Archive for April, 2008


Posted in Blaze, Flare, MadCap, Tech Comm with tags , , , on April 29, 2008 by Mike

We have a week-long special training event we do about every 2 months called MadCamp. It’s a really fun thing for our customers because they get to come to our office, be trained for a week by one of our people, eat lunches, see La Jolla, get peeks into what we’ve got in the channel, and stuff like that.

The last day, they go to lunch with Mike, several of our QA people, developers, me, Bjorn, perhaps Anthony, maybe others. You just don’t know.

But we walk a few blocks to a funky La Jolla place to eat lunch and talk about our products and what they are doing. I really enjoy listening to people talk about what they learned and why this has been helpful to them.


The customers really like the MadCamp because they get to make macaroni art, take naps, sing by the campfire.

OK – they don’t get to do any of that.

What they get is focused time with our people. We keep it small – 10 people – and they bring their own laptops. They work on Flare and have Mike or me to help them to make sure they understand what they’re doing.


On Thursday, I’m doing 3 or so hours with Blaze and Analyzer. Because these people have solid training in Flare, I’m going to have them do some advanced stuff in Blaze. I’m really looking forward to it and hopefully, they’ll get good stuff out of it.

It’s everywhere you want to be

MadCamp usually sells out weeks in advance. We don’t have a date for the next one yet but I would expect it in perhaps late July/early August? Ask your sales person for more info.

And bring your family for the summer one if you can because we’re 2 blocks from one of the best beaches in the country.

OK – I need to leave soon and go teach my fuzzy ducklings. They do their presentations tonight. This should be great. Half of them are terrified and the other half have no idea what they’re doing.


Pushy, pushy

Posted in Blaze, MadCap, Tech Comm with tags , , on April 28, 2008 by Mike

We’ve updated the Blaze Early Experience beta. We pushed the updates to beta users. If you’re participating in the beta, then you should see a message when you start Blaze that a newer version is available. Follow those instructions to download and install.

We’ve also done the same with the X-Edit and X-Edit Express products. Just open these products and follow the instructions to update.

If you’re not participating in the beta, what’s the deal? We’ve made these products and want to know what you think. So go to and then go to the page of the product you want to work with, Click the Pre-release button, complete the form and we’ll email the link.

Go now. I’ll wait.

Updates all over

I’ve also updated the Best Practices based on comments I’ve gotten. Click here to get it. frametoblazebestpracticesdraft3 

Stuff to try

Perhaps you’re working with the beta and you don’t know what to do. That’s possible. So here’s a fast list that might keep you busy for the next few days:

  • Import several FrameMaker or Word files. For help on best practices during importing, we strongly recommend that you get the Best Practices document. Even if you are importing Word documents, this Best Practices should help you.
  • Create multiple Page Layouts. Consider making multiple page sizes for different outputs, such as 8.5×11”, 7×9”, and more.
  • Fun suggestion: Can you replicate the look of the pages in a computer book pulled off your shelf? How about the template you use at work?
  • Create several Style Sheet mediums and assign different values to your styles, based on medium. For example, create mediums called 8.5×11 and 7×9. Change the fonts and font sizes to be more appropriate to these page sizes.
  • Create several outlines with at least 10 topics.
  • Fun suggestion: Reuse some of the same topics from one outline to another.
  • Create several targets, such as a PDF target and an XPS target. Assign an outline, style sheet, Page Layouts and mediums to the target.
  • Generate the targets.

Advanced suggestions

  • After you complete the above, try assigning certain topics Chapter numbers. Hint: you’ll need a CSS Style that autonumbers across files.
  • Try indenting topics in outlines to see how that impacts the result when you build your targets.

A lovely parting gift

Posted in MadCap, Personal with tags , on April 26, 2008 by Mike

I had a very nice time in Winnipeg, hanging at the Red River Conference. The people were very nice, the interest in our products high. Just a great time.

When I left, the Canadians gave me a lovely parting gift: the flu. I’ve been sick since last Saturday. I actually took to my bed on Sunday, hoping to just not die. I slept and felt miserable. This week, I’ve just tried to do what work needed to be done and rest as much as possible.

I’m starting to feel human this morning but no one would confuse me with a well person. And the Canadians seem so nice…

Our support is better than yours

Lots better. We just won in the Association of Support Professionals’ (ASP) eleventh annual “Ten Best Web Support Sites” competition, a prestigious award that showcases excellence in online service and support. The Small Company 2008 winners are Articulate and MadCap Software.

So, again, we totally rock. Congrats go to our Support Manager Var on this one. She has made a big difference to our Support group and I’m personally delighted to be working with her.

That’s it for today

I’m sorry but I’m still not well. I’m just going to quietly sit here now.

Want to learn more about Topic-based Content development?

Posted in MadCap, Tech Comm with tags , on April 18, 2008 by Mike

Of course you do. Who wouldn’t?

I’m doing a tools-independent STC webinar on topic-based content development. This goes much further than the small talk I do for the Blaze demos. This one will go into things like how to make the move, how to plan these projects, how to figure out topics, how to manage these projects, and much more. This is the nitty-gritty of making this move, regardless of the tool you use, from someone who’s done it.

If you’re thinking about moving to DITA, or Flare or… you want to attend this webinar. If you just want to look at a better way to develop information, then you should attend. If you like the sound of my voice, then you want to attend!

Mark the date

The date is May 15th 2008 at 1-2:30 Eastern time. The cost is reasonable at STC Members – $79, Non-STC members $149. Get a group together and use a conference phone and the cost gets even more reasonable.

Tools independent?

