Reading Usable Help
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Gordon R. Meyer
Interesting new Windows tools from Madcap
By and large, technical writing isn't known for being on the cutting-edge of software tools and technology. New methods of producing documentation tend to have a long slog ahead of them as they fight for adoption against venerable favorites. I'm guessing that nobody knows this better than the folks at MadCap Software, whose principals established RoboHelp, against which they now must compete.
What I find most interesting about Madcap is that they're also providing new types of tools that might fundamentally change the work of technical writing. For example, MadCap Analyzer, which recently entered beta, is a project analyzer that provides QC far beyond the scope of other tools I'm familiar with. Not only will it check for correct styles, it will discover frequently-used phrases, check all of the links, and provide extensive statistical reports.
Another beta tool is Madcap Lingo. It's a translation tool that includes memory (for retranslating phrases), support for variables and other MadCap Flare features, and allows the use of Google for translating text.
I haven't tried, or seen in person, either tool. (They're Windows only, which diminishes their practicality for me.) Nonetheless, it's great to see innovation and competition in the technical writing tools market.