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Using MadCap Central for SME reviews

Published in ISTC Communicator, Winter 2018.

Introduction

In a previous article, I described how MadCap Contributor can be used as a way of gathering comments, annotations and corrections from reviewers. The integration of MadCap Central with Flare 2018 now provides an alternative review workflow that avoids some of the issues with Contributor, and is especially suited to reviews by subject matter experts (SMEs).

Potential problems with Contributor

The key stumbling block with Contributor has been the fact that it needs to be installed on the desktop of each reviewer. This can be an issue, particularly in large organisations where machines are locked down and IT staff need to be involved in installations and upgrades. Another potential problem is that reviewers are often unwilling to learn new tools (however simple) and are not skilled in maintaining the clean mark-up of content by properly applying paragraph and character styles as they edit.

Possible solution: MadCap Central

MadCap Central enables SMEs to review topics within their normal web browser using a lightweight editor provided by MadCap Central. The topics are located in the cloud, and may be edited simultaneously by multiple reviewers with each seeing each others’ edits and annotations in real time, which is similar to the experience of collaborating on Google Docs.

Here is a summary of the advantages and disadvantages of MadCap Central compared to Contributor:

Advantages

  • No local installation is required
  • Editing within standard browser (therefore not seen as new tool)
  • Lightweight editor with its basic formatting controls is easy to use
  • Concurrent editing is possible.

Disadvantages

  • Investment in MadCap Central is required (and the cost is probably not justified for the review capabilities alone)
  • Basic formatting of content may need to be converted to styles after import into Flare
  • Reviewers aren’t prevented from editing locked content
  • Reviewers can’t see the topics in the context of the full TOC.

Workflow

The review cycle between Flare and MadCap Central is as follows:

  1. A MadCap Central Administrator sets up each reviewer with a special SME account. These restricted accounts allow users only to review content: they can’t use any of the other features of MadCap Central.
  2. The Flare author sends topics for review from Flare to MadCap Central...

    Screenshot showing Send for Review from TOC

    Screenshot showing Send to MadCap Central

  3. ...and selects the required SMEs for the review.

    Screenshot showing Select Reviewers

  4. Reviewers log in to MadCap Central and see the list of topics for review.

    Screenshot showing list of topics for review in MadCap Central

  5. Reviewers annotate and edit each of the topics.

    Screenshot showing topic edited in MadCap Central

  6. When reviewers have finished editing each topic, they submit the changed topic back to the Flare author.

    Screenshot showing topic submitted in MadCap Central

  7. When a topic has been submitted by all reviewers, the Flare author closes the review of that topic.

    Screenshot showing Close Review in MadCap Flare

  8. The Flare author reviews the combined changes and annotations from all of the reviewers, and accepts or rejects each change.

    Screenshot showing Accept Insertion in MadCap Flare

  9. The Flare author imports the topic back into the project, replacing the original topic sent for review.

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Conclusion

If you are already using MadCap Central (for source control, project management and publishing), using it for SME reviews is a compelling option with many advantages over Contributor. If cloud-based source control and publishing is not an option for your organisation, then you should continue to use either Contributor or annotation of PDF output for review comments and feedback.