Sunday, July 20, 2008

A Word and Framemaker File Import Peculiarity in MadCap Flare

If you've ever imported Word or Frame files into Flare, you may have tripped over a peculiarity in Flare's Word Import Editor and Frame Import Editor. It has to do with how two features in these editors can conflict and produce often totally unpredictable results.

The first feature is the New Topic Styles tab. This feature scans the file to import and lists all head styles in that file. You can then tell Flare to split the file by splitting on specific head styles. For example, if Flare finds head 1, 2, and 3 in the incoming file and you specify head 1 and 2 on which to split, Flare creates a new topic every time it finds text in head 1 or 2 style. Text in head 3 style remains a part of the head 2-level-based topic that contains it. So far, so good.

The second feature is the Options tab. This feature scans the file to import, counts the number of characters in it, then lets you split the file at character X. The default length is 10,000 characters, with a default of 1,000 in the split document. For example, if a file contains 10,001 characters, Flare will not split this document because it exceeds the minimum length to be split (10,000 characters) but does not meet the minimum length required for the file to be split out (1,000 characters). If the a file contains 11,001 characters, then it meets both minimums (10,000 characters overall plus 1,000 characters for the split). The result is two topics, one of 10,000 characters and one of 1,001 characters.

The result is actually a bit more complex since there's a risk of the split occurring in the middle of a paragraph. So Flare actually splits the file at the whole paragraph nearest the split point. As you might imagine, it's hard to predict where the file will be split. Ignoring this issue, however, the split-on-number-of-characters feature is pretty straightforward. So what's the problem that I mentioned at the beginning?

The problem is that this split-on-number-of-characters feature is turned on by default. If you look at the Options tab on the Word or Frame Import Editor, you'll see that the two "Add..." options, the "Split..." option, and the "Avoid Creating..." option are all selected. The result is that if you also use the Heading style options on the New Topic Styles tab to split incoming files, you have absolutely no idea how Flare will create the new topics.

So, if you want to use the Heading style options on the New Topic Styles tab to split incoming files, go to the Options tab first and deselect the two "Add..." options, the "Split..." option, and the "Avoid Creating..." option. Then you should be fine.

No comments: