Archive for Flare

I’m cold and tired of rain

Posted in Flare, MadCap, MadCap Blaze, Madcap flare, MadCap software, Personal, Tech Comm, technical writer, technical writing, webinars with tags , , , , , , , , , on February 12, 2009 by Mike

Remember that wonderful warm weather I talked about a few weeks ago? I barely do. It’s been cold and wet for the last 10 days.

OK, So Cal cold but my bones are still cold and I’m tired of wet. I know we need the rain, but I’m still tired of it.

And we have about another week of cold and wet to go, at least.

Free webinars!

The free tech Comm webinars are going well. We did the one about making the Business Case for Moving to Topic-based Authoring today. It went very well and the response has been very good.

We’re consistently getting 150 to 250 people signed up per webinar and I’m so happy. That tells me there is a need for these and people are really interested. I like that. It’s my project and I’m just really delighted with how it’s going.

One person wrote to me today:

…I was delighted at all the extra tips you gave to help persuade Management if one were presenting a use case. I’m just delighted at the spreadsheet and information that you shared with us all…

All good stuff. To find out more about these webinars, sign up, or view the recorded ones, click here.

In the future

We’re going to run a series of 3-5 webinars on CSS. The first few will be product independent, in that they will be about CSS, regardless of the tools you re using. The last one will be an Advanced CSS in Flare or Blaze but you should be able to do this stuff in any CSS-based tool.

We’re thinking of these as a 3-5 hour crash course in CSS. Even if you don’t use our products, I think even the last one or two will be valuable to you because you should be able to hack your current tool in the ways we show you in Flare.

Watch our site for more details. I’m writing the description for the first one in the next day or so.

Happy Valentines Day!

I hope you are doing something fun on Saturday. Current Husband and I are splurging and going to our favorite romantic resturant for dinner.

It’s where our friends took us for dinner after our wedding. We save this place for special evenings, where we hold hands and remember why we like each other so much. I’m really looking forward to it, even if it’s cold and wet, like it’s supposed to be.

Cool Flare or Blaze trick

Posted in Blaze, Flare, MadCap Blaze, Madcap flare, MadCap software, technical writing with tags , , , , , on December 10, 2008 by Mike

We met with a user and we went over some of the high end stuff she wants to do with Flare to support her move from Frame/RoboHELP to single sourcing all her content in Flare. It was a great meeting and Mike and I learned a bit.

One trick we learned is so cool, I have to share it.

Mixed media

Let’s say you’re working in Flare or Blaze you want a printed cover page with art and text on it. Further, let’s say the art needs to go the height of the left side.

Let’s start with a page layout that looks like this:

Page Layout with Text frame

Page Layout with Text frame

The grey area is the Body frame, where you will put text from a topic. Now let’s drop a Decoration Frame on the page, making the frame a little larger than the graphic we’re going to put on the page.

Page Layout with Decoration Frame

Page Layout with Decoration Frame

With the Decoration Frame selected, press F2 and click No. The Frame Contents view opens.

Now, on the Insert menu, click Picture. Find the picture you want and click OK. The graphic appears in the Frame Contents view.

Right-click over the graphic and click Object. Make any changes you want, including positioning. Click OK when you are done.

Save and close the Frame Contents view. Now you can see the graphic and it appears where you expect it. You can move the Decoration frame around to be exactly where you want it.

Page Layout with graphic

Page Layout with graphic aligned

So why is this useful?

Because the cover of your printed manuals usually need corporate art for the branding. Now you can have it. You can set up the page layout and use Variables in the topic that populates the Body frame to provide the name of the book.

And think of DITA. When we release the DITA solution, you can easily use page layouts like this to brand your content when you publish.

Cool, huh? I’m impressed.

Ryan, our young support fellow, showed me this. I think he’s smarter than I am.

Goings on at MadCap Software

Posted in Blaze, Flare, MadCap, MadCap Blaze, Madcap flare, MadCap software, Tech Comm, technical writing with tags , , , , , , , , , , on December 4, 2008 by Mike

Mike and I are finally home from traveling. Fall is a travel time, with shows all over the place. But we’re both home until probably late March, which is good for our families.

Since we’re home, we have time finally to do things. One of the things I remember from the recession of 2001/02 was that training budgets were cut right out. But training needs remain.

