Technical Support - Frequently Asked Questions
For a general overview of Manifold Technical Support, please see the Support page. This page provides answers to frequently asked questions regarding Manifold Technical Support.
Manifold products do not include tech support. Any tech support question requires a "token," which may be purchased at very low cost. Most licenses have two free tokens of standard tech support by email provided as a marketing promotion to help new users try out the system.
The system works very well to provide an exceptionally sophisticated product at very low price to everyone, while also providing a high level of tech support at very low price to anyone who requires support. The system works well because it protects people who can RTFM from high costs caused by people who do not RTFM, and because it preserves high quality support resources for those users who are willing to spend a token to get them.
What does RTFM mean? "Read The Fine Manual." The term is used to refer to the reading of published information, such as user manuals and web pages, to obtain required information and assistance. Efficient learning and utilization of sophisticated, powerful software requires good RTFM skills. Support services are designed not to eliminate the need to RTFM but to provide expert assistance in cases where reasonable RTFM efforts do not suffice.
What does a tech support token cover? A technical support token covers any single question asked of technical support. The same incident continues no matter how many emails are exchanged until the single question is answered. "Single questions" mean those that relate to one function or to the lowest separable usage level of Manifold in a specific task. General questions will receive general answers, since they usually involve numerous functions or very many lower level usage levels. For example, a general question such as "How can I link to external database tables" will receive a general answer pointing out various Manifold Help topics to read, which will cost one token. The thread does not continue into subsequent specific questions, such as, perhaps, how to operate the ODBC dialog and so on.
Excluded from standard support are questions related to any form of scripting, any other programming, customization, SQL, License Server, Enterprise Edition features, Manifold IMS and any questions involving Runtime licenses. Development level support tokens are required for Manifold questions excluded from standard support. Excluded in any case are questions that are of a consulting or educational nature or that describe the operation of Windows in general or products other than Manifold System. Only supported are the specific functions and capabilities of Manifold.
Examples of supported questions:
- "How do I import a projected .shp file?"
- "Can Manifold import .ijk format for surfaces?"
- "How do I rotate a label?"
- "How do I link a table into a project?"
Examples of unsupported questions:
- "What is the difference beween .shp files and .mid/.mif files?"
- "How do I write a script to import .ijk format for surfaces?"
- "What is wrong with my XML customization?"
- "Manifold IMS will not launch on my machine. What am I doing wrong?"
- "How should I configure SQL Server with the right permissions for me to link a table into my project?"
- "Please write an example script that..."
Manifold Technical Support provides technical support on Manifold products, not on Microsoft facilities or on other products. Manifold can work with many other software products. For example, one can create a linked drawing in Manifold that draws its contents from a SQL Server table. However, support on Manifold is limited to Manifold only. For example, if you are having difficulty creating a linked drawing because your SQL Server system or Windows security is configured in a way that prevents your user login from accessing the desired SQL Server table then Manifold tech support will not provide the integration consulting to help you re-configure SQL Server or diagnose the improper administrative setup of Windows.
Manifold is often used within specific industries, such as oil and gas exploration or forestry, which in themselves involve a vast amount of industry-specific knowledge. Manifold tech support cannot assist users in learning such industries or applying industry-specific know-how in the use of Manifold. Support is for Manifold itself and not for the vast amount of knowledge involved in, for example, oil and gas exploration.
Very important: Support incidents are not an educational or consulting service. Very general replies to general questions should not be taken as anything other than a probably highly inefficient use of tokens in a case where reading the documentation or other baseline education would have been more effective. Tokens are not appropriate for and are usually wasted by general questions such as "How do I work this thing?" or "What is a GIS?" or "How do I show my business data on a map?" If that is the level of assistance you require, it is ultimately much more efficient to first read the documentation in the recommended order. Users who do not read documentation will encounter much easily-avoided frustration and are unlikely to be successful at either learning or operating Manifold.
Manifold's functionality and documentation are designed for users who already are very familiar with personal computers and Windows. Users who have very little background with computers, for example having difficulty with basic concepts such as understanding the difference between a web site and an application running in Windows, may find it necessary to invest into remedial education at a community college or other educational facility. If you do not have time to do that or if that does not help, then you should retain a consultant to assist you. Consulting assistance is best obtained by retaining a consultant expert in Manifold and in the other technologies being used. Many expert consultants participate in online forums for Manifold and can often be recruited at reasonable rates by a posting in such forums.
