Archive for the MadCap Blaze Category

I’m cold and tired of rain

Posted in Flare, MadCap, MadCap Blaze, Madcap flare, MadCap software, Personal, Tech Comm, technical writer, technical writing, webinars with tags , , , , , , , , , on February 12, 2009 by Mike

Remember that wonderful warm weather I talked about a few weeks ago? I barely do. It’s been cold and wet for the last 10 days.

OK, So Cal cold but my bones are still cold and I’m tired of wet. I know we need the rain, but I’m still tired of it.

And we have about another week of cold and wet to go, at least.

Free webinars!

The free tech Comm webinars are going well. We did the one about making the Business Case for Moving to Topic-based Authoring today. It went very well and the response has been very good.

We’re consistently getting 150 to 250 people signed up per webinar and I’m so happy. That tells me there is a need for these and people are really interested. I like that. It’s my project and I’m just really delighted with how it’s going.

One person wrote to me today:

…I was delighted at all the extra tips you gave to help persuade Management if one were presenting a use case. I’m just delighted at the spreadsheet and information that you shared with us all…

All good stuff. To find out more about these webinars, sign up, or view the recorded ones, click here.

In the future

We’re going to run a series of 3-5 webinars on CSS. The first few will be product independent, in that they will be about CSS, regardless of the tools you re using. The last one will be an Advanced CSS in Flare or Blaze but you should be able to do this stuff in any CSS-based tool.

We’re thinking of these as a 3-5 hour crash course in CSS. Even if you don’t use our products, I think even the last one or two will be valuable to you because you should be able to hack your current tool in the ways we show you in Flare.

Watch our site for more details. I’m writing the description for the first one in the next day or so.

Happy Valentines Day!

I hope you are doing something fun on Saturday. Current Husband and I are splurging and going to our favorite romantic resturant for dinner.

It’s where our friends took us for dinner after our wedding. We save this place for special evenings, where we hold hands and remember why we like each other so much. I’m really looking forward to it, even if it’s cold and wet, like it’s supposed to be.

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We owe you all a big thank you!

Posted in MadCap, MadCap Blaze, Madcap flare, MadCap software, technical writer, technical writing, webinars with tags , , , , , , , , on January 21, 2009 by Mike

For 10 years, Red Herring has been awarding exceptional start up companies who are changing the playing field. MadCap Software has won a Red Herring award! We are in the top 100 companies internationally, which is a huge honor.

Previous winners include Google, Skype, YouTube and others.  To see us listed and learn more, go to http://www.herringevents.com/global08/redherring100.html.

As we were talking about how great this is, we realized that this award is really all about our community of users. Four years ago, we had this idea that we thought might change the world a bit. It must have been a good idea, because many people have joined us.

Without people using our products, we’re not even a good idea.

But because people use our products and love our products, we’re successful. We really do owe it all to our user base.  So thank you!

In other news

The free webinars are going very well. I’m planning some new ones for April and May, so stay tuned for those. They should be posted in late February.

We’re offering tool-neutral free webinars to give back a little to the community. Expect topics that may not have much to do with our products at all but should forward your knowledge of the field.

Because these are recorded, they are more available for all time zones. So now you have no excuse!

As always, feel free to send me topics you’d like to know more about and I’ll see what I can do.

Personal notes

I just received word that I’m been accepted as an STC Associate Fellow! I’m delighted.

I knew I was nominated but working for a vendor might have changed things. Most of what I’ve done in the field has been teach and support tech comm in every place I could, which is part of why MadCap hired me, but… It could have been an issue.

This feels really good. I need a new dress.

Too much to do this week

I need to record more short demos this week and other stuff, so that’s all the time I’ve got right now.

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!

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.

Another Saturday morning

Posted in Blaze, MadCap, MadCap Blaze, MadCap software, Personal, technical writing with tags , , , , on November 22, 2008 by Mike

And I’m still jet-lagging. I pass out at 8pm and then wake up at 4:30am. I really tried to stay awake last night – I fell asleep sitting on the couch. Next thing I knew, Current Husband woke me up and sent me to bed. At 8:15p. I felt like it had to be really late.

So here it is, 6:30a and I’ve been up for 2 hours. I’m a relentless 2 to 3 hours off my current time zone and it’s annoying, to say the least.

Driving along in my automobile

Yesterday, I went to Sylmar (yup, 100 miles away) and showed Blaze and the X-Edit family of products to a customer. They’re interested in using the workflow in these products to do a better job of writing, managing, and producing proposals.

The VP of Engineering wants to save money and do a better job of more accurately producing proposals for their projects. In the current recession, this is a very reasonable thing for the company to want. They need to still get new projects but keep costs down on the bidding for projects part.

Workflow improvements

I showed how breaking the proposal into bits (topics) and then essentially assembling them on the fly (using Outlines) would let them leverage the content they already have, reducing the cost of new proposals. They can send the bits out for review from Blaze, using X-Edit Review to review those bits and then get the comments back into Blaze.

We talked about Snippets and how these let you make even smaller bits, like company information, reusable and would reduce errors in this content, while letting you reuse in many proposals.

They liked that they could still let people author content in Word and it would import into Blaze. They also liked X-Edit Contribute, letting them author in an easy to use Blaze template.

Content is different than format

They also liked the part where Blaze separates the content from the formatting. They sometimes need to build a proposal with their company branding but sometimes they need the proposal to have the parent company branding, for example. They liked how easy this would be to swap out in 2 easy steps.

All in all, it was a great look at Blaze and X-Edit and I had a great time showing our products. It made the 3 hour drive home worth it.

Funny story from Germany

I had one day to really see Munich, my last day in country. It was a lovely late Fall day, the temps were in the low 50s and the sun was shining. I walked to the Residence and spent about 3 hours looking at this amazing museum and walking the garden. Great time.

As I was walking around the central part of Old Munich, I saw a banner on the Glokenspiel that said: “german word, german word, Nazi, german word, german word.

Well, I thought, that combined with all the police and police vans and the barricades must mean something. But who knows? And it’s all in German so I’m sure it doesn’t affect me at all. I’ll just go into this wonderful book store I wanted to visit and see if I can find a book.

When I was done at the bookstore, I started back to my hotel. I was about 2 blocks from the hotel when I saw a whole bunch more police and barricades being set up and police vans. And another banner that said: german word, german word, german word, Nazi, german word. I looked behind me and there were a lot of people marching towards me.

So I asked a man standing at the corner with me. He said: “There is a pro-Nazi protest coming from over there (pointing to from whence I came). There are anti-Nazi protestors marching from there (pointing to where I was going). They will meet here (pointing to our corner).”

Ah, I thought. So I’m Belgium right now. Perhaps I should just go back to my hotel room and hang out for a while. Maybe pack and read my new book.

So I did.

Later, I found pictures on the Internet from this protest. Yes, much shoving and police force and such. My absense went unnoticed.

The plan

It’s supposed to start raining this week so I need to get the yard set up for winter, get new tires on the car, and do other household sorts of things this weekend. I’d also like to stay awake after 8pm.

They’re modest goals but they’re my goals. We have to start somewhere.