It’s important to stay current, to know what the hot topics in our field are, and what’s coming. If you’re looking for work, it may be even more important to know about the new stuff.

Free webinars

Toward that end, we’ve created a series of free webinars. [Updated: We have VoIP for the webinars now so you don't have to make a phone call!!!]

Almost all of these webinars are tools independent. You’re not going to get a sales pitch about MadCap products. You’ll get good information about topics that further your knowledge or show you Best Practices, regardless of the tools you’re currently using.

The tools-specific webinar is clearly identified in the title. It won’t be a sales pitch, though. It’s Mike showing you really advanced stuff that probably even I don’t know. But I’m going to learn from the master!

When you click a link below, you will see more information about that specific topic and a sign up form.

Topic Based-authoring: Doing more with less

15 January 2009 9am Pacific

https://www1.gotomeeting.com/register/961665594

In this tool-independent webinar, you learn about topic-based authoring and how it can help you.

Advanced Publishing Techniques in Flare V4 or Blaze V1

29 January 2009 9am Pacific

https://www1.gotomeeting.com/register/812049597

This webinar focuses on producing high quality, high value documents for your customers using Flare V4 or Blaze V1. Learn ways to efficiently assemble and deliver your content.

DITA 101 — Why the Buzz?

5 February 2009 9am Pacific

https://www1.gotomeeting.com/register/598015341

In this tool-independent webinar, Sarah O’Keefe discusses DITA concepts, the business case, and typical scenarios where DITA is used to evaluate whether DITA makes sense for you.

Moving to Topic-based Authoring: Making the Business Case

12 February 2009 9am Pacific

https://www1.gotomeeting.com/register/706899386

In this tool-independent webinar, Bonni Graham explains how to make the business case for topic-based authoring to your management. You know the savings, now you can show your boss!

Planning for Content Reuse: Best Practices for Legacy and New Content

24 February 9am Pacific

https://www1.gotomeeting.com/register/647207434

In this tool-independent webinar, Eddie VanArsdall discusses Best Practices when planning the move to topic-based authoring.

Can your HAT be a Content Management System?

12 March 9am Pacific

https://www1.gotomeeting.com/register/187845873

In this tool-independent webinar, Neil Perlin discusses how you might use the hidden features in your existing HAT tools as a Content Management System.

I hope you’ll come play with us

I really hope to see you on one or more of these. I’m doing support Chat for almost all of them so I’ll see you in the chat if you’re there.

If you have other ideas for webinars, contact me and I’ll see if I can’t add them to the line up. If you would like to present one, contact me and let’s talk your idea through.

Feel free to spread the word.

See you soon!

Briefly

Posted in Analyzer, Blaze, Flare, MadCap, MadCap Blaze, Madcap flare, MadCap software with tags , , , , on December 4, 2008 by Mike

We released updates to Flare 4, Blaze 1, Analyzer 2, and the X-Edit family of products yesterday.

If you own these, you’ll see a prompt when you open them (assuming you’re connected to the internet). Just follow the prompts and you’ll be automatically updated.

Mostly these are performance fixes and import fixes, many of which were reported by our users. A shout out goes to our Dev team for making this happen. Good work, guys!

On a personal note

The day started yesterday with the awful news that Adobe laid off up to 600 people. My heart goes out to those laid off. It’s never good and in this economy and with Christmas 3 weeks away, this is just bad all the way.

And AT&T announced layoffs this morning – I have a friend there. I hope he gets thru this OK. Just bad.

We at MadCap wish all those laid off a swift and painless journey to your next good thing. I’m so sorry this has happened to you.

Munich in November

Posted in Analyzer, Blaze, Flare, MadCap, MadCap Blaze, Madcap flare, MadCap software, Personal with tags , , , , , , , , on November 9, 2008 by Mike

I’ve been traveling for 13 days. I’ve been to Boston, Wiesbaden, and now I’m in Munich. Another week and I go home.

Boston

The DocTrain East conference was wonderful. We announced our DITA solution the day the show started and were flooded with people who wanted to talk about it. The 3 days are sort of a blur, but I showed a lot of Blaze and Flare and talked about what our DITA thing is going to be.