How do I use a token to get tech support? Use the procedure in the Contact Tech Support page.
How do I get support tokens? They are emailed to you when you purchase them on the Online Store. In addition, most Manifold System licenses are bundled with two free standard support tokens as a marketing promotion and these tokens will be provided in the same serial number email that provides the serial number for the Manifold license.
How can I tell if a token has been used? Check the status of that token in the Serial Number Status page.
I do not know if I have any tokens. How do I find out? If you have the serial number email that sent the tokens to you then you know if you have tokens or not. If you do not have that email you do not have any tokens. If you have the email you can look up the status of any token on the Serial Number Status page.
I did not buy Manifold but got it from someone else. How do I get the tokens for this license? Get them from the original licensee along with any other information about the original transaction that the original licensee neglected to pass on to you. Manifold licenses cannot be shared or loaned around. They may be transferred once to a new licensee, who must agree to all terms and conditions of the original transaction and license, and the original licensee must transfer all Manifold materials, emails and other information to the new licensee. If you got Manifold from someone else you do not have a license until they give you the full and complete original serial number email, including all support tokens associated with that license. Note that Manifold will not intervene in any disputes you may have with the original licensee. See the Maintaining Your Manifold License topic.
I do not have my serial number email. Can I get my tokens back? If you do not have your original serial number email or the emails that conveyed your tokens to you if you purchased them in a separate transaction you have no tokens to use. You might be able to reconstitute the email by purchasing a key recovery service product. Do NOT purchase a key recovery service product without a careful reading of the Key Recovery page.
Are tokens charged to explain prior token use? Yes. You can always check the status of a token on the Serial Number Status page. It is up to you how you use your tokens and up to you to keep track of them if a notice on the Status page that a token has been used up and the short notation how is not enough to remember how it was used. If you would like tech support to help you with further detail to remember how the token was used, that will cost you a token as does any question.
I do not remember using the token as indicated in the Status page. How could it have been used? Someone with access to that token or the serial number with which it was provided used it or caused it to be used automatically. Do not give out tokens or serial numbers to people you do not trust to use them responsibly. Note that tokens can be consumed automatically when either licensees or persons who possess the serial number for a Manifold license egregiously misuse support processes. That's not easy to do and usually can only occur either through utterly wilful disregard for courtesy notices or other warnings, or through truly wilful refusal to RTFM. See subsequent questions and answers in this FAQ.
Can I ask more than one question in the same email? Only if you provide more than one tech support token. When more than one question is asked in the same email, Technical Support will apply a token to each question in turn until all tokens are used up.
Why are incidents charged for simple questions? First, to discourage wasteful use of tech support so that more support resources are available for serious questions. Second, there is no way to predict if a particular email received from a user is a trivial question or a sophisticated question - each question requires reading by a trained engineer to assure that a sophisticated question that might appear to be a simple question to the untrained eye is properly answered. For that reason it costs as much to process an apparently trivial question as it does a carefully thought-out complex question. In fact, some classes of trivial questions require more time because users neglect to provide required information.
Can I file a bug report without using a support token? Yes. No token is required to send in a bug report, provided you do not ask a tech support question as part of that bug report or ask for a reply. When submitting bug reports, do not ask rhetorical questions. For information on how to submit bug reports, please see the Bug Reports page. Note that while all bug reports are gratefully received and investigated it is highly unlikely that a beginner will find a new bug in Manifold. Almost certainly what is thought to be a "bug" by a beginner is instead a misconception or operating error on the part of the beginner. Therefore, users should not let the consideration of a possible bug lead them astray if they have encountered a problem. Few things are as effective at stopping the solutions process as deciding too early on that the problem must be a bug. Do not allow assumptions about a possible bug to prevent you from taking effective measures to solve problems.
