The 2017 refresh of a MadBlog article originally posted in March 2015, with the modest caveat that the author is not yet familiar with the latest MacBook Pros, newly on the market as of June 2017.

I often see discussions at LinkedIn or the MadCap user forums in which posters lament how they wish they could run MadCap Flare on a Mac.

I immediately think, “But you can run Flare on a Mac! I’ve been running Flare on a Mac for years!” I ran early versions of Flare on a now aged iMac from circa 2003 and on a MacBook Pro laptop since early 2013.

Of course, the salient bit here is that I’m not really running Flare on a Mac. Rather, I run Flare on a virtual Windows machine on top of the Mac OS.

It was relatively easy to set up, but I did incur costs beyond the cost of Flare and its companion programs. And, of course, I had to pony up the $$$ for a Mac.

Why did I switch?

A few years back, when it became clear that I needed to replace a Dell laptop that just wasn’t holding up, ergonomics was a major consideration.

For one thing, I had already been using the Mac extended keyboard with my Dells. Bar none, this keyboard is the smoothest, most comfortable keyboard I’ve ever used in my (ahem) 36 years in the tech comm industry. When I’m keyboarding much of my day, I want my hands to be as comfortable as possible.

For another thing, there were my aging eyes. The Dell laptop’s screen was just not clear enough, and—having fallen in love with the clarity of my Retina iPad—I reasoned that a Mac with a Retina display would serve my eyes best.

My Mac hardware

As a consultant, I need a mobile office, so in 2013 I chose a MacBook Pro laptop with these specs:

  • 7 GHz intel Core i7 processor – I got the fastest processor offered at the time, particularly because I wanted my Flare builds to scream.
  • 16 GB memory – Wouldn’t it be great to give Flare that much room to run in? (Alas, it was not to be, but more on that later.)
  • Solid state storage – With nothing mechanical to cycle up to speed, reads and writes would be faster than with a hard disk.
  • Mac OS 10.10.x (Yosemite)
  • Retina display

Sidebar: I tried to like the MacBook’s touch pad, but I just didn’t. Next I tried an Apple Magic Mouse, as another of my Flare-on-a-Mac friend’s swore by it. Nope; not for me. So (snort), I settled on a Microsoft wireless mouse.

2017 refresh: Any changes to the Mac environment? Yes. At some point, I upgraded to El Capitan, and I’ve been pestering my IT department to upgrade to Sierra soon. (BTW, I’m my IT department…) I also changed out some hardware; more on this later.

My virtual Windows machine

So that I could still access the Mac OS side of the laptop while I ran the Windows OS (rather than having the laptop boot up as a Windows machine, as I did with my old iMac), I needed to install a virtual Windows machine. Here are the specs of my setup:

  • VMWare Fusion – Virtualization software, which cost me around $70, I recall. (Sidebar: Some of my Flare-on-a-Mac friends use Parallels.)
  • Windows 7 Professional 64-bit – A full, licensed version, which I think cost around $350-$375. (I opted for the 64-bit version on the theory that it would have greater shelf-life and capacity than the 32-bit version, but that was just a guess on my part.)

Now back to those 16 GB I was lusting over for Flare’s sake. Turns out, VMWare can allocate only half of a Mac’s available memory to a virtual machine. So, bottom line, I’ve got an 8 GB Windows machine to run Flare on.

2017 refresh: Any changes? Not yet. The original Windows environment is still going strong. I’ve repeated pestered my IT department to upgrade to Windows 10 soon, which I assume with require an upgrade to VMware Fusion, too, but “they” haven’t gotten around to it yet.

My Flare installation

Once the virtual Windows machine was set up, installing Flare on the Mac laptop was just the same as doing so on a native Windows machine:

  1. Install the required .NET framework.
  2. Install and activate Flare.

That’s it!

So how does Flare play in the Mac world?

Image used with permission of HSA Foundation, copyright holder of the HSA Foundation Standards.

Image used with permission of HSA Foundation, copyright holder of the HSA Foundation Standards.

Image used with permission of Nita Beck Communications, copyright holder of “Turbocharging Your Flare Authoring: MadCap Flare Keyboard and Other Shortcuts.”

Image used with permission of Nita Beck Communications, copyright holder of “Turbocharging Your Flare Authoring: MadCap Flare Keyboard and Other Shortcuts.”

Very well, thank you! Occasionally Windows crashes, and very, very rarely Flare tells me it’s out of memory. Generally, my Flare authoring experience on Mac hardware has been sublime.

