Archive for the Flare Category

Cheeseburgers in Paradise

Posted in Blaze, Flare, MadCap, MadCap software, Personal, Tech Comm with tags , , , , , , , on October 23, 2008 by Mike

I feel compelled to tell you that’s it’s in the upper 80s and is expected to stay there for the next 10 days. The sky is that heart break blue that we get this time of year. You want to send a Thank You card to someone or just applaud.

May and October are my 2 favorite months in So Cal. If I have time to do errands, be sure I’ll put the top down and pop Jimmy Buffett in the CD player. Because nothing says Cool like blasting “I’m looking for a smart woman in a real short skirt” in my convertible on a glorious day.

You may have noticed I sometimes play off song titles in some of my blog headings. Today is more obvious, as it’s a Parrot-head sort of day.

School boy heart, novelist eye

I’m going to Boston and then on to Germany in the next 3 weeks. Both places will be almost freezing at night and the 50s during the day. A crashing disappointment, weather-wise.

But I bet both places will be interesting and I’ll meet some great people. I may have time to walk a bit and perhaps take photos.

Son of a son of a sailor

I was hired in large part to bring Blaze to market. And a year after I arrived, it’s released. I’m delighted to announce we’ve had our first review and it’s really good. I’m so proud. To learn more, go to

It’s been…interesting bringing a product to market and trying to get attention drawn to it. I’ve learned a lot. I’ve met a bunch of people. But most important to me personally is I think we delivered a product that you can actually use. It has features that make your life easier and actually helps.

He went to Paris looking for answers

I’ve spent my professional career trying to do the best tech comm work I was capable of. It’s mattered to me that the users of my documentation felt they were getting useful information. If I didn’t help my users, I failed.

Moving to product management, I bring the same passion for helping. I want to develop products that make a difference to your daily work life. Being a tech comm professional is hard enough – you shouldn’t have to fight your tools, too.

That’s what makes me happy about Blaze. I think we made a useful product and the review confirms that. It makes me really happy.

A pirate looks at forty

We finished this round of public webinars this week. That was very exciting. The attendance was out of sight for all of them. The survey questions sent the next day said that people found them really useful.

If you wanted to participate and couldn’t, we’ll be doing more again this winter. Keep watching here for details. We’re hoping that GoToWebinar will have VoIP when the next round starts.

If you have a suggestion for a topic you’d like an hour on:

If you have other ideas, suggest them. I want to be helpful.

One particular harbor

I’ll try to blog while I’m on the road but don’t panic if I can’t. I will when I come home, after I sleep, see Current Husband, and pet the dogs. I have my priorities.

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
I’ll be there and I think I’m doing a presentation of some sort.

October 13-15 Localization World, Madison WI
Mike will be there, showing tools and stuff.

October 15, NorthEast Ohio STC, Cleveland OH
This is a virtual meeting for me and you don’t have to be onsite to see it.

October 16, North Bay STC, CA
I’m presenting Blaze to the STC chapter.

October 29-Nov 1, DocTrain East, Burlington, MA
Mike and I will both be there, showing Flare, Blaze, and more.

Nov 3-6 DITA/TechComm, Raleigh NC,
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
Mike and I will be there with bells on, showing off products and having a good time.

Nov 6-8, Lavacon, Honolulu, Hawaii
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.


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:

What’s new in Flare 4?
October 9 at 9am
Reserve your Webinar seat at:

Planning the move to Flare or Blaze
October 15 at 9am
Reserve your Webinar seat at:

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:

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!


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

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!

Happy Birthday, Son

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

A few years ago today, the Saturday of Labor Day weekend, 2 weeks early, about 1:40 in the afternoon, I gave birth to my son.

Matthew Michael turns 30 today. He lives in Tulsa with his wife and 2 children and runs a photography business. If you are in the OK area and need photos, he’s your man. Click the Burton Studios link and see what he does.

If you like his site, he did it himself. He talked to my brother, the web god, and described what he wanted to do.

“Gee,” my brother said. “Most people use PHP for that.”

“OK, then I’ll learn PHP,” Matthew said.

So he did.

Did I mention that he has no formal training as a programmer? Yeah. He checked out a book from the library, looked up code samples on the web, thought about what he wanted the site to do, and started coding.

