MadCap Nightmare

Subject: MadCap Nightmare
From: "Frank Ellifsen" <frank -dot- ellifsen -at- gmail -dot- com>
To: techwr-l -at- lists -dot- techwr-l -dot- com
Date: Thu, 10 Aug 2006 09:59:47 -0600

List members, I've been asked by a friend to forward this message to the
list. My friend wishes to remain anonymous, and I offered to post the
message on her/his behalf.

Please do as the poster requests and send all replies to the list.


-----Forwarded Message------

Fellow Techwr-lers!

Sorry for the anonymous post, but I don't want this to come back and haunt
me somehow (you know it will).

Let's outline a few details first. I'm a current user of MadCap Flare. I
will admit that this is my first Help tool experience, so you should take my
comments with at least that much salt. However, I am an experienced tech
writer and know enough about Help to feel I can offer relative criticisms.
At the very least, I know that my experiences mirror the experiences of
other MadCap users.

I have been interested in MadCap's proposed suite of documentation products.
It appears to me that they are making a run at capturing the tech writing
market. It also appears to me that there is enough hype out there to get
them most of the way there just on word-of-mouth. That's cool. I haven't
seen a company generate this much hype since Google. I'm rather pleased that
a company has taken such obvious interest in providing for our needs.

Here's my problem though:

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!

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

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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

Reply straight to the list please. I may never see your responses otherwise.

--Mad at MadCap!

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