Archive for December, 2008

Happy Holiday to you from MadCap

Posted in MadCap, MadCap software, Personal, Tech Comm, technical writer, technical writing with tags , , , , on December 19, 2008 by Mike

This is probably my last blog post for 2008. I’m on vacation from the 21st to the 5th. A well deserved vacation, during which I plan to spend time with Current Husband, clean the house of junk, plan the next UC Riverside class, walk the dog a lot, knit, crochet, visit with friends, watch the backlog of DVR-ed TV, and, perhaps, sleep.

But I wanted to make sure I extend to everyone, regardless of the specific holiday you may celebrate, a Happy Holiday from MadCap Software. May your holidays be full of happiness. And may the next year be full of interesting and good things.

Thoughts at the end of the year

I’ve been blogging for 11 months. In that time, this blog has been hit with readers some 9,600 times. As much as I like being the center of attention, it’s a little odd to think there’s potentially 9,600 people who find what I might write worth reading. I’ll keep trying to write useful information or make you laugh or something in the next year.

With the uncertain economic situation worldwide, I urge you to be certain your skills are up-to-date. I preferred to never see another 2002 again, but I think we’re seeing it again. I’m not hearing about large numbers of technical communicators being laid off this time, but still…

With the uncertain economy in mind, MadCap Software is offering free webinars to help you keep your skills up-to-date. I’m talking to several more people about topics this spring. Keep watching this blog and our site at http://www.madcapsoftware.com/demos/webinars.aspx

And remember, if you have a topic you’d like to present, contact me and let’s discuss it.

Why are we doing these webinars? Because it’s scary out there. We can’t fix that but we can help a little. If you’re out of work, these webinars might help you get information that helps you find work. If you’re employed, these webinars might help you be more effective.

After all, without you all, MadCap wouldn’t be a success would we? So, in a way, we owe you a lot. This might help balance that.

Off you go!

OK – go have a lovely holiday, filled with the stuff you like and I’ll see you next year.

I’m certain I’ll be twittering while I’m off, so you can always find out what I’m doing that way!

End of the quarter blues

Posted in Flare, MadCap, Madcap flare, MadCap software, Personal, Tech Comm, technical writer, technical writing with tags , , , , , , , , on December 13, 2008 by Mike

I seem to like blogging on Saturday morning, when the animals and Current Husband are sleeping, so I thought I’d post.

The free webinars are filling up nicely. We have the info posted on our website now, so you can go to http://www.madcapsoftware.com/demos/webinars.aspx and sign up there as well, if you like.

We use GoToWebinar and are probably not recording these. I know the time is a problem for people in Asia and that part of the world. If that’s you, send me an email and tell me the names of the webinars you’d like a replay of and I can schedule those just for you all. 6pm for me is about 9am for you all – it’s doable.

And remember, if you want to present a topic, contact me and let’s talk about it. It’s a good line item on your resume and gets your name out. In this economy, anything you can do to stand out is a good thing.

Are you Certified MAD?

Another thing you can do to stand out is be certified, Certified MAD, that is. For $149, a short test, and a small project, you can be Certified MAD in Flare. That lets you use the Certified MAD for Flare logo on your resume, blog, website and other places. Potential employers or clients can call and verify your certification with us.

I like this program a lot. It shows you know what you’re talking about and it’s reasonably priced. I’ve seen these programs before and they were always a lot of money – $1500 or more. We priced this one low because we want to make it affordable for people. It’s a win all the way.

To find out more or to sign up, go to http://madcapsoftware.com/training/certification/.

Want to teach MadCap products?

I’ve been teaching part time for 10 or 11 years. I love teaching because it lets me know I’m doing good things to help people. I’m giving back to the community I love, training people in something I’m passionate about. In a few cases, I’ve been part of changing people’s lives by helping them get the background they needed to start a new career. That’s exciting.

So with that in mind, I’m thinking about starting a program to make our products very available to programs offering Tech Comm classes. If you teach for a program or coordinate a Technical Communication program, contact me at sburton(at)madcapsoftware.com. I’d like to bounce some ideas off you to see if these would work and find out what else you might need.

Finals, finals, everywhere

My students took their finals this week. That means this weekend is one long grading binge until we’re done. Today is grading and tomorrow is putting together the grades and then electronically submitting them.

Bonni isn’t as good in Excel as I am, so I get to put together the grades and submit them. And Sunday is her birthday, so it seems mean to lock her up with a spreadsheet as her birthday gift. Happy Birthday, here’s a spreadsheet.

Vacation, all I ever wanted

I’m taking 2 weeks off around Christmas. I’m cleaning out the garage, my home office, and probably helping a friend who is retiring clean out his office. It’s going to be a cleaning frenzy.

I typically use the last week of the year to clean out the junk and give it away, usually to Goodwill. This year, I’m trying something different.

There is a movement called “Free-cycling”. It’s based around the idea that the more stuff we can keep out of the landfills, the better. So local groups have email lists where you can post what you have to give away or what you are looking for. People respond if they need what you have or they have what you need.

I’ve been watching my local list (found on Yahoo) and I think I’ll be giving away a lot of stuff. I’ve not cleaned the garage in about 5 years, so there’s a lot of stuff that’s perfectly fine, I just don’t want it any more.

In these economic times, this seems a good way to pass on some Good in the world. The stuff will go to people who actually want it for the cost of gas to come get it.

Time to start my day

OK – it’s time to start looking at finals. I can’t put it off any longer. I have piles of sleeping dogs on the floor in my home office, Current Husband sleeping in the next room, I’ve read the ‘Net, posted to my blog, answered emails.

Short of starting laundry, I have no excuse left.

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.