Monthly Archives: June 2014

Using Multiple MasterPages in Flare

I often hear folks complain about being limited to one MasterPage per target in MadCap Flare. Although it is true you can select only one MasterPage per target, you can, however, assign MasterPages at the topic level. For example, in my case I provide popup help in the UI, and for the popups, I don’t want breadcrumbs or a mini TOC. So I created a separate “PopUp” MasterPage that I assign to topics used for the popup help. Here’s how you do it.

  1. Create an additional MasterPage.
  2. In the Master Stylesheet associated with your output, right click on the HTML style and click “Add Class”.
  3. Give the new HTML class a name. This will be the style class used for the second master page.
  4. In the new HTML class, click “Show: Property Groups” from the drop-down and find “mc-master-page” in the “Unclassified” section.
  5. Set the mc-master-page property to the new masterpage you have created.
  6. Save the stylesheet.
  7. Open the Topic you would like to use the new MasterPage.
  8. Right-click on the HTML structure bar and select “Style Class” and click on the html.class that you just created.
  9. Save your changes and rebuild the target.
  10. Flare will use the new masterpage for any Topics associated with that html.class and the MasterPage you use in your target will respect the topic-level selections.

 

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Publishing in Flare – Best Practice Suggestions

I’ve recently had to look into best practices regarding the use of the Publishing feature in Flare, so I thought I’d share.

For those not familiar with this feature, Publishing allows you to copy your Flare output to selected destination. Getting the process in place takes a number of steps, all of which are nicely outlined in the “Publishing Out to Destinations” chapter in MadCap’s Targets Guide.

  1. There is no reason to include “Build destinations” on your publishing tab.
  2. The build destination is the destination set in the Output Folder field on the general tab – period.
  3. MadCap strongly recommends you build to a local destination. Building to a network destination will substantially slow the build process, the smallest network hiccup with kill the process, and the process with often error or time out, so in the end, no build/no publish.
  4. To build and publish with just one click, on the Publishing tab, make sure you have a destination created and selected, and then click Publish. If there is not an up-to-date build to publish, Flare will ask you if you want to build first. Just say yes and you’ve covered both processes with the one click.

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Advanced Conditions in Flare

I finally got around to the Advanced Condition feature in MadCap Flare. I’m not sure why, but I was expecting this to be a lot more complicated than it turned out to be.

To give a quick overview, the basic method uses the top half of the user interface. You simply click “Include” and “Exclude” check boxes. The Advanced method uses the bottom portion of the user interface, and you have to create/edit the condition expression used to filter your conditioned content.

conditions

If you love writing expression statements, you can start from scratch here; if you’d rather just have to change the tokens controlling your “include” and “exclude” operations, I’d recommend starting with the basic mode, and once you have it set with your conditions and what you want included and excluded, switch to Advanced. You then end up with an expression statement for each condition, and you can simply change the tokens as needed.

NOTE: You can type the names of the condition tags as well as any of the following tokens: OR, AND, NOT, ( ).

For example, let’s say you have two output conditions: help and print. You also have four product conditions: A, B, C,and D. When working in the basic mode, an “Include” tag overrides an “Exclude” tag. So, if I have content tagged for product “A” and “help,” when I run my target to generate help for product B and I set my target conditions to include “help” but exclude “A,” this content tagged with both the “A” and “Help” tags will be included.

To fix this, if you look at your conditions in the Advanced mode in Flare, you’ll see the reason for this is Flare’s “Basic” condition settings use the “OR” token. To make the above scenario work, we’ll need to change to the “AND” token.

Basic mode expression:

Conditions.Help or Conditions.B or not (Conditions.A and Conditions.C and Conditions.D

Advanced mode expression:

Conditions.Help and Conditions.B and not (Conditions.A and Conditions.C and Conditions.D

This is just a simple example of what you can do with the Advanced condition feature, but it should give you a good idea if this option will fix any condition filtering issues you are having.

 

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A 21st Century look at Content Strategy

Most folks when they decide to talk about content strategy like to quote Kristina Halvorson of Brain Traffic, so here goes: Ms. Halvorson says a good content strategy, “plans for the creation, publication, and governance of useful, usable content. “ A great definition, but I always find this a little too high level. I want details, and for these I found Scriptorium’s Content Strategy 101.

In this book, the Scriptorium writers explain that a content strategy does not mean simply figuring out how to manage thousands of content-carrying topics or hundreds of chapter-bearing files. Too often this one element in the strategy becomes the entire strategy, but technical communication today is responsible for so much more. Just looking at the wide variety of deliverables my company provides tells you this is not your grandfather’s tech com: html-based help, pdfs, graphic-based help, videos, tip sheets, blog posts, articles, slide shows, UI text. Therefore, we should not be using our grandfather’s content strategy because not only does such a diverse library require talented writers and advanced tool sets, it requires a sophisticated strategy that manages both the source content used to create these outputs and the outputs themselves.

I’m sure this already sounds like a bigger chore than most of us expected, but unfortunately, we’re not done. We also must consider the outside departments. What is their stake in our deliverables, and how much say should they have in the process and the content? This may actually be the harder question and the most difficult element in our strategy, which explains why it is so often ignored, but if you ignore it, you really don’t have a strategy, and in my experience, this is the case with most tech com groups. What they call “strategy” is actually just a handful of “rules” that are themselves often ignored – because another important piece of the strategy is not in place: governance. But we’ll save that for another day…

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Moving from FrameMaker to Flare

A few months ago I did a webniar for MadCap on my company’s move from Adobe FrameMaker to Flare. We made the move for a number reasons – lack of support for FrameMaker from Adobe, FrameMaker was starting to look and feel “old fashion – but our primary reason for the move was we needed the granular control offered in a topic-based authoring environment, and FrameMaker did not offer that.

The webinar focuses on the following:

  1. Overview of the migration process
  2. How we prepared our FrameMaker content
  3. The import process in Flare
  4. Cleanup required in Flare after the migration
  5. How implementing MadCap Flare increased Blackbaud’s content reuse/single sourcing and allowed us granular-level control of output at the paragraph, topic, TOC, and target levels

If you take the time to watch it, let me know what you think or if you have any questions. We are in the middle of moving another large chunk for FrameMaker content into Flare, so the process remains fresh in my mind.

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