Why doesn't Manifold provide free technical support? There is no such thing as "free" support - the only question is who pays for the support resources used. Companies that claim to provide "free" support are still charging a price for that support, but instead of direct payments for tech support they collect payment through indirect means, for example, by charging higher prices for product licenses or by charging high "maintenance" fees. In that case everyone pays more for products to subsidize some users with "free" technical support. With sophisticated products like GIS products, the higher product prices or other indirect fees can be thousands of dollars - a lot of money to spend for "free" technical support!
A more unfortunate result is that indirect pricing for tech support allows a small percentage of users to consume the majority of tech support services, often without making even the slightest effort to RTFM before contacting tech support. Responsible users who take the time to read documentation, to ask questions of their colleagues and to invest in their own expertise end up paying much higher prices to subsidize "free" support for users who will not help themselves. That's not fair.
Charging just a small fee per incident encourages users not to waste tech support incidents on simple questions that may be easily answered by referring to product documentation. By freeing the tech support service from wasteful contacts, Manifold tech support can focus on providing a better level of response with more expert operators at a lower cost. That's why Manifold tech support provides the most expert support service at by far the lowest cost in GIS.
Do not hesitate to use tech support if you need the resource. Everyone gets busy sometimes with too much work and too little time to work things out for themselves or to ask around for advice in the online user community. That's the time to spend a token and let tech support help you out.
Should I worry about not getting support when I need it? Not at all - the Manifold support system assures that you will have support when you want to use it, even though most people do not ever need support. Most people who are reasonably Windows aware and are able to read the user manual in the recommended order will learn Manifold quickly and be productive in a day or two even if they never have any prior GIS experience. If you need help, ask other users for help in the online user community or contact tech support with a token. Most users who read the documentation in the recommended order and who ask occasional questions of other users online will not ever use a support incident, not even one of the two free tokens normally provided with a license. However, because support resources aren't used up or dumbed down to provide "free" support to people who will not help themselves, whenever you decide you want to spend a token to get direct factory support it will be there for you.
Can anyone use my tech support tokens? Yes, if they have them. Keep your tech support tokens secret to prevent other people from using them. You should also keep your serial number secret from anyone you do not trust to use the serial number and any support tokens associated with that serial number wisely. For example, if you provide your serial number to someone who egregiously misuses the activation support process you could find that your support tokens automatically have been used up by that person.
Why does Manifold only communicate with the customer email address specified by the original purchaser? There are several reasons. Communicating with the email address specified by the original purchaser assures that Manifold will not inadvertently help someone steal that purchaser's license rights, which is especially important for serial number or activation questions. For example, Manifold will not help people steal licenses by accepting any guff about "Oh, you can trust me, I really represent Bill Gates - I just cc'd him so you know it is OK to accept my instructions to change the email of record for his license to me." The original buyer also received important information, like the full serial number email, which in addition to serial numbers and any support tokens includes necessary information for exploiting the license. If the original buyer fails to pass any of that on to some other user the cost of any chaos caused by that will not be borne by other Manifold licensees (which is what happens when negligent buyers expect Manifold to bear the costs of such chaos). The original buyer also knows what they agreed to for the terms and conditions of licensing. For example, the original buyer knows they agreed no tech support is bundled with a license. They know they agreed to pay tokens for any and all questions. Other users to whom a license may have been passed on might not have been informed by the original buyer of all the terms and conditions and may be surprised, for example, to have tokens automatically charged to clear up any chaos caused by the original buyer not passing on the terms of the license and the services purchased or not purchased.
So what do I do if someone else got this for me, specified their email address but not mine, and now I want support? Easy - use the token system for getting tech support, part of which requires you to provide the full, original serial number for the license. If you have the full, original serial number Manifold will accept your responsibility over that license and will accept the inquiry for support purposes. You will not be able to change the email of record on the license, but you will be able to get support although it may cost you a token for questions that the email of record for the license could get for free in the case of supported serial number and activation questions. See the Installation and Activation Support page for details. If you are reading this FAQ you almost certainly will not have any problems getting support since anybody who reads pages like this is usually a responsible person who pays attention to necessary details. People who will not RTFM this or any other page are the ones who cause easily-avoided problems!
Why do you ask for so much information? Long experience shows that having all required information at hand is the fastest way of resolving a tech support problem.