But wait. There’s more…

In 2015, I got rid of the one residual bit of hardware from my old Dell days: a second Dell monitor. I longed for something crisper for my aging eyes’ sake and larger to give Flare more real estate.

Enter the Apple Thunderbolt display. Big, bright, and sharp.

I often put Flare on the Thunderbolt, maximized, with lots of open windows positioned just where I want them. I can even comfortably run the XML Editor in split view vertically so I can see everything practically at a glance.

nita-macbook-pro

I regret to say that Apple no longer makes the Thunderbolt display, so if this one goes, I’m not sure where I’ll turn.

And about that Microsoft mouse. I ditched that in 2016 for the lovely and comfortable, rechargeable Apple Magic Mouse, and I picked up the equally comfortable rechargeable Apple Magic Keyboard (not a full keyboard) for taking my show on the road.

What do other Flare-on-a-Mac users say?

To prepare for this 2017 refresh, I asked several other Flare-on-a-Mac (FoM) users to share their experiences, good and bad. I’m struck by the variation in our virtual machine environments, but not surprised by our satisfaction with FoM.

Kelly Parr of RIFT.io says “I LOVE FoM. No regrets, no issues!” adding “FoM is fast and responsive, and builds do blaze. Specs include “a 13″ Retina (early 2015) model with 16 GB of RAM and, 2.7 GHz Intel Core i5, and a SSD. I (use) Parallels Desktop 11.2.1 and Windows 8.1. Thanks to Parallels Coherence, it looks and feels like I really am running Flare on a Mac. Drag-and-drop operations between the two operating systems are easy and visually seamless, and running two instances of Flare (e.g., if I need to backport a change from master to a branch) is never an issue. My VM is as lean as a Windows OS can be. I installed nothing on it besides Flare and Capture. Storage is the only thing I didn’t account for (only 500 GB). For now, a LaCie Rugged drive handles my huge files (videos and recordings). And with Flare checked into Git and backed up on Time Machine, I never worry about a catastrophic failure.”

Bianca Szczesniak (whom I had the pleasure of meeting at MadWorld 2017!) says “While it would be easier to use Flare directly on a Mac, I have had zero issues running Flare on a remote desktop. Using Flare on a Mac is surprisingly straight-forward. I simply log in to my Windows environment via the Microsoft Remote Desktop app, and boom–I’m in!” She advises those considering FoM: (1) Don’t NOT use Flare just because you have a Mac. Flare is WAY better than any other authoring tool right now. (2) If you work at a company that has an IT department, talk to IT about how to set up the Windows environment. What might be intimidating to a tech writer might be a piece of cake for an IT professional. (3) If possible, use two monitors so that you can run Windows on one monitor, and still access the rest of your Mac programs and files on the other monitor.”

David Busey, Manager of Knowledge Services at SmartRG has his “Parallels / Flare environment all set up on an external (SSD) drive” that is “quite quick and usable.” He reports that “The only real annoyance … (is) display-settings related: Usually I work remotely but when I go into the office and jack into the external monitor there (different make/model), Windows adjusts the resolution…. When I come back home and jack in here, I get this low res, almost 4:3 aspect ratio bizarro thing that I have to fiddle with restoring every time I transition. Maybe that’s just the nature of Windows for all I know — that might not be exclusive to FoM.” (Wow! Yes, I sometimes have this same issue when I return to my office after visiting a client site where I had connected my MacBook to their second monitor. I agree, it’s an annoying Windows thing. It has nothing to do with Flare.)

And finally, Leslie Tilling, Senior Technical Writer at Alien Vault, says that “Running the MadCap applications from a Windows guest on my MacBook has worked seamlessly. In fact, I have better performance because I have an allocated amount of memory for the Windows guest system and I only run MadCap apps on it, with all other functions happening on the Mac host system. With shared directories defined in VMware Fusion, I access the project files and build outputs on both systems.”

So if you’re lusting after Flare on a Mac, remember…

You can!

But you must make the business case—whether to your management or to yourself (if you are independent, like me)—why the additional incurred costs will be worth it.

For me, those additional costs have been more than justified when I consider the quality, reliability, and comfort of the hardware on which I run Flare—day in and day out—in my consulting business. My bet that Mac hardware would have a long shelf-life has paid off. Four years out, I’m still running Flare (as of this writing, Flare 2017 r2) on the same Mac.

Cheers!

Nita

P.S.

