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Carnegie Mellon University Instructors Use Madcap Flare To Teach Software Documentation Best Practices

MadCap Flare Enables Technical and Non-technical Students Alike to Successfully Create Online Software Documentation using State-of-the-Art Techniques

La Jolla, CA, USA – March 9, 2010 – MadCap Software, Inc., the leader in multi-channel content authoring and a showcase company for Microsoft (NASDAQ: MSFT) Visual Studio 2005 and Microsoft XPS, today announced that Carnegie Mellon University instructors are using MadCap Flare in their Software Documentation class. MadCap’s flagship authoring software enables students at all skill levels to create online software documentation that incorporates state-of-the-art practices, such as topic-based authoring and single-source publishing.

The Software Documentation class is part of the Carnegie Mellon Master of Arts in Professional Writing (MAPW) curriculum. Co-led by adjunct instructors Tracey DePellegrin Connelly and Jennifer Ciroli, it combines lessons on the concepts behind creating and publishing software documentation with class projects that offer a practical application of those concepts.

“In the past, students mocked up their online Help in HTML. It was extremely labor-intensive, and it didn’t give them the practical experience of using an authoring tool,” said Tracey DePellegrin Connelly. “With Flare, the difference is night and day between what they were doing before and what they are now able to learn. It’s been an extremely valuable tool for giving our students real-world experience.”

The catalyst for moving to Flare was a major update to the Software Documentation class lesson plan. In 2008, Ms. DePellegrin Connelly and Ms. Ciroli identified the need to teach students about the new documentation practices rapidly being adopted by businesses. These included content development based on the Darwin Information Typing Architecture (DITA) standard, topic-based authoring, and single-source publishing.

“When we overhauled the class, we knew our students would need to start a project in DITA using the oXygen XML editor and then create a set of topics that could be single-sourced and re-used for online Help,” recalled Jennifer Ciroli. “We looked at a number of tools, but Flare was the one that dovetailed nicely with our needs. With its native XML architecture, single-sourcing, and topic-based paradigm, Flare was a natural fit.”

The Spring 2009 class was the first to use Flare in conjunction with the new lesson plan. Students had two major assignments. The first was a software user guide with a cohesive set of task-oriented topics that could both stand alone and work together; the guide could be published as either a PDF or online information center. The second was online Help, for which students were required to determine which topics to use from the user guide, what new topics to add, how to present and organize the information, and how to make it searchable.

“It can be hard to grasp the separation of content and formatting within a structured authoring environment if you are used to working with word processing and authoring packages where the formatting is applied directly to the content,” said Ms. Ciroli. “Flare did a nice job of bridging that gap. Our students liked that they didn’t have to worry about formatting. It was also easy for them to set up the online Help navigation using the indexing and glossary features in Flare. Whether they were technically savvy or not, all the students could get the output they needed.”

“Having a program where I could take the step from concept to implementation was crucial for my current position,” said Julian Cantella, a student of the CMU Software Documentation class now working with a large high-tech company as a student co-op. “Using Flare in the class helped me to prepare professionally. I am regularly publishing documentation in different formats, including PDFs and online content, and I use topic-based authoring every day.”

The Spring 2009 Software Documentation class used Flare 4.0, which like other authoring tools required some manual steps to import and transform DITA content. As a result, the students had to manually edit their DITA content in XML to import it into Flare. Beginning with the Spring 2010 class, Ms. DePellegrin Connelly and Ms. Ciroli plan to upgrade to Flare 5.0. Launched in June 2009, Flare 5.0 is the first authoring software to support transformation and publishing from DITA without requiring Java development or third-party toolkits, such as Open Toolkit.

“The DITA conversion process with Flare 4.0 gave students a real-world experience, but the ability to automate this process with Flare 5.0—and then go into any format needed—is where the future is headed,” said Ms. Ciroli. Ms. DePellegrin Connelly added, “Most of our students go onto software documentation jobs, so working with software like Flare is a good investment.

In the Spring 2010 class, additional lab time is being offered to allow students to dig deeply into the software’s functionality.

“Carnegie Mellon University represents the gold standard in offering advanced degrees that enable students to develop the professional skills that today’s businesses demand,” said Anthony Olivier, MadCap co-founder and CEO. “We are honored by the role that our leading-edge Flare software is playing in helping CMU students to prepare for careers in software documentation, and we look forward to supporting the university in expanding the education around state-of-the-art documentation best practices.”

About Carnegie Mellon University

Carnegie Mellon University is a global research university with more than 11,000 students, 75,000 active alumni, and 4,000 faculty and staff. Recognized for its world-class arts and technology programs, collaboration across disciplines and innovative leadership in education, Carnegie Mellon is consistently a top-ranked university. For more information visit www.cmu.edu.

About MadCap Software

MadCap Software is a trusted resource for more than 20,000 companies around the globe for single-source, multi-channel authoring and publishing solutions designed to streamline the process of developing and delivering training content, learning and development programs, technical documentation, online Help, knowledge bases, and more. From authoring, publishing and translation, to cloud-based project and content management, to contribution and review in the cloud, you can streamline content delivery and manage the entire content development lifecycle with MadCap Software. MadCap Software’s services include product training, consulting services, translation and localization, and an advanced developer certification program. Headquartered in San Diego, California, with offices in Austin, TX, MadCap Software is home to some of the most experienced software architects and product experts in the content development industry.



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