Why must I have the latest versions of everything and the latest service packs? Manifold uses many Microsoft system facilities to assure perfect compatibility with Windows. Both Manifold and Microsoft eliminate problems by issuing service packs and by issuing newer releases. Because technical support is a limited resource, it does not make sense to waste it on figuring out and fixing problems that have already been fixed by either Manifold or Microsoft in an update. Requiring that customers use the latest release of Manifold and install the latest Manifold and Microsoft updates is the only way to guarantee that problems that have already been fixed are not at issue.
I sent a post-sales question about License Server and got a "no dev token" reply - what's up? A condition of acquiring any License Server license is your agreement that any question or assistance of any kind requires a developer level support token. No getting around that if you think that what you are asking is an "easy question" or an "admin question" or "post-sales" question and is not a technical support question. For example, if you have lost track of licenses or if current staff is unable to refer to the web site and other published materials to know what they have, they'll need to spend a developer level token for assistance. License server is for people who know what they are doing and who are experienced with Manifold products and technologies. If you are a beginner and nonetheless acquired a License Server license, or if someone experienced on your staff acquired it and has left your employ with only beginners left, now is the time to either invest into your own education by carefully reading the Manifold web site and documentation or to retain a consultant who knows what they are doing to assist you. That is more efficient than not hitting the books but hoping that expending a stream of developer support tokens will gain you the required skills and background.
Can I get free tech support by sending a question to Sales? No. Tech support incidents also apply to questions of a technical support nature that are sent to sales. Such emails are forwarded to tech support and require a tech support token to process. Note that meta questions about tech support processes and policies sent to sales will also require a tech support token, which may automatically be applied. If you are unwilling to read or to apply the information about tech support on this website or if you need someone to explain it to you that will cost you a token. This helps avoid resource wasting by folks who want to play semantic games such as "I just wanted to learn about updates and did not want to pose a tech support question." Tokens are totally free or low cost so if you need someone to RTFM for you, it is not a financial catastrophe that a token gets charged for that service.
Can I get free tech support by insisting a tech support question is a sales issue? No. Questions such as "I need the following Manifold script I wrote debugged to know what to buy next from Manifold" are technical questions, not sales questions. It is true that sometimes licensees are not fully aware of the capabilities of their existing licenses or how to utilize them, perhaps in combination with other Manifold products or with products from other vendors and they would like guidance for new purchases. Such guidance necessarily involves the technical capabilities of existing licenses and therefore such inquiries also are routed to tech support. Manifold is happy to provide factory-direct pricing and sales to customers who can utilize the massive amount of product information on the website to guide their purchases, but if you need detailed technical assistance to know what to buy and website pages such as the What to Buy page or the User Manual do not suffice, it's time to get a consultant or reseller involved to assist you. Save tech support for genuine technical issues that cannot be answered in a few seconds by consulting the website or documentation. Don't waste tokens on meta questions about support, idle chit chat, or philosophizing ("Why is tech support not free?") either addressed to tech support or to sales.
Can I get free tech support by annoying people in the online community? No. Online communities consist of other users who may be very patient and generous with their advice but who have no obligation to provide on-demand technical support to annoying people. Online communities are user communities, not tech support forums. They are not attended by Manifold tech support personnel. See the comments in the Manifold on the Web Help topic.
Can I waste a support token by not cooperating with tech support? Yes. Technical support can only help if you cooperate with the support process, for example, by answering questions. If tech support asks you to provide information or asks any questions, you must provide that information and answer any questions. If you do not answer questions or provide required information, the incident stops and your token will be wasted. Do not make the mistake of thinking tech support is asking you questions for no good reason and that questions do not need to be answered.
Suppose I am sure tech support is headed in the wrong direction - can I waste a token by being argumentative? Yes, of course. If you think you know better than tech support, do not waste tokens by asking for help. Almost all tech support incidents involve user errors of concept or execution. At times the very same wrong assumptions or conceptual errors which convince a user that tech support is barking up the wrong tree are exactly the same errors causing the problem in the first place. The most efficient process once you launch an incident is to let tech support take the lead. Answer all questions and provide all required information as rapidly and as precisely as you can. Do not go off on tangents or send pages of information not requested. Let tech support run their process. If you want to get argumentative with comments like "I do not have time to answer any of that. You guys are all wrong and should be looking at..." you bring the process to a halt. If you want tech support to explain to you why they are pursuing a particular angle they will be happy to do that for you at the cost of additional support tokens. Also, make sure to follow tech support's instructions. If you are advised to read a topic, read it carefully. Don't reply with comments such as "That topic has nothing to do with my problem." Tech support would not have advised you to read it if it did not contain relevant content. If tech support must reply "Sure it does..." with more explicit commentary you will use up an additional token. Do not waste tokens by being argumentative.
