Archive for best practices

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.

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.

Best Practices: Moving from Frame to Flare or Blaze redux

Posted in Blaze, Flare, MadCap with tags , , , on July 15, 2008 by Mike

I’ve updated the best practices again. If you are interested in knowing the best practices because you’re struggling or if you’re considering dumping Frame, this is for you.

Click here to get it for yourself. Best Practices: FrameMaker to Flare 4 or Blaze


Pushy, pushy

Posted in Blaze, MadCap, Tech Comm with tags , , on April 28, 2008 by Mike

We’ve updated the Blaze Early Experience beta. We pushed the updates to beta users. If you’re participating in the beta, then you should see a message when you start Blaze that a newer version is available. Follow those instructions to download and install.

We’ve also done the same with the X-Edit and X-Edit Express products. Just open these products and follow the instructions to update.

If you’re not participating in the beta, what’s the deal? We’ve made these products and want to know what you think. So go to and then go to the page of the product you want to work with, Click the Pre-release button, complete the form and we’ll email the link.

Go now. I’ll wait.

Updates all over

I’ve also updated the Best Practices based on comments I’ve gotten. Click here to get it. frametoblazebestpracticesdraft3 

Stuff to try

Perhaps you’re working with the beta and you don’t know what to do. That’s possible. So here’s a fast list that might keep you busy for the next few days:

  • Import several FrameMaker or Word files. For help on best practices during importing, we strongly recommend that you get the Best Practices document. Even if you are importing Word documents, this Best Practices should help you.
  • Create multiple Page Layouts. Consider making multiple page sizes for different outputs, such as 8.5×11”, 7×9”, and more.
  • Fun suggestion: Can you replicate the look of the pages in a computer book pulled off your shelf? How about the template you use at work?
  • Create several Style Sheet mediums and assign different values to your styles, based on medium. For example, create mediums called 8.5×11 and 7×9. Change the fonts and font sizes to be more appropriate to these page sizes.
  • Create several outlines with at least 10 topics.
  • Fun suggestion: Reuse some of the same topics from one outline to another.
  • Create several targets, such as a PDF target and an XPS target. Assign an outline, style sheet, Page Layouts and mediums to the target.
  • Generate the targets.

Advanced suggestions

  • After you complete the above, try assigning certain topics Chapter numbers. Hint: you’ll need a CSS Style that autonumbers across files.
  • Try indenting topics in outlines to see how that impacts the result when you build your targets.

Want to learn more about Topic-based Content development?

Posted in MadCap, Tech Comm with tags , on April 18, 2008 by Mike

Of course you do. Who wouldn’t?

I’m doing a tools-independent STC webinar on topic-based content development. This goes much further than the small talk I do for the Blaze demos. This one will go into things like how to make the move, how to plan these projects, how to figure out topics, how to manage these projects, and much more. This is the nitty-gritty of making this move, regardless of the tool you use, from someone who’s done it.

If you’re thinking about moving to DITA, or Flare or… you want to attend this webinar. If you just want to look at a better way to develop information, then you should attend. If you like the sound of my voice, then you want to attend!

Mark the date

The date is May 15th 2008 at 1-2:30 Eastern time. The cost is reasonable at STC Members – $79, Non-STC members $149. Get a group together and use a conference phone and the cost gets even more reasonable.

Tools independent?

Yes, this seminar is independent of any tool you might be using. So if your tool is one of our competitors, you still benefit from attending and learning how to do this.

Why this seminar? What do I care?

Because the economy is very uncertain right now. Most of us remember 2000-2003, when finding a job was awful. We know we’re going to be asked to do more with less. Topic-based content development helps you do just that. Be prepared this time.

Good heavens, this sounds fascinating! How I sign up?

You are full of really good questions! To sign up, go to and sign up. I’m really excited to be teaching this.

Moving from FrameMaker to Blaze

Posted in Blaze, MadCap, Tech Comm with tags , on April 8, 2008 by Mike

I’ve been asked by several people about guidelines for moving from FrameMaker to Blaze. It’s pretty easy to make the move, but there are things to consider as you do the conversion. What you want in the end is to have the cleanest files so you can get back to work.

I’ve drafted a document that helps you before, during, and after the conversion to get the best and cleanest results. This is a work in progress. If you have other recommendations or ideas, please send them to me and I’ll include them.

If this helps you in any way, it would be cool to know that!

Go here: