Update – March 17 2014 – The article I wrote for ISTC’s Communicator journal is now reproduced in this article on my blog.
I’ve been an early tester of Flare V10, so I’ve had my hands on it for the last couple of months, and I’m thrilled to be able to talk publicly about some of the amazing features in Flare V10. I have a forthcoming article in a European tech comm journal, and I don’t want to give away what is in that article, but today I want to take a minute to share with you some of my favorite V10 features.
First and foremost, Flare V10 has added responsive layout to the HTML5 target. This means that with minimal work on your part, your content can adapt to the size of the screen that is displaying the content. The Flare V10 HTML5 target includes media sections for different screen sizes, so when a tablet user views your website, they get a customized view for tablets, and when a smart phone user views your website, they get a further customized view for small screens. So, you don’t have to generate specific output for mobile outputs, which is a beautiful concept. You only have to produce one output, instead of three (computer, tablet, phone).
(Here is a hint: if you just upgraded to Flare 10 and want to see the responsiveness of HTML5’s updated output, there is a setting in the HTML5 target that you need to enable to build responsive output. In the Project Organizer, open the Skins folder, and open an HTML5 skin. On the Setup tab, there is a “Responsive Output” section. Check the box to enable responsive output. If desired, change the dimensions when responsive output is triggered. (This means any viewport/device with a resolution BELOW what you set will see the “responsive” version of the webhelp, and any viewport/device with a resolution ABOVE what you set will see the standard HTML5 desktop view.)
Flare V10 includes a new skin editor that gives you a lot of control over how your output will look at different sizes, with built-in live preview of the changes you’re making in the style editor. If you’ve used the Skin editor in earlier versions of Flare, you were probably like me: I would make a small change, then click the “Preview” button to launch the skin in a browser so I could see what it looked like. Thankfully those days are gone, at least for HTML5 users. You can now preview your skin changes live in the editor, which will make editing skins much faster and more convenient.
I’m quite excited as well about the new templates that are included in Flare V10. There are a wide variety of templates to choose from, including many non-traditional templates like multi-page spreads for pamphlets and such. I actually haven’t tested these out yet, but they look very cool.
This release of Flare also includes functionality to support more OTF fonts in various output types. This is great news, and will dramatically improve your ability to make your technical publications meet the Marketing Department’s design guidelines. I know clients who will begin using this feature, literally, this week.
Another feature I’m excited about is a little button in the XML editor that allows you to filter the XML editor window based on conditions. If you work with a lot of conditions, this feature is absolutely amazing. In one of my projects, I was actually creating content in snippets and applying conditions in the snippets, then importing those snippets into topics (with snippet conditions applied)—just so I could see what the topic looked like with only certain conditions applied. Now I can work in the topics themselves with and see just the content that will be included when I switch conditions. This filter is absolutely amazing, and for those of us who use conditions extensively, this is reason enough to upgrade to Flare 10.
There are a slew of other features to love in Flare 10, but this is a version I’d upgrade to, even if I had to pay for it myself. It’s a dramatic improvement in what was already an excellent product. When my article in the UK journal is published later this month, I’ll include a link at the bottom of this post.
So, what is your favorite feature in Flare 10? Let’s discuss in the comments below.