At 3di, we’re always eager to try out new authoring software, but only some of the solutions are included in our essential toolkit. One of the outcomes of our journey through tools is that MadCap Flare has become a natural habitat for our authors.
It’s not only the tool that matters, but 3di’s collaboration with MadCap has been stellar. The MadCap Support Team have never failed to assist us, and several times, it was at 3di’s request that MadCap developed new functionalities. If you’re curious about the details of the mutual gains, read more about the partnership between MadCap and 3di.
In this series of blog posts, we’d like to share our expertise with you and walk you through our selection of MadCap Flare tips and tricks. Everything you can find here was tested and gathered by the 3di Authoring Team and curated by those on the team who are certified as MadCap Advanced Developers.
From this post, you’ll learn how to:
Got some plans to work from a hideaway cabin or your favourite café? Or perhaps you simply need to unplug your display and continue working from another room? On a laptop, MadCap Flare’s UI may initially feel overloaded, but its workspace consists of many panes and sections you can adapt to your authoring needs.
Using workspace layouts
Try this out if you use multiple screens of different sizes, and want Flare to display only the most important bits on a small screen.
How to save your current workspace layout:
- From the Window tab, select Save Layout.
How to change your workspace layout:
- From the Window tab, select Layout.
Changing the file list view
Sometimes we need to move around or remove a number of files. This involves selecting multiple files at once and performing batch changes. The view you need of the files is not the default in MadCap Flare, but there’s a switch that allows you to it, and if that might be useful for you, here’s how.
How to change the file list view in Content Explorer:
- In the Content Explorer tab, select the Toggle Show Files button.
To the right, an additional file explorer pane opens.
Docking the topics
If you usually write for localization or consider single-sourcing and content reuse to be the core values of technical writing, you may often find yourself working on very similar pieces of content. Docking the topics will help you ensure consistency… and just the right amount of differences.
How to dock the topics:
- At the top of the editor window, click the topic title bar.
- Drag the topic over the square region where you want it to display.
You can now display the topics side-by-side, and ensure you are achieving consistency that matters.
Viewing Text Editor below XML Editor
Some content structures or fancy topic layouts may require tabbing between the text and the WYSIWYG view. Try out this setting, if you don’t want to switch between XML Editor and Text Editor accidentally, or you need to control what’s happening in both views.
How to view Text Editor below XML Editor:
- When editing a topic, at the bottom of the topic pane, select the expand pane button.
The editor pane that was hidden is now displayed below the active editor pane.
- If needed, adjust the pane height for each editor.
Viewing the links between files
Starting to work on a large, well-developed, astonishingly complex project? Need to find your way through its amazing architecture and update only the right pieces? We’ve all been there. Often, it’s easier to navigate through the file links rather than browse the whole list of project files, and Flare made it possible. So, you can:
- Check where a file is used in your project
- Check what the links are to and from a file
How to view the links between files:
- From the View ribbon, in the Reference section, select Link Viewer.
The Link Viewer pane opens.
- In the explorer pane open the file you are interested in.
In the Link Viewer pane, you can now see all the links grouped in two lists:
- Linked From
- Linked To
- Linked From
Control styling using the Style Window
When authoring, it’s convenient to have the styles that you use most at your fingertips. But it’s not only about personal preferences – apart from making the docs look and feel the way we want them to, we also need to keep consistent with other authors’ work. With this option, you can achieve both, that is:
- Check which CSS style was used in the content
- Select a CSS style to use
How to use Style Window:
- From the Home ribbon, in the Styles section, select Style Window.
- To check the current style, in the Styles pane, use the Current Style and Local Formatting section.
- To apply a style, in the Styles pane, use the Available Styles list.
Editing the content of topics is the basic technical writer’s task. The tips listed in this section will surely prove useful in your day-to-day work, no matter if you’re a beginner technical author or a seasoned expert.
Showing and hiding white spaces
Try this out if you want to see all spaces and line breaks within the topic. This is especially helpful when using variables, as the spacing may look correct in the editor, but will show differently when built.
How to toggle white spaces:
- From the top section of XML Editor, select . You can now see white spaces and end-of-line signs.
Try this out if you want to repeat your last action.
How to repeat your last action:
- On the keyboard, select F8.
Copying, pasting, and moving topic content
Try this out if you want to insert a piece of content in a specific place in your topic.
How to paste content in a specific place:
- In XML Editor, cut or copy the content you want to paste elsewhere.
- In the topic structure bar, right-click the element next to which you want to paste the content.
- If you want to paste the content before the element, select Paste Before.
- If you want to paste the content before the element, select Paste After.
Changing table styles
Tables are the key tool to gather and present large sets of information. After minutes, or even hours, of thoughtful design, some of our tables become true works of art. Luckily, in Flare, we can design and preview tables in a convenient GUI, and once we’ve got the perfect settings, we can save them in a stylesheet for future use. Try this out if you need to edit the look of a table, and want to use these new styles in the future.
How to access the table styles editor:
- In the topic structure bar, right-click the bar of the table you want to edit.
- Select Table Style > Edit Table Style.
In the table styles editor, you can add paragraph styles and classes, edit row styles and alignment. Your changes are then applied to all tables that use this style.
|Note: You can also access the table stylesheets from Content Explorer > Resources > TableStyles.|
So, we’ve covered how you can customise your MadCap Flare workspace to suit your needs, and how you can use topics to make the authoring process easier. However, we’ve only scratched the surface of what you can achieve using Flare. Keep your eyes peeled for part two, where we’ll be taking a look at how you can use conditions to manage when and where your content is displayed, as well as how to get custom fonts into your HTML output.
Agata works as a senior technical author in our Krakow office. She has a passion for learning, so as a technical author, she gets the chance to do this on a daily basis. When she’s not authoring, Agata is an avid reader, reading anything she can get her hands on. She also has an interest in board games and travelling.