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MadCap Flare: How to Update Stylesheets

madcap-flare-stylesheets

In the Madcap world of Flare (yes, I promise never to say that again), you can use stylesheets to give your tech docs a real edge.

For me, styles are one of the hidden secrets in Flare.

So, if you plan to publish your tech docs to PDF, Web, or HTML5, a crash course in CSS styles is maybe what you need.

Interested?

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How to Update Style Sheets

The nice thing about Madcap Flare is that you can control the design and layout with style sheets.

The ‘not so nice’ thing is that the UI takes a bit of getting used to. Once you understand how it works, it’ll be fine.

So, how do you start playing around with style sheets and jazzing up your online help?

You can change the colour, fonts, and layout of your online help (and printed documents), use the Stylesheet Editor.

To find this puppy:

  1. Go to Content Explorer, Resources, Stylesheets.
  2. Right-click or double-click on the style sheet to open the Stylesheet Editor.
  3. The Stylesheet Editor has two views:

Simplified

Advanced

  1. NB: If the list of styles is overwhelming, click Hide. This tidies things up and makes it easier to use.

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Filtering the list of Styles

  1. By default, Show all Styles is displayed.
  2. If you click on the drop-down menu, you can select the Table, Images, or Headings This helps if you just want to work on a specific style family.

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Filtering the Medium

  1. Medium means the output type, such as HTML5, PDF or Print.
  2. Click on the Medium drop-down menu, and select the output type you want to modify.
  3. Pay attention to this as you don’t want to change the wrong CSS settings.

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Filtering Properties

  1. Click this drop-down menu to view the properties alphabetically, by property groups, or other settings.
  2. Advanced v Simplified View
  3. Click View Advanced to switch back to the View Simplified.

madcap-flare-style-2

That’s it for this week.

Let me know if you run into any problems with your stylesheets. Sometimes one small setting can throw everything out of kilter.

Are we friends on Facebook? If not, jump over here.

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MadCap Flare: Conditional Text 101

madcap-flare-conditional-text

Conditional text is one of those writing tactics technical writers love to talk about… but never seem to use.

It’s a shame as conditional tagging can save you a lot of time, especially if you have technical documents which share 90% of the content but the other 10% needs to be tweaked for each release.

This is where conditional tagging comes in.

Applying Condition Tags to Online Content

Before we get into it, we should explain a little bit about conditional tags.

Here’s an example. Let’s say you have a core product set, but you modify the product name for different clients. Instead of find/replace by hand, you can apply conditional tags that tell Flare:

  • If content contains product name 1, apply tag 1
  • If content contains product name 2, apply tag 2
  • If content contains product name 3, apply tag 3

Why use Conditional tags?

Madcap Flare definition: A condition tag is a marker that you can apply to different areas of your content so that some sections show up in some of your outputs but not in others. It is just one of the many single-sourcing features that you can use in Madcap Flare.

After you create condition tags, you can apply them to the appropriate content in your project.

For example, you can apply condition tags to:

  • Topics
  • Images
  • Stylesheets
  • Skins
  • Files
  • Paragraphs
  • Text within paragraphs
  • Table rows and columns
  • Table of contents (TOC) entries
  • Index keyword markers.

Applying Condition Tags to Online Content

How to apply condition tags to text:

First:

  1. In the Primary Target, click Conditional Text.
  2. For each tag, click the Include or Exclude check boxes.

Then:

  1. Open the content.
  2. Select the text to which you want to apply the condition tag.
  3. Select the Home ribbon, Attributes section, Conditions.

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If you want to apply a condition tag to selected text in a paragraph:

  • In the XML Editor, select the text.
  • In the Project Organizer, open the Conditional Text folder and expand the condition tag set.
  • Drag the condition tag to the selected text in the XML Editor.
  1. For each condition tag you want to apply, click the check box next to the tag.
  2. Click OK, then Save.