Just before I left, the guys were able to give me an early alpha build of DITA Flare, Phase 1. I can import DITA documents and create a branded help file in Flare. I can change skins, add corporate logos, and all the stuff you would expect after you get content into Flare. It’s a good alpha – it works mostly.

We had a hard time getting across to people that our solution is not based on the DITA toolkit in any way. Our developers looked at it and decided that it was easier to modify Flare/Blaze. So no programming, no toolkit, just Flare or Blaze.

But we’d explain that and people would say, disbelieving, “So how does the Toolkit integrate here?” “No Toolkit. All Flare or Blaze.” “Right, but how do I get the Toolkit installed to work with Flare?” ‘You don’t. Flare and Blaze deal directly with the DITA content. No Toolkit in any way.” “OK… But I don’t understand how this works with the Toolkit…” and so on.

But when the light went on, people were super excited. I guess the Toolkit has some challenges.

Where everyone knows your name

Saturday, while Mike was doing a post conference workshop, I met my oldest friend and we walked around Boston. Tom grew up in Boston and we had a lovely time on the walking tour. We would up in Little Italy and got to speak Italian to the waitress in Mike’s with our cappuccino and pastry.

Tom and I met when I was an Army wife, married to my first husband, and attached to the NATO base in Naples, Italy. He was Navy, doing shore duty at the Navy base in Naples. Now, we get to see each other about every 7 to 10 years, so this was great fun. Good man and I had a wonderful time. We rode the subway back, which was delightful.

Germany

Mike and I flew from Boston Logan to other airports, arriving at different times, in Frankfurt where we connected up with Anthony, who came in on yet another flight. We took the train to Wiesbaden and got checked into our hotel. We’d all slept 3 or 4 hours on the flights, so we screwed around in town until a normal bedtime. Mike and I were only(!) 6 hours off, as we’d adjusted to Boston.

Tekom

Tekom is an amazing show. It’s about 2500 Tech comm professionals, gathered together for 3 days of learning. The entire trade show happens at the central convention center and it’s packed with people and vendors. Apparently, they sold out the vendor halls. Trust me, that’s a lot of vendors!

We had our own booth this year for the first time. In the past, we’ve shared space with one or more of our resellers but we decided we needed to stand up on our own this year. We’re big enough. Here’s how the booth looked after we finished setting it up:

The booth after we set up and before the show opened.

We had a young woman to help us with translations. Most people speak English to some degree but the Tech Comm vocabulary can be specialized. I’m from So Cal – I speak Spanish. I can almost be basically polite in German.

Corrina was a delight. She has a degree in Tech Comm and works in Zurich. She’s young, passionate about our field, knows her stuff, and is beautiful. I delighted in watching the German-only speaking men lean towards her as she talked about our products. They were captivated by this bright, lovely, passionate woman. We called her our “Portable Language Device” and she giggled. She giggles a lot.

Mike was Flare boy. I was Blaze, Analyzer, and X-Edit girl. When the sessions were out, we were hopping, especially the 2nd day. I missed lunch that day.

I showed Alan Houser our DITA solution. He was impressed at the mix and match you can do. You can import a regular Word document, a Frame book, and DITA content into one project and then mix the output from these. So your help file can have topics from some of each, if you want.

He said that no one else can do that or even come close. Made my day.

Munich

Yesterday (Saturday), we all slept late and then went to the train station. Corrina was going home to Zurich, Anthony was going back to the States, Mike was off to Amsterdam, and I was heading to Munich. We all changed trains in Frankfurt and said our goodbyes. I won’t see Mike or Anthony for another 10 days or so.

I arrived in Munich about 4 in the afternoon, just before dark. By the time I checked in and unpacked, it was dark. But today I walked around downtown Munich, took (bad) photos and generally enjoyed the nice day. I wore only a sweater because it was about 50F. But when the dark clouds blew in and the temperature dropped, I walked back to the hotel.

I’m doing product shows for our resellers Tuesday thru Friday in Munich and Stuttgart. It’s going to be really busy so this down time is nice. We don’t get a lot of this when we’re doing shows and I’m appreciating it.

General thoughts about Germany

One of the things that’s cracking me up is that I seem able to only speak Spanish or English to these nice Germans. Apparently, my brain is fine with another language and if another language, then I must be speaking Spanish. I spend a lot of time laughing at myself.

