Hello! My name is Maxwell Hoffmann. Some of you may know me for my long association with Adobe® FrameMaker®. I have worked with that product in a variety of roles for well over 20 years. Halfway into the second decade of the 21st Century, I know that I’m ready for a change.

So, why does that bring me to MadCap Software? As their new Product Marketing Consultant, my mission is to learn and master all company solutions and document a new perspective on MadCap Flare and its family of products. My training started this week, and I will be documenting my “aha” moments and discoveries along the way. In one sense, you may think of me as going through “doc-detox” and entering into clear-eyed world of topic-based projects.

This is the introductory post – a prologue if you will – to what will be a multi-part series on what I uncover regarding MadCap Flare (and its companion products). To be clear, this is not an exercise in comparing MadCap Software’s solutions to FrameMaker®. In fact, we won’t be mentioning that product very much. Rather, this is your chance to track how a seasoned, industry veteran discovers content publishing through a new lens. In one sense, my journey will parallel what many writers are going through today as they create new habits and workflows that are not document/PDF-centric.

Why is MadCap Flare so different?

The first version of Flare was released only 10 years ago. RoboHelp® appeared on the scene 20 years ago. FrameMaker® first went on sale 30 years ago. Yes, there are many fine products that are over 20 years old. But, for technical documentation and content development in general, something fundamental changed over that span of time: the prevalence of online publishing.

Fameless Top Nav Output

HTML5 publishing with MadCap Flare.

What about paper? Paper documents have been centric to the development of nearly all other authoring solutions, since paper or PDF was the predominant project deliverable. You don’t have to look very far to see how much this has changed. Flare has the good fortune to have been born and developed in recent years as the importance of paper began to diminish.

The writing was on the wall during Flare’s infancy: the first iPhone was released in 2007 when Flare was just getting off the ground. In 2010, when Flare was gaining momentum as the innovative leader in content authoring, the iPad was released. Overnight, heads began to nod towards smaller hand-held devices to read and retain serious stuff. There was far more to this brave new world than just Angry Birds and 99 cent ringtones. Although the entertainment factor in mobile devices captured the world’s imagination, consumers soon became dependent on smaller screens for instant access to critical information.

As a result, MadCap Software did not remain focused on HTML and WebHelp, or, ugh, Windows Help Files. Very early in the product’s life, the need for pan-device publishing became clear: our deliverables must extend beyond paper to screens as yet unborn.

PDF and Paper are still there: MadCap Flare has evolved admirably to achieve this goal. However, from my early discoveries, I don’t discount the power and flexibility of Flare’s print publishing capabilities. MadCap Software has clearly placed an emphasis on giving Flare’s print output the same attention it gives its online output. This is one of the unique advantages of this product over others, which emphasize online or paper.

The stars were in alignment

Fortunately for MadCap Software, its code was written with 21st Century tools that made Flare nimble enough to change quickly in potent ways to address new publishing challenges soon after they emerged.

Due to market forces and customer requests, Flare has evolved elegantly over the past 10 years into what we see today. While some traditional technical writers are still struggling to come up with new job titles that cover everything they do, Flare is ready to support the evolving challenges of the profession. Flare is a complete solution (not just a tool) that will become second nature as you author and publish within a completely new ecosystem.

What stands out for me so far?

I’ve already discovered a number of areas where a MadCap Flare publishing solution is unique:

  • Sensible, topic-based authoring without the significant investment in time and resources associated with DITA.
  • A patented “structure bar” that empowers users to select and manipulate components or elements in a thin strip of screen real estate.
  • Simple, clean workspaces that present only what is required for the task at hand.
  • Powerful, universal updates in your source files via Snippets.
XML Editor

MadCap Flare’s patented XML Structure Bars.

More on this later; subsequent training will give me a host of features, formulas and solutions to choose from in themes for the next blog post.

This affects me how?

As a technical communication “thought leader” and veteran with his roots in products based on 20th Century publishing models, how does all of this make me feel? I’ve never been more excited in my life!

In my youth, I thought we would be on Mars by now. I fully expected to board commercial aircraft that would skim outer space to trim travel time for business trips. Well, someday there may be a bullet train from San Jose to Los Angeles. But for now, using Flare is the fastest way I can jet out of the past.

Where do we go from here?

