What’s new in MadCap Flare 10, the hip parts

Flare 10, the annual major release of MadCap’s flagship Help Authoring Tool, includes several major enhancements that make Flare easier and faster to newcomers and editors of marketing content. And many smaller enhancements target the hardcore techcomm heavy users. The well-balanced improvements testify that MadCap listens to many of its users.

Today, I’ll focus on the more obvious strategic enhancements. A second post covers the enhancements that I enjoy most – many of them are smaller improvements for heavy-duty tech comm users with large projects and many topics.

Out with the geek

Many major changes aim to make Flare more attractive and easier. For the longest time, Flare carried the reputation (some say: stigma) of a steep learning curve. Flare 10 goes a long way towards flattening that curve to help you get going faster. In a way, it means Flare has been de-geekified – and I’m sad to say that the nicely geeky propeller hat logo went into hiding as well.

  • The new Start Page offers new output templates as soon as you open Flare to get you started:

Flare 10 Start Page

The new templates mainly support the recent trend of merging technical and marketing communications. They offer formats such as product brochures from 3- to 6-fold layouts and slideshows. I rarely create new projects from scratch, so this isn’t for me. I mainly need the Start Page to re-open previous projects which I can still do.

  • Support of desktop publishing is probably better than ever, thanks to the improved page layout editor and the new support of Open Type fonts. Encroaching on desktop publishing products such as InDesign by rival Adobe, Flare has some strong arguments with its ability to reuse content in tech and mar comm. Since I don’t use DTP products and don’t create mar comm, I cannot judge how convincing Flare ultimately is in this arena.

In with the hip

Two enhancements in online output benefit tech comm and mar comm alike.

  • Slideshows present a gallery with horizontal page-by-page navigation as opposed to vertical scrolling:

Flare 10 slideshow example

Slideshow pages can show images, videos, workflow stages, etc., along with descriptive captions and auto-play support. Thumbnails or bullets aid navigation. I really like the slideshows and expect to use them mainly to illustrate or guide users through multi-step workflows. I can also imagine drilling down from a process overview to the individual stages on slideshow pages.

  • Responsive HTML 5 output ensures that output resizes automatically to fit mobile and tablet devices, see above. We had entertained the idea of creating separate EPUB targets for tablets, but the flexible responsive HTML5 output is of course much more convenient. It’s another good reason for us to move to HTML5 soon.

For more information, consult these MadCap resources:

What do you think are the most impressive enhancements in Flare 10? And where have they come up short?

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2 Responses

  1. Great review, Kai. The only problem I have is that when you use the slideshow feature in Flare, that content is stripped out (for obvious reasons) in any printed output. So you still need to write those sections for print users, but you can conditionalize them to only show in printed output. I suppose you could still single-source here if you are using snippets by using the snippets in the slideshow and then again in the print-conditionalized text, but it is something that content authors are going to need to think about before they use the slide show feature.

    • Thanks, Paul, for your comment and adding valuable details about the slideshows. I guess by now I’m quite accustomed to using snippets and conditions in just the way you describe to make sure I can single source my content to online and print outputs, it came quite naturally to me. But it IS definitely necessary to consider this “price” this neat feature comes with!

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