Tuesday, June 28, 2022

A Capsule Review of Flare 2022

MadCap’s new releases of Flare seem to fall into two categories, new features like QR codes and HTML5 output or major expansions of existing features. Flare 2022 falls into the latter category in three main areas.

Meta tags – Meta tags are elements that identify a file to help with retrieval or processing. For example, “title” is a meta tag – e.g., “find files whose title contains the word ‘barbecue’”. Flare has long supported meta tags, albeit on a simple level through the Description field on the Topic Properties tab. But 2022 adds a new Meta Tags tab and the ability to better add and control meta tags for SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and for Flare-specific tasks like managing micro content. And as powerful as the new meta tags feature is, it also seems to be a framework for future meta tag feature enhancements.

Micro content – 2022 has some major changes in the micro content feature. These include:

       “Containers” to let you categorize your micro content.

         The ability to tie your micro content to meta tags in order to more finely control what micro content displays under what conditions.

         More control over the “featured snippet” that displays in the results box when users run a search.

         The ability to pull micro content from all the micro content in a project or from selected groups via the new Knowledge Panel feature.

         And more.

Skins – MadCap has modified the Skin editor to change its look and behavior and add new features like proxies for maximum customization. There’s so much going on here that my advice is to read the description in the What’s New section of the help.

What I’ve written above is obviously totally superficial. That said, several broad observations:

·         Mechanically, the new features are easy to use once you know where they are in the interface. MadCap has generally been good with ease-of-use over the years and 2022 is no exception.

·         Conceptually, Flare continues to get increasingly powerful. I’d describe 2022 as equivalent to the original Flare times two, or more, since the micro content is equivalent to creating an entire content stream of its own that can be tied to the traditional topics.

As with any power features, you don’t have to use these new features. I suspect that many Flare users won’t. They’re overkill for most traditional projects. But if you need to support advanced searching or content segmentation, definitely look at and try out the new features.

·         Managerially (and I know I’m starting to sound like a broken record), winging it on your projects is increasingly infeasible. It’s always been important to plan and document your projects to keep them under control; it’s now absolutely crucial if you use any of these new features. (Blatant sales pitch – see my two-part webinar entitled “Why Documenting Your Project is Crucial to Staying Organized” in the list of recorded webinars at https://www.madcapsoftware.com/resources/recorded-webinars.aspx.)

All in all, an impressive release.