Checking Conditional Text Settings in the Primary Editor

You can tell Madcap Flare to include or exclude content as follows:

  1. Open the Primary Target.
  2. Click Conditional Text.
  3. For each tag, click the Include or Exclude check boxes.

madcap-flare-conditional-text

This tells Madcap to apply these settings to the conditional text.

Still doesn’t work?

Check that you have the Show / Hide Conditional Indicator button turned on.

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This is on the lower right of the XML Editor. When you turn this on, the conditional tags color code should be displayed.

Now, rebuild the content – does it work?

Hop over to our Facebook Tech Writers page and let us know.

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Madcap Flare – Close all Open Documents Except Active One

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Ever want to close all the open documents in Madcap Flare except the one you’re working on?

Yes?

If so, here’s how you do it:

  1. In Flare, click the Window tab.
  2. In the Open Windows section (far left), click the Close All Documents button. This opens a drop-down list.
    madcap-flare-close-open-documents-1
  3. Click Close All Documents Except This One.
    madcap-flare-close-open-documents-2

Now, you can get your workspace in order again and decide which files you want open.

 

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Madcap Flare: Snippets 101

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Snippets? Sounds familiar but what are they?

In the Madcap world of Flare, snippets are content ‘fragments’ you can re-use in different parts of your Madcap Flare projects.

Use snippets to insert:

  • Text
  • Tables
  • Images
  • Video

Why Use Snippets

If you find yourself typing the same text over and over, create a snippet instead.

madcap-flare-snippet-6

Create the content once instead of re-typing and reformatting it for each topic.

If you want to modify a snippet, change its contents and the text is automatically updated everywhere that the snippet is added.

Snippets are contained in .flsnp files (flare snippets).

You can share them with other authors or use them in other projects.

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Default Save location

Snippet are saved in the Content Explorer in the Resources\Snippets folder by default.

However, you can store it anywhere in the Content Explorer that you like.

Creating New Snippets

There are two ways to create a snippet.

  • Create Snippets From Existing Content — If you have already created content and want to use it as a snippet, use the Home ribbon or Format menu. Insert the snippet into other topics where you want it to appear.
  • Add Snippets — Add a new snippet and insert it into the topics.

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To create new snippets from existing content:

  1. Open the topic.
  2. In the XML Editor highlight the content that you want to turn into a snippet.
  3. In the Home ribbon, select Create Snippet.
    madcap-flare-snippet-7
  4. In the Snippet File field, type a new name for the snippet. After the snippet is created, you can see it in the Content Explorer.
  5. If you want the snippet to replace the highlighted text in the topic, select the Replace Source Content with the New Snippet check box.
  6. Click Create. The snippet is surrounded by brackets (if markers are turned on).
  7. Save.

Inserting Snippets

After you’ve created a snippet, you can insert it into a topic.

You can do this by using the ribbon or drag an existing snippet from the Content Explorer or File List window pane.

How to insert a snippet

  1. Open your file.
  2. Place your cursor where you want to insert the snippet.
  3. In the Insert ribbon, select Snippet. The Insert Snippet Link dialog box opens.
  4. Navigate to the snippet that you want to insert and select it.
  5. Click OK. The snippet is inserted and is surrounded by brackets (if markers are turned on).
  6. Save your work.

madcap-flare-snippet-1

Editing Snippets

When you edit a snippet, the changes are automatically updated in every topic where you inserted the snippet.

How to edit a snippet

  1. To open the snippet:
  • Right-click on the snippet in a topic where it is inserted and select Open Link OR
  • Locate the snippet in the Resources\Snippets folder in the Content Explorer and double-click it.madcap-flare-snippet-5
  1. In the XML Editor update the snippet.
  2. Click Save.

Did that help?

Did it give you any new ideas on how to create your web help or tech docs? Fess up, stranger.

Oh yeah, we’re over here on Facebook.

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Madcap Flare: Logo Size and Settings for WebHelp

madcap-flare-logo-webhelp

Want to replace the default MadCap Flare logo for your online help?

