Forums > MaxMSP

Max6 helpfiles not as helpful (as Max5)?

Jan 14 2012 | 11:45 am

Does anyone else find this to be the case?

One of the main things I still go back to the help files for is what the arguments of an object are, and more specifically, what order they are in.

Take [counter] for instance.

Max5’s help file tells you clearly how many arguments it takes, what order they are in, what it is if there are only two.

In Max6 you see a couple examples, and they are labelled, but because of the ambiguous numbers used it’s not obvious which argument is which, and either way, you have to infer the information, rather than it being shown.
And the ‘details’ tab doesn’t explain it either.

I’ve run into other things like this, but this is the one that comes to memory easiest.

There’s also the fact that the reference and similar objects are now ‘hidden’ behind the ‘?’. That one isn’t as bad as the information is still there, just moved out of the way for some reason. (I guess you highlight how cool the tabs are in Max6, at the expense of seeing helpful information immediately).

The argument example is much worse though as the information is now gone, and that’s a pretty important bit of information to go missing from a help file (clear statement of what the taken arguments are, and in what order).

Jan 14 2012 | 1:53 pm

New in max6 is that upon completing the name of the object, all arguments are listed in the autocompletion window. I think that is very useful. The counter object is a little too smart, because meaning of various arguments depends on the amount of arguments specified. That is why the autocompletion shows not so informative stuff in the case of counter. However, when you click on that, I just realize, it shows the information from the reference.

Help files seem to be made for a first introduction to the object. The reference has always been indispensable. I agree that a tab could be added that maybe shows the same info as the reference does.

Jan 14 2012 | 5:52 pm

I have this sort of general feeling that the help files aren’t as useful as they used to be, or will be in the future. I have a feeling they aren’t quite finished yet. There’s some help files (can’t think of any off the top of my head, need coffee) that would benefit from a few extra tabs with examples and use-cases.

Jan 14 2012 | 6:52 pm

Yeah having more in the tabs would be nice, particularly higher order/application examples. Having the reference right in the tab would be great too, it’s like one of those old/shitty webpages that have a splash screen that opens up a new window with the actual window.

I don’t think I’ve ever used the autocompletion thing for arguments. Whenever I’ve tried just typing a number, I don’t seem to get useful information. Granted I’ve never sat down and said "let me figure this autocompletion thing out", but it certainly hasn’t been intuitive enough to just kind of work naturally.

Jan 14 2012 | 7:03 pm

The full object reference is right there in the patcher drawer when you open it from a help file.

Button is located in the bottom right corner of the patcher window.


Jan 14 2012 | 7:05 pm

I think that the help system in Max 6 has the potential to be considerably better than the old Max 5 help.
For more recent objects, I think that this may already be the case. For older objects that get taken for granted, the conversion might not be as complete. If you report anything you find missing from a help file, I bet it gets updated eventually.

There’s also the "open full reference" button at the bottom of the sidebar, if that is being shown. I fought against the sidebar for a while, but find it indispensable, now.

Jan 14 2012 | 7:05 pm

Andrew beat me by seconds.

Jan 14 2012 | 7:32 pm

I’m digging the tab system in general (as well as the sidebar), and the way it’s applied in the help system in particular. I think the reason people feel underserved is that useful info is spread throughout the tabs to reduce clutter. I was confused too, until I saw them. In the bad old days this stuff would be stuck in subpatchers (like the patcher object help still is).

Jan 14 2012 | 7:50 pm

I’ve not been using the sidebar very much (unless I’m editing attributes for a bunch of objects in a row) as on a laptop screen, and a big max patch, there isn’t that much room to give away.

Having more info with tabs is a good idea for sure. But with counter, there’s less information total, spread over tabs too.

Jan 14 2012 | 9:32 pm

hey c74,
please consider opening the help system for user revision
the dedicated user base can help out with fine tuning
set a reputation system for fighting spam (and bad advice).
see PHP manual

Jan 14 2012 | 11:21 pm

That would be a great idea.

Maybe it’s because I’ve graduation into an ‘intermediate’ Max user, so I don’t see the increased ease of use/understandability of Max6. I still hate dodging that little circle (even when shrunk) and even worse, that little blue arrow on cables (anyone know if it’s possible to turn that off?".

Jan 15 2012 | 3:22 am

Rep system for help requires rep system from forums – you can’t go live with a help system that’s open to all and sundry, especially when it’s stored on people’s systems. A wiki? absolutely, but we don’t need cycling74’s help (or even permission) for that. Rodrigo, you seem extremely moved by this issue – Why don’t you put together a group from here? Let me know when you have, say, 3 people besides yourself and I’ll be happy to pitch in.



Jan 15 2012 | 8:00 pm

Heh, I’m certainly not the man for it. I know just enough to know that I don’t know anything. Not to mention I can’t name another object (off the top of my head) that the help file is stripped down for.

