We just installed version 8 of MadCap Flare and we thought we would share some of the new updated features.
Our perspective of Flare is geared toward the ability to help our customers translate and publish their content in multiple languages as easily as possible. So for this review I am going to take a test project and convert it to Flare v8 from Flare v7 and explore some of the new features and also test if there are any issues in building a MadCap Lingo v5 project.
I chose a large project for testing (254 topics) and the conversion from v7 to v8 went perfectly.
Enhanced User Interface
The first thing that struck me when I opened the project was the enhanced user interface. I like the new ribbon style appearance. Here is a view of the options in v7 vs v8.
MadCap has also added a quick access toolbar for personalized buttons, keyboard shortcuts for any of the menu functions and they have also improved floating and docking functions so you can arrange your screen a little easier for multiple documents and windows. One of the options we use most frequently is the Project Analysis feature under the view menu. I like having that option more easily accessible via the ribbons. The interface is a lot more visual so I think it is much easier to find the functions.
Data Structure Changes – Flexibility
I noticed two changes which must have come from improvements in the structure of the data behind the scenes. In Flare v8 you can now add subfolders to TOCs, Targets, and File Tag Sets via the Project Organizer. You can do this on the fly by just right clicking where you would like to make the addition.
You can also rename and update variables, conditions and file tags via a newly added workflow without breaking any existing associations.
Newly Improved Import Wizard
I also tested the import wizard for MS Word (you can also import FrameMaker and DITA content). While this isn’t an option we would typically use since clients normally send us their final Flare projects, I wanted to learn about this improved feature so we can better understand the process that our clients might use to create new Flare projects from legacy projects.
I accessed the wizard by choosing a new project and choosing the MS Word Import option. When you first create the project you have the option to choose your output type and there are some new options on this release like ePub and HTML5.
The wizard takes you through the process step by step and allows you to import all topic styles from the existing MS Word document into the topic styles for your new Flare project.
You can also choose some specific options on the behavior of the content as it is introduced into distinct topics in your Flare project including filename length, size of the topics, behavior of tables and how to handle “topic continued” links on longer topics.
Overall the process was quite easy to manage though my sample project would have benefited from spending some more time in properly mapping topic styles in the new Flare project. But in terms of spending very little time on this effort the resulting content in Flare was quite good.
Flare v8 project in Lingo v5
The Flare v7 project I converted to v8 built exactly as expected in Lingo v5. There were no surprises. Of course the converted project didn’t really use any of the new features in v8 so I will look forward to receiving our first v8 project that uses some of the new features so I can properly test a round trip between Flare v8 and Lingo v5.