It seems that everyone speaks English to some extent. But I was trained as an anthropologist and I want to be polite. In Spanish, apparently, which helps me not at all. But I have to admit, sitting in an outdoor cafe, in the late fall sun, drinking coffee, surrounded by German speakers this afternoon was fun.

When I was 20, I was sitting at an outdoor cafe in Naples in the sun, one lovely spring day looking at the Bay, at Castel d’Ovo right there, Mount Vesuvius behind me. I’m living in Naples, I thought. How utterly extraordinary.

I’m in Munich. How utterly extraordinary.

I’ve seen fire and I’ve seen rain

Posted in Blaze, Flare, MadCap, MadCap Blaze, Madcap flare, MadCap software, Personal with tags , , , , , , , , on October 14, 2008 by Mike

OK, I haven’t seen rain lately, except briefly last week in Atlanta between flights. But it’s Fire Season for us in So Cal. We have winds and starting last Sunday, we have fires. The worst is north of LA in the western end of San Fernando Valley. Houses burnt, lots of acreage burnt, evacuations, all the normal stuff. We’re a migratory population.

This could continue for us for another 6 to 8 weeks. We always hope not, but our rains don’t always start in late October, like we’d like them to. Sometimes it’s February before we see rain and that’s just no fun at all. We’d prefer a nice early rainy season with just enough rain to get Green by January but not so much rain that we have Flood.

I’ve seen sunny days that I thought would never end

The PCOC show in Tennesee was very fun. I met lots of people and just generally had a really good time. Chattanooga seems like a great town to be eccentric in. I can’t tell you why, I wanted to just be eccentric. But the conference was a success and I think all left with useful information.

On my way out of town, I was looking forward to going to Lookout Mountain where, they said, you can see 7 states. But the day was cloudy and overcast, so I wound up at the airport and left for Atlanta early instead.

I’ve seen lonely times when I could not find a friend

I spent about 6 hours in the Atlanta airport with Brenda H, who, it turns out, is very fun. She was stranded because Atlanta won’t let you check in to board your flight if it’s less than 45 minutes before your flight leaves.

Brenda got to the counter with 40 minutes and they wouldn’t check her in. So she had to wait 13 hours to see if she could stand by on the next flight to Tucson. She ended up in Denver that night and made it home the next day. I felt really bad for her – normally, this is my traveling karma and she got it this time.

But we ate and chatted and hung out and it was good. Turns out we have about 5 people in common, including 2 of my closest friends.

But I always hoped that I’d see you, baby, one more time again

I got in about 11pm Sunday, just dead. My body had no idea what time it was and so defaulted to bone weariness. I spent about 30 minutes talking to my husband and passed out until 6:30a.

I got caught up a bit and then left for San Diego about 11 hours after I got home. As I was unpacking the suitcase to pack the overnight bag, I felt homeless, a transition with a rag top. David assured me that where ever I am is home for him, which helped.

And we have a date this weekend, which I like muchly. We’re going to see Paula Poundstone at the University of California, Riverside. I’m very pleased and excited. I like her work very much and this should be fun. Maybe David will hold my hand and everything.

It’s traveling time again

Posted in Analyzer, Blaze, Flare, MadCap, MadCap Blaze, Madcap flare, MadCap software, Tech Comm, technical writing with tags , , , , , , , on October 2, 2008 by Mike

The last trade shows of the year are coming. They seem all bunched in the last week of Oct and the first 2 weeks of November. We can’t cover them all, but here’s an overview:

October 9-11, PCOC in Chattanooga TN http://pcoc.stc-etc.org/
I’ll be there and I think I’m doing a presentation of some sort.

October 13-15 Localization World, Madison WI http://www.localizationworld.com/
Mike will be there, showing tools and stuff.

October 15, NorthEast Ohio STC, Cleveland OH http://www.neostc.org/calendar/20081015.html
This is a virtual meeting for me and you don’t have to be onsite to see it.

October 16, North Bay STC, CA http://stc-northbay.org/nextmeeting.php
I’m presenting Blaze to the STC chapter.

October 29-Nov 1, DocTrain East, Burlington, MA http://www.doctrain.com/east/
Mike and I will both be there, showing Flare, Blaze, and more.