In my first 8 days with MadCap Software, startling product advantages and unique workflows have become evident. The following mini-list will give you a taste of what is coming in subsequent blogs:

  • A user interface that quickly becomes “second nature”… swiftly master common tools via simple workspaces that only show the essentials.
  • Advantages of style sheets over traditional paragraph and character formatting.
  • “Skins” on steroids – profiles for target outputs that handle almost everything.
  • More elegant, built-in analysis and reporting tools for common challenges like broken links, etc.
  • View or modify topics while the project is “building”… topic progress bars let you know which portion of your project is “ready.”
  • Online Help (in responsive layout) that is markedly more useful that more traditional documentation.

So, whether you are new to MadCap Flare or an accomplished user, join me on this journey to see this powerful solution in a totally new light.

Read the next post in the series, “Modern Content Development, Part One: The 10 Year Paradigm Shift“. 

About The Author

Maxwell Hoffmann

About Maxwell Hoffmann

Maxwell Hoffmann is a content strategist with a strong background in localization, globalization, SEO and content authoring. He has provided hands-on training to over 1,500 people in scalable, multi-channel publishing solutions. Hoffmann is a periodic author of technical “how to” articles for industry journals and is also a frequent presenter at content marketing and intelligent content events. He currently serves as Product Marketing Consultant with MadCap Software and resides in Portland, Oregon.

Last Modified: June 22, 2016

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Comments

  • techwriterkai March 10, 2016 at 8:50 PM

    Hi, Max, so good to see you again! Looking forward to following your future endeavours!

  • John Espirian March 10, 2016 at 10:48 PM

    I hadn’t realised you’d joined the team, Maxwell; that’s a great acquisition by MadCap!

    Thanks for an interesting first post. It will be good to hear further insights as you discover more about the software.

    I’ve been using Flare for about three years and wouldn’t want to switch to any other HAT.

  • Sue Thomson March 13, 2016 at 5:32 PM

    Hi, Maxwell
    So sorry to lose you from the Adobe stable – you’ve been a tremendous advocate for them and a huge asset. So much so that I am committed to FrameMaker and shan’t be following you to “the dark side”, but I wish you well.
    Hope to see you at TCUK16 near St Neots, in September, albeit in an unfamiliar context.
    Keep in touch.
    All the best, Sue

    • Maxwell Hoffmann March 24, 2016 at 3:07 PM

      Hi Sue, no, I won’t try to make you change. Hope I may come over for TCUK. If not this year, next year for sure!

  • Neil Perlin Neil Perlin March 14, 2016 at 4:16 AM

    Nice introduction, Maxwell. Welcome.

  • Stephanie March 14, 2016 at 8:56 AM

    I appreciate your insight! I’ve been using Madcap for about three years and enjoy using it for both print and online content. Flare has bugs/crashes from time to time but seems to improve with each new release. I’m currently using Flare version 11.

  • Susan Jaeger March 14, 2016 at 3:34 PM

    Congrats on your new position, Maxwell! It’s nice to see you back online. I don’t use Flare, but I’ll be following your series anyway. I’m very interested in following your journey with topic-based authoring.

  • Nick Shears March 16, 2016 at 7:15 PM

    Hi Maxwell. Your name will still be synonymous with “Adobe” in my head for a long time to come. But I wish you well on your new adventures, and shall certainly be following your blog.

    • Maxwell Hoffmann March 24, 2016 at 3:07 PM

      Hi Nick, it was time for a change. Am enjoying this new world.

  • Homer March 23, 2016 at 10:29 AM

    Congrats, Maxwell. I look forward to reading your insights and observations. Enjoy the journey!

  • Bo March 28, 2016 at 10:42 AM

    I’m very interested in your discoveries and views! So glad to see you land on your feet.

  • Martin Ley April 5, 2016 at 3:26 AM

    Hi Maxwell. Fun times ahead for you! I jumped ship from Frame about 5 years ago now, and am loving Flare. Slightly worried about how quickly I forgot over 20 years’ worth of Frame experience. I still have Frame 9 on my VM just in case, but it would be a struggle if I had to use it in anger!

  • Grant Bentley May 5, 2016 at 8:37 AM

    Max, I love the approach of documenting your discovery of topic-based content development. Because your writing style is so digestible, I see the opportunity for you to bring a fresh voice to the Madcap team. I have attended the week long MadCamp and one Madcap convention but have not been able to turn the corner from writing to authoring because the latter seemed more like programming. Help a template-based web content provider with a marketing background find an entry point that hides the “wealth of features” in Flare until there are truly needed.

  • Johnathon Green August 9, 2016 at 6:22 AM

    Good to know you Maxwell, its great you find yourself in this company, I like to work with Flare, just updated to 12 version. Thank You

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