When he was 5, he started taking stuff apart to see how it works. Phones – *working* phones – were one of his favorite things to take apart for a while. Then it was off to VCRs and other stuff, just because he wanted to know what went on inside.

He rebuilt a car engine a few years ago because it needed to be rebuilt. “It was pretty easy, Mom. It’s obvious how it all goes together.” Apparently, my son “sees” how things must go together and then just does that.

This is the sort of brain this kid has. It was…interesting(!) to parent him. A strong visual, kinesthetic learner.

I’m a very proud mom. He’s the best thing I’ve ever done. Despite all the stupid stuff I did as a parent (and I’m sure he’s got a list), he turned out a good man. I’m delighted to know him.

Happy Birthday, Matthew! I doubt he remembers much of the day he arrived but I do!

In other news…

Another quarter of Fuzzy Ducklings has been set free. Bonni and I sent the Ducklings off last week and graded their finals over the weekend. No one cheated, at least that we could tell, and everyone passed. We had some great students this time and this was overall a good class. This group of Duckling engineers seemed to get the relationship between good documentation – spec, test cases, manuals, and so on – and the quality of the product.

We have 3 weeks between quarters before the next group of Ducklings come quacking in. Be nice to have the break.

By the way – our first group of Duckling engineers graduated last June. You may be working with them at some point. If they seem to value tech comm, you can send the thank you cards to me here at this blog and I’ll pass them along to Bonni.

Going with the X-Edit flow

We have exciting stuff going on at MadCap in the next few weeks. I thought I’d cover a little about the X-Edit family of products, to give you a little heads up about how we’re supporting your workflow.

The X-Edit family is 3 products in one, but it’s easier to think of X-Edit and X-Edit Contribute as 2 different modes.

X-Edit    Full featured word processor that also does everything the other 2 products do. Think of it as everything you could want. Saves to PDF, XPS, imports into Flare or Blaze, all that good stuff. Not a replacement for Blaze or Flare, because you don’t have the sort of topic-based authoring features you have in Flare or Blaze.

X-Edit Contribute    Lighter word processing features. You create a template in Flare or Blaze and then send that template to people who contribute to your projects. They open that template and start creating content with your styles, table formats, variables, if you allowed that, and so on. These files import seamlessly into your Flare or Blaze project. You can also do review topics, just like X-Edit Review.

X-Edit Review    When your Flare or Blaze topic is ready for review, you send it for review from inside Flare or Blaze. Flare or Blaze wraps all the stuff it needs for that topic and sends it to the reviewers you specify. The reviewer opens the topic in free X-Edit Review, makes edits or annotations, as you allowed, and then sends it back to you. You save it to your project, review the changes, and either make the changes to your source files or accept the changed topic into your project.

Common Tech Comm environments

As you know, the environment for Tech Comm people varies. I’ve worked with groups where the tech writers designed and wrote all the content. SMEs reviewed the materials for accuracy but never wrote a word.

But I’ve also been in the other extreme, where I didn’t write a single word – my role was to take the content from all the SMEs and wrap it into a tool to publish it. I was the tool expert, not the domain expert.

The X-Edit family lets you work at either end and in the middle somewhere. It fits your workflow, instead of making your change your workflow to fit our idea of what you should be doing.

OK, I hear you saying, so why can’t my content contributors write in Word and send me those files? I thought Flare and Blaze imported Word files?

Your content contributors can still do that, if that’s how you all want to work. We won’t make them stop if that’s what they’re comfortable with.

The advantage to the X-Edit family is that the content they’re creating is using your templates, your variables (if you want them to), your table styles, your everything, if you want them to have it. This means the content comes is very clean, significantly reducing any cleanup time and effort.

And the interface is pretty straightforward. And because you can specify what project features your SMEs can use, you can keep them from hurting themselves by misusing things like variables, conditions, and so on. They can be smart in their domain and you can be smart in yours. It’s a good match.

We’re taking over the market

Posted in Flare, MadCap, MadCap software, Tech Comm, technical writing with tags , , on August 8, 2008 by Mike

3 years ago, MadCap Software was just a really good idea several people had after they got laid off from Macromedia. Now, we’re starting to own the market with our flagship product, Flare.

It’s not a surprise to me that we’re taking over – our products are that good. If you think this is just me being marketing girl, go to and see the Tools survey on the right. Vote, if you like.