Jan 15 2012 | 8:30 pm

user submission, open to all, is not unheard of on the interwebz :)
but it could start by human screening the editors (like wikipedia once did).
also the beauty of revisions is you can always go back to vanilla.

there was once long ago a maxmsp wiki (,
it didn’t take off much, and its not the same as the integrated experience
max help system offers, with working examples embedded in the page.
its one of the key benefits of max. and not just for newusers.

Jan 16 2012 | 2:01 am

Like I said, I’ll be happy to pitch in as long as I’m nowhere close to point. As far as open to all – online, sure. Executable code on people’s systems? God forbid.

Jan 16 2012 | 5:52 am

I think more than a few folks at C74 read these forums. Any user input about help files would be taken seriously.

I agree that the counter help file is unimpressive. (Honestly, the way that object works has seemed unidiomatic for years. I always have to look at the help file to remember how it works.) Usually, arguments are indicated in the grey box with an arrow pointing at the object. This is automatic, and in the case of counter it didn’t do too well.

Jan 16 2012 | 6:20 am

Guys, really, waiting for the devs to fix stuff is… counterproductive. Surely we can make a nice wiki that makes everyone happy, extend, etc.

Jan 16 2012 | 10:38 am

i use helpfiles all the time. my brain is small.

but, PLEASE NO, to a userbase getting access. the last thing i want to see is a bunch of idiot users such as myself destroying a mainly brilliant help system. i hate user generated help / content. name me a single project that is not shit in this regard. pd help anyone? user access == destruction, no ability to know if a piece of info is rubbish or not, etc. please lets let cycling74 get on with it. we pay them to do it from the horses mouth. that is the way it should be. it is one of the reasons max is great.

re: max6 specific issues – don’t get me started…

Jan 16 2012 | 11:29 am

Total agreement with pid. Lack of quality control is highly problematic.

Jan 16 2012 | 12:59 pm

you guys are not connected to the zeitgeist,
i gave an example. the php manual. you can check it and come back.
also drop by Wikipedia, that’s some shit user generated content right there.

what is pd?

Jan 16 2012 | 3:20 pm

when the zeigeist is not totally shit, i will be sure to check back into it. until then i am only interested in things that are good, not if they are the zeitgeist or not.

the php manual is a very poor refernce point for this discussion – users of it interact with their environment in a completely different way and for different reasons. the very bad pd (google it) documentation is a much more fitting example.

wikipedia is the biggest load of crap on the net. the worldwide trust in it is probably the biggest cause of idiocy on the planet. i always ignore any of its content. democracies do not work, dictatorships do.

Jan 16 2012 | 4:03 pm

pid, your opening line is my new sig. For the Win!

Seriously folks, I am disappointed in the extreme to see this debate is still ongoing. If this were an opensource discussion there would be a wiki up a few days ago. As it is all we have is sad little maxobjects. Why do people always prefer complaining to working?

You don’t like the help system? make a wiki. . I’ll be happy to help. God knows there’s enough free serverspace around. If c74 wants to help, fine. If not, no problem.

Jan 16 2012 | 4:19 pm

u dig dictatorships, wow so cool. i bet you never had one.

Jan 16 2012 | 4:20 pm
Jan 16 2012 | 4:25 pm

seriously, if anybody says hitler I’m leaving.

Way to keep it productive guys.

Jan 16 2012 | 4:26 pm

Yair: I was born in russia and I managed not to get pissed. If you make productivity your goal small shit stays small.

Jan 16 2012 | 4:35 pm

pid: dictatorship is a very poor refernce point for this discussion – users of it interact with their environment in a completely different way and for different reasons.

jammson "its all good, babybaby"

Jan 16 2012 | 4:36 pm

Cycling74 is not exactly a huge company, so whatever you propose needs to take that into account. Anything that improves the usefulness of the help files is a win.

One thing I would love to see for the helpfiles is a PDF of the docs. I picked up a lot of tricks from browsing the docs offline, and it’d be nice for new users to have that option. I wonder if there’s a script that could automate this process.

Jan 16 2012 | 4:39 pm

when i started with max seriously one of the first thing i did was take the max thesaurus,print it on paper and read it good.

also notice:

Jan 16 2012 | 5:24 pm

I mentioned before that it might be good if there was a plus + button at the end of the tabbed helpfiles so as to create a new empty tab. People could add in their own patches or you could make a wiki for shared user help or you could have a new forum tag like [helpfile]. I like the help files but if that was easy enough to do it might be great.

Jan 16 2012 | 5:33 pm

Man y’all are seriously suggesting letting anybody but c74 employees put stuff on your harddrives. If you want, just mail your systems to me and make the ownership process faster

Jan 16 2012 | 5:46 pm

i understand your point about running code,
it could be just the online version,
with an editor push to offline from time to time.

adobe has online and offline versions, with online version including updates and open for discussion, another nice feature it has is linking forums posts at the bottom. we already have tags on the forum posts.

about the reputation thing, stackexchange, a tech help hub is based on reputation. with dedicated users it can be very low maintenance for provider. a merit/reputation system can be as simple as number of posts.

