Tech Write Tips

October 27, 2006

Flare 8 – XML Editor

Filed under: Madcap Flare,Navigation,Technology,Tip — AndyR @ 12:20 pm

Now that I’m getting more at home with Flare’s XML editor, and things are holding together better, and performing a lot faster, I thought it would be useful to give a run down of some the of intricacies.

The following are useful in the non-tag view:

Red control box: Appears when you highlight a section of text. Hover to expand, then left click to access the quick copy and paste menu.

xmledit_selected.gif

Yellow control box: Appears at the start of a tag section. Hover to expand, then left click to access the advanced tag editing menu.

xmledit_tag.gif

Tag Start: Cursor signifies the start of a xhtml tag.

xmledit_cursorstart.gif

Tag Middle: Cursor signifies you are within an xhtml tag and can edit the contents.

xmledit_cursormid.gif

Tag End: Cursor signifies the end of a xhtml tag.

xmledit_cursorend.gif 

Tag Between: Cursor signifies you are between tags. Type to enter text into the parent tag.

xmledit_cursorbetween.gif 

Tag Before – Level 1: Cursor size signifies you are in the first of a series of nested tags.

xmledit_cursorbefore1.gif

Tag Before – Level 2: Cursor size signifies you are in the second of a series of nested tags.

xmledit_cursorbefore2.gif 

Tag Before – Level 3: Cursor size signifies you are in the third of a series of nested tags.

xmledit_cursorbefore3.gif

There we have it. Hopefully these details will de-mysitfy this great little editor. I just need to talk mouse pointers now.

Advertisements

October 16, 2006

Flare 7: File List

Filed under: Information Types,Madcap Flare,Technology,Tip,Tool — AndyR @ 12:09 pm

filelist.gifFlare 2.0 further substantiates the breeding we have come to expect from the Madcap stable. This version introduces new features and beefs up performance. This is the first of a few posts that will focus on different features of Flare 2.0.

Today we address the new File List pane, available by selecting View | File List from the menu. As with all components of the Flare interface, this can be positioned to provide easy access as is appropriate to your working style.

The File List pane enables you to view all the files in your project in one list. This list can then be ordered and filtered as required. at first this doesn’t seem all that significant, but when combined with other components of Flare’s flexible interface it enables a number of productivity enhancements.

  • Image Pallet: By filtering the list to include images (*.gif; *.jpg) you can use the list as a source of images for your topics. Rather than having to browse to the required image you can simple drag-and-drop the image from the File List to the topic. Ensure you drag the image icon rather the the text.
  • Edited Files Pallet: By filtering the list to include html files (*.htm; *.html) and ordering by Date Modified you can use this as an unlimited recently list list. This complements the File | Recent Files menu, as it provides a longer list and potentially quicker access to the files.
  • StyleSheet Management: By filtering the list to include html files (*.htm;*.html) you can view the style sheet in use by each topic. Order the list by Style sheet to group the different style sheets together. This enables you to weed out old style sheets and ensure all topics are on the latest version of your style control.
  • Condition Management: By multi-selecting a collection (hold CTRL) or range (hold SHIFT) of topics, right-clicking and selecting Properties from the pop-up menu, you can specify Basic, Topic, Conditional and Language properties on multiple topics. This is particularly useful when managing conditional topics. You can also use the list, ordered by conditions, to further assist the management of conditional topics.
  • Topic Type Editing: By filtering the list by a particular file name you can edit a certain type of topics. (Assuming you have consistently named your topic files) This enables you to rename and edit these topics to ensure they are consistent. For example, filter by ‘*about.*’ to work with all the about topics.

All-in-all the File List pane provides some excellent additional ways of working. Once it includes the ability to view which topics are in the TOC and Index, and filter by folders it will become a key way of working with Flare 2.0.

October 6, 2006

What is: XAML (authoring’s best kept secret)

Filed under: Future-proofing,Technology,Tip,Vista,What is — AndyR @ 12:02 pm

microsoft-expression.gifXAML is an XML file that defines user interfaces. It not only defines the frames, buttons, fields but also introduces any other visual effect that the interface may require. In a similar way to Flash interfaces, XAML provides a rich user experience with a variety of graphical effects.

XAML, a markup language to declaratively represent user interface for Windows applications, improving the richness of the tools with which developers and designers can compose and repurpose UI.

For example, you could define a button as follows:
<Button>
  <Button.Background>
    <SolidColorBrush Color=”Blue”/>
  </Button.Background>
  <Button.Foreground>
    <SolidColorBrush Color=”Red”/>
  </Button.Foreground>
  This is a button
</Button>

So what! How does this help the technical author? Here we find one of the best kept secrets of this new technology. Whilst its benefits for programmers and designers is often highlighted:

“One great benefit of XAML is that it helps to separate design and development, which actually helps to improve collaboration and efficiency between designers and software developers.”

What is less publicised is how this opens up the development process to other players, such as the technical author. Not only does this help close the great divide between authors and devlopers, it also starts to provide a route to achieving the sort of user guidance offered by Assistance Platform.

Firstly, it becomes a possibility for the technical author to become the owner of all the text in the appication. The user interface text in the XAML files can easily be updated with little programming knowledge.

Sceondly, it also become possible to generate templates for dialog help, as the XAML can be transformed with an XSL to produce a XHTML page that lists all the fields and includes notes as the starting point of the help project.

Thirdly, the XAML itself can also be checked from a consistency perspective. An XSL file can run through the file checking it aganist the companies interface standards. Again this helps the technical author flag up any issues with the user interface.

We find that this helps, authors move towards providing more wide spread User Assistance than simple help files. Aspects of Vista, such as super tooltips, require much more integration between the help content and the application. XAML provides a means for us, technical authors, to play our part to achieve this.

Blog at WordPress.com.