Are you documenting a product that consists of a bunch of modules? Do customers buy customized products with a unique set of modules? Would you like to deliver customer-specific documentation using MadCap Flare? Keep reading.
The idea is to use an existing product module database to generate the condition tags, apply them to your content, generate the customer specific target files, and then set it all up to run as an automated batch job in windows 🙂
- Build a condition set based on all the modules of the product(s).
- Apply the conditions to your content 🙂
- Use customer data to create customer specific target files (if possible, export from your ERP system to Excel).
- Use the target files to generate unique output depending on what modules/options a customer has bought.
Here’s an example XLS file for you to play with 🙂
Building the condition set
The idea is to replicate the Flare condition tag set XML file (.flcts) using Excel. The structure you want to replicate looks like this:
To set up a condition set “generator” in Excel, set up a spreadsheet that looks like this:
The Condition column combines the Product and Module names into a name for the condition.
The Flare XML column contains a formula that turns the condition into something we can put in the Flare condition tag set file (.flcts):
In addition to the conditions, we need to add the opening and closing XML tags: <CatapultConditionTagset> and </CatapultConditionTagset>:
Finally, we use formulas to combine all condition tags into a single cell that contains all the XML code we need for creating the Flare condition tag set file (.flcts). Have a look at the example XLS file to set how it’s set up. The final XML data looks like this, and is ready to save as a .flcts file in your Flare project:
When you’ve update the .flcts file in Flare, you now have a new set of conditions:
Applying conditions to your content
Granted your content structure supports it, you can now apply conditions to the module-specific text and images etc 🙂 Have fun!
Creating customized targets
The next step is to create customized Flare target files (.fltar). Again, we rely on Excel formulas to generate the XML data we need. The .fltar structure for a (PDF) target looks like this:
The Excel sheet looks like this (example XLS):
The resulting XML looks like this:
…and the resulting Flare target file looks like this:
In the Excel file, we’ve only customized the condition tags, but you could easily set it up to customize the document properties (title, subject, etc) as well.
Generating Flare output files based on the customized targets
When all your target files have been set up, you can set up a .BAT file to run on a schedule to generate your targets on a daily basis to ensure that all content is up-to-date.
You can use Excel to create the batch file, by creating a formula that combine the madbuild.exe command line tool with the path to your project and target (e.g. madbuild -project C:\PATH\FlareProject.flprj -target MyPDF)
Good luck, and have fun!
(I’m happy to help you create your your own setup – just ask :-))