Users of MadCap Flare were greeted in their e-mail inboxes today with the announcement of an update to Flare V4.2. If you missed it, it might be because it was buried in a message about the new Feedback Server 2 that is now available. To get all the benefits from Feedback Server 2, you have to upgrade to Flare 4.2. That said, I’m not a Feedback user, so I don’t have a lot to comment about on that front. Instead, I’ll focus on some major improvements in Flare 4.2 that make this upgrade a “must.” The major enhancements that I’ve found so far include:
- Dramatically faster build time for PDF targets
- Smaller file sizes for PDF targets
- Auto Save
Dramatically faster build time for PDF targets
The first thing I noticed when I built a PDF target using Flare 4.2 was how fast it was. I’ve commented in the past about how important hardware is in getting the best build time from a Flare project, but I’ve become accustomed to the build time for my hardware set. Last week in Flare 4.1 I build three PDF targets, then I re-built them in 4.2. Here is a break down:
|Book||Pgs||4.1 Build Time||4.2 Build Time|
|Release Notes||17||3 min||<15 sec|
|Admin Guide||68||7 min||<60 sec|
|User Guide||174||12 min||<3 min|
So, a group of targets that were taking me a total time of more than 20 minutes to build now build in less than 5 minutes. That is a significant improvement.
Smaller file sizes for PDF targets
The next thing I noticed when I built a PDF target was how the file sizes are dramatically smaller now. This is another place that 4.2 shows huge strides. Check out these file size comparisons between 4.1 outputs and 4.2 outputs from my current project:
|Book||Pgs||4.1 File Size||4.2 File Size|
|Release Notes||17||14 MB||1.0 MB|
|Admin Guide||68||17 MB||2.1 MB|
|User Guide||174||23 MB||4.76 MB|
There are going to be a lot of happy customers when they see this! My three PDFs used to exceed 50 MB in size (added to our project’s already large download file). Now these same files only take up less than 10 MB in size. Wow.
MadCap has finally introduced a feature that is sure to please long time Flare users: Auto Save. You can set Auto Save in the Tools | Options setting. When enabled, by default, Flare will auto save your topics every 10 minutes. I set mine to five. Back when I was using Flare 3, this would have been huge, huge, huge, because I had serious stability problems with Flare (due to some problems with my computer, it crashed at least once per day). I now have a different system, and combined with my Flare 4 upgrade, I’ve had a serious improvement in application stability. I don’t think Flare crashed even once on me during all of January.
Auto Save is a fantastic improvement, but I’m even more thrilled with the overall stability of Flare, which seems to be much better in the V4 line than it was in the V3 line. But if you’re stuck with some kind of problem like I had on my old machine where some conflict causes Flare to be unstable for you, then you’ll really get bang for your buck for this feature. (Especially since it is a free upgrade for all Flare V4 users.)
I am thrilled with this release of Flare. The improvements for my projects are significant, and I’m not even a Feedback customer. If you are a Flare 4 user, upgrade today. If you aren’t a Flare 4 user, what are you waiting for? Join us in the 21st century. You’ll be glad you did!
Disclaimer: If you aren’t aware, I’m a Flare Certified Trainer, and have been certified MAD (MadCap Advanced Developer). I’m also a MadCap MVP (volunteer administrator) in the MadCap forums. I’m an avid Flare user and advocate, but not a MadCap employee.