports page. For information on getting tech support, please see the Support page for general information and the Contacting Tech Support page for details.

Ground Rules for Suggestions

Send email suggestions to sales@manifold.net. Due to the volume of suggestions received, suggestions for new features will not usually receive a reply; however, all letters conforming to the rules below are noted and their suggestions are tallied with others received and compared to current internal product plans. There are several rules which apply:

Customer Typing

Tips for Effective Suggestions

Some tips on how to make product suggestions that will influence the product as rapidly as you would like:

Suggestions for New Formats

We frequently receive requests to add a new format to Manifold System for import or export. We are always willing to consider adding new formats to Manifold. There are six main determinants as to whether a new format will be added:

Therefore, the best way to get a new format added to Manifold System is to send Manifold a URL or other document that precisely describes the format in full and complete technical detail and that provides links to sample data that may be freely downloaded.

Users sometimes write "Can you add XyzGIS format? Their home page is www.xyzgis.com." This is not helpful because unless a very large number of requests for that format are received Manifold staff will not be able to search the site for documents that might define the format. Users will also sometimes write suggesting a new format and pointing to an API that claims to provide an interface to the format. That's not helpful since such APIs almost always require agreement to terms and conditions. The cost of reviewing those on a legal basis is usually greater than simply implementing direct support for the format, and rarely are those terms acceptable to a competitive, commercial company like Manifold.

If you would like to advocate a new format, you increase your chances greatly by doing the detective work to find a solid technical description of the format and by providing some samples. Many of the formats in Manifold were added at the request of a single advocate who patiently located the required information and forwarded it to the Manifold team for implementation.

Requests for Broken Formats / Broken Standards

Manifold users will occasionally encounter files in formats that Manifold imports where the file does not accurately utilize the format. For example, there are many programs that can be used to write "shapefiles" which do not correctly write shapefile format, and there are images said to be in "GeoSPOT" format that are not written in accurate GeoSPOT format. Manifold will at times receive requests to alter the Manifold importers so they will read such pseudo-standard files.

There are two conflicting philosophies about staying true to a format definition. One philosophy says if something can be extracted from a file even though the format definition is not followed then do it. The other philosophy says that it is important to observe formats strictly and accurately as a protection against unknowingly importing damaged data. The first philosophy is often more convenient in the short term, but can lead to catastrophes in the long term. The second philosophy is more safe and professional, but can be less convenient in the short term.

Manifold tends to follow the second philosophy, of taking format definitions seriously. However, if there is a large body of data that systematically violates a format (for example, a large collection of data made available by a government), the Manifold team is willing to bend the format definition a bit and allow such data. If you need such a relaxation of standards, the best way to argue your case is to provide a URL or other information that documents the existence of a large body of data in that "broken" format.

The above advice also applies to requests for nonstandard implementations of other standards. For example, a few GPS receivers say they use NMEA protocols when in fact they use a blend of standard NMEA with proprietary exceptions to NMEA. A request to support such "nonstandard standards" is a request to support something outside the standard and it will only be considered if there is significant usage that departs from NMEA in that way. For example, if a single, obscure GPS model departs from the NMEA standard there is little likelihood that the nonstandard implementation will be supported. On the other hand, if a major government organization buys a few million such GPS units then it is more likely that the nonstandard implementation will be supported.

Suggestions for New Projections

New projections are like new formats in that they are often easy to add if complete technical information is provided. The best way to get a new projection added to Manifold System is to send Manifold a URL or other document in English that precisely describes the projection in full and complete technical detail, including all formulae involved in defining the projection if the projection is not a simple parameterized variation on an existing projection. See the comments regarding suggestions for new formats as a guide.

Projections that are simple parameterized variations of existing projections are easily added to Manifold via customization and, if such a customized projection is indeed a standard projection in your part of the world, are candidates for addition to Manifold System as "built-in" projections. If you would like such a customized projection to be added as a "built-in" within Manifold, send your customization XML as well as technical references (so the Manifold team can confirm your work) as part of the suggestion. If you do not have a customization XML but you know that the projection is a variation on an existing one, please send a technical reference URL that sets forth the projection.

