How an Old Trick Fixes Tricky Problems

I’ve always believed that technology is supposed to enhance the authoring experience. In plain English – help me do the things I need to do 80% of the time as fast as possible while also being easy to maintain.

Unfortunately, this can be very hard to find in publishing software. When you add in web technologies, your head can spin until your “simple” solution can become so complicated that it can be worse than the problem.

MadCap Flare already contains some excellent shortcuts to streamline and simplify day-to-day tasks; the trick is knowing how to find them.

The Tricky Problem

My problem? A quick and easy way to insert graphics into numbered and bulleted lists so that the graphic aligns with the indentation of the number or bullet. This is such a common task that I’m sure everyone has a solution. And so did I… or so I thought until I got the chance to speak to one of the speakers at MadWorld 2017.

After telling her that her presentation validated what I thought was my genius idea for speeding up the task of inserting aligned graphics in lists, she told me to hold that thought because she had an even better idea.

An Old FrameMaker Habit

For some background, my basic method was to create a p.imgindent style indented the same as the ol and ul list styles. I inserted the p.imgindent style between list items and inserted my graphic in that style.

Yes, I used FrameMaker for a long time. We make styles; it’s what we do.

After the p.imgindent tag, I would make the next paragraph a list item and use the Continue Sequence setting to make the next list item follow the numbering sequence correctly.

It looked like this in the Text Editor:

aligning graphics in lists in madcap flare

As you can guess, this was tedious and involved a lot of clicks. Actually, it was worse because there’d be a lot of type-click-type-click, which was even slower.

To speed things up, I created a snippet, which I inserted into topics as needed, converted the snippet to text, and entered content. This was the genius idea I shared with the MadWorld speaker.

But, But, What About Div Tags?

I can hear some of you saying “Use div tags!”. I hear you. I’ve read the blogs. I’ve watched the tutorials. In my experience, though, the behavior of div tags in this context has been totally random. Sometimes it works and lets me apply the div.indent tag I made and sometimes it doesn’t.

And, in the end, it’s really just a variation of the p.imgindent method and therefore requires just as much effort as my method – which I know always works – so I abandoned div tags in this context.

Take it from a Real Pro – They Know All the Tricks

Back to MadWorld where the speaker showed me an incredibly fast and simple method for aligning graphics in my lists:

  1. At the end of the list item line press CTRL + ; (semi-colon). This inserts a p tag on that line.
    aligning graphics in lists in madcap flare
  2. Press ENTER. The next line is perfectly aligned with the list item but without a bullet or a number. You can insert the graphic on this line.
    aligning graphics in lists in madcap flare
  3. Insert the graphic and press ENTER after the graphic.
    aligning graphics in lists in madcap flare
  4. Click aligning graphics in lists in madcap flare or press SHIFT + TAB. The line becomes a list item.
    aligning graphics in lists in madcap flare

This has been a huge time-saver for me and I don’t have to worry about forgetting to Continue Sequence. More importantly, this method does not interrupt the flow of words and ideas as much.

An Added Bonus

After working with this technique for a while, I realized that the CTRL+;/SHIFT+TAB method also solves the problem of aligning tables inserted in a list as well – something I’ve struggled with for so long, it’s actually painful to think about.

Knowledge vs. Experience

I am sure this functionality has been a part of Flare for a long time, but I never knew about it (after 10 years of use) and I’m guessing that means a number of you don’t know about it either. Here is the link to this topic in Flare’s own help: http://help.madcapsoftware.com/flare2017r2/Content/Lists/Shared/More/Adding-Notes-Comments-Between-List-Items.htm

Even if I had come across this information, I’m not sure I would have been able to apply it in this way until running into the MadWorld speaker. It’s the difference between knowing something and knowing how to use it, which only comes with experience.

The Simplest Solution is Best

As a lone writer, I spend the majority of my time chasing, processing, and testing information for the software I’m documenting. When I finally get to documenting the information I’ve gathered, I need simple solutions that always work. Sometimes they’ve been there all along.

