Re: MadCap Nightmare

Subject: Re: MadCap Nightmare
From: "Bill Swallow" <techcommdood -at- gmail -dot- com>
To: "Frank Ellifsen" <frank -dot- ellifsen -at- gmail -dot- com>
Date: Thu, 10 Aug 2006 13:31:25 -0400

FROM THE COMPANY YET! At the very least, I'm amazed that people haven't even
made many negative comments about it yet. So far, the tech writer community
has been largely silent. If Ford or Honda or any other automaker produced a
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!

Flare is a 1.0 product. You can't expect there not to be bugs.
However, have you been reporting them? And have you been downloading
fixes? You do know that there's a bug report feature within Flare's UI
itself, right? Also, have you mentioned the bugs in the user forums
for Flare? Or otherwise have you done anything to bring the bugs to
their attention in a constructive manner?

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
off). 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 doing.
And yes, I know there are workarounds, but WHY SHOULD I PAY $700 FOR A

See comments above, and consider you bought a 1.0 product. What were
you expecting? Of course there will be bugs in it, and of course many
of them won't be hit under normal lab testing. If you're seeing
issues, report them to MadCap. Complaining about them here does no

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
simultaneously. 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.

Hundreds of files and folders? Really? Hundreds? Wow. Have you
investigated into what these folders and files are? Do they have a
purpose? Are they controllable? That is, are there project options
that control whether or not they are created, when, and why?

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 type
fast, MadCap goes into freeze mode until it catches up to your strokes. But
the most frustrating ones are deletions. Sometimes delete removes whole
lines of text, single characters, paragraphs, pages, or even nothing at all.
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 to
fiddle with the editor for 20 minutes to figure it out. MadCap also seems to
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* inserts
pseudo-spaces in place of real spaces, and that throws your final output
layout for a loop (random line breaks everywhere). I spend more time
searching my help files for pseudo-spaces and other "added formatting" than
I do any other single task outside of the initial writing.

This I haven't experienced at all in my evaluation of the product (I'm
not a Flare user), nor have I heard this issue being mentioned before.
Have you raised it to MadCap?

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.

I think yo're over-reacting. After all, you bought a 1.0. What did you
expect? And if you haven't reported these issues to MadCap, then
you're not doing yourself any favors.

In other words, yes, MadCap does appear to be on the cusp of capturing the
documentation market. 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 think
that MadCap has the potential of being the future of technical writing. BUT
IT IS NOT THE PRESENT! 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 initial
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.

A fraction of the MadCap pricing? What tools are these? MadCap, in my
experience, is on the less expensive end when it comes to HATs. Plus,
advocating against a company based on performance of a single tool - a
version 1.0 at that - is, in my opinion, unproductive.

There, the gauntlet has been thrown. Go ahead and tell me I'm an idiot, and
I'll go back to sulking in my corner while MadCap goes feral on my Help
files. Even better, if you use MadCap tell me your own problems with the
software and how you've solved them.

I won't tell you that you're an idiot, as that would be flaming, but I
will say that I hope you feel better after releasing your rant and I
do hope that you are reporting the issues you find to MadCap so they
can be investigated and fixed. Otherwise, you're not doing anyone,
including yourself, any favors.

Bill Swallow
HATT List Owner
WWP-Users List Owner
Senior Member STC, TechValley Chapter
avid homebrewer and proud beer snob
"I see your OOO message and raise you a clue."

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MadCap Nightmare: From: Frank Ellifsen

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