Madcap Blaze’s Topic Review Feature: A First-of-a Kind Feature with an Interesting Workflow

Blaze is a new Framemaker alternative that Madcap Software has just released into beta. With Blaze, you can create printed documentation and publish it to Word, Framemaker, PDF, XPS, and an XHTML book (but not webhelp).

When I first heard of Blaze, my immediate question was — Doesn’t Flare already publish to Word and FrameMaker? If so, why would I need Blaze?

The short answer is, you don’t need Blaze if you already have Flare. But if for some reason you only write printed documentation, and never online help, then Blaze might be for you.

Despite the irrelevance of Blaze for my project needs, Blaze does have a new review feature that is unique and worth exploring. As you know, you often you need SMEs and other team members to review your content. When your content is trapped inside a help authoring tool, you can’t quickly send SMEs a file to review — how could they open it? As a result, we traditionally publish our help to Word or PDF, print it out, and then stick it on the SME’s desk.

However, in many cases getting a SME to review 100+ pages of documentation is a battle. Like most people, they’re busy. Reviewing something takes times. Writing is often not their expertise or interest. So, you know the story. Either it never gets reviewed, or it gets reviewed tenuously.

With Blaze, Madcap offers you a totally new review workflow. You send a topic to a SME for review from directly within the Blaze interface by going to File > Review > Send for Review. When you do that, the following dialog box appears.

Selecting the “Allow Reviewers to edit content” check box gives the reviewer control to make changes to your text. If you clear this check box, the reviewer can only insert annotations.

After selecting your options, Blaze packages up the topic with a stylesheet and any relevant images and puts it in a .bltrev file. In the same step, it initiates an email handler that interfaces with Microsoft Outlook to create a new message with the file attached. It then sends the file to the email recipient you selected.

But how does the SME open a .bltrev file? Here’s where X-Edit Express comes in. The SME downloads this free application (requires .NET 3.0 as well, if not already installed). When the SME then double-clicks the .bltrev attachment, it opens in X-Edit Express. The SME can then insert annotations or make direct edits to the content.

Note that X-Edit Express only allows you to edit and annotate existing content. If you want the SME to actually contribute new files for your project based on a template, you’ll need X-Edit (which isn’t free), and the review process is slightly different. But the workflow of sending an attached file back and forth through email is still the same.

After the SME finishes reviewing your topic, he or she clicks Return to Sender (an option within X-Edit Express) and the email handler pulls up Outlook and sends the file back to the author, i.e., you. When you double-click the attachment, you’re prompted to add it back to your Blaze project with the following dialog box.

The email handler then saves it in a special inbox folder that Blaze recognizes.

As an author, you open Blaze and go to File > Review > Topic Reviews. A Topic Reviews pane appears on the left with a filter at the top (the pane is similar to other panes, such as the Content Explorer or Project Explorer). In the filter, select Inbox, and you’ll see the SME’s review, with the edits or annotations. As desired, you can choose to accept the reviewer’s edits and overwrite the original.

Accepting annotations is different from accepting edits. If you accept the annotations, they’re added to the topic, but rather than appearing within the topic’s text, they appear in an Annotations pane to the right. When you select one of the annotations in the Annotations pane, it highlights the word related to the annotation. Kind of neat there.

Overall, I like the topic review, but I’m not thrilled about the idea of sending attached files back and forth over email. It feels too 1995-ish.

In contrast, a centralized review from a wiki-type editor makes much more sense to me. But I can see how implementing this would be difficult. Blaze would need to have wiki-like features, and require a database. Topics would need to be editable through a browser. And you would need a mechanism that prevented simultaneous overlapping edits. Maybe that’s what Team Server is about — I don’t know.

Still, the idea of sending one topic at a time to a SME for review may prove interesting. And the movement of files through email is relatively slick (if you have Outlook, that is. I have a clunky old email program called GroupWise that has some hiccups with Blaze email handler). Sending a topic for review is not as strenuous as manually attaching files to messages.

But here’s my question: If your project has 200 topics, does that mean the SME gets 200 emails from you to review? Yes, that’s how it currently functions. You can only send one topic to review at a time. In many ways, this makes the topic review feature less useful. The idea, however, is to send topics to the SME to review as you finish them, rather than in one big whallop near the release deadline. That workflow may actually prove to be more efficient.

Although I’ve limited tmy discussion to reviews by SMEs, I can see how a topic review would be helpful for team authoring. If you have a contractor, intern, or other assistant, the topic review provides them with a way to author content that you can add to your help project with relative ease.

Adobe RobohelpMadcap Flare

This entry was posted in general on by .

By Tom Johnson

I'm a technical writer working for the 41st Parameter in San Jose, California. I'm interested in topics related to technical writing, such as visual communication, API documentation, information architecture, web publishing, DITA, and more. If you're trying to keep up to date about the field of technical communication, subscribe to my blog.Email

24 thoughts on “Madcap Blaze’s Topic Review Feature: A First-of-a Kind Feature with an Interesting Workflow

  1. Pingback: overnighthelp.5thdegree.net » Help Desk Microsoft Word Template

  2. Craig

    Blaze seems interesting and the “Send For Review” feature more so. We live and die by email here at my company.

    We standardized on Outlook, which is also used as a PA system. We always have it open. At a company where email isn’t relied upon as much, I can see where this Blaze feature might not be as useful.