Before you do, a few things to consider:

  • For IE 6 or older uses — save the logo as GIF with a transparent background. If you use PNG, the transparent portion of your image appears as black.
  • For IE 7 or newer — save the logo as PNG with a transparent background.
  • HTML 5 skin — create the logo 60 pixels high. The width depends how far you want it to stretch across the header.

One suggestion is to create the logo 55 pixels and leave a 5 pixel border to set it off from the other UI elements.

  • HTML 5 DARK skin — use white (or another light color) for the text to contrast with the dark background.
  • HTML 5 LIGHT skin — use… go on, have guess what color? J

Save the image somewhere you’ll remember, for example to your Content/Images folder.

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Madcap Flare: how to improve Search Engine Optimization

madcap-flare-search-engine-settings

Using Madcap Flare to create your WebHelp? Did you know you can add SEO information to the page headers? This improves their results in search engines queries and helps customers find information faster.

Want to know how? Follow these steps, grasshopper.

Madcap Flare: how to improve Search Engine Optimization

  1. In Project Organizer, click Targets, then open your target, for example, HTML5.
  2. In the Tag Editor, click Advanced.
  3. Click the Generate Site map check box. Enter the path to your site map.
  4. Click the Include importance check box. Select the number of results per page to appear and the abstract character limit.

Publish and check that the site map is included in the HTML output.

Madcap Flare: how to add meta tags to HTML5 and Web Help

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You can add meta tags to your web files:

  1. In Project Organizer, click Targets, then open your target, for example, HTML5.
  2. In the Tag Editor, click Advanced.
  3. Click the Add meta tags to content check box.
  4. Enter the meta tags in the text box.

Publish and check that the meta tags are included in the output.

Madcap Flare: how to change the default logo

You can change the default MadCap logo that appears on the top left of HTML5 outputs.

You can remove the logo or replace it with your own logo:

  1. In Project Organizer, click Skins, then open your skin, for example, HTML5.
  2. Click Styles (second from end).
  3. In Global, click Main Page, Background, Image.
  4. Browse to your image and insert it.
  5. Click Preview to test how it looks.

If necessary, change the image size.

A second approach is as follows:

  1. In Project Organizer, click Skins, then open your skin, for example, HTML5.
  2. Click Styles.
  3. In Header, click Logo, Image.
  4. Browse to your image and insert it.
  5. Click Preview to test how it looks.

If necessary, change the image size.

Note: You can also add a Site Map as shown below.

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Madcap Flare: how to enter the Title tag

The title tag is one of the most important

  1. In Content Explorer, right-click on your file, then click Properties.
  2. In Topic Properties, click Topic Title.
  3. Enter the title tag.

Publish and check that the title tags is included in the HTML output.

madcap-flare-topic-properties-1

 

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Madcap Flare: How to Create Variables

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Are you using variables in your technical documents?

If not, you might be missing out. They save a lot of time and help keep the documents accurate, for example, if you need to change a product name across the entire doc set. If those puppies were hard-coded, you’re in trouble.

We use Madcap Flare. The procedure is more or less the same in FrameMaker or Robohelp.

Creating variables in Madcap Flare

To create a variable:

  1. Open the Project Organizer.
  2. Click Variables. As it’s V it’s at the end of the list.
  3. Double click on General to open the Variable Set Editor.

madcap-flare-variables-1

Here you can add, edit, and delete variables.

Adding variable definitions in Madcap Flare

  1. Click Add Variable Definition.
  2. In the Edit Format window, enter the specifiers.
  3. In Update, select when it will be updated, for example, on file creation, save, or build.

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 That work for you?

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How to Remove the MadCap Logo in WebHelp Output

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When creating WebHelp with Madcap Flare, you can add your own logo instead of the default Madcap logo.

Here’s how to do it.

To remove the MadCap logo and replace it with your own logo:

  • Open the skin want to remove the logo from.
  • Click the Styles
  • On the Tool Item category, click Logo.