Suggestions for New Styles

New styles (that is, new point icons, line styles, area styles) are like new formats in that they are often easy to add if a precise description of the style is provided. For example provision of a specific font, a specific page of examples and the like provide an exact idea of what you have in mind. Providing general comments such as "I'd like to see point styles like those supported by GraveyardManagerPlus Pro Edition" has zero impact as product planners really don't know what you want, will not do your research for you by acquiring a copy of that software package, and will not be able to compare whatever the software does to existing styles in Manifold to guess at which styles you would like to see augmented. A more effective suggestion would provide a clear example of various styles with a description of what they mean, how they are used and why that collection of styles would be useful to a particular constituency. Do not send any copyrighted material or any other material that is not in the public domain.

Frequently Asked Questions

Does sending a suggestion count as a support incident? Not unless it is embedded within a support request or a bug report to which a reply is requested. Example: "How do I thematically format a drawing using a text field in the sort order I desire? Please add a feature to specify sort order." This will be treated as a request for support and will require a support token.

Why are cc'd letters ignored? Cc'd letters are ignored for three reasons: 1) Cc'd letters that involve a third party will frequently involve a political dimension as people sometimes want to "show off" to their peers or try to convince others of their views. Just as in tech support, we feel communications are kept most clear if the temptations of playing to a crowd are removed. 2) At times, a good response to a suggestion may be a series of questions or other email conversation. We would like to conduct such conversations in private to allow Manifold personnel to discuss usage with the person making the suggestion. We feel it is important to observe our privacy policy at all times, even if one of the participants is willing to waive it. 3) It takes time sometimes to parse a cc'd document that was not originally intended as a suggestion. If a direct communications pipeline to the people who create Manifold is not important enough for someone to craft a letter specific for that purpose, then we feel the content of that letter is not important enough to include in the planning process.

What if my continued use of Manifold is dependent upon a new feature I have suggested? You should never acquire licenses based on anything other than the capabilities of the released product. Manifold is always subject to revision and alteration as Manifold judges best. Although the product's evolution is guided mostly by user demands, keep in mind that other users may have different priorities that you do so that the evolution of the product may not include suggestions you have made.

How do I find out the status of a suggestion? Once a suggestion is made there is no way to tell the status until it appears in a new release. Manifold is grateful for all suggestions but is unable to provide reports of whether or not specific suggestions have been adopted and if so, when they will appear in the product.

How do I find out the release dates for new Manifold releases? In general, these are not published. Manifold provides public comments on new features or new products only after they have shipped in a production release to customers. Advance technical and marketing information may be provided to selected Manifold licensees under non-disclosure agreement (NDA) in settings which assure confidentiality and quality information exchange. Building a record of significant suggestions is one way to qualify for obtaining such confidential information. However, the disclosure process is highly selective and due to space limitations, a desire for compatibility with other attendees at disclosure events or other factors there should be no expectation that submitting suggestions will result in access to confidential information.

Why are not suggestions on the GeoReference forum monitored? The main reason is that all Manifold users can write directly to sales@manifold.net but only a small minority of Manifold users participate in Internet forums. By having one mechanism for intake, that of mail sent to sales, we can assure all users equal status in making suggestions and guiding the evolution of Manifold. This policy also reserves for the forum the freedom of having informal conversations and "thinking out loud" before sending in a suggestion. Quite a few suggestions for "new features" will turn out to be simply a lack of experience and not realizing those capabilities are already in the product. Testing out such ideas in the forum is a good way for new users to benefit from the knowledge of their more experienced colleagues.

Suppose I absolutely need a new feature - can I pay for it? Yes, although the cost is usually very significant, typically thousands of dollars to review a proposal and hundreds of thousands of dollars to implement it, depending on the level of custom engineering. Custom versions of Manifold System or scripts can be created with specific features that are required. Contact sales@manifold.net with your requirements.

Questions?

Please contact us at sales@manifold.net. We would like you to be happy with your licensing of Manifold products, so please do not hesitate to ask any questions before placing an order.