TechWhirl Fast 5: MadCap Flare 9 & MadWorld 2013

TechWhirl Fast Five Widget BannerTracking down MadCap product evangelists Mike Hamilton and Jennifer White for a sit down is no mean feat. TechWhirl’s Al Martine and Connie Giordano managed to catch up with the two for a Fast 5 session that covered the new release of MadCap Flare 9, and the upcoming MadWorld Conference in San Diego.

After a little preliminary chat that covered Mike’s recent unplanned stopover in Dubai, and Jennifer’s new sheet-eating puppy, Mike plunged into the features of the new MadCap Flare 9 that the company believes will address the needs of its evolving user community.

“We have no one customer where all the new stuff will appeal, but there’s something for everyone,” Mike says. The MadCap team is proudest of Flare 9’s native Right To Left (RTL) language support, something that was very challenging to develop, especially considering that Flare 9 can handle both LTR and RTL within the same topic.

Mike also noted that the number of MadCap customers are doing high-end print has escalated over the last couple of years, as teams eMadCap Flare 9xpand into handling more doing activities such as policy and procedure development. MadCap Flare 9 addresses that segment by providing CMYK color support and layout options such as crop mark inclusion. He also sees almost limitless possibilities for conditional publishing because of such features as scientific notation and math editing support combined with conditional tags and a variety of outputs including EPUB.

Mike and Jennifer also noted how the MadCap team emphasized maintaining the familiar interface from previous version of Flare, to keep the learning curve as flat as possible.

Released at the same time as Flare 9, MadCap Pulse is “a game changer” for customer engagement and technical documentation according to Jennifer. Pulse is a new incarnation of the company’s Feedback Server product, intended to work as a platform for “socially enabled documentation,” in addition to the robust reporting that Feedback Server was known for.

Jennifer describes Pulse as “more than just posting an update. You can upload files, and edit right there in Pulse.”  The social layer exists separately, below the documentation as a presentation area that can be configured to allow commenting and rating Pulse as well as conversations that can branch off to groups, private, public, on-topic off-topic.  “With Pulse, the customer has a voice—it’s theperfect way to allow them to participate.”

The MadCap Team assures that it’s relatively easy to set up Pulse, and configure for different levels of users, from viewers only who don’t want to register in system to Advanced users, or employees, who can engage messaging and task assignment. Mike offered one scenario to indicate the possibilities for collaboration, where internal users, such as engineers could create a spreadsheet tool to make a process easier to execute and then upload it to Pulse for sharing among the team.

When pressed, Mike and Jenn were able to share information on other product upgrades in the MadCap line. The recent (January 2013) Mimic refresh included support for HTML 5 movie formats, which Flare 9 is designed to absorb. They also noted updates to “infrastructure tools” such Analyzer and Contributor (a collaboration tool which allows SMEs to create content within a controlled Flare 9 template) to support MadCap Flare 9.

In answer to an audience question on SharePoint and Flare via Twitter, Mike recommended use the right tool for the right job. MadCap products can be integrated to work with internal content sharing via SharePoint or source control tools. “Review and content contributions make sense for a SharePoint integration.  On publishing side, depends on if the content is customer-facing. I’d use Pulse for customer-facing, and Pulse working together SharePoint for internal teams.”

Mike and Jennifer were just as excited to talk about the first ever MadWorld Learning Conference, scheduled for April 7 to 9 at the Hard Rock hotel in MadCap’s hometown of San Diego. In addition to “brilliant industry leaders” covering topics in four tracks, participants will be able meet with MadCap tech support and many of the presenters in rock and roll themed lounges complete with sofas and velvet. Mike will be doing several presentations and Jennifer makes her debut with a session on Pulse. The four tracks are organized around experience level and include a tools-agnostic track with discussions on best practices and techniques. Attendees will get USB stick containing all presentations.

In addition to MadWorld, Jennifer, Mike and the other members of the MadCap team will be making appearances at STC Mid-Atlantic, STC Summit in Atlanta, and LavaCon, among other events.

Questions

  1. Tuesday, MadCap’s Version 9 of Flare dropped – can you tell us about some of the enhancements that were added to this version?
  2. You mentioned RTL language support in Flare 9 and MadCap helping with localization – talk us through how this is going to work and how it’s better than what could be done in Version 8.
  3. Social media, user-generated content, and maintaining relationships with users are hot topics among technical communicators today.  Can you describe how customers can use MadCap Pulse to support engagement with users?
  4. We’ve been talking about Flare 9 a lot, but what else was upgraded and which ones were not?  When can we expect to see new releases on those?
  5. You’re also deep into planning for your first ever MadWorld Learning Conference in San Diego in April.  Can you give us a sneak peek at the activities and focus for MadWorld? What are you the most excited about? 

What kind of advice do you have for attendees (or potential attendees) for organizing their schedules to get the most out of this jam-packed two-day schedule?

 Bonus Question: What else can we look forward to from MadCap this year? Where can we meet up with the MadCap team to talk about using the tools, new features and such?

Connie Giordano

Connie Giordano is a partner in INKtopia Limited and editor of TechWhirl's Tech Writer Today online magazine. She has been a list member and contributor since the days when 14,400 baud was high speed communications, and Windows 95 was state-of-the-art.

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