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  • Click the General category in Logo.
  • To remove the logo, click on the image path and select None.
  • To add your logo, click on the image path and select your image.

If you’ve any questions about this. contact us on our Facebook Technical Writing page.

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How to Find Broken Links in Madcap Flare

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Tired of all those pesky broken links in your WebHelp projects? Wish they’d go away? Well now you can!

If you use MadCap Flare to create your web help, you can run a broken link checker.

It’s not perfect. But it will catch most dead links, which is a start.

Finding broken links in Madcap Flare

To find broken links:

  1. Click the Project Analysis
  2. Select Broken Links from the drop-down list.

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The results are displayed in the Broken Links window.

 

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Madcap Flare: How to add The Mark of The Web

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Using Madcap Flare for WebHelp?

If you have problems getting Internet Explorer to run web help pages, added ‘Mark of the Web’ to your WebHelp files.

Madcap Flare: How to add Mark of the Web

You can add the Mark of the Web to HTML files so they run locally in Internet Explorer.

  1. In Project Organizer, click Targets, then open your target, for example, HTML5.
  2. In the Tag Editor, click Advanced.
  3. Select the Insert Mark of the Web check box.

PS – Join our Technical Writer’s page on Facebook.

 

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Does your technical writing have an accent?

Maybe you don’t hear your accent, but others do. When you read their documents, does the accent come through? Continue reading Does your technical writing have an accent?

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Are technical documents a waste of time?

“Don’t worry” she said. “No one reads this stuff anyway. Just get it done.” Sounds familiar? Continue reading Are technical documents a waste of time?

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How to Write a Target Audience Questionnaire

Creating a training plan? Before you do this, you need to step a step back and work out what your colleagues need to learn. Continue reading How to Write a Target Audience Questionnaire

Posted on 4 Comments

Favorite 10 Technical Writing Tools

drinking sheepI’ve used the same technical writing tools for the last 5 years. A few products have come across my desk but nothing that really blown me away.

Here’s a run-down of what I use to write my technical documents. No order of preference. Which should I keep? Which should I replace?

Continue reading Favorite 10 Technical Writing Tools

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Robohelp vs Doc-to-Help? Which is best for Online Help?

Robohelp or Doc-to-Help?

My client has given me permission to use whatever tool I want to do the next batch of tech docs — and they’ll buy the software. No cost to me.

Which one should I choose?

Robohelp or Doc-to-Help

Doc-to-Help was the first help authoring tool (HAT) I used in my technical writing career. We’re talking quite a while back now. Since then Robohelp has overtaken it as the tool of choice for technical writers, especially as it’s now owned by Adobe and bundled with its Technical Communications software pack.

For Doc-to-Help

  • I feel this product is under-estimated. Other technical writers (more knowledgeable than me about HATs) recommend it.
  • Opportunity to broaden my skillsets (self-interest here and not to the client’s advantage!)
  • Rapid response from Component 1 (product owners) when I contacted them. Very helpful. Only Techsmith (esp Betsy Weber) were more helpful.

Against Doc-to-Help

  • Price is not cheap
  • Will there be enough qualified Doc-to-Help experts to take over this project when I move on?
  • Does it integrate with other technical writing apps and/or Microsoft Word?
  • Worried about lack of community support, i.e. from other technical writers, if I need help.

For Robohelp

  • Oceans of Doc-to-Help experts to take over this project
  • Part of the Adobe Tech Communication suite. Maybe get discount.
  • Arguably the industry standard
  • Plenty of tutorials online if I get stuck

Against Robohelp

  • Price
  • Concern that there is no real advantage in getting the Tech Communication suite anyway as we (i.e. the client) won’t use it once I’ve left
  • Found the user interface horrible to work with last time. Admittedly, this was four years ago but you know how these things stick.

Another alternative is Madcap Flare.

What do you think?

If you were in my shoes, what would you do?