For all interested FoM users, I’ve put together a little brochure of Flare keyboard and other shortcuts specifically for those using an Apple keyboard. Let me know if you’d like a copy.
nbeck@beck-communcations.com.

About The Author

Nita Beck

About Nita Beck

As owner of Nita Beck Communications and a MadSkills consultant, Nita offers technical communication and information architecture services to clients around the world, including Flare project design and customized Flare training. She is a certified MadCap Advanced Developer and manages the Rochester Flare User Group.

Last Modified: June 22, 2017

This entry was posted in Guest Post, MadCap Flare, Tech Comm, Tips & Tricks. Bookmark the permalink.

Comments

  • Peter Hamilton-Scott March 26, 2015 at 2:41 AM

    Nita, I read your article about running Flare on a Mac. I read somewhere in a UK magazine (can’t remember exactly which or when) that Apple are expected to drop support for running Windows on their new hardware. True, the article did mention BootCamp only. What wasn’t made clear is if they intend to restrict what you can do with VMs like Parallels. Until it happens, don’t believe anything I say is authorative.

  • Shawn March 26, 2015 at 1:23 PM

    Hello Peter,
    What you are recalling is that Apple dropped support for Windows 7 in Boot Camp. I suspect because Windows 7 is old (I still prefer it over the newer versions). Apple still supports (and will continue to support) newer versions of Windows in Boot Camp, as well as, visualization products like Parallels and VMware Fusion.

    I don’t know a lot about Parallels but VMware Fusion has a long roadmap ahead and that VMware team continues to enjoy a close partnership with Apple.

    Nita’s description is perfect… Kudos, Nita!
    …but native Windows will still run Flare ‘better’ than a virtualized version of Windows.:)

  • Peter Hamilton-Scott March 27, 2015 at 12:58 AM

    Shawn, I think you are correct about Win7. I run BootCamp on my 2012 iMac 27″. I tried Parallels and it worked well but there was always a niggle with the graphics not working as well as expected and there was an occasional judder with the startup of applications and mouse movement. Since I switched to BootCamp everything is just right and kudos to Apple for providing decent drivers. I have Win 10 CTP on my laptop and I will install Flare just as soon as Microsoft commit to another upgrade beyond March. I wonder if MadCap use or might be thinking of using Xamarin to port Flare onto Apple’s devices. Flare might not work too well on an iPad but those drop-dead gorgeous displays on the new iMacs is begging for Flare. :-)

  • Leonard March 27, 2015 at 10:54 AM

    I’ve tried Flare in Parallels with Windows 7 and VM Fusion with Windows 8, and I get the same problem on my retina display. The text in some buttons (such as in the Add Image dialog) get cut off at the bottom, and the text in the XML side tags spills out of the tags. Thoughts?

  • Nita Beck Nita Beck March 27, 2015 at 12:11 PM

    I can speak only anecdotally — and once removed at that. My Flare-on-a-Mac friend who had been using Parallels reported that the Flare UI was not displayed correctly and I think that she tracked it down to actually being a problem with how Parallels was handling the .NET framework. Once she moved to VMware, she did not experience those same issues. Now, please take my story under advisement. I’m not a tech support person, and I have NO personal experience with Parallels. I’m just relaying what my pal told me.

  • Nita Beck Nita Beck March 27, 2015 at 12:14 PM

    @Shawn. I don’t doubt that Flare will run better on a native Windows machine. But my hands and my eyes work much better with Apple hardware and displays!

  • Don Johnson April 12, 2015 at 12:32 PM

    I run Flare on Windows 8.1 under Parallels at home, and under WIndows 7 on VMWare Fusion at work. Aside from the hardware differences between the Macs at work and home, I like running on Parallels because it handles multiple displays much more smoothly. I have not noticed any UI issues with Flare on either setup, or any issues with Flare at all. The only issues I have are (1) there is an issue with Flare 10 and how a VM network connection is set up. I was never able to figure it out, but MadCap released a patch specifically for this issue (talk about great support; they did this specifically for hose running Flare in a VM!). The other issue I have seems to be specifically with VMWare Fusion and Flare: sometimes my keystrokes stop being accepted, and I have to exit Flare and restart it to get it going.

    BTW, my home Mac is a 2013 iMac, 3.2GHz quad core i7, 32GB RAM, and SSD drive. It screams circles around the quad-core Mac mini at work, even in Flare. Builds take 1/3 to 1/10 the time! SSDs really rule for this type of work.

  • Sean May 14, 2015 at 11:22 AM

    I am going through the process of migrating from my windows laptop to my macbook as the only dependency I have with windows is flare.

