In June of this year, to coincide with the long-awaited MadWorld Conference in Austin, TX, the 2022 update of MadCap Flare was released.
The most interesting and significant new developments in this release relate to Meta Tags and Micro Content. I mention these two features together, because they are closely inter-related, and you will often need to use them together. Of all the features that have been introduced into Flare over its lifetime, these are amongst the most potentially powerful, but are also the most conceptually challenging to understand and get to grips with!
You can use Meta Tags to label, sort, and report on your content items in the same way as you could with File Tags in previous versions of Flare. As a result, File Tags are now effectively redundant. Although you can continue to use File Tags in Flare 2022, I suspect that they will become deprecated and even removed in a future version.
So, Meta Tags are a bit like File Tags but they are considerably more powerful. You can also use Meta Tags for:
- search optimisation (primarily by adding a Description meta tag)
- adding relevant Micro Content in special new panels within topics (for examples of this, see Micro Content Examples in Flare's Help).
It's the second of these uses for Meta Tags that I consider to be the most interesting and potentially useful, and I will focus on this for the remainder of this article.
Use Case: Adding links to PDFs
As an example of the way in which you can use a combination of Meta Tags and Micro Content to provide additional custom content within topics, let's look at a way of adding links to relevant PDF documents.
Since different PDF documents may be relevant to each topic, this would normally mean inserting manually the appropriate links within each topic, which could be a time-consuming task.
We are going to insert links automatically to relevant PDFs, based on Meta Tag values that have been selected for each topic. For example, a topic for which we have selected PDF Meta Tag values of "Document A" and "Document C" will automatically contain links to the corresponding PDF documents. The links themselves are single sourced from a Micro Content Phrase, and can therefore be easily updated.
The technique involves creating an association between each of the available Meta Tag values (each of which represents a specific PDF document) and a corresponding Micro Content Response that contains a link to the required document. One way of creating this association is to match exactly the Micro Content Phrase associated with each Response to the corresponding Meta Tag value, as shown here:
In the following example, we will define a List Meta Tag called "PDF" with four values, one for each of the available PDF documents that we want to link to. For each of the four Meta Tag values, we will create a Micro Content Phrase that matches the value, and a corresponding Response that provides the link to the appropriate PDF.
We will then select the appropriate value(s) for the "PDF" Meta Tag within the properties of each topic. These value(s) identify the PDF document(s) that are relevant to each of the topics.
Finally, we will insert one of the new Proxies available in Flare 2022 into the Template Page used by each topic in this example, I'll use the Knowledge Proxy. As a topic is loaded in the browser, the Knowledge Proxy searches the Micro Content Phrases for matches to the Meta Tag value(s) in the topic, and displays the corresponding Micro Content Responses(s) within a special panel in the topic. I know it sounds complicated, but once you've used the new Proxies a couple of times, it gets easier!
Let's start by creating the Meta Tag. This is defined in a Meta Tag Set, a new type of file that is stored in the Project Organizer's Advanced folder. The screenshot below shows the result of adding a new PDF tag with four values, one for each of the PDFs that we want to link to.
Next, we'll select the appropriate values for the Meta Tag in each of our topics. This screenshot shows the result of selecting the "Lines and Shapes Manual" in the Properties of the "Drawing a Curved Line" topic:
Now we'll open the Template Page and insert a Knowledge Proxy, as shown here:
We configure the Knowledge Panel by right-clicking it, selecting Edit Knowledge Proxy, and then setting the options as shown here:
Key settings include:
- The heading that will be shown above the automatically generated link(s) in each topic
- The name of the Micro Content file containing the Phrases and Responses for the PDF links
- The name of the Meta Tag that has values for each of the PDF documents.
To control the formatting of the Micro Content Response containing the link (and to prevent each individual link from being enclosed within a box), we need to add and configure a new type of skin to our project: a Micro Content Skin. In this example, I am using a skin called "FAQ" because I am using the same skin to format FAQ Proxies.
As a result of all the above, this screenshot shows how a link to a PDF might look in the output:
The new Meta Tags feature, particularly when used in conjunction with the enhanced Micro Content features, offers many powerful and flexible ways of adding custom content to topics. Providing links to PDFs is just one simple use case; you can use these features for a wide range of purposes including FAQs, promotional content, definitions, and related resources.
MadCap Software's Tutorials on Micro Content:
Training and Consulting in MadCap Flare