MadWorld 2013 – Picture This: Optimizing Images with Flare and Capture

I am honored to be able to present at the MadWorld 2013 Conference today in San Diego.

This post includes links to the content that I used in this presentation. This is meant both for the conference participants as well as all blog readers, sickness giving you a flavor of my presentation today at MadWorld 2013.

Here is a link to the PowerPoint Presentation itself (20 MB, includes videos).

The Content

In this presentation, I covered the following topics:

  • How Flare and Capture work together
  • Capture Features that integrate with Flare, specifically showing you how you can save time and money and reuse content

Flare and Capture Integration

If you haven’t been using Capture as part of your MadCap Flare workflow, now is the time to begin. Starting with version 9 of Flare, Capture is a free download for Flare customers. I have a couple of screen capture tools that I use, depending on what programs I’m working in, but when I’m working in Flare, I always use Capture. Those times where I used a different tool, then came back and wanted to edit the images, I was disappointed because I had to re-do a bunch of work.

Flare makes it easy to initiate screen captures. Depending on your settings, you don’t even need to open Capture or edit the file in Capture. I’ll show you more about this a little later. Capture allows you to edit your images, and you can edit an image from Flare by right-clicking on an image in a topic and selecting “Edit with MadCap Capture.”

Capture also makes it easy to use conditions and variables from your Flare project in the call outs of your Capture images.

Capture Features

I want to focus on how Capture can save you time and money, and show you how you can maximize your content reuse in Flare.

First, Capture saves you time because you only have to do the hard work of image editing once. You can capture a full-screen image, and then crop it down to a single menu item for use in your Flare project. If you ever need to re-capture that button, Capture remembers where the screen was that you captured, what size the capture was, and how you cropped it. So you can go to the updated page, and take the full-screen screenshot again, and Capture correctly crops the image down to the single menu item (assuming, of course that it hasn’t moved.)

Cropping and Re-capturing

When you crop images in Capture, the original image is never deleted. It is stored in a properties folder next to the final image. So if you come back a month (or a year) later and want to change the way the image was cropped, you can open the image in Capture and click the Crop button. The original image is shown, allowing you to change the way you cropped the image.

I’ve worked with developers who decided a week before product launch to change the whole color scheme of the application. I had hundreds of pages of documentation with call-outs — the works, but my work to re-capture the application was minimal because Capture did most of the hard work for me.

Here is a demonstration video (no audio) of how this works.

First, I capture a screenshot, then I crop it.

Next, I modify the style of the interface I’m documenting.

Next, I come back to Capture and re-capture the image.

This works the same way whether you do it the same day, or at any point in the future.

Resizing Images

Let me show you how you can re-size images in Capture. (Again, no audio).

We start with creating a new capture from Flare and editing it in Capture. When you have a screen capture open, you right click on the image and select File Properties. On the Image Effects tab, change the background scale to change the size. 1.0 represents 100%.  Point 5 (.5) is 50%, etc.

Blurring Sensitive Information

Capture lets you blur information that you don’t want people to read. This is helpful if you are working with confidential production content. What’s great about this, is like other Capture features, if you re-capture the screen again later, the blurring will automatically occur in the same location.

From the image toolbar, click  the Effects button, then select Blur Inside Effect Mode. (If you just choose Blur Effect Mode, then everything BUT the image you draw will be blurred.)

Drag the box around the area to be blurred. Right-click on the blurred area to change the Properties.  (I make sure there is no border around the box, and I change the Image Effects tab to have a Blur Factor above 10.)

Image Classes

Flare Image classes

When you use images in Flare, be sure to create different CSS classes for different types of images. This allows you to have similar images appear in a similar way.

For example, in this image, I have the exact same image from my project, but with different image classes. One is called “thumbnail”, and one is an image with no image class.

For the thumbnail image, you can see that you get a small version of the image that has a red border around it. This is a visual cue to let the reader know that they can interact with this image. Images in general, with no class, don’t get the border, they don’t get down-sized, and they don’t have any interaction when you hover or click.

Examples I have of image classes are: (1)thumbnail, (2) border, (3) specific sizes.

Image Profiles

Capture introduces the idea of profiles, or commonly used settings, that make capturing images faster and more efficient. This helps you get uniform images quickly and easily, directly from Flare.

For example, let’s say I want all my screen captures to be resized to 300px wide, and have a 1px black border and a drop shadow. I can save all these settings in a profile, and they will be automatically used for all images captured with that profile. Observe:

How does Capture save me money?