Jan 16 2012 | 6:26 pm

I am a big stack exchange fan. Re editor push, not necessary and not in the c74 budget. Let people download what they want, when they want.

Jan 16 2012 | 6:38 pm

I mean, it’s not like the helpfiles are locked or anything

Jan 16 2012 | 6:58 pm

0. i dont think you getting the point that editors dont need to be c74 employee, 99% of stackexhancge editors are not.
1. have you every thought twice about copy pasting some compressed max patch of the forum and hitting the loadbang ? if you so afried of maxmsp patches/viruses..
2. helpfile get run over each max update.
i know cuz every time i go to and add

-- Pasted Max Patch, click to expand. --

Jan 16 2012 | 7:18 pm

re 0) this is a valid point, I agree, however…

re 1) In the case of downloaded patchers, I have some idea where I’m downloading from. Automatic push requires some identification/digital signature, which is not in and of itself out of the question but requires (noticing a theme?) cooperation from c74.

All I’m saying is, we can start a wiki now and hope c74 gets on board (and why shouldn’t they? they seem smart) or we can wait for who knows how long for c74 to make the first move. I prefer the former because that means I’m in the drivers seat.

Jan 16 2012 | 7:22 pm

To be clear, I believe lots and lots of user created content is a good thing. It’s just that heavy integration with max IDE is not the way to do it. Remember, the max graphical environment is nothing but IDE – you can code patchers in notepad if the fancy takes you. Therefore it behooves us to work independently of c74 and seek cooperation only when they initiate it.

At this point you should probably google pd and see why I say things like this.

Jan 16 2012 | 7:25 pm

pid – I’m curious – how long have you used pd?

Jan 16 2012 | 7:35 pm

i dont get your last point, what the f is notepad got to do with this.

btw. i know pd, if i added a smiley to that remark the joke wouldn’t have been as amazing.

Jan 16 2012 | 7:41 pm

I mean simply that nowhere does it say that we need to pay c74 to make max projects. Sorry I missed the pd joke, I was short on sleep.

Jan 16 2012 | 7:42 pm

wow, i am happy to find my democracies comment successfully wound up the people i thought it would. i can be a bastard, sorry, but i am chuckling over here.

@jamesson, i have used pd for eaxactly as long as i have used max. but i am a lot better at max because the help system is so much better and not ‘community-ified’.

Jan 16 2012 | 7:55 pm

pid: let’s keep the politics to the political forums, shall we?

I don’t have too much experience with PD but going by the quality of developed projects it’s definitely better than max IMO.

Jan 16 2012 | 8:01 pm

hey pid you made me add a line to a wikipedia page!
you are both awesome and trollish. like most pd users.

Jan 16 2012 | 9:20 pm

That is hilarious.

How about a user-generated *online* helpfile database with the rep system that the user could see remotely in a window and easily import onto their own system after approval?
It would then be for those times where you really want to embellish the helpfile of one particular object.

… I’m looking at you, pattrstorage and sprintf and regexp and vexpr…

Jan 16 2012 | 9:38 pm

Wetterberg’s idea comes closest to what I had in mind. As I keep saying, enough talk, let’s get to work

Jan 17 2012 | 12:06 am

No takers, huh?

Jan 17 2012 | 9:57 am

"hey pid you made me add a line to a wikipedia page!"

… that is the coolest thing that has ever happened to me on the forums…

Jan 18 2012 | 12:51 am

We made some very specific choices for the help file revision in Max 6, and the framework was put in place for ease of use as well as making the most sense to the broadest segment of users.

For a seasoned user, having a blitz of information may be perfectly fine, but for many users, this is simply not useful. The primary goal was to create an unintimidating and clear first impression for a user when they are looking for information, allowing for a discoverable path to more advanced or detailed information.

More emphasis has been placed on making Help files a place to try things out, to do, and to discover. The reference remains the place to find complete object info and further discussion. With the reference in the sidebar, hopefully these two worlds feel a little more integrated.

This does mean that some things were cut, and if you are used to something in a specific location, and it goes away, I’m sure that can be disconcerting.

Although many things were cut on purpose, there may be some things that were cut that either were not meant to be, or shouldn’t have been.

So, if there are specific topics/elements/concepts that you feel are missing from a help file and important, please send an email to support at cycling 74 dot com, and we will consider each request.

Thanks for the feedback!


Jan 18 2012 | 2:14 am

one small bug in the help system
info status line will cut on long lines

Apr 23 2013 | 2:40 pm

Not sure if this is a Max6 / New helpfile system thing or not.. it seems the ‘arguments’ section is missing on a few objects (at least some jitter objects)

Apologies if this is irrelevant in this discussion

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