A Review of MadCap Flare 2017 r3 and MadCap Central

madcap flare2017r3 logo

Guest Author: Hennah Rahman

MadCap Flare’s transition to agile releases allows Flare users to get bug fixes, enhancements, and new features much sooner than the previous release model. The MadCap Flare 2017 r3 release has many new features, but what I think most users can benefit from is the new Style Inspector.

New Style Inspector

The new Style Inspector is especially helpful for those starting out with CSS. Although many of you may be comfortable editing the CSS directly in the Text Editor, this new ability to view the style changes as you make them in the Style Inspector is brilliant. It can be a huge time saver when creating stylesheets for your projects and can decrease overall development time. In addition, the Style Inspector detects the medium and changes the stylesheet accordingly. Local formatting is indicated at the top of the Style Inspector in red which allows you to easily see any local styling that may exist in your topic. Styles that have been overwritten in a topic are marked with a line though the style in the Style Inspector to indicate the local formatting. You can create new styles or edit existing styles directly in the Style Inspector while viewing the style being applied to a topic.

style sheet inspector

Style Sheet Inspector

Advanced Microsoft® Excel Import

The Microsoft® Excel import feature is especially helpful if you have a lot of imported data in your documentation. How many of you have had to create tables to match an Excel spreadsheet from a SME only to find that a week later, they made changes and now you have to go line by line to figure out what they changed? By linking the imported Excel spreadsheet, you can ensure you will have the latest values and charts for a spreadsheet. You can choose to apply table styles you have created in MadCap Flare or maintain the Excel table styles.

Text Analysis for Readability, Average Sentence Length, and Thesaurus Support

Being a team of one for many years, without an editor or another writer for peer reviews, I found this set of tools to be a nice addition. The Thesaurus can be found in the Tools menu and allows you to select and replace a word in an open topic. The Text Analysis tool can also be found in the Tools menu and allows you to analyze the current topic or the entire project. You can select a variety of options to analyze readability scores, average sentence length, and others shown below to see how your topics measures up. The combination of these tools allows you to increase the readability of your documentation and use a variety of languages without having to add headcount. Sounds like a win-win to me!

text analysis

Text Analysis

Repeat Last Action Shortcut

I must admit I have never used the macros in MadCap Flare, but I can see myself using the Repeat Last Action shortcut. By default, the F8 shortcut is configured to repeat the last action. However, you can change the shortcut key in Options>Keyboard Shortcuts if you prefer.

New Responsive Top Navigation Templates

The new responsive top navigation templates provide cutting edge out of the box templates. I’m having a hard time deciding which one to use for our online help, although the Responsive Parallax Scroll Layout seems to be calling out to me. The only thing missing is runtime merging with top navigation. That would be the icing on the cake for these templates!

Summary

Overall, I highly recommend downloading MadCap Flare 2017 r3. There are many great features the MadCap team has added and I’m sure you will find one, if not all useful.

MadCap Central Review

No matter what your role, chances are you have lists. Some of us use Microsoft® Excel for our lists, some of use Microsoft® Word, and others use a pen and paper. But sharing those lists with team members and maintaining them so you have access from anywhere can sometimes pose a challenge. The MadCap team has come up with a great solution to this problem: customizable project checklists in MadCap Central.

project checklist

Project Checklist

These checklists allow you to eliminate spreadsheets and track your “To Do” lists in an integrated fashion within MadCap Central. For instance, if you have a release and build process checklist, you can create that checklist directly in MadCap Central and update the activities as you complete them within the checklist, so your team is always aware of the status. The corresponding chart in MadCap Central gets updated to show the percent complete as you complete tasks. This is also useful in Agile environments because you can create checklists for a group of tasks required to complete a sprint.

Another new feature is the ability to create editable vanity URLs for targets and builds. If you are using MadCap Central to host your documentation, and you plan to have multiple versions of a build, then being able to specify the vanity URL can be very important. For instance, if you would like to have version 1 and version 2 for a build live, then changing the vanity URL gives you the ability to do that. In addition, you can now hide “live” builds from search engines. This may be useful if you are not ready to publish the build outside your company but may be using the online build for internal review purposes.

Overall, the new projects checklists, editable vanity URLs, multiple live builds, and ability to hide “live” builds in MadCap Central are useful new features and I’m sure many of you will find some of these useful no matter what your workflow is.

About the Author

Hennah Rahman is a senior technical writer with previous experience as a software developer and program manager. She has extensive experience in life sciences, network management, and cloud computing. She has her MadCap Flare Certification and has recently started her own consulting firm specializing in technical writing and content design and strategy.

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