Archive for the DITA Category

Not posted for a while

Posted in DITA, MadCap, MadCap software, Tech Comm, technical writer, technical writing, webinars with tags , , , , , , , , on April 15, 2009 by Mike

Between losing Sara the Amazing Swimming Dog, WritersUA, and then getting really sick, I’ve just not posted for a bit.

So I thought I would quickly this morning.

Free Webinar Series

If you have not been paying attention, the free webinar series is going very very well. The one we just did had the most signups ever. I was amazed.

The next one is April 23 at 9am Pacific.

Controlling Costs by Controlling Language
This tool-independent webinar shows how simplified language options can reduce page count, decrease translation expense, and improve comprehension among non-English audiences. But is it appropriate for you? Find out.
Presenter: Brenda Huettner, P-N Designs, Inc

Brenda simply rocks. She knows a lot about our field and this webinar is a great way to learn about controlled language. It may not be right for you, but it would be good to know what it is, in case it comes up.

For more info about the webinar series, go to

Dita, Dita, everywhere

In case you didn’t get to go to WritersUA, we’re in beta with Flare Dita. If you have Dita content and are willing to beat the crud out of the software, we want you to join the beta. Send me an email and I’ll pass it along to the guy.

Remember, no Open Toolkit, just Flare and Dita. Output to Webhelp, PDF, Frame, Word, Dita, and more.

More later

See you all at STC International in just a few weeks!

Releases everywhere

Posted in DITA, MadCap, MadCap software, Personal, Tech Comm, technical writer, technical writing, webinars with tags , , , , , on February 25, 2009 by Mike

By now you’ve heard MadCap Software released the new versions of Lingo, Mimic, and Capture. Good products, great updates. Our guys worked hard to do great products.

Big picture stuff

I’m not going to tell you all the new stuff here; you can click the links and go to our website and see what’s new. But here’s a fast overview of the stuff I think is cool:

  • Lingo: Imports Word, DITA, RTF, and more source files. So if you’re writing in these formats, you can use Lingo to translate your files.
  • Mimic: MovieSync is a huge deal in Mimic. Here’s how that works.

Let’s say you have a screen movie of a tutorial for creating reports in your product. You have call outs, mouse movements, all that stuff. And then they changed the application – perhaps a new version. With MovieSync, you start the application, open Mimic, and re-record the movie. Open both the old version and the new version in MovieSync. Now you can specify to move some callouts, all the callouts, what frames get what, and so on.

Think of the time you can save by not having to manually re-do each thing you did on each screen. Wow.

  • Capture: Conditions from the Flare or Blaze project are now available in your Capture files. Variable have been available for a while, but now you can conditionalize stuff in your Capture files with the same conditions from your Flare or Blaze projects.

We did a lot more in these products, this list is just the 1 thing I think is a big deal for each product.

No, seriously, they’re tools-neutral

It took 5 webinars but the word is getting out: the MadCap Webinar Series is in fact tools-neutral. Unless we state the webinar is specifically about our products, the webinar may not even mention our products.

So, if you thought you’d like some Technical Communication related training but thought we were doing some clever bait and switch, we’re not. Go sign up at for the ones coming up or to see the ones you’ve missed.

The next one is Neil Perlin talking about Using your HAT as a Content Management System, March 12 at 9am Pacific.

We’re getting 150 to 300 people signed up for these, so go see what you’ve missed!


Yesterday was my grand daughter’s 4th birthday. She had a tummy thing and spent the day throwing up, so no cupcakes for her. She managed to open the knit sweater and the crochet hat her Nana made and sent.

To see a picture of her looking a little green around the gills but wearing the stuff Nana made, go to here.

Happy Birthday, Tally! May you have a century more, my baby.

So Cal is lovely in the winter

Posted in DITA, MadCap, MadCap software, Tech Comm, technical writer, technical writing, webinars with tags , , , , , , , , on January 15, 2009 by Mike

With much of the nation in frigid temps, I have to tell you it’s about 75 F today, the sun is shining, and the sky is blue.


You really have to love So Cal on days like today.

Webinars, get your free webinars!

