Archive for the Analyzer Category

Dancing in the streets

Posted in Analyzer, MadCap, MadCap software, Personal, Tech Comm, technical writer, technical writing, webinars on January 10, 2009 by Mike

I spent this week locked up in a room, talking to myself and recording demos. I started the week not sure what I was doing and finished the week quite pleased that the short demos matched the pictures in my head of what I wanted them to be.

I’m getting fairly expert at editing audio, which is completely new to me. Overall, I’m really pleased. It’s a fun thing to do.

We now have short videos showing X-Edit Contribute, X-Edit Review, and Analyzer on our website. A short recording about topic-based authoring will appear early next week. More will be added as the month goes on, so check the website often.

We also added a new area called Demos. Now you can easily go to the demos and see what you want without hunting about to find them. To find out more, go to http://www.madcapsoftware.com/demos/product.aspx. We also put the free webinars in the same area, to make it all easier to find.

New quarter, new ducklings, new topics

Additionally, this week started a new quarter. We were asked for this quarter and this quarter only to change the Engineering 180 course to better meet the specific needs of graduate students who are getting Masters and PhDs in Engineering.

Normally, we’re dealing with undergraduate engineering students who are going into the workforce when they graduate. We teach them about developing presentations, specifications, test plans and test cases, and so on.

Not this quarter.

This quarter we’re dealing with people who need to write technical articles on complex topics. So we’re changing the class to focus more on how to explain very technical information to other experts in article formats.

It’s going to be interesting. We have a general direction we want to take the class but we’re also making this up as we go.

After this quarter, a new class is being created called Engineering 181, especially for these graduate needs. We’ll teach it every Winter quarter. It’s quite an honor to be teaching at the graduate level.

Bonni is a little nervous because she has no advanced degrees. She’s sure my ABD (All But (PhD) Dissertation, a real academic term) status in Economic Anthropology gives me a better insight or something.

I point out that communication is communication, and my overeducated status has little to do with anything, except I know buckets of stuff no one cares much about. And I have student loans she doesn’t. That’s it.

Personal notes

Jan 10 (today) is my mother’s birthday. She would have been 75. She died of breast cancer in 1999, about a week after her birthday. (Yes, I get checked every year in June. Feel free to nag.)

My mother should have been a history scholar, lost in archives, looking for truth and nuance in Middle Age documents. Of Swedish farming stock, she came from a dirt poor family, left school at 17 to go to San Diego, worked in various banking jobs, sang professionally, and finally met my broadcaster father.

She did what women were supposed to do in the 1950s. I think, for her, these were the wrong things to do.

I grew up listening to my mother sing. And she could sing just like Patsy Cline, just an astonishing voice. Even today, I can’t listen to Patsy without hearing my mother as a second sound track in my head. Sometimes, when I miss her, I play Patsy Cline just to hear the second sound track.

Losing your mother is strange, even when you’re an adult. I’ve spent a decade thinking about it, trying to decide how to describe it, hoping to write about it one day.

After all that thought, I can’t tell you why losing your mother is so hard, I can only tell you it is. It’s different than losing your father, your boyfriend, your best friend, your brother, your aunts and uncles. All of which I’ve lost.

Your mother. It’s different.

My mother was a self-contained person, never given to emotional displays. You had to know her to know what was going on; watching her hands and body language told you what was internal. So, while your mother is your first cheerleader, mine wasn’t given to demonstrations, there were no pom poms nor acrobatics.

Her sisters told me when she was proud of me and it always surprised me that she was. I had no idea. It certainly wasn’t something you would ever ask her about.

The only time I ever saw her emotional was when my father was terminally ill. He was at home and she called, telling me she thought he wasn’t breathing and what should she do? Call 911 and sit tight, I said. I’ll be there in 10 minutes.

More upsetting than my father potentially not breathing was my mother at a total loss. I’d never seen that before, couldn’t imagine she wouldn’t know something so basic as calling 911. But of course, she wasn’t asking about my father at all.

I get my impatience with self-indulgent emotions from her. Even, and perhaps especially, my own. Some things are just what they are and moaning and whining about them helps not at all, it changes nothing and wastes energy. And since, at some level, that may be what I’m doing now, I’ll stop.

But you should call your mom.

