Change the wording in snapshots

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Change the wording in snapshots

Postby Entegy » 2. Aug 2009, 18:15

Revert, merge, delete

There, is that so hard? Who at Sun thought that "discard" meant "merge"? Surely it can't be hard just to simply change the wording to something that makes sense, instead of wording that causes lost time because you clicked "discard" in an attempt to delete the snapshot, but ended up merging it.
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Re: Change the wording in snapshots

Postby cedw » 12. Aug 2009, 13:18

LOST MY WORK AGAIN :evil:

I totally agree with "Entegy", please make the Snapshot wording less confusing. To get ideas type "VirtualBox Snapshot wording confusing" or type "VirtualBox Snapshot lost work" into Google and you will get many ideas on less confusing wording.

Before using VirtualBox I used MS Virtual PC & MS Virtual Server for testing, and never lost my work. I have been using VirtualBox for 4 months and I'm frightened to use the snapshot because it's 50/50 I will lose my work if I'm in a hurry. The only reason I am using VirtualBox is its 64bit support and it's free.

PLEASE, PLEASE:
1) Simplify the Snapshot wording.
2) Give a clear Warning Message with Cancel or OK Buttons (maybe with a simple and short example of what will happen if you press the OK button).

The snapshot feature is the only thing I dislike using in VirtualBox. With these two simple changes you will improve this brilliant software 10 fold.

Thanks
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Re: Change the wording in snapshots

Postby find.karl@gmail.com » 3. Oct 2009, 23:23

To revert to an earlier snapshot, you right-click on the “Current state” item and
select “Revert to current snapshot”. This will bring the VM back to the state of the
nearest (most recent) snapshot. Similarly, you can merge several earlier snapshots
into one by right-clicking on a snapshot and selecting “Discard snapshot”. p. 43 Virtual Box Users

It took me a while to see this and to be honest Snapshots annoyed me for some time, but there are actually two objects being managed on this screen “snapshots” and “snapshot state”.

On the Snapshots Tab, there are five buttons:
1. Take Snapshot
2. Revert to Current Snapshot
3. Discard current snapshot and State
4. Discard Snapshot
5. Show Details

In the detail pain is a tree view of existing snapshots and their current state. Snapshots have a camera icon on the left and one level down, slightly indented with a power button icon is the current state of that snapshot.

If you select the current state of an image i.e. the line with the blue power button icon, only buttons 1 - 3 are available but if you select the image i.e. the line with the camera icon, only buttons 4 - 5 are available.

1. Take Snapshot does exactly what is says and creates a snapshot.

2. Revert to Current Snapshot, if you take a snapshot the current state is initially unchanged but as you install software etc. you have changed the current sate from that of the snapshot hence “Revert to Current Snapshot” will discard the changes or “state” and set the current state back to that of the current snapshot. Perhaps in the interest of consistency this option should simply read “Discard Current State”.

3. Discard Current Snapshot and State will do exactly what is says, setting the state back to the snapshot as in option 2 and then delete the snapshot.

4. Discard Snapshot. Will remove the current snapshot but not the current state thus in effect applying the current state to the previous snapshot.

5. Show Details does exactly what is says.

Now if you select Discard current snapshot and state a confirmation dialogue opens with discard and cancel options but the same does not appear when selecting Discard Snapshot, this is probably an over site and should be addressed since one could mistakenly merge a bad change back and loose the ability to back it out.
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Re: Change the wording in snapshots

Postby poffy » 9. Oct 2009, 03:00

Agree, I still don't understand half of it (and yes I read the docs, search the forum but every time I try to use the more advanced snapshot features I end up reading and re-reading everything just so I don't screw it up) and I work as a programmer... it's bad, needs to be more intuitive.
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Re: Change the wording in snapshots

Postby Sasquatch » 9. Oct 2009, 10:14

I asked one of the devs to make changes. It was too late to make it into 3.0.8, but he said things will change for the next release (probably 3.1.0).
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Re: Change the wording in snapshots

Postby MarkCranness » 11. Oct 2009, 02:26

I've put some thought into this, and here is what I think the snapshot wording should be (below).

Comments anybody?

