I am a career Office worker. Not that I have worked in an office my whole life, but I have worked with Microsoft Office (at least since Word Perfect was purged at my prior employer). I have developed documents almost exclusively in Word and training presentations in Power Point.
But the allure of authoring software has always been there, at least since 1998 when I first encountered Authorware, which I believe was a Macromedia product. But each time I confronted a situation where authoring software would have made sense, I stayed the course, literally beating Word and Power Point into submission until I got what I wanted. Over time, I prided myself on being able to do anything with either program the long way.
But now things are different. In my current position, primarily focused on developing user manuals for technical processing equipment, I have found myself using the same content multiple times (e.g., describing software screens that do not change from system to system). This is fine, except when I drop a piece of copy from one manual into the next, I have to do a lot of content-shuffling, to get everything to look decent on the page.
So on November 1, 2012, I officially took the plunge into the world of authoring software. (Oh, I dabbled in Captivate, but only briefly before I reverted to Power Point.) This afternoon, I downloaded my newly purchased copy of Mad Cap Flare, version 8. I talked my organization into obtaining the software with the promise that I could do more, and do it more quickly, with Flare. Now, of course, I have to prove myself correct.
So over the next few weeks, I will post my progress in learning the software and–I hope– becoming more effective in my work. In case you are wondering, I am not an undercover Mad Cap employee trying to gain sales. I have no affiliation with Mad Cap, so I can be honest and direct with my struggles and (I hope) triumphs. I will not treat this as a “product review,” but will do my best to communicate the process as a 50-ish, not-so-tech-savvy writer attempts to make a transition into a higher level of performance and proficiency.
If you are a Mad Cap Flare user, or user of another authoring program, please feel free to join the discussion. Laugh at me, tell me I’m making it too difficult on myself, there’s a better way to do it and here’s how (I especially hope to get comments in the last vein). I look forward to sharing this adventure with you.