Tuesday, March 18, 2008

New software for technical authors from MadCap Software

MadCap Software has released on details some new products it will be releasing shortly. These include MadCap X-Edit and MadCap Press.

What is striking is that MadCap really does seem to understand the problems technical communicators face in the real world.

One of the issues technical authors often face is dealing with reviews of drafts and dealing with any amendments. If the drafts are sent out as a Word document, your nicely styled document can come back with as a formatting mess. It's partly due to the fact that most users just don't understand Word's Styles features.

Whitney Potsus has posted on her "Connected Content" Blog some handy suggestions on how to avoid this by using some of Word's less well know features ("You turn into Style Gallery Cop and put your documents into lockdown."), but these can create barriers between the reviewer and the documents you want them to review.

X-Edit promises "a document solution for the everyday content contributor that combines both editing and publishing into a single document solution...Send Blaze or Flare topics to reviewers with direct Outlook integration. The reviewer can make edits, changes, and annotations within the topics. When the reviewer is done, sending the topic back is as easy as one click."

MadCap Press seems to park MadCap's tanks firmly on Adobe's lawn. MadCap Press promises the ability to create high-end print documents, such as product brochures. It also promises seamless integration with MadCap's translation tool, Lingo.

I still have concerns that Adobe still really doesn't understand the practicalities of technical communication, that features appear as solutions looking for problems to solve. However, Adobe is the market leader and, as we've seen in IT many times before, it's often the company with the best marketing (rather than the best software) that wins. This means MadCap needs to be good at marketing (which they are), as well as good at development.

I think Author-It will still be a player. They seem to have a strategy of developing a community of advocates and influencers and of disrupting the market. In some ways, Author-It makes FrameMaker and RoboHelp look very old fashioned.

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