Yes, this seminar is independent of any tool you might be using. So if your tool is one of our competitors, you still benefit from attending and learning how to do this.

Why this seminar? What do I care?

Because the economy is very uncertain right now. Most of us remember 2000-2003, when finding a job was awful. We know we’re going to be asked to do more with less. Topic-based content development helps you do just that. Be prepared this time.

Good heavens, this sounds fascinating! How I sign up?

You are full of really good questions! To sign up, go to and sign up. I’m really excited to be teaching this.

Blaze Best Practices updated

Posted in Blaze, Flare, MadCap, Tech Comm with tags , , , on April 17, 2008 by Mike

I’ve updated the Frame to Blaze Best Practices document to include some complex layouts and complex auto-numbering.

If you’re using Flare, the conversion part of this document will help you if you are moving from Frame to Flare.

As always, it’s a living document and if you have ideas, please let me know.


Saturday mornings

Posted in Personal, Tech Comm with tags , , , , on April 12, 2008 by Mike

My husband and I keep slightly different hours – he’s a night person and I’m a morning person. Early on we realized that if we tried to keep the same schedule, one of us was always screwed up in the sleep area. So I go to bed when I’m tired and wake up early. Eventually, he comes to bed and sleeps late. It works for us.

By your third marriage, you learn what the little things are. 

My Saturday mornings: I wake up about 6am, start the coffee, let the 3 dogs out, brush my teeth, let the 3 dogs back in, pour the coffee, give the 3 dogs chews, go in my office and start reading my email and catching up on the web. The dogs lay on the floor in my office to keep me company, chewing madly on the rawhide things.

My office sounds like this: tap tap chew chew chew tap tap chew tap chew tap chew tap tap chew tap chew tap. It’s a cacaphony.

Baby ducklings chirp and quack

While my husband sleeps and the dogs chew (and chew and chew), I drink coffee, read and answer personal email from the week, grade student papers, and surf the web. Today I have the first set of work from my baby ducklings. We have them write 1000 words on something they are passionate about.

It can be as trivial as the perfect pizza or as profound as they care to share. But they have to share their passion; when we read the work, we need to see what and why they are passionate about this topic.

This assignment has multiple purposes: they have to write something to a word count, they have to write to the defined writing standards, they show us their voice and organization abilities, and we get to learn something about them.

It’s a fun assignment to grade. We’ve gotten some amazing work. Typically, out of 40 ducklings, half of them are about games of some sort, another 10 are about family in some way, and the last 10 are about anything. One I remember particularly from several quarters ago was about the perfect sake. It was lyrical and sensual. That was passion.

Another student (a rare female) shared how hard it is to be a female in a very male program and how much she wanted to be an engineer. I wanted to hug her and tell her it was going to get easier. Because it will. Because thousands of other women are in the tech world already, paving the way for her.

But I really understood how hard it was for her to be very pretty and female in a very male program. We took her name off the essay and shared it with the department head after the quarter was over. He needed to know what it was like.

His first thought was: How many women were bailing on the program because they couldn’t hold on to the love of engineering in the face of the almost aggressive maleness in the program?

He wants good engineers, not male engineers. I like him a ton.

It’s got to be the going, not the getting there, that’s good

I’ve not started grading yet this morning because I had a lot of email to catch up on and then I got distracted looking up some of my favorite writers. Because I’m traveling this week, I need more books to take with me.

I’m a voracious reader and prefer to spend my travel time in a book. For the 4 days I’m on the road, I expect to need 3 books: 1 for each day of travel and 1 to read at night after the show. With luck, I’ll get home with a book to spare. If I have travel delays (and what are those odds?), then I may need to buy one in an airport. It’s my personal metric of how difficult the travel was.

My best friend’s husband recently turned me on to Jack McDevitt, a great hard sci-fi writer. My first love is science fiction but hard sci-fi is tough to find. I’m delighted with McDevitt and am reading everything I can find of his. Great writer, if you like hard sci-fi. Which I do.

The iceman cometh

Husband is waking up, the sun is shining, I have lunch with a former student, and a book store to go to today. All the windows in the house are open. It’s about 75 degrees at 9am and I could not be happier. I’ve lived for this day for the last 4 months. Warm, sun, soft breeze.

I’m going to put the top down on my little Miata, throw on a head scarf and drive around town doing errands today. The knitting store is having a big sale and I’ll see what yarn they have before I have Lebonese lunch with my former student.

If I have time, I’ll take the puppy and my camera and go somewhere. The light this time of year can be amazing. I have to pack (and maybe do some laundry) because I leave tomorrow, but maybe I can squeeze in some photo time.

Just a glorious day!

Oh, Canada!

Posted in MadCap, Personal, Tech Comm with tags , , , on April 10, 2008 by Mike

I’ve never been to Canada before and next week I’m changing that. I’m pretty excited – every Canadian I’ve known, I’ve liked. I’m expecting to meet lots of fun and interesting people at the Red River Conference in Winnipeg.

I know what you’re thinking: But isn’t it going to snow there, Sharon? I’m being assured by the locals and that, no, no snow is likely. Colder than I like, sure, but no snow.

However, considering how snow is stalking me, I’m fairly confident that this weather forecast is totally wrong and has not factored in the Sharon effect. sigh.

The snow would be worth it if they could arrange some Northern Lights for me. I’d really like that. It’s one of the things I’m supposed to see in my life. Like the Southern Cross, Alice Springs, India, and a few other things.

So, if you’re in the Winnipeg area, could you please get that paperwork filled out and get me some great Northern Lights? I’m there from Sunday night until mid day Wednesday. There’s time.