[Alan Pringle wrote most of this review.]
This post is Part 2 of our Flare 5 DITA feature review. Part 1 provides an overview and discusses localization and map files.
Cross-references and other links
I imported DITA content that contained three xref elements (I shortened the IDs below for readability):
- Reference to another step in the same topic:
Result of step. And here’s a reference to the <xref href=”task1.xml#task_8F2F9″ type=”li” format=”dita” scope=”local”>third step</xref>.
- Reference to another topic:
Result text. And here’s a link to the other task topic:
<xref href=”task2.xml#task_8F2F94 type=”task” format=”dita” scope=”local”></xref>.
- Link to web site:
Here’s another step. Here’s a link with external scope:
<xref href=”http://www.scriptorium.com” scope=”external” format=”html”>www.scriptorium.com</xref>
All three came across in the WebHelp I generated from Flare:
On the link to the topic, Flare applied a default cross-reference format that included the word “See” and the quotation marks around the topic’s name. You can modify the stylesheet for the Flare project to change that text and styling.
DITA relationship tables let you avoid the drudgery of manually inserting (and managing!) related topic links. Based on the relationships you specify in the table, related topic links are generated in your output.
I imported a simple map file with a relationship table into Flare and created WebHelp. The output included the links to the related topics. I then tinkered with the project’s stylesheet and its language skin for English to change the default appearance and text of the heading for related concepts. The sentence-style capitalization and red text for “Related concepts” in the following screen shot reflect my modifications:
DITA conrefs let you reuse chunks of content. I created a