Tech Write Tips

August 24, 2006

Flare 6: Customise Your Environment

Filed under: Madcap Flare,Technology,Tip — AndyR @ 12:39 pm

As mentioned previously , now that many of us have been using Flare for some time, we have spent considerable time diggin around and ticking out our Flare workspace to best fit our working practice.

I thought it might be useful to share these layouts with each other, and give an overview of what you can achieve. To that end, the following layouts have prooved popular:

flarecompact.gifCompact: Uses the minimal space to provide the maximum information about the help. You can see the Content, TOC and edit two topoics symaltaneously.

flaremulti1.gifMulti-tasker: Provides a good varied coverage of information. The full height Content and TOC enable you to view a larger portion of these treeviews. It also retains access to the Start Page to enable quick access to your projects.

flareclean1.gifMinimalist: This provides the minimum of clutter in the interface, just the Content and one Topic. If you know your hotkeys well this can be further minimalised by turning off unwanted toolbars.

flaresandwich1.gifSandwich: This provides the topic in the middle, sandwiched between the Content and TOC panes. This enables a quite view of all key information, whilst keeping the focus on the content being edited.

flaretwomonitors.gifDual Monitor: This enables you to have one topic on the right monitor providing additional space on the original screen. 

flaremultiproject.gifMultiple Progects: This enables you to quickly switch between different projects via the open project pane that has been “floated” off to the right. In my setup I combine this with a dual screen system to good affect.

Let me know how you have yours layed out and I’ll add it to the list.

Advertisements

August 18, 2006

Best Practice: Screen Estate

Filed under: Best Practice,Tip — AndyR @ 12:55 pm

As mentioned in the Jenson Blog recently, screen real-estate is at an all time premium. When you see how much time and effort is spent ensuring software doesn’t needlessly waste screen real-estate, it makes you realise the responsibility we have as authors to use the help window wisely.

Alot of benefit can be gained by considering ways in which we can make best use of the space.

  • Provide navigation within each topic so the users doesn’t have to open the TOC to move around the help.
    • Breadcrumb trail
    • Cross Topic links
    • See Also links
  • Open the HTMLHelp with TOC minimised
  • Desgin topics to fit in smaller portion of screen.
    • Screen shots width is critical
    • Tables used for content or layout should fit width
  • Avoid scroll bars appearing by fitting content to one window
    • Turn off test on the HTMLHelp toolbar buttons
    • Provide help topic in a pane contained in the application.
    • Turn off keep help on top.

August 16, 2006

Flare 5: Adding Advanced HTMLHelp Features

Filed under: HTMLHelp,Madcap Flare,Tip,Tool — AndyR @ 12:38 pm

htmlhelpworkshop1.gifIn this post, we return to some more nuts and bolts issues regarding Flare and HTMLHelp.

Flare current provides the majority of HTMLHelp settings, and does this in a much more flexible way that HTMLHelp workshop does. Particularly useful are the WYSIWYG help window size and potitioning.

However, there are some advanced HTMLHelp settings (such as advanced help, or remembering the users last help settings) that are not currently available. Until these make it into the software you can still access these features by employing HTMLHelp workshop (which can be downloaded free from microsoft).

  1. Once you have finalised your help project.
  2. Generate the HTMLHELP output.
    Open the PROJECT\Output\USER\Temporary\Microsoft HTML Help\Content\_Temp.hhp in HTMLHelp Workshop.
  3. Click the Add/Modify Window Definitions button.
  4. Use the Window types dialog to make your advanced settings.
    1. The Navigation tab enables you to specify the Advanced search.
    2. The Positoin tab enables you to specify to save the users window position for help.
  5. Click OK to save the changes.
  6. Generate the help in HTMLHelp Workshop.
  7. You can then access your enhanced HTMLHelp .chm in the PROJECT\Output\USER\Temporary\Microsoft HTML Help\Content folder.

August 3, 2006

Best Pratice: Flare 4 – High Definition PDF Part 3

Filed under: Madcap Flare,Technology,Tool — AndyR @ 12:47 pm

Having sketched out an approach that enables you to produce a high qualifty fully featured PDF document from your Flare content, we will now look at some of the technical hurdles to establishing this technique.

XSL Issues : Access each of the files in the Flare TOC

You need to pass you flare toc into the XSL then use that to call each XHTML file referenced in the Flare TOC to then output the required content.

    <xsl:for-each select=”TocEntry”>
      <xsl:for-each select=”document(@Link)//BODY”>
       <fo:block color=”#2A2A2A” font-size=”10pt” font-weight=”normal” space-before=”6pt”>
        <xsl:apply-templates/>
       </fo:block>
      </xsl:for-each>

XHTML Issues: Convert content from XHTML to XML FO

Your template needs to handle each of the XHTML tags you are using in your topics and convert them to an XML FO syntax. For example <P> tags can be converted as follows: 

<xsl:template match=”p|P”>
  <fo:block keep-with-next=”always” text-align=”justify” color=”#2A2A2A” font-size=”10pt” font-weight=”normal” space-before=”6pt”>
   <xsl:apply-templates/>
  </fo:block>
 </xsl:template>

XSL Issue: Identify the location of Images

Your XSL template needs to take the relative SRC attribute for <IMG> tags and work out the actual location of the image file implied by this value. A template can be constructed in XSL to calculate the location.

XSL Issue: Cross Referencing from Anchor tags

Your XSL template needs to calculate the abolosute location referred to by each <A> tag. This can be achieved by using the current location in the TOC Flare that the XSL is passing, and the HREF attribute of the <A> to construct the absolute position.

This position can then be used as a unique id for XML FO cross reference (where $current is the calculated value of this absolute reference):

<fo:inline margin-left=”-10mm”>
  <fo:basic-link margin-left=”-20mm” text-decoration=”underline” internal-destination=”{translate($current,’/\.:-_’,”)}”>
      <xsl:apply-templates>
      <xsl:with-param name=”l” select=”$l”/></xsl:apply-templates> 
  </fo:basic-link>
</fo:inline>
<fo:inline text-decoration=”none” space-end=”-2.5mm” font-size=”7pt”>
      (see page <fo:page-number-citation text-align=”right” ref-id=”{translate($current,’ /\.:-_’,”)}”/>)
</fo:inline> 

We will be adding to this and expanding on examples as the discussion develops in the comments.

Blog at WordPress.com.