  • Revert to Last Snapshot
    (was 'Revert to Current Snapshot')

  • Revert to Last Snapshot then Discard Snapshot
    (was 'Discard Current Snapshot and State')

  • Discard Snapshot, Keeping Current State
    (was 'Discard Snapshot', but only for the last ('current') snapshot)

  • Discard Snapshot
    (keep 'Discard Snapshot' for other than the last ('current') snapshot)

  • When the last ('current') snapshot is selected, enable these buttons also:
    Revert to Last Snapshot
    Revert to Last Snapshot then Discard Snapshot

  • Consider changing the 'Revert to Last Snapshot then Discard Snapshot' button icon.
    Rather than a double up-arrow, how about a single up-arrow and a cross-delete, because this combines the functions of Revert and Discard?


Longer version, and justification for the above:


'Revert to Last Snapshot'

In the user's mind there is no CURRENT snapshot, but there is a LAST snapshot (= Most Recent).
'Last' (=Most Recent) should be used instead of 'Current' (or when the branched snapshot tree eventually arrives: 'Revert to Parent Snapshot').

If three snapshots were done 1-January, 2-January and 3-January, and it is now November, is one of those January snapshots 'CURRENT'? Not in the mind of the user.


'Discard Current Snapshot and State' -> 'Revert to Last Snapshot then Discard Snapshot'

Users may know that the snapshot 'Discard Snapshot' button only deletes the snapshot, BUT KEEPS the CURRENT STATE.
Intending to discard the last snapshot, BUT RETAIN the current state, they click on Current State in the tree (for whatever reason).
Button 'Discard Current Snapshot and State' is enabled.
On the face of it, that seems to be the same as 'Discard Snapshot', or very similar...
There is the extra '... and State' on the end, but WHAT STATE? They think: "perhaps the last snapshot has some mysterious internal State associated with it?"
It doesn't say 'Current State', so I should be safe?

They click it, intending only to delete the snapshot, but instead end up Reverting the current state also.

'Revert to Last Snapshot then Discard Snapshot' emphasises the main function of this feature (Revert).

(But that feature doesn't work that way I hear you say?: http://www.virtualbox.org/ticket/5182)


Discard Snapshot, Keeping Current State

The current label only tells half the story about what this feature does, which can lead users to make the wrong choice.

Suppose a user takes a snapshot, makes an experimental change and then decides to abandon the change, and the snapshot.
Perhaps not sure what button to use to undo the experiment and delete the snapshot, but knowing that they must revert back to the last snapshot, they SELECT THE LAST SNAPSHOT.
A button is then available:
'Discard Snapshot'
They know they want to discard the snapshot, but they ALSO want to revert the changes.
The button does not make it clear what will happen to the current state.
They think: Anyway, Discard that snapshot is what I want to do...
They click the button and end up NOT reverting their changes, but instead RETAINING their changes.


Discard Snapshot
(for other than the last ('current') snapshot)

Keep this the same as it is now.


'Merge'/'Merging'

[Edit:]Since a snapshot is logically a complete copy of the entire state of the VM at the time the snapshot was made, what does it mean to merge a snapshot? What is being merged are Changes.

When Discarding a snapshot, the changes either side of it (preceeding it and following it) must be merged.
When discarding the first snapshot, its changes are merged backwards into the base hard disk.
When discarding any other snapshot, its changes are merged forwards into the following snapshot.

I suggest it is preferable to NOT make a distinction of which DIRECTION any differences are merged.

Mentioning 'Merge' at all in the UI raises the question of "Merge what with what?", and is a technical / internal issue that the user probably needn't be bothered with.


When the last ('current') snapshot is selected, enable the 'Revert' buttons also

Why force the user to stumble around the UI looking for the correct option? Just because they have selected the last snapshot rather than the Current State is no reason to disable the two 'revert' buttons.


And ... VirtualBox developers: Thank you for the great software!

edit: Deleted discussion of snapshot 'forward differences', which was incorrect. Thanks to sandervl for putting me right. Edited for length.
edit2: Removed suggestion of 'Discard Snapshot, Keep Changes': Best not to mention changes at all!
Last edited by MarkCranness on 12. Oct 2009, 11:29, edited 6 times in total.
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Re: Change the wording in snapshots

Postby Perryg » 11. Oct 2009, 04:03

Can you make this a little easier to read? Maybe a condensed version?
Some of your thoughts are good but my gosh you tend to ramble.
How about a simple picture of what it should look like instead of a mountain of words.
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Re: Change the wording in snapshots

Postby mpack » 11. Oct 2009, 10:37

The suggested wording is rather verbose also IMHO, and doesn't address the core problem. IMHO the OP had the right idea in the root message. Short and sweet, no use of words like "discard" or "delete" unless it involves the permanent loss of data.
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Re: Change the wording in snapshots

Postby MarkCranness » 12. Oct 2009, 10:51

Short and sweet is good. Short and ambigious is bad. As short as possible while still being clear is good.