And a Happy New Year to you

Posted in Analyzer, Blaze, Flare, MadCap, MadCap Blaze, Madcap flare, MadCap software, Tech Comm, technical writing on January 4, 2009 by Mike

I’ve had a lovely vacation, thank you. I stayed home, cooked a lot, cleaned a lot (my garage looks really good!), and knitted a lot. Current Husband and the animals are very happy to have had their fill of me. It’s back to San Diego with me on Monday.

As the new year starts, I’m also brimming with ideas. My brain had time to think. One of the (very very few) things I don’t like about my job is there isn’t a lot of time to just think. We’re just really busy all the time. Sitting quietly and thinking is a luxury. But 2 weeks off gave me time to think and clear my head.

Thoughts

So what have I been thinking about?

I’ve been thinking that we need more free webinars this spring. The response to the ones we’ve scheduled so far is amazing.

I’m looking for people who have a topic that’s interesting to the profession and want to get their name out there. That’s doesn’t mean that you have to change the world. Nor does it mean that you have to use our tools.

Perhaps you:

  • have some insight into your users that changed how you created or delivered docs
  • can talk about learning more about your audience
  • are good at project planning and estimating
  • are implementing Simplified English and have learned something useful

and many other topics.

Doing a webinar costs you nothing but some time. You don’t even have to be in the US to do it. I may be able to get you some product in exchange for doing one, but no promises on that.

Doing a webinar sets you up as an expert and helps you professionally. It also helps the field as a whole by adding to the cumlative knowledge. And it’s fun to do!

More thoughts

Personally, this year I need to become an expert at screen videos and audio. It’s something I’ve not done before in my career; it’s simply never come up.

I’m an online help and printed document expert. I’m good at designing documentation for usability. I can identify audience and then design to meet those needs. I’m good at project planning and managing writers. I’m even pretty good at designing ads and writing copy, I’ve discovered.

But multimedia is new to me. And I need to be expert at it.

So next week, I’m locking myself up in a room and becoming good at it (and trying to keep people away from me while I do it). My goal is to be expert by March.

The learning never ends, does it? And that’s why the webinars are a good idea!

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.

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.

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.

No one releases 4 products at once

Posted in Analyzer, Blaze, Flare, MadCap, Madcap flare, MadCap software, Tech Comm with tags , , , , , , on September 7, 2008 by Mike

Except us. That’s what we’ve spent the last month doing, getting all 4 products ready to release at the same time.

So what did we release? Here’s the list:

  • Flare 4 (author and publish online and printed content)
  • Blaze (author and publish printed content)
  • Analyzer 2 (free if you have version 1)
  • The X-Edit family (supports the multi-contributor workflow and eases the pain of reviews)

This is quite possibly our biggest release since the first release of Flare.

So what’s in the new versions, Sharon?

Really, too much to tell you about here. I’m going to send you to the brand-new website to find out more. It wasn’t enough that we released 4 products at the same time, we’ve also revamped and redone our website! (We’re all a little tired.)

Once at the new website, you can find out about all the new versions, sign up for demos and webinars, and download the trials. And send us feedback about what works and doesn’t work on the new website.

Did I mention the special pricing? We’re practically giving Blaze away.

If you’ve been waiting for…

A robust authoring and publishing tool that fits your workflow needs, it’s time look at Flare (online and print outputs) or Blaze (print outputs). If you’re still locked into chapter-based authoring, you need the power that topic-based authoring gives you.

If you looked at our products before and they weren’t quite what you wanted, take a look again. We’ve included feedback from our users, increased the power of the tools, and generally improved your workflow. It’s all there now.

Because good documentation shouldn’t be hard. (I thought up that tag line and I rather like it!)

My first podcast!

Last Friday, I did my first podcast. Tom Johnson and I spent about 45 minutes talking and I had a really good time. What you don’t know – and hopefully won’t hear – is that I was dying from food poisoning that morning. I’d been up since about 3:30a, pretty darn sick. I have no idea what I got into but it was in a hurry to leave.

Tom was great, as always, and I think it went well. I sure can talk. With luck, I made sense or at least entertained you. Maybe both! If I missed on both scores, remember how really sick I was and be nice.

Stop by and visit

OK – I’m expecting to see you all in demos soon. If you all want to show up, we’ll have to add a few more. But that would be happy news and not a problem. If you’re fast, I have a Blaze demo at 8am Monday morning, Pacific time. If you missed that, we’ve got lots of others.

I’m also going to be at DocTrain East at the end of October and then at Tekom in Germany in early November. I’ll be at several local STC functions and am available to come talk to your group about our tools.

Now go see what the excitement is about!