Charles Jeter recorded an excellent podcast with Mike Hamilton, V.P. of product management at Madcap Software, and posted it on his blog yesterday. Jeter is a technical writer in the California area who has been carefully analyzing the online help tool market.
The following are some of my takeaways from the podcast:
The rivalry between Madcap and Adobe isn't World War III, Mike says. But there is a strong tension between the two companies. The rivalry between Adobe and Madcap is good in an economic sense, in that it keeps consumer costs down, encourages innovation, and removes the ability for either company to sit back on their laurels.
During the podcast, Hamilton talks a lot about Madcap Capture (the integrated screen capture tool). He highlights this as an example of the integration of the Madpak authoring suite. Hamilton clarifies the purpose of the suite: Madcap is trying to provide single sourcing solutions that fit the software development workflow which technical writers live in. All the products function together to enable total single sourcing of your content.
Despite the logic behind the complete product line, the emphasis on integrated screen capture tools seems hard to buy. I almost invariably tweak my screen shots using SnagIt and Photoshop before inserting them into online help. I love both of these image capturing and editing tools. Why ask me to abandon them for something else? Every product has strengths and weaknesses and customers may want to pick and choose selectively. For example, I'd choose Captivate over Mimic, and Flare over RoboHelp, and Snagit/Photoshop over other screen capture tools, and Audacity over Echo (if they're even competitors), and Visio over some other tool they might create. In my opinion, the concept of the suite is similar to a Swiss Army knife: lots of tools in there, but all kind of mediocre.
Mike points out that content created by a variety of tools may look inconsistent. If I were to use the Madcap suite of tools, the screenshots and screen demos and online help would all have the same look and feel. And you can share variables and content more easily between a suite of tools rather than a miscellany of products.
Maybe he's right. I haven't tried the Madpak suite of tools — only Flare and Mimic separately. Maybe the concept of the suite will grow on me with use.
Finally, where are the blogs? With all the war going on between Adobe and Madcap, you'd think that each product champion would be hitting it hard on the blog scene. Nope, they're both blog shy. If either were to start blogging in a whole-hearted, authentic way, they'd surely win over some of the audience.
Adobe has basically outsourced its blog to the development team in India, and Madcap sticks to its forums. Neither of these puts a personable face on for customers.
Based on some insightful comments, I decided to strike out the above. Adobe does have a good blog, and it looks like Madcap is getting ready to enter the blog scene.
Get new posts delivered straight to your inbox.
I'm a technical writer based in the California San Francisco Bay area. Topics I write about on this blog include technical writing, authoring and publishing tools, API documentation, tech comm trends, visual communication, technical writing career advice, information architecture and findability, developer documentation, and more. If you're a professional or aspiring technical writer, be sure to subscribe to email updates using the form above. You can learn more about me here.