Re the OP's suggestion, 'Merge' is no good / does not really make sense when applied to snapshots (what is being merged are the changes between snapshots, but not the snapshot itself, which is being deleted).

E.g. If at snapshot 1 file x.txt contained "22" at snapshot 2 contained "44" and at snapshot 3 contained "66", and the user selects snapshot 2 and clicks an hypothetical 'Merge' button, how should snapshot 2 be merged? Merged with snapshot 1?, 3?
Should the file now contain "33"? "24"? "42"? "55"?
(People are suggesting 'Merge' because they are thinking of the state changes between the snapshots.)
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Re: Change the wording in snapshots

Postby Sasquatch » 12. Oct 2009, 12:21

MarkCranness wrote:Re the OP's suggestion, 'Merge' is no good / does not really make sense when applied to snapshots (what is being merged are the changes between snapshots, but not the snapshot itself, which is being deleted).

When you merge something, the source will disappear. Makes sense, because if you mix two chemicals, you won't have the original any more. So, why would you want to keep the snapshot itself? It will either have the data that is already merged, or be just empty and useless. If you want a new snapshot after the merge, why merge at all and not just create another snapshot?
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Re: Change the wording in snapshots

Postby mpack » 12. Oct 2009, 14:51

MarkCranness wrote:Short and sweet is good. Short and ambigious is bad. As short as possible while still being clear is good.

Short but clear is obviously good, but short and ambiguous is not necessarily bad. What is important is that each feature must have a clearly distict name that fits on a button, and which doesn't misuse words which people normally interpret as meaning something else (i.e. "discard"). Ambiguity gets resolved by familiarity: I say this because I doubt that any wording would be completely satisfying and unambiguous to everyone right away.

MarkCranness wrote:Re the OP's suggestion, 'Merge' is no good / does not really make sense when applied to snapshots (what is being merged are the changes between snapshots, but not the snapshot itself, which is being deleted).

No offense, but that is a pedantic technical argument, and not a valid design argument. The wording used should make sense in the context of the UI model being offered to the user, it certainly does not need to be an accurate technical description of the underlying process. The user doesn't (or shouldn't) care that snapshots are stored in files, and that these files may vary in number as certain operations are carried out. All the user cares about is that the expected operation is carried out.

I would suggest that the proper UI model is a series of containers, where each container holds the aggregated changes since the container was created. So "Create" creates a new container and appends it to the series. "Revert" would require you to select a container, and would then delete all containers after the selected one (this is the only option which loses data). "Merge" would require you to select a series of one or more containers, and would replace them with a single container which now holds all of the changes from the original set.
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Re: Change the wording in snapshots

Postby MarkCranness » 13. Oct 2009, 13:26

Sasquatch wrote:When you merge something, the source will disappear. Makes sense, because if you mix two chemicals, you won't have the original any more.
Agreed.
How do you merge or mix two snapshots? I have snapshot taken 1:00pm and one taken 2:00pm. If I merge them will I then have one taken 1:30pm? My point is that 'merging' snapshots is nonsense.
When people suggest 'Merge' for the snapshots, they are thinking about the difference hard disks behind the snapshots. But notice: The difference hard disks are not a part of the Snapshot UI: They don't appear in the tree. Suggesting an operation ('Merge') that operates on objects that aren't even part of the UI is not a good UI (IMHO).[/quote]
Sasquatch wrote:So, why would you want to keep the snapshot itself?
I wouldn't want to keep the snapshot. My "33"/"42" example that kept part of each snapshot was supposed to show the strangeness of the idea of merging a snaphot.

(tongue in cheek ;-)
Today a circus came to town. They had a parade down the street and I took my camera along and took Snapshots as the performers paraded past.
I took a snaphot of a clown juggling balls.
Then I took a snapshot of an elephant.
Then I took a snapshot of a man eating fire.
I was running out of space on my camera memory card, so I selected the snapshot of the elephant and Merged it.
Imagine my surprise when I got home and found I had a snapshot of a man juggling an elephant and another man eating an elephant!

