Every time I provide MadCap Flare training, there are a couple of books I recommend for all my students. Probably the most important one is the book “Steps Five Steps to MadCap Flare” by Lorraine Kupka. In my opinion, this book is essential reading for anybody who is new to Flare and wants a great head start. I think that even veteran Flare users can use it as a reference to help them with some of those project-level tasks that you may not entirely remember between product releases. The information in the book is well thought out, well organized, and helps you through the entire publication process from project inception to deliverable distribution.
I was given an advance copy of the book’s first edition, and at the time I gave the following review:
“Five Steps to MadCap Flare is a must-have for any serious Flare user. If you’re just starting out, Five Steps will give you the confidence and direction you need to keep going. Even expert users will find useful tips and tricks in these pages. Whether used as a reference or training book, Five Steps has essential information you need to make using Flare easier.”
The two editions released since I wrote that review have only served to make the book even more valuable to me as a trainer and a Flare user. Before Five Steps was initially released, I had considered writing a book on Flare, because I felt like there weren’t any great Flare reference books available. Then I read Five Steps and I realized that Lorraine (and Joy Underhill, who helped with the first two editions of the book) had written the book I wanted to write. It filled the niche perfectly.
In Five Steps you’ll get a step-by-step approach to working in Flare. Thus, if you are a novice Flare user, you can start at the beginning and work through the logical procedure to get a project from inception to completion. Early chapters introduce you to Flare and it’s basic concepts like targets, topics, and topic-based authoring. Then the book takes you through the following five steps:
- Get Started
- Learn the XML Editor
- Develop Content
- Create Navigational Aids
- Create Output
Here are some highlights from the different steps:
- Step one includes a comprehensive roadmap to help you understand the scope of what is necessary to create a project. The roadmap helps you understand where you are getting your content from, how you need to manipulate it, and what you need to do to publish it.
- Step two gives a lot of detailed information about how the XML editor in Flare works, and what you need to know about interacting with it, grouped into nine tasks.
- Step three goes beyond just the obvious parts of creating content (type in the xml editor; insert pictures) and include tips on using the ribbon buttons to get the most flexibility out of lists and tables. It shows you how to format your content so your output looks professional, and gives a lot of information about working with Flare styles (which are controlled by CSS style sheets).
- Step four helps you create TOCs that present your content in a specific order for a particular audience, how to work with links and bookmarks, and how to work with online and printed indexes.
- Step five walks you through the process of creating print and online outputs, from start to finish.
The appendices are also full of tons of useful information including planning worksheets for working in your project, help on importing existing content into Flare, information on context-sensitive help, using Flare’s reporting options, help on single-sourcing content, working with DITA, and even help for ePub output — that’s 9 appendices spanning almost 150 pages!
If you haven’t already purchased Five Steps to MadCap Flare, I recommend it. It is a book I keep on my desk for reference, because it is the most comprehensive and up-to-date MadCap Flare guide around. I highly recommend it.
“Five Steps to MadCap Flare” is published by Fiddlehead Publications, a division of NorthCoast Writers Inc. For ordering information, please visit http://www.northcoastwriters.com/fiddleheadpubs/. Fiddlehead Publications provided the blog author with a complimentary electronic copy of “Five Steps to MadCap Flare”, third edition, for the purposes of this review.