About The Author

Jessica Nealon

About Jessica Nealon

As a senior technical communicator, Jessica Nealon has completed documentation projects for both hardware and software in a variety of industries. She has been using MadCap Flare to meet business needs and solve customer problems for many years. Her current focus is web-based outputs for both internal and external clients.

Last Modified: June 30, 2017

This entry was posted in MadCap Flare, Tips & Tricks. Bookmark the permalink.

Comments

  • L Burn August 8, 2017 at 10:12 AM

    Ah! This is exactly what I needed – thank you!

    • Jessica Nealon Jessica Nealon August 8, 2017 at 2:00 PM

      You’re very welcome. I’m so glad.

  • Michael August 8, 2017 at 11:30 AM

    Unfortunately this is not working with a German keyboard. Which command is that? I couldn’t find anything in the keyboard shortcut list.

    • Jessica Nealon Jessica Nealon August 8, 2017 at 2:09 PM

      I’m sorry to hear that. There are two other ways to do this:
      1. When your cursor is on the list item, click the List Actions button in the Paragraph section of the Home ribbon and select Make Paragraph Item(s). (I cannot paste a picture in this comment, so I can tell you that it is the only icon on the Home ribbon with a wrench in it.

      2. If the Structure bar is visible to the left of all content in the topic, right-click on the tag of the list item (a square with “li” inside it) and select Make Paragraph Item(s).
      Both methods should work regardless of your keyboard.
      The full instructions are in the MadCap Flare Help here: http://help.madcapsoftware.com/flare2017r2/Content/Lists/Shared/More/Adding-Notes-Comments-Between-List-Items.htm

    • Ralf Görlich August 8, 2017 at 10:28 PM

      Just try [Strg]+[Ü]. For me it worked.

  • Liza Tont August 8, 2017 at 1:29 PM

    Thanks Jessica! What a great solution to a problem I’ve also had many times! You’re right about coming up with our own solutions, especially using FrameMaker “thinking.” (I was a Frame user for many years too!) I’m sure there are many other solutions in Flare that I’m not aware of, but I do appreciate this one! Thanks again!

    • Jessica Nealon Jessica Nealon August 8, 2017 at 2:11 PM

      I’m so glad this is helpful.

  • Marion Verhaegh August 8, 2017 at 10:53 PM

    What an exfellent tip!!! Thank you so much for sharing it.
    I’ve been able to apply it immediately.

  • Chris August 9, 2017 at 12:34 AM

    Jessica, we have just converted all our list styles to this format. Another extra tip is to set up your CSS so that the spacing remains consistent within the list. If you have a bigger line space for P tags than LI tags, you need to change P tags inside lists. We do this be defining margins using the CSS “LI P” and “LI OL”. Hope this helps?

    • Jessica Nealon Jessica Nealon August 9, 2017 at 2:28 PM

      And you apply the style to the tag after you insert the graphic? That’s a thought. I keep the above and below spacing the same between my plain paragraph style and the list styles so there is not such a noticeable difference. Now, I am going to check all my spacing. Thanks for the tip.

  • Adrienne Brieffies August 9, 2017 at 2:44 AM

    It works fine, thanks. However, it also increases the font scale. How can I avoid that or am I doing something wrong?

    • Jessica Nealon Jessica Nealon August 9, 2017 at 2:35 PM

      The difference has to do with the different font size settings in your CSS between the paragraph style and the list style. If the paragraph style is larger than the list style, the font size will increase when you insert a paragraph style on the list line.
      To resolve this, you can try the solution Chris suggested in the comment above yours. He created a “P LI” style that is the same size and has the same spacing as the list style. He applies the P LI style to the tag on the line item.
      As I mentioned in my reply to Chris, I keep my list and paragraph styles the same font size, so I didn’t notice a change in the font size when I inserted the paragraph item into the list.
      I hope this helps!

  • Will Gaffga August 9, 2017 at 9:56 AM

    This is an option, but to me the easiest is to hit Shift+Enter at the end of the list item (adding a ), and then inserting the image. This is faster, and there are more predictable results. By inserting a within the list you may wind up with unforeseen differences if your CSS does not account for the nested paragraph.

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