Re: MadCap Nightmare

Subject: Re: MadCap Nightmare
From: "T.W. Smith" <techwordsmith -at- gmail -dot- com>
To: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
Date: Thu, 10 Aug 2006 13:12:32 -0400


Such rants are pretty useless. For the record, I am not a MadCap user, nor
do I play one on TV. I use WWP.

On 8/10/06, Frank Ellifsen <frank -dot- ellifsen -at- gmail -dot- com> wrote:


I will admit that this is my first Help tool experience, so you should
take my
comments with at least that much salt. However, I am an experienced tech
writer and know enough about Help to feel I can offer relative criticisms.

There is no perfect software. And, people are so different, tailoring
software to one makes it less friendly for others. I see people rant all the
time about how WWP does not work like RH, or how Word does not work like

At the very least, I know that my experiences mirror the experiences of
other MadCap users.

How do you know that? All other MadCap users? Some?

FROM THE COMPANY YET! At the very least, I'm amazed that people haven't
made many negative comments about it yet. So far, the tech writer
has been largely silent. If Ford or Honda or any other automaker produced
car with as many problems as Flare, they'd have customers and government
agents swarming over the gates with rioting and pillaging on their minds!

The anaology is bad. Software defects are not treated the same as defects in
automobiles, as perception, laws, and regulation are different, as is
licensing and just about everything you might consider.

And I'm not talking about minor "that button didn't work" kinds of bugs. I'm
talking MAJOR bugs. Crashing bugs, data loss, etc. For example, the
dictionary used by the spell checker randomly turns on and off (usually

That's an example of a broken button, not crashing nor data loss.

You can't designate conditional text without running the risk of
having your information deleted or modified (that has happened to me on
dozens of occasions). And the UI doesn't always do what it says it's

This information is actually kind of vague. What did MadCap support say?

And yes, I know there are workarounds,

Uuuuum, then are these defects or not?


Shhhh. Who says what you think should be done automatically is what the
designers think should be done automatically? This is rather vague. What did
MadCap support say?

Then there are the design issues. Every time you create a new folder, MadCap
automatically closes all of your folders. You can't have two projects open

Why do you need two projects open at the same time? Are you using the
product correctly?

And what is up with all the files and folders? I tested that
once. I created one file in one project and that was the entire project.
When I checked it out, MadCap had created hundreds of files and folders.

Not sure what you mean. HTML-based help comes with support files and
scripts. Check out WebHelp, WebWorks Help, etc.


Maybe. Maybe not. What were the files for, why was it a problem to have the
files, what kind of help were you creating?

But the biggest thing for me is that when you are manipulating text (typing,
deleting, moving your cursor) everything freezes. You have to "guess" when
you've deleted the text you wanted to delete or you have to hit the delete
key one time for each character to be deleted. Same with typing. If you
fast, MadCap goes into freeze mode until it catches up to your strokes.
the most frustrating ones are deletions. Sometimes delete removes whole
lines of text, single characters, paragraphs, pages, or even nothing at

Sounds like a display issue, yes. But not a deal killer. FM does this, too.
What did MadCap support say?

Then there's the problem that MadCap doesn't easily let you get into the
html coding and manipulate the code itself (Yes, I know that it is really
XML, so don't point out the "mistake"). It basically assumes that you know
jack about html and forces you to go through the editor. Well, I DO KNOW
HTML!!!! I can readily see problems that would be easy to fix, but I have
fiddle with the editor for 20 minutes to figure it out. MadCap also seems
insert random html tags (<p> tags in particular) that are hollow and serve
no purpose but they DO screw up your formatting. It also *magically*
pseudo-spaces in place of real spaces, and that throws your final output
layout for a loop (random line breaks everywhere).

If you are looking to hand-code HTML, clearly you need a different tool.
From what I can tell, Flare is not for that. With any tool, you are
obligated to modify your behavior some to work with the tool and its design.

How do spaces cause line breaks in your html output? You need a br tag for

As far as I can tell, Flare is not designed to create uber-efficient HTML.
It's designed to help you efficiently create HTML-based help output. In that
regard, there's going to be stray tags, yes.

I spend more time
searching my help files for pseudo-spaces and other "added formatting"
I do any other single task outside of the initial writing.

I am not sure what you mean by pseudo-spaces. HTML displays only one space
in a row, except for nbsps. Spaces in HTML don't cause line breaks, brs do.
What did MadCap support say.

Personally, I would not touch a new MadCap product with a ten-foot pole. In
particular, I would not touch a MadCap product that involved such delicate
processes as image manipulation, document design, and fonts with a
10,000-foot pole.

How did Flare cause font problems? You didn't discuss that.
How did Flare cause image problems? You didn't discuss that.

In other words, yes, MadCap does appear to be on the cusp of capturing the
documentation market.

How do you jump to that conclusion. They compete neither with Word nor
FrameMaker, et al.

But that scares me. MadCap has proven itself to be
unstable, mediocre, and disappointing. That being said, I do believe that
MadCap will improve. It has to if it wants to be here next year. I do
that MadCap has the potential of being the future of technical writing.

You are aware it's a version 1 product, right? I mean, have you used version
1 products before? Which?

And it has a very long road to walk before it ever
makes it there. I personally will never buy a MadCap product on its
release. I'll wait for version 2. I also actively advocate against that
move. I see no reason to waste my time on these bugs and problems when I
have access to a wide variety of stable, functional products at a fraction
of the MadCap pricing.

Like what? What online help tool do you propose functions at a fraction of
the MadCap pricing?

There, the gauntlet has been thrown. Go ahead and tell me I'm an idiot,

Contact MadCap for technical support. The rant is too unstructured,
meandering, and vague to be of any use (other than to make you feel better).
For all I know, you might sell WWP, RH, D2H, AIT ....


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MadCap Nightmare: From: Frank Ellifsen

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