Archive for MadCap Blaze

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.

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!

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.

Jet lag

Posted in Blaze, Flare, MadCap, MadCap Blaze, Madcap flare, MadCap software, Personal with tags , , , , , , on November 18, 2008 by Mike

Germany is 9 hours off the US West coast. And I’ve always found it harder to go from Europe to the US. As a result, I’m seriously jet lagged. My brain woke me up at 2am this morning, convinced that it was 8am and I’d overslept.

Oddly, I’m 6 hours off, not the 9 I would expect.

I looked at the clock yesterday, thinking that it had to be mid to late afternoon. It was 10am. This was so disturbing, I found Current Husband and verified. It was the correct time, he said. But it was wrong, according to my normally accurate internal clock.

Sigh.

Lord, I was born a rambling woman

After being on the road for 3 weeks, I’m taking 3 personal days to recover, do laundry, pet the dogs, and see Current Husband. I was hoping to get adjusted to the new time zone, but it isn’t going so well. I did do 6 loads of laundry, tho, with another 4 to go today, so that’s not so bad.

However, I teach tonight and have to stay awake until we’re done so this may help. I have no idea if I will be even slightly coherent. Thank the gods that Bonni co-teaches with me so if I become incoherent, she can step in and say things like: “What Sharon is trying to say is…” while I nod off for a few minutes.

You would think these very bright Engineering students could get right on that Teleporter technology. Talk about an interesting problem to solve. What a group of under-achievers… 🙂

Homecomings

This trip is the longest Current Husband and I have been apart and neither of us liked it much. We recognize that these trips need to happen, that once I’m in Europe, the best thing I can do is maximize that time for the company.

But it was really hard to be apart that long. Thank the technology gods for Skype and Yahoo IM (sharonvburton). It saved us several times. We’re just glad that these very long trips will only happen once or twice a year.

The dogs had given me up for dead, I think. When I came thru the door, Gus looked at me like I was a dream and then leaped, grinning. We spent about 10 minutes on the floor while he sat on me, wiggled, and licked me. At 65lbs, you notice that.

Sara came in the room, stopped, looked (she doesn’t see well anymore), smelled, and then moved as fast as I’ve seen her move in a while. She wagged as tho her butt was going to fall off and licked my face.

Lady wandered in and sat behind me, out of the way of all the excitement so I could reach back and pet her. She gets nervous with all the motion because she can hardly see anything.

All the way, very fun. And no one has gotten too far from me since.

Oh, that’s enough about me. Tell me, what you think about me?

(That’s a Groucho Marx quote from, I believe, Coconuts, if you’re curious. I’m a huge Marx Brothers fan. Hey, I’m jet lagging here…)

If you are at all interested in our DITA solution, I cannot encourage you strongly enough to go to our website and sign up for the beta. We want to build tools that do what you need but we can’t do that without your help.

One of the many things I learned from my Second Husband was that I just completely suck at reading minds. It’s just not something I’m good at. So I don’t know what you want or need, after some basic guesses, which, as it turns out, isn’t enough to keep a marriage together.

We need you to help us develop the tools that do what you need them to do. That requires you participate in the process.

Stay tuned for the beta. I think you’re going to like what we’ve done: https://www.madcapsoftware.com/downloads/ditasignup.aspx

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.