Are tech support tokens ever automatically used up? Yes, usually only after a courtesy warning but in some circumstances right away, such as in the case of support inquiries sent to sales. For another example, Manifold provides free updates on the condition any questions about free updates require a token, providing a clear notice in the updates page: "If you have any questions regarding the download or installation of an update, that requires a technical support incident." As a courtesy to users, questions sent to tech support about an update which do not include a token will normally receive a reminder that a token is required and that a token will automatically be charged if the user continues the thread. Continuing the thread in any way will use up a token. Other examples of courtesy warnings are advisements to users to use free activation support processes instead of spending on tokens, courtesy instructions on dial-in telephone lines advising such lines are not for support, advisements when developer tokens are required instead of standard tokens or when licensees do not keep track of why they had a serial number revoked and want tech support to look that up for them. To preserve free and low cost support service products for users who honor their product agreements, tokens will be automatically charged after courtesy warnings. Tokens are automatically charged for questions on free resources that are clearly marked as requiring tokens and are liable to abuse, for example, self-supported communities such as the forum or any open source code that may be provided. If you have ever received explicit instructions to read this FAQ or otherwise have been explicitly advised tokens may be automatically charged, you've received a courtesy warning. Please take that opportunity to review this FAQ and the other pages it recommends and do not waste tokens.
How was I supposed to know that tech support requires a token? That's what you agreed to to get a license. Anyone who has ever procured a Manifold license has agreed to those provisions regarding tech support (along with all the other terms and conditions of licensing), and they also agreed that if they ever transfered the license they procured to someone else they would inform the recipient of all such provisions and obtain the recipient's agreement to those provisions in turn. Given that tokens are either completely free or are very inexpensive it is not a financial catastrophe to use a token to have your memory refreshed as to what your license requires for tech support procedures or to get that vital information if some third party who obtained your license neglected to pass it on to you.
Are tokens automatically charged for follow up responses to assist users who do not want to read and apply guidelines for token use? Yes. If users want to ignore courtesy notifications or prefer to have tech support apply RTFM skills on their behalf, that requires a token just like any other question that consumes tech support time. For example, if a user writes to tech support utilizing a standard support token for questions about spatial SQL, programming, enterprise features or other topics that requires a developer token, tech support will reply with a courtesy notice that such questions require a developer support token, along with a pointer to the support page so users can best balance their use of tokens. No token is charged for that courtesy response. If a user prefers not to RTFM as suggested by the courtesy response and instead wants tech support to do that for him or her, for example, by inquiring why a specific developer level question would require a developer level token, tech support is happy to respond with more detail on tech support policy as it applies to that specific question. Each such follow up response will be charged a standard token.
I asked an activation or installation question and received a reply stating I was not using the support process required by the license. What process is that? I do not recall agreeing to any support process as part of my license. For free installation and activation support, see the Installation and Activation Support page. Manifold licenses require agreement to the Terms and Conditions of sale as well as to the End User License Agreement and other web pages incorporated into the terms such as the Support Information page and the Serial Numbers page. Licensees who have acquired a license from Manifold have agreed to those terms when procuring Manifold during the Online Store process or as a condition of other payment. No Manifold license may be transferred to someone other than the original licensee if the recipient does not also in turn agree to those same terms. Even if you did not personally procure Manifold you have no right to use Manifold if you do not also agree to the required terms and conditions. The terms and conditions explicitly require that any assistance provided by Manifold is contingent upon the user following published support procedures.
Note that using published procedures will solve problems in the shortest possible time because the published procedure gives checklists that immediately cure 99.9% of problems. It is quicker to spend a few minutes reading and applying those checklists to solve a problem right away than it is to write the same information into an email.
Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org. 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.