MadWorld 2016 Conference Review – Day Two

Last week, I spoke at, and attended, Madworld 2016, the conference hosted by MadCap Software for its users. Here is a summary of what I saw and heard on the second day. These were mostly for advanced users; I didn’t see any of the presentations aimed at new users of Flare.

The MadWorld 2016 app

MadWorld app screenshot

MadCap created a mobile app for the conference, which acted like a private Twitter stream. It also contained up-to-date information on the schedule, plus links to downloadable files.

Twice each day, delegates received an email digest of posts from the app.

The app worked really well, and it contributed to the conference’s community feel. The only disadvantage was it meant that there was very few posts on other Social Media platforms.

Case Study: Customize All the Things!

Help Authoring tools have now become powerful tools for publishing responsive web pages. With the frameless web output option, you have the opportunity to include a wide range of web functionality. For example, MadCap Flare’s advanced top navigation output target option uses the Zurb Foundation 5 layout – this is a flexible web framework for front end web page design.

Mike Kelley showed how he had created a unique Help experience using MadCap Flare for inContact’s Cloud contact centre software. A number of presenters had used a modified Foundation layout in their Help projects, and, in inContact’s case, they had created a customised layout for the placement of the topic body, side menu and breadcrumb trail.

Mike had used the Foundation layout to create a top navigation bar where the menu options changed, based on the user’s actions. He had hidden Flare’s default top navigation using CSS and a line of JavaScript code, and used a snippet to insert the replacement menu. The new navigation bar filtered the menu options and Help, based on user roles. The settings follow the user from page to page. Here are some rather grainy photos of it in action:

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In Contact also added other features by importing JavaScript plug-ins, fonts, and even created their own features when needed. They had experimented with Google’s Custom site search, but decided to stick with Flare’s search, as the Google search was omitting some Help topics (as it deemed them too low quality!). Mike also mentioned they were using the Font Awesome icon set, which contains icons that can be styled as fonts.

He had also created a side menu that didn’t float in the topic, by using the Zurb Foundation’s three column layout. It struck me that their solution could also be used to create to three column layout similar to that used in the Stripe API documentation, with sample code in the right column.

Finally, he demonstrated a modern day replacement for image maps, which he’d developed using the QTip2 plugin.

Using MadCap Flare with Source Control

Matthew Ellison provided a beginner’s guide to using Flare with source control. Source control provides you with a central repository containing a copy of your project, with all previous versions of all project files. Files are copied from source control to a local workspace for working on, and your changes are copied back from the local workspace to the source control. Some of the source control features are buried within Flare, and Matthew pointed out a number of capabilities in Flare that could be easily missed.

Don’t Take That Tone With Me!

Actually, this was my second presentation at the conference. We looked at examples of companies that have adopted a friendlier, conversational tone, including exploring how Microsoft®’s “No More Robot Speak” program has been implemented in the online Help for its Office and Windows products. I explained the reasons for this change, the techniques used, and the implications of this on the technical writing and localization teams. The audience was very engaged, and I found there was a lot of interest in this subject.

Extending HTML5 Targets with jQuery

Scott DeLoach got a lot of oohs and aahs from the audience, as he demonstrated a number of jQuery plugins that can extend the functionality of HTML5 pages. jQuery is a fast, small, and feature-rich JavaScript library that makes it much simpler to include JavaScript code into web pages. He demonstrated three plugins of his own (dropDownTogglerTextSwap, showHideConditions and SearchAutocomplete), plus some developed by the wider web community. These included plugins for:

  • Adding drop captions to images
  • Generating PDFs on the fly
  • Adding annotations to a web page
  • Sticking the top menu to the top of the browser window while scrolling past it, so it is always kept in view
  • Making sure new content was highlighted to users, whenever they visited a page. This plugin tracked a user’s actions without requiring login, authentication or any server-side processing. This would be useful where you needed to make users were aware of any changes to policies and procedures since they last visited a page.
  • Formatting code samples

Madbuild Bliss: A Case Study in MadCap Flare Build Automation

Andrei Essaoulov provided a review of MadCap Flare’s automation capabilities. These included creating batches for publishing, scheduling automatic publishing, setting up publishing destinations, and the Madbuild command line utility. Madbuild is a utility that many users don’t seem to know. It means you can publish content automatically – you don’t need to have Flare running.

Andrei went into more detail about the Jenkins builds and PowerShell scripts kCura uses to publish automatically. Automating the documentation build and integrating it with the teams processes enabled them to deliver up-to-date content more efficiently and improve the overall quality of documentation content.

Summary

The presentations highlighted how a little knowledge of JavaScript and CSS can mean you can extend the functionality of Flare’s HTML5 content in a lot of interesting ways. Not only can you now create powerful HTML5 pages, you can also use Flare to generate PDF, slide, ebook and Word variations of the same content as well. Add in the localization capabilities of MadCap Lingo, MadCap Contributor, plus the upcoming MadCap Central, and you have a powerful set of tools for publishing content.

4 Comments

techwriterkai

Thanks, Ellis, for your comprehensive write-up. I was sorry to miss MadWorld this year, but thanks to your posts I could catch up with the essential developments.

Mary Beth Pozdol

Enjoyed your summaries – I attended different workshops, so it is very helpful to hear your summary of what was covered in these. Thank you!

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