New toys coming

The awesome rate of innovation continues over at MadCap Software. Not resting on the initial success of Flare, the team has revealed yet another product, called Blaze.

Just like Flare is a 21st century replacement for the behemoth RoboHelp, (you have made the switch, haven’t you?), Blaze is intended to replace FrameMaker. FrameMaker users who have been patient and loyal for the past decade are finally about to have another choice.

When MadCap revealed Mimic, (a software simulation and e-learning development tool), Adobe suddenly got very interested in reminding people that the forgotten 2.0 version of Captivate was on its way. I expect the same will happen with FrameMaker.

However, the software marvel that is Flare has set a high bar. If Blaze achieves that same level - and more importantly, if it converts FrameMaker projects with the same ease that Flare converts old RoboHelp files - then Adobe will have a hard time keeping FrameMaker alive.

It seems clear that MadCap is targeting the entire workflow of the technical communication professional:

  • Flare - native XML-based online documentation
  • Mimic - software demonstrations and simulations
  • Capture - screen captures
  • Blaze - comprehensive printed documentation

The most exciting part is the potential integration these tools might have. Imagine having a Blaze project and a Flare project work seamlessly together, pulling content from the same XML source files. Yes, I know you can do that now, but not with products that were (potentially) designed from scratch to play well together.

6 July 2006
I have received some good feedback on this article, and have continued the discussion in this post.

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10 Responses to “New toys coming”

  • Thanks for the interesting post. As a user and MVP on flare I agree that these arte indeed exciting times for the industry.

    With this in mind I am collecting together the tips and articles that can help us writers and authors put the pieces together (see web link).

  • Have you looked at MadCap’s user forum letely? Flare is one big waste of $$$. Madcap’s own DotNet help failed before Flare V1.0 came out.

  • “John” - could you give me the link to the forum post(s) that say this? I can’t seem to find it on the forums.

    I can’t speak for everyone… but Flare hasn’t been a waste of $$ for me or my project team. The learning curve is quite steep, but we’re all getting along just fine with Flare.

  • Monkey:

    As someone with very limited experience with RoboHelp, I’m wondering: Why is Flare so much better than RoboHelp? Whatever could justify the expense of purchasing Flare and spending the time to convert all of your own files over to Flare?

  • Brad,

    RH was killed by Macromedia in 2004-2005 (even though they continue to sell & ship it).

    The problem was (is) that Internet Explorer continues to evolve, especially when it comes to security patches/updates. However, RH is not evolving to “keep up” with the browser changes. So, some WebHelp systems started to break down and have problems (mostly Flash Help, ActiveX, java, etc.).

    It is not likely that any RH WebHelp system (developed with X5 or earlier) will work on IE 7, when it becomes the standard by early next year.

    However, now that Adobe owns Macromedia, they’ve announced plans to re-start RH development. There is some controversy over whether Adobe is serious about this. I discussed the issue a bit in this post.

    BTW: if you didn’t already know, Flare is made by the folks that made RH. After Macromedia killed RH, the fired developers formed their own company and created Flare.

  • The rumor that RoboHelp is dead may be good fodder for the tech comm gossip pages, but lacks any basis in reality. I predict you’ll soon see several new announcements from Adobe about the future of FrameMaker and RoboHelp. Look for new versions, support for DITA and for S1000D. And, for much tighter integration between their other products — as well as other goodies.

    In a recent blog post, “A Technical Writing Suite From Adobe?”, I explore some additional possibilities.

    I certainly don’t know whether moving to MadCap Flare is a bad or a good thing for any organization, but tossing any tool out the door without doing an analysis of the actual total cost of such a move, is foolish.

    Scott Abel
    The Content Wrangler

  • Scott,

    I totally agree with you that “tossing a tool out the door” would be foolish. In fact, even though we have migrated over to Flare for all of our new work, my project team still has RH installed for legacy versions (that are not worth the time or resources to convert).

    So, currently, we’re using both. And frankly, continuing to evaluate both.

    Without question, Flare is the more forward-looking tool. Comparing Flare to RH is like comparing Photoshop CS to Photoshop Elements.

    However, as I wrote, the learning curve for Flare is quite steep, and should be the major concern (other than $$) for anyone thinking about migrating.

    As for the “rumor” that RH is dead lacking any basis in reality, I urge you to read my post at:

    If you look at the big picture, from press releases, to the pros on the HATT list, to the Adobe forums, conference talks, to Macromedia’s firing of everyone associated with RH and scrapping the code-in-progress, etc., you’ll see that this is a bit more than “rumors on tech comm gossip pages.”

    Truth-be-told, Macromedia tried to kill RH - that is fact. Now that Adobe is running the show, they are (wisely) considering their options in re-starting it. It really is that simple. Your ‘predictions’ about Adobe’s renewed interest in RH and Frame are actually stated and published goals from the company, so their interest is fact, and beyond gossip or speculation.

    However, it’s also clear that they haven’t yet figured out themselves what they are going to do. E.g., why continue RH while continuing to advocate the Frame/Quadralay route to online docs… doesn’t that sound odd?

    As a huge Adobe fan, I would be very excited to see a “Tech Writing Bundle.” Hopefully, it would have Photoshop, InDesign, FrameMaker (or incorporate Frame functionality into InDesign - that would be even better), Acrobat, DreamWeaver, and maybe Flash or FlashPaper.

  • “why continue RH while continuing to advocate the Frame/Quadralay route to online docs…”

    Maybe because changes take time?

  • Discussions like these shouldn’t leave out Mac OS X with its growing market share, particularly in the sciences. Back during the slump, Adobe dropped Mac FrameMaker rather than port it to OS X. As far as I know, MadCap hasn’t said that they’re bringing out an OS X version of Blaze.

    Both companies should keep in mind how two of the most market dominating applications of the 1980s were reduced to impotence. Twenty years ago WordPerfect and Lotus 123 ruled their particular markets. But, thanks in part to the fact the Bill Gates personally liked the new Macs, Microsoft was the first to bring out a word processor (Word) and an spreadsheet (Excel) for Macs. With no competition from WordPerfect and Lotus, they quickly took over the Mac market and from there Microsoft was able to refine their products and take over the Windows market too.

    If anything, that principle is even more true today. Competing on PCs, Flare and Blaze have to contend with all the Windows users for whom RH and FrameMaker are “good enough” and the conversion hassles and steep learning curve for the new products not worth the effort. Not so in the Mac world or with Mac users in a mostly Windows environment. Being first to market on OS X gives two serious advantages. It wins the support of Mac lovers in the corporate world, who will lobby for change, and it lets an application refine itself on Macs to the point where Windows users start to say, “I’ve got to have something like that.”

    I know. I converted from a PC to the Mac after working on a project for Microsoft that had me working with Word on the Mac.

  • I second the Mac comments.

    RH uses version control as one of its marketing bullets. I can’t seem to find any mention of version control, content management, etc. in the MadCap literature or Flare trial download.

    Any comments on this?

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