Later, I went online to google about Schrodinger's Cat, using a guest OS running inside VirtualBox. But first I created a snapshot. I found a good article and downloaded it, then took another snapshot. Then suspecting that the cat may have infected my PC, I discarded the snapshot ('Discard' must mean 'Undo' right?). Imagine my suprise when I found that I simultaneosuly HAD downloaded the article and ALSO HAD NOT downloaded the article at the same time! (Merging point-in-time snapshots can do that I've heard, because discard is actually 'Merge'...))
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Re: Change the wording in snapshots

Postby Sasquatch » 13. Oct 2009, 13:58

Mark,
Please stop making this thread more and more confusing with the nonsense you're posting here. All I see is that you believe that when you have a file that contains the text '2', create a snapshot and add the text '3' to the file, you end up with '5' after the merge. That is total bull. This isn't about 1+1=2, it's about 1+1=11. Let me spell it out for you.

You have a file, with the following sequence:
2,4,6,8

Now, you add the following sequence to it:
,10,12,14,16,18

So, the end result is:
2,4,6,8,10,12,14,16,18

You will have the following data:
base wrote:2,4,6,8

snapshot 1 wrote:,10,12,14,16,18

With a merge, "snapshot 1" will be deleted after all it's data is added to "base". The result is this:
base wrote:2,4,6,8,10,12,14,16,18
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Re: Change the wording in snapshots

Postby MarkCranness » 13. Oct 2009, 14:03

mpack wrote:Short but clear is obviously good, but short and ambiguous is not necessarily bad. What is important is that each feature must have a clearly distict name that fits on a button, and which doesn't misuse words which people normally interpret as meaning something else (i.e. "discard"). Ambiguity gets resolved by familiarity: I say this because I doubt that any wording would be completely satisfying and unambiguous to everyone right away.
Agreed.
I change my "Short and ambigious is bad' to -> "Short and ambigious is usually bad".

If a user can put the difference hard disks out of their mind (likely easy), and just think about the snapshots, then 'Discard' is actually a good term, IMO.
I think a UI that deals ONLY with snapshots, and does not try and represent the changes could work very well.

mpack wrote:No offense, but that is a pedantic technical argument, and not a valid design argument.
My argument is that the 'Merge' operation is applied to objects not visible in the UI (the difference hard disks) and therefore 'Merge' does not make any sense in the context of the UI model being offered to the user (nice turn of phrase that...)

mpack wrote:The wording used should make sense in the context of the UI model being offered to the user, it certainly does not need to be an accurate technical description of the underlying process. The user doesn't (or shouldn't) care that snapshots are stored in files, and that these files may vary in number as certain operations are carried out. All the user cares about is that the expected operation is carried out.
I ABSOLUTELY agree with you here.
Although earlier I suggested that 'Changes' should be a part of of the user's contextual model, I have since changed my mind: I think the model using just point-in-time snapshots (the current UI!) with NO reference to changes is the best model.

mpack wrote:I would suggest that the proper UI model is a series of containers, where each container holds the aggregated changes since the container was created. So "Create" creates a new container and appends it to the series. "Revert" would require you to select a container, and would then delete all containers after the selected one (this is the only option which loses data). "Merge" would require you to select a series of one or more containers, and would replace them with a single container which now holds all of the changes from the original set.
That would certainly work.
But part of that UI model is that each container contains changes SINCE the container was created.
What if they get confused and start thinking that the containers contain changes UNTIL/BEFORE the container was created (like incremental backups do)? Then their actions to Merge a set of containers would not do what they intended.
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Re: Change the wording in snapshots

Postby MarkCranness » 13. Oct 2009, 14:12

Sasquatch wrote:Mark,
Please stop making this thread more and more confusing with the nonsense you're posting here. All I see is that you believe that when you have a file that contains the text '2', create a snapshot and add the text '3' to the file, you end up with '5' after the merge. That is total bull.

I'm sorry that my intent was not clear.

My "22","44" example was obviously nonsense and intended to show that merging snapshots is nonsense.

Think "snapshot" as according to a dictionary:
"In computer file systems, a snapshot is a copy of a set of files and directories as they were at a particular point in the past"
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Snapshot_(computer_storage)

At a particular point in the past, a file contained "22" and was copied into a snapshot.
At another particular point in the past, that file contained "44" and was copied into a snapshot.

Merging those two snapshots to get "42"?, or whatever is obviously nonsense, therefore merging is not a good UI term to use when dealing with snapshots.

People who know about the internals of VirtualBox (such as yourself) tend to see "Snapshot" and think "of course that also includes the difference hard-disks", even though they are not part of the UI.
YES Merge applies to the differencing hard disks as in your example, but 'Snapshot' != 'Differencing Hard Disk".
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