    All went well until my installation of flare started to declare that my machine id was changing which de-activated itself. Twice now customer service has had to free-up my activation. I am currently waiting on tech support to help me sort this out.

    I am envious that your setup works and works well. :)

  • homer May 14, 2015 at 12:00 PM

    Like Nita, I have Flare set up on a Macbook Pro. My setup is about identical to hers with the exception of the Thunderbolt display. I needed to share my additional screen with my work laptop, so went with dual HDMI inputs to an Acer (B276HUL) display. Builds on the Mac are faster as I have a couple more cores I can allocate to Flare. Well, that and the solid-state drive. Works flawlessly.
    I went with VMWare as I heard some quirkiness with the Parallels deployment, and VMWare has been great. I also had to go with Windows 8, which caused a bit of a kerfluffle until I turned off the touchscreen functionality.
    I really appreciated the ability to work with my Mac OS web and graphic apps and seamlessly paste files into the Flare project. If anything, I notice that Flare on my mac is more stable than on the PC laptop. Most likely due to more memory and a faster processor. Would love to have a native version.

  • John May 19, 2015 at 4:09 PM

    I currently have Flare 11 installed on both my retina iMac and 17″ MBP (but use straight Windoze at work). I’m running Win8.1 in Parallels and have noticed no problems, though I am using Parallels on a 2nd 27″ monitor, which isn’t retina, so it’s only running 2560x1440px, not the retina 5120x2880px. But I’m also giving Parallels 16GB RAM (half of the total available), and have the upgraded graphics card, so it’s possible that is helping. I haven’t really noticed any difference between running in Parallels on my Mac and running on my work machine.

  • PPark May 20, 2015 at 3:55 PM

    Hi,
    I’m new to Flare11 and using the trial at the moment. I’m running VMware Fusion Pro, version 7.1.1 on my MacBook Pro, Yosemite version 10.10.3. I have a second monitor, Dell U2713H 27-inch.
    The problem I’m experiencing is tiny font on my Dell monitor but medium size font on my Mac. In addition the menu items at the top of the Project Organizer, Content Explorer, and Dynamic Help windows are tiny for both monitors.
    The font is so small when viewed on my Dell monitor, I can’t use it at all.
    Any suggestions? Is anyone else experiencing this problem?

  • Nita Beck Nita Beck May 20, 2015 at 5:51 PM

    @PPark. Whenever I’ve had display issues in my Windows-on-Fusion-on-a-Mac, the issue has ended up being the display settings in Fusion for the virtual machine. I’ve found that I have tell Fusion NOT to use the Retina settings for the virtual machine. I still get really nice, clean, sharp resolution on both the MacBook and the Thunderbolt display.

    • PPark May 22, 2015 at 11:40 AM

      Hi Nita,
      Are your icons tiny? That is the biggest hurdle for me. I will go blind trying to click the tiny icons.
      Where do I go to tell Fusion not to use the Retina settings?
      Thanks for your help.

      • Nita Beck Nita Beck May 22, 2015 at 12:48 PM

        Caveat: I’m not a Fusion tech support person! But I’ll give your question a shot…

        In Fusion, look for Applications Menu Settings, then Show All, then open up Display. Make sure that the option “Use full resolution for Retina display” is NOT selected. I know that when I had that option turned on, the resolution on my laptop was so incredibly high that all the icons were teeny tiny, but if that option were off, things looks good.

        I also have the Mac’s Display settings for my MacBook scaled for the “most space” and for the Thunderbolt at “Default for Display.”

        On the Windows side, I’ve got the screen resolution for screen 1 (the laptop) set to 1920 x 1200 and screen 2 (Thunderbolt) to 2560 x 1440.

        HTH

        • PPark May 22, 2015 at 3:47 PM

          Hi Nita,
          Thanks for your speedy response. I randomly disabled a setting called, 3d acceleration and it worked. I accessed it from Actions > Configure > Hardware > Video > 3D acceleration. You have to reboot for the setting to apply.
          I’m set now. Oh happy day!
          This is my set up in case someone else can benefit.
          -Windows 7 x64
          -Parallels Desktop 10 for Mac
          -Flare11
          I tried with VMWare Fusion Pro 7 and between the two, I prefer the Parallels user experience. It is not a picture-in-picture feel, the integration with Mac is seamless and the programs running Parallels have the Parallels icon marking them which makes it easy to locate them in my dock.