Nov 3-6 DITA/TechComm, Raleigh NC, http://www.brightpathsolutions.com/pages/conf/tc08/index.html
We won’t be there because of conflicts (see next) but Paul Pehrson is doing 2 presentations about our tools.

Nov 5-7 Tekom, Weissbaden Germany http://www.tekom.de/tagung/tagung.jsp
Mike and I will be there with bells on, showing off products and having a good time.

Nov 6-8, Lavacon, Honolulu, Hawaii http://www.lavacon.org/
We won’t be there because of the obvious conflicts (see previous) but Bonni Graham will be doing a “Lessons learned moving from Robohelp to Flare” presentation.

So, that’s lots of chances to see us at a trade show or learn about our products, even if we’re not there.

DITA

Posted in Blaze, Flare, MadCap, MadCap software, technical writing with tags , , , , , on September 23, 2008 by Mike

Free is good – you can afford free

Posted in Blaze, Flare, MadCap, Madcap flare, MadCap software, Tech Comm, technical writing with tags , , , , on September 15, 2008 by Mike

We’re doing a series of free webinars in the month of October. We’d love to have you join us.

Importing FrameMaker files to Flare or Blaze
October 3 at 9am
Reserve your Webinar seat at: https://www1.gotomeeting.com/register/667817804

What’s new in Flare 4?
October 9 at 9am
Reserve your Webinar seat at: https://www1.gotomeeting.com/register/562186940

Planning the move to Flare or Blaze
October 15 at 9am
Reserve your Webinar seat at: https://www1.gotomeeting.com/register/385144397

Doing more with less (Tools independant: this is the crazy sold out STC webinar we did in late spring)
October 21 at 9am
Reserve your Webinar seat at: https://www1.gotomeeting.com/register/865719205

I’m doing some and Mike Hamilton is doing some and we’re doing one together. if you are interested in seeing our products or learning about what Topic-based Authoring is, go sign up!

You think you know busy and then…

Posted in Analyzer, Blaze, Flare, MadCap, Madcap flare, MadCap software, Tech Comm with tags , , , , , , on September 11, 2008 by Mike

Then it gets crazy. We were really busy up to release: getting ads put together, finishing the website, scheduling demos, all that stuff.

Then we released.

And it really got busy. I’ve done a demo a day (except for today) all week. Mike has done three 4 hour jump starts and several demos in the last 36 hours alone. Handling questions from people, making sure word gets out, looking for someone to review Blaze (any takers? Pitch it to an editor, sell it, and I’ll provide you a free copy of Blaze.)

It makes a girl want to nap. Long, one might say, for a nap.

So what’s the verdict?

On Flare 4:

I just wanted you to know that I am TOTALLY sold now on Flare. MadCap has made me a convert…There are so many things that I’m impressed with that I can’t take the time to list them!

and:

I just downloaded and started exploring the new features. I have to say, wow. Wow!
I’m very impressed with PageLayouts (awesome, awesome, awesome!), resizing in XML editor, IntelliSense (Wow!), Global project linking (hello CMS!), inserting snippets by drag/drop (about time), and love the Downloads links–key features guide, What’s New guide, etc. (very, very useful content – way to go Tech Writers!).

And other good stuff. I saved some of the Blaze comments but I can’t find them now, so there it is. I’ll post them when I can find them again.

I think we did good. We’re very pleased that these products are being so well received. At the end of the day, I want to do good work. Being part of making good tools is good work.

What’s next?

OK – over the next few weeks, I’m planning on running several blogs about How to Do Stuff in Blaze, Analyzer, and X-Edit that you may not know about. If there is specific stuff you’d like to know about, suggest. I’ll do what I can.

Mike is planning on doing Flare 4 stuff but he’s on the road for the next 2 weeks so that may be delayed a little. Be patient.

I’ll probably start Saturday morning, as I seem to like long blog postings on Saturday mornings. It’s quiet, in the house and in my head.

Finally and in conclusion

Char James Tanny is running a survey. We have no affiliation with Char. She sent this out and I think it’s fair game to post:

The Authoring Tool survey is still open! So far, the survey has had more than 300 responses from 18 countries. Keep spreading the word :-) Thanks!
The URL is http://www.surveygizmo.com/s/65623/tool-survey

The survey closes the end of September, so get over there and answer the 7 easy questions. It’s only going to take you a few minutes.

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