In a previous article, I described how MadCap Contributor can be used as a way of gathering comments, annotations and corrections from reviewers. The integration of MadCap Central with Flare 2018 now provides an alternative review workflow that avoids some of the issues with Contributor, and is especially suited to reviews by subject matter experts (SMEs).
Potential problems with Contributor
The key stumbling block with Contributor has been the fact that it needs to be installed on the desktop of each reviewer. This can be an issue, particularly in large organisations where machines are locked down and IT staff need to be involved in installations and upgrades. Another potential problem is that reviewers are often unwilling to learn new tools (however simple) and are not skilled in maintaining the clean mark-up of content by properly applying paragraph and character styles as they edit.
Possible solution: MadCap Central
MadCap Central enables SMEs to review topics within their normal web browser using a lightweight editor provided by MadCap Central. The topics are located in the cloud, and may be edited simultaneously by multiple reviewers with each seeing each others’ edits and annotations in real time, which is similar to the experience of collaborating on Google Docs.
Here is a summary of the advantages and disadvantages of MadCap Central compared to Contributor:
- No local installation is required
- Editing within standard browser (therefore not seen as new tool)
- Lightweight editor with its basic formatting controls is easy to use
- Concurrent editing is possible.
- Investment in MadCap Central is required (and the cost is probably not justified for the review capabilities alone)
- Basic formatting of content may need to be converted to styles after import into Flare
- Reviewers aren’t prevented from editing locked content
- Reviewers can’t see the topics in the context of the full TOC.
The review cycle between Flare and MadCap Central is as follows:
- A MadCap Central Administrator sets up each reviewer with a special SME account. These restricted accounts allow users only to review content: they can’t use any of the other features of MadCap Central.
The Flare author sends topics for review from Flare to MadCap Central...
...and selects the required SMEs for the review.
Reviewers log in to MadCap Central and see the list of topics for review.
Reviewers annotate and edit each of the topics.
When reviewers have finished editing each topic, they submit the changed topic back to the Flare author.
When a topic has been submitted by all reviewers, the Flare author closes the review of that topic.
The Flare author reviews the combined changes and annotations from all of the reviewers, and accepts or rejects each change.
- The Flare author imports the topic back into the project, replacing the original topic sent for review.
If you are already using MadCap Central (for source control, project management and publishing), using it for SME reviews is a compelling option with many advantages over Contributor. If cloud-based source control and publishing is not an option for your organisation, then you should continue to use either Contributor or annotation of PDF output for review comments and feedback.
Impact of Coronavirus disease (COVID-19)
Our thoughts are with our peers within the global technical communication community whose lives have been affected by the current pandemic.
We continue to provide training and consulting on Flare, Help+Manual, and a range of user assistance technologies via the Web. As a result of current Europe-wide travel restrictions and official guidance on social distancing, we are unable to offer face-to-face training or consulting until further notice.
During these difficult times and while UK and other European government restrictions remain in place, we are offering the following:
- A free question and answer service by email, available to all, on any of these topics:
- Cascading Style Sheets (CSS)
- All MadCap Software products (including Flare, Central, and Lingo)
- EC Software's Help+Manual
(this service is normally only available to past students of UA Europe training courses)
- Reduced hourly rates for Web-based consulting and training
Please contact us for further information on these services.