          • Nita Beck Nita Beck May 26, 2015 at 8:53 AM

            Glad to know you got it working to your liking.

            Re the “picture-in-picture” feel of Fusion, that’s totally configurable. When I’m running my virtual Windows machine, my laptop shows me Windows only. I don’t see the Mac OS at all.

  • Linda Payne August 11, 2015 at 1:16 PM

    Hi Nita, thanks for this. I was really delighted to find this article as I was given a very lovely Macbook Pro to start with, and my old eyes are really enjoying it.

    After working with Flare in Windows for over 8 years of course I am hoping to help docs here transition to Flare. I am trialling Flare using my Macbook Pro running Yosemite, Parallels and Windows 7. It works like a charm, almost.

    In my Flare trial, when I open the stylesheet editor or skin editor for example, the problem is likely the same as Leonard’s, headings, buttons, drop downs are only partially visible. Otherwise, I have not been unhappy with Parallels. Doubtfully it’s a trialling problem. Not sure if I can switch to VMware. Thanks for any info. Linda

  • Swapnil Ogale Swapnil Ogale August 31, 2015 at 12:30 AM

    Hi Nita, quick clarification. Is this the same as remote-ing into a windows machine? I am currently working on a project where all the files (help, project, product) reside in an Azure environment. I use the “Remote Desktop Connection” app on my Mac to remote in to the environment. Works a treat. Plus, I can use all of my windows shortcuts (Ctrl+c, Ctrl+v etc) in there too. Let me know if this is way off target!

    • Nita Beck Nita Beck August 31, 2015 at 9:48 AM

      What I have described in not the same as “remote-ing in”, but rather is setting up Windows on Mac hardware, on top of VMware, which provides the virtualization platform. I’ve never tried Azure, but I assume it’s akin to to an Amazon workspace, in which case Windows (and Flare) are not installed on the user’s machine directly but are installed in the workpace. My very limited experience with running Flare in an Amazon workspace was as a favor to a client and I cannot divulge any details except to say that the trial was generally positive and certainly intriguing.

  • Martin Ley July 6, 2016 at 3:55 AM

    I have been using Parallels on Macs ever since Adobe killed off FrameMaker on the Mac. My Parallels virtual machine started life as XP, got upgraded to 7, missed out 8, then got upgraded to Windoze 10. I used FrameMaker happily all that time, until a new client used different authoring tools (Help and Manual, then Madcap Flare).

    I recently had some fairly major issues, whereby running my client’s application (or, more correctly, quitting it) would cause all my Flare project files to disappear (gulp!). My final solution was to create a completely new Windows 10 VM, rather than using the old many-times-updated VM.

    I have had the “small icons and text” problem in Flare, but as Nita explained, it’s a Windows issue rather than a Flare issue specifically.

    I did at one point try converting to Bootcamp, as most of my work is done in the Windows environment, but it didn’t work for me. I was forever rebooting between Mac and Windows – I get all my email and do all my web browsing in the Mac world, as it’s far less prone to nasties, and keep the Windows world as separate and self-contained as I can. With Windows 10 and the latest Parallels, my installation automatically shared my Documents folder between Mac and Windows. Thats not something I normally do, but after losing 3 days’ work because of the issue I mentioned above, I now let the Mac TimeMachine back up my Flare projects from my Mac/Win Documents folder, rather than having to remember to run a Synchronise X! backup to copy everything from my self-contained Windows/Flare project folder over to the Mac world.

    I also use Adobe Creative Suite CC, and only have the Mac version installed, to save space on my VM. With parallels it’s a doddle to open Mac and Win apps at the same time, although Photoshop/Lightroom are very memory-hungry, and sometimes cause issues, even with 16GB on my MBP.

    So, to sum up, I’ve been really happy with Parallels/Flare on the Mac :-)

  • Thomas Böttiger June 30, 2017 at 4:13 AM

    Nita, those Apple Displays age very well. For about the same reasons as you I got me one (27″) 8 years ago and it’s still running fine connected to a new MBP with Flare in virtual environment. (Windows 32bit is a bottleneck, but still…)
    When you come across a display that is as decent as a “Cinema Display”, please let me know – just in case.
    ;)

  • Rosa Davis July 6, 2017 at 11:11 AM

    I have been using Parallels to run Flare on my Mac and I have not run into any issues. Admittedly, I don’t necessarily work on my Mac that much (it’s my back up when my Windows PC fails, which unfortunately seems to be often, but that’s a different story) but I have not had any issues. I would love to convince my employer to give me a MacBook Pro.

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