    In our little neck of the woods, being able to send out topics one at a time for review would be very useful. No one likes getting a whole chapter at once. And getting feedback at all can prove somewhat taxing at times.

    Reply
  3. Pingback: Foul Writers World » Blog Archive » MadCap release Blaze preview

  4. Charles

    I have to agree with Craig for the topic at a time process, this is a great use.

    I also would like to offer my answer to your question of what to do with 200 topics to review. In my opinion, this is where Flare and the Feedback Server would shine… Publishing a Flare authored WebHelp with Feedback comments enabled would complete the loop on this.

    I’m also reading on MadCap’s site that they are looking at releasing a server-based collaboration tool. I wouldn’t be surprised to see exactly what you’re asking for.

    Charless last blog post..Whaddya mean, Derek don’t blog?!?

    Reply
  5. Pingback: Game 28: #2 Seed I’d Rather Be Writing Versus #5 Seed Men With Pens | Writer's Resource Center

  6. mrtruckster

    Hi forum users and readers I hope you can solve a stupid problem with my computer  
    Im getting a lot of popups when Im browsing the internet, sometimes even when Im not at the computer, I leave it on for
    an hour and when I get back I have 2-3 popups that have appeared from nowhere. How can I remove this? Im really not intrested
    in finding adult friends or downloading a new screen saver :D 

    Okay I hope you can give me any ideas, Im gonna check back to the forum in couple days to see what you have suggested, Bye! 

    Reply
  7. abolffaB

    Hi. I regularly scan this forum. This is the head culture unqualified to ask a query.
    How multitudinous in this forum are references Nautical port behind, knavish users?
    Can I depute all the facts that there is?

    Reply
  8. stamambib

    Nothing seems to be easier than seeing someone whom you can help but not helping.
    I suggest we start giving it a try. Give love to the ones that need it.
    God will appreciate it.

    Reply
  9. poobrerrelm

    Excellent site http://www.idratherbewriting.com and I am really pleased to see you have what I am actually looking for here and this this post is exactly what I am interested in. It’s taken me literally 1 hours and 29 minutes of searching the web to find you (just kidding!) so I shall be pleased to become a regular visitor :)

    Reply
  10. belsolley

    Sorry if this may be off-topic but the economy is killing me and I have been searching the internet looking for money making oppurtunities.
    There is so much information out there I am trying to find someone who has had luck with some affiliate advertsing or internet marketing courses. Is there one someone could recommend?

    Thanks for your time, I really appreciate it.

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=X11KLdiHYfc

    :)

    Reply
  11. GreggG

    I’ve been watching for a while but now i’m making my first post.
    I’m interested in getting some useful info, I hope this is the right place.
    Looking to meet new people to exchange info with,so leave me your name
    See ya,

    Reply
  12. nonetly

    Tired of a competitor’s site? Hinder the enemy? Fed pioneers or copywriters?

    Kill their sites! How? We will help you in this!
    Obstructions of any site, portal, shop!

    Different types of attacks: Date-attack, Trash, Attack, Attack, etc. Intellectual
    You can work on schedule, as well as the simultaneous attack of several sites.

    On average the data, ordered the site falls within 5 minutes after the start. As a demonstration of our capabilities, allows screening.

    Our prices

    24 hours of attack – $ 70
    12 hours of the attack – $ 50
    1 hour attack – $ 25

    Contact via ICQ: 588 666 582

    Reply
  13. usesCaroria

    Hi Folks!

    I wanted to share with you a wonderful site I just came across teaching Krav Maga like they teach it in the Israeli Army (IDF) If you guys have seen the Discovery Channel TV Show called Fight Quest you would have seen their chief instructor Ran Nakash there. Anyways, I think it’s worth a look. I’ve been a member for the last 4 months, and I’ve been loving every second of it.

    Hope I’ve helped someone here,

    all the best

    Reply
  14. Drenniarp

    This looks cool so far, what’s up people?
    If there are any real people here looking to network, leave me a post.
    Oh, and yes I’m a real person LOL.

    Peace,

    Reply
  15. HOAWLMEPIMMAP

    BORDER FINE ARTS | COUNTRY ARTISTS | LILLIPUT LANE | DAVID WINTER arts hodges

    MOORCROFT : LIMITED EDITIONS | OPEN EDITIONS | RETIRED PATTERNS | MOORCROFT ENAMELS | COBRIDGE | BLACK RYDEN
    CHINA: COALPORT | CROWN DERBY | ROYAL DOULTON FIGURES | ROYAL DOULTON JUGS | ROYAL WORCESTER | WEDGWOOD | TABLEWARE

    RESIN SCULPTURE: BORDER FINE ARTS | COUNTRY ARTISTS | LILLIPUT LANE | DAVID WINTER
    COOKWARE: LE CREUSET | SPRING GOURMET | OPTIMA PICNIC | SILVERWOOD BAKEWARE

    OTHER RANGES: ANBERCRAFT TABLES | CAITHNESS GLASS | STEIFF BEARS | ROBERT HARROP | CRYSTAL IMPRESSIONS
    STEPHEN SMITH – TERRY HALLORAN CHINA | ELLIOT HALL ENAMELS | OKRA GLASS | JENNY WORRALL LAMPS | CANE FURNITURE | OAK FURNITURE
    ART GALLERY: GARY HODGES | LAURENCE LLEWELYN-BOWEN | SHERREE VALENTINE DAINES | STEVEN TOWNSEND
    GAR

    Reply

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <strike> <strong>