We’ve been averaging between 50% and 70%. Overnight, AuthorIT added about 10% to its numbers, from, I suspect, the Down Under population voting.

So take a look and get your vote in!

A quiet Saturday morning

Posted in Blaze, Flare, MadCap, MadCap software, Personal with tags , , , , on July 26, 2008 by Mike

Husband is still snoring, I have dogs sleeping on my office floor, and it’s quiet on the street. This is why I’m a morning person. About 6:30, the sun was streaming thru the wall of windows on the eastern side of the house. I wanted to twirl slowly in the golden light.

It’s a dogs’ life

It’s been pretty animal crazy in my life lately. Our 14 month old Aussie came down with very bad kennel cough and was really sick for about 10 days. Gus (and our other 2) was immunized against the bad common strains, but the vet explained this is like a cold for humans – the virus keeps mutating. As it turns out, the virus that causes kennel cough is related to the bug that causes viral bronchitis in humans.

Gus spent 10 days laying around coughing. He couldn’t walk across the room without a 15 minute coughing fit that wore him out. He had no sparkle because he was just too sick. Finally, Thursday morning of this week, he started recovering. Now he wants to play and run and only coughs a little. A totally healthy dog is not too far away.

In the mean time, the Cattle Dog, Sara, is getting very old and crippled by her arthritis. I know this is her last summer but I’m hoping to give her a last summer (her favorite time of year because she can swim in the pool). Husband and I met with the vet who said “Soon and not long, but not yet” and gave us pain pills to help her. These seem to working OK with her for now. And she continues to wag her tail when I come home.

And, because this is how it goes, the very old Border Collie mix, Lady, is less and less tethered to this life. She’s blind and deaf and losing weight. I expect when we put Sara down this fall, Lady will go to sleep and not wake up soon after. They’ve been together since they were about 8 months old. I’ve never thought one of them would survive much beyond the other.

Surprisingly, the old dogs did not pick up this round of kennel cough. Which is good because at their advanced ages, I think this one would have killed them. Gus is young and resilient; Sara and Lady simply are not anymore.

I’m not excited about this part of having dogs. I like the young part of their lives. I’m not delighted with the old and crippled part of this at all. But this fall, decisions will have to be made, regardless of how much I like these guys sleeping on the floor in my office.

In other news

The week was crazy busy at work—the Importing FrameMaker files into Flare  webinar is insanely popular. And I usually have people with many questions afterwards about their specific situation.

After each webinar, I spend probably 3 hours helping people with their stuff. I love it, because it all teaches me more about what you all are doing with our products and what challenges you face. This will only help me get you better products in the end. I know better what you need and can advocate for it.

We also have MadCamp this coming week, so we were busy getting ready for that, making sure all we need is in place to have that be a success. And I think it is! Whew.

All in all, a week that left my brain vibrating in my head every evening.

This weekend’s plan

So this weekend, I grade student papers because I’m 2 weeks behind and they’re starting to murmur. We have a party at my best (female) friend’s house, a friend is in town on business starting Sunday and I’ll try to have lunch with him tomorrow, I need to do laundry and generally pick up, I have 2 – count them 2! – new fabulous crochet pattern books to start working from (both sweaters and shrugs and the like – yum!), and a husband to talk to. And dogs to pet.

And if I have time, I want to practice my knitting. I took a lesson last weekend and it was hard but fun. I’m such an experienced crocheter that I’ve forgotten how it feels to be new at these handicrafts. Knitting humbled me. I want to get OK at it. I may never prefer it, but I think I should know how to do it competently.

Why? Because I enjoy having a picture in my head that translates to a thing through my hands. I find it calming to work my hands to make something. I like working on a craft (art) that’s been practiced for perhaps a thousand years. I like feeling as though I’m dipping into a sea of tradition that’s been practiced by far more talent than I’ll ever have.


And as a last note, today is Michael Stern’s birthday. If you never got to know him, you missed out on knowing an amazing and wonderful man. Michael was my best male friend who died suddenly one night about 3 years ago. Losing a best friend is every bit as bad as it sounds. As I spoke in his eulogy, some things you never get over, you just adjust to. Eventually, I suppose.

Happy Birthday Michael.