In this article, I’m writing about seven of my favourite tips that might help you to save time and feel more in control as you work on your Flare projects. Feel free to contact me with your own top tips, and I will be happy to include them in future articles.
Tip 1: Selecting multiple topics
Sometimes it is useful to select multiple topics in order to perform a batch operation. As examples, you might want to move several images into a new folder or assign a File Tag to all the topics within a particular folder. As you probably know, neither the Content Explorer nor the Project Organizer allows you to select multiple items in their default view (which shows folders and files within a single pane). However, if you click the Show Files button (located in the Content Explorer toolbar, second from the left) the window splits into two panes, like the layout of the File Explorer in Windows. You can now select multiple items in the right-hand pane by using the Ctrl key to select multiple individual files or the Shift key to select a continuous range of files.
Having selected the files, you can then either drag them to a different folder in the left-hand pane, or use the Properties button (F4) to display and change the properties for the group of items.
You can also select multiple items using the File List. However, note that you can’t use the File List to drag a selection of topics to a different folder.
Tip 2: Locating topics
I always feel in more control if I know where the topics I am editing are located, both in terms of their physical folder within the Content Explorer, and their position within the TOCs in my project. The physical location is not usually an issue because I typically open a topic for editing from the Content Explorer itself, so it is already highlighted there. But what if I have opened a topic from the Quick Launch bar (covered in Tip 3) or from the Link Viewer? In those cases, I can’t see that topic highlighted in the Content Explorer and am, therefore, less aware of its context within the project. The solution is to use the Locate in Explorer icon, which is on the Project ribbon in the Locate section.
Here is also where you will find the Locate in TOC icon, which enables you to see where the current topic is located within any of the TOCs in which it has been included.
Tip 3: Quick Launch bar
The Quick Launch bar is a powerful feature that I am making increasing use of these days. It enables you to access any of Flare’s commands or, perhaps more usefully, any file in your project by typing any part of its name. For example, by typing “info” into the Quick Launch bar you could quickly open the topic with a filename of Company Information.htm.
For more information, see the Quick Launch Bar topic in Flare's Help.
Tip 4: Base font properties
When asked to look at style sheets created by my clients, I have often found the font family and standard font size declared unnecessarily for every selector. Repeating these properties causes redundant lines of CSS code and results in style sheets that are less easy to update and maintain. I recommend declaring base font properties (such as font-family, font-size, color, and line-height) for the body element and allowing these to be inherited by all other elements within the topic (since they are all nested within the body element). For more information on inheritance, see the Inheritance topic in Flare's Help.
Bonus advanced tip: you can set the font-sizes of specific elements using the relative unit of rem, which has the advantage of avoiding unintended multiplying factors that can result from using font sizes expressed in em. If you choose to use units of rem, you will probably want to set the font-size of the root (html) element. For an interesting blog post on em vs rem vs px, see EM vs REM vs PX – Why you shouldn't “just use pixels”.
Tip 5: Paragraphs within lists
When writing lists, it is common (especially within procedure steps) to want to include an additional paragraph within a list item. You can do this in Flare without needing to edit the source html code by right-clicking the tag bar for the required li element and selecting Make Paragraph Item(s).
To add further paragraphs within the list item, press Enter at the end of each paragraph. For more information, see Adding Notes or Comments Between List Items in Flare's Help.
Tip 6: Topic templates
Instead of creating each new topic from Flare’s standard NewTopic.htm template, you can save time by creating and using your own topic templates. These might include, for example, standard headings that you always include within certain types of topics. After setting up a Template folder, you can easily save any topic as a template by selecting File > Save > Save As Template. For more information, see the Templates topic in Flare's Help.
Tip 7: Unused items
It is all-too-easy to accumulate redundant legacy items (such as styles, images, and file tags) that clutter your project and make it more difficult to manage. You can quickly identify these items by using the Unused Items window pane, available from the Analysis ribbon by clicking the More Reports icon.
For more information on the Unused Items window pane, see Flare's Help.
Training and Consulting in MadCap Flare