Today, I did the first webinar in the series we’re doing. If you didn’t get to sign up for the Topic-based authoring webinar, we recorded it. You can click here and see the recorded webinar.

I’m pretty pleased with how it went. I’ve listened to most of it and, other than verbally stumbling more than I like, it’s pretty good.

I think we’ll be recording all the webinars, so if you want to sign up but have a conflicting meeting, sign up anyway. The day after the webinar, you will be sent an email, saying we’re completely bummed out that you couldn’t make it but here’s a link to see the recording.

We’re also adding more as time goes on, so make sure you regularly check our site at to see what we’re adding to the line up.

Yes, but are the webinars any good?

Good question. Here’s some feedback we got today:

“Thanks for today’s well-structured, well-executed, and informative intro to topic-based authoring. And thanks for the continuing series of webinars; I’ve registered for many of them.”


“I particularly appreciate your vision of providing non-tool-specific information.  I’m not currently using MadCap software (but I think I wish I was), but I am at the end of a dev. cycle and your presentation has really given me a good basis for setting my agenda for the coming year.”

My personal favorite:

“I just wanted to tell you that that was the most enjoyable webinar I’ve ever attended. You’re absolutely hilarious and I learned a lot, so thanks!”

So, in sum, I was funny and I presented information people could use. Perfect!

Want to be a star?

Want to have people tell you things like this? Of course you do! It feels really good.

I’m looking for more topics and people who can give the topics.  I’m not looking for PhD topics – you don’t have to change the world or break new ground. You don’t have to talk about MadCap tools.

I’m looking for people who have something useful they’ve learned and are willing to share it.

If that’s you, contact me and let’s talk.

DITA, Blaze, and more

Posted in Blaze, DITA, MadCap, MadCap Blaze, MadCap software, technical writing with tags , , , on September 25, 2008 by Mike

We’ve been deluged with requests for more information about what we’re doing with DITA since the email that went out this week.

So here’s what I can say right now:


You have to wait until Oct 29, like everyone else.

I’m sorry.

But it’s going to be cool, so take a deep breath. It’s all good. Really. Have a cookie and be patient.

And as you eat that cookie, here’s something cool about Blaze.

Blaze tip but first a story

One of the features I really like in Blaze requires a short story to contextualize why I like this feature so much.

When I was docs manager at my previous job, I had 13 writers scattered all over the world. When I started, we had a Frame template but it wasn’t branded and hadn’t been updated in a long time. So we created a new one. If you’ve ever been part of rolling out a new template, you know this is an iterative process, as you start applying the template to new manuals. You discover situations you didn’t think about. This was especially true for us, as we had hundreds of manuals.

So we tweaked for about a year, as the template was applied to more and more kinds of manuals and situations.

We uploaded the Frame template to the Sharepoint site and sent email to the writers that the template was changed and they should update their current projects. My staff was first rate but they would forget and didn’t update. We wouldn’t find out the template was out of date until the Production Review, which is exactly the wrong time to catch it. At that point, we were trying to get the Gold build of the docs and taking time to apply the updated template was a serious impact.

It also made me cranky, because I was trying to build credibility for the group, make us look competent and part of the team. It was a strange place that, over drinks one day, I might tell you about.

Blaze tip

Blaze – and Flare 4 – has a feature called Global Project Linking.

1. Add a Blaze Project Import to your Blaze project and get this screen:

Blaze Import Project

Blaze Import Project

2. In the Source Project field, browse and open another Blaze project.

3. Select the files types you want to include or exclude from the lists.

4. Select the “Auto-reimport before ‘Generate output'” check box.

OK, so why is this cool?

What you can do is create a template project with all the page layouts, snippets, logos, style sheets, everything that belongs in all projects from your company. Save that project to a network location that everyone can get to.

Now all writers link to that project using Global Project Linking. All the specified content from the Global project is now available in each linked project.

If that template project changes, the “Auto-reimport before ‘Generate output'” check box makes sure those changes are brought into this project when any target in this project is built.

That current template issue I faced in my previous company? A non-issue now. Everyone is now linked to the template and they are always updated with the latest changes.

No looking like a dork because you sent an outdated project to the build.