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MadCap Flare 8 Raises the Bar for Information Development Tools

By Eddie VanArsdall | Senior Member

MadCap Software recently released version 8 of its flagship information development tool, MadCap Flare. Significant new features and enhancements position Flare 8 as the leading all-in-one publishing solution for technical communicators. This review provides an overview of this exciting new release.

User Interface Enhancements

Because Flare has so many features and can publish to so many output types, the user interface in past versions has sometimes been daunting for new users. MadCap has made many refinements in the last three years, but Flare 8 is a radical departure from all previous versions.

Addition of the Ribbon

If you have used Microsoft Office 2007 or 2010, you will recognize Flare's new, streamlined ribbon interface. Consistent with the Microsoft model, the ribbon has tabbed commands at the top. The File tab displays the original Office 2007 type of dropdown menu, with common file-related commands, lists of recent projects and files, and access to an Options window. The remaining tabs are either command-based (such as View) or topic-based (such as Source Control). Overall, each command ribbon is logically arranged with buttons, drop-downs, and grouped options (Figure 1).

The ribbon interface ensures that features always remain available, even when you resize the application window. At smaller window sizes, groups shrink to buttons with drop-down controls. You can also minimize the ribbon and show only top-level menu commands, giving you a much larger workspace.

Above the ribbon you will also find the familiar Microsoft Quick Access Toolbar. You can add frequently used features to the toolbar by right-clicking a feature and selecting Add to Quick Access Toolbar. You can also change the position of the toolbar so that it appears below the ribbon.

If you decide that you dislike the new look, you can change a setting in the Options dialog to revert to the previous Flare interface.

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