First, remember that time is money. Every time-saving feature is a money-saving feature.

Next, like I mentioned before, Capture is a free download with Flare 9. You don’t necessarily need another screen capture tool, so that is more money saved.

Third, if your help files need to be translated, you probably don’t use too many image callouts, because you don’t want to have to re-do every image that has a callout. In Capture, the callout information is stored as XML in a properties file in the same directory as the Capture image. Since this information is in XML, it is easy for MadCap Lingo to package that text for translation. What’s awesome is that before Flare builds a target, it re-builds each image in Capture, so if you change a setting in the XML, that setting will be reflected in your documentation the next time you either open the image in Capture, or rebuild your Flare output.

Finally, Capture saves you money by making it easy to reuse and single-source content.

Tell me more about single-sourcing images

One of my favorite Capture features is the ability to use variables in your image call outs. Since Flare re-builds the Capture images at every build, you can use target-specific variables in your callouts.

Watch this video to see how I use a variable to show the product release number, and how when the variable definition changes, the image automatically updates.

You can do the same thing for conditions. Any box or object on the screen can be conditionalized to appear in some outputs, but not others. You can also apply snippet conditions so that different versions of a picture show depending on which topic the image is placed in.

What about using the same image for Print and Online?

Capture allows you to have different settings for a single image, depending on whether your target is online or print.

Here are the settings I typically use (set in a profile) to differentiate print versus online images:

  • Image Effects tab:
    • Background scale: 0.7 (70% of captured size)
  • Format tab:
    • Format: PNG (this is for Online output types)
  • Flare Print Format tab:
    • Enable Print Format: [checked]
    • Format: TIFF
    • Print DPI: 150

Be aware that by increasing the DPI, the resulting image WILL LOOK SMALLER because you are condensing 92 pixels per inch into 150 pixels per inch. This is a good thing for print for a couple of reasons. First, it makes the printed image look crisper, and second, images on a printed page typically don’t need to be the same size as images on a webpage.  You may want to play around with this setting to get a number that works for you, but for me, this has been a good balance. Then I can change it for individual images, as needed, or if I want different settings for a different type of image, then I create a different profile.

Common Questions

Often people have questions about how to use Capture, so I’ve included some answers in this post.

How do I create image captions for my images?

This is technically a Flare question, not a Capture question, but it is still a good one.

I create a container DIV in my Flare project CSS file. I call it DIV.CAPTION

I use the following settings:

[code]div.caption {
font-size: 80%;
page-break-inside: avoid;
padding: 10px;
margin: 10px;
border: solid 1px #000;
background-color: #d3d3d3; max-width: 300px; /* use standard width of images */
float: right;

Next, I create a paragraph style to number and style my captions. I use this setting:

[code]p.captionnumber {
mc-autonumber-format: {b}Figure {n+} – {/b};

Watch how I apply this div and paragraph class.

But what if my image numbers need to include the chapter?

Especially for printed output, you might want to use the chapter number in your figures (Figure 4.3, for example). You can easily do this in the print section of your stylesheet by changing the style:

[code]p.captionnumber {
mc-autonumber-format: CH:{b}Figure {chapnum}-{n+}  {/b};

For online help, you can do this differently, because you can use the different media sections of the style sheet. Note, however, that if these are done differently, depending on the medium, then you will have a hard time referencing them directly in the help text.

I hope this post has given you some ideas on how you can integrate Capture into your Flare workflow. Do you have questions, or do you want to share your favorite Capture feature? Please share, in the comments below.

5 responses to “MadWorld 2013 – Picture This: Optimizing Images with Flare and Capture”

  1. Hi Paul, I just downloaded and watched this webinar. Much appreciation for the very helpful content. I am not able to download the PowerPoint from this blog post, however. Please advise. Thank you!

  2. I know I’m late to the party, but I just found this. Anyway, the p.captionnumber doesn’t work for me. Flare always tells me that there is a brace missing. This is the CSS I’m using:

    font-size: 70%;
    page-break-inside: avoid;
    padding: 10px;
    margin: 10px;
    border: solid 1px #d3d3d3;
    background-color: #f2f2f2; max-width: 300px;
    float: right;

    mc-autonumber-format: {b}Figure {n+} – {/b};

    What am I missing?

    • I haven’t tried it, but it seems to me you are missing an open brace after “format:” and before the “{b}”. You need a brace to open the entire declaration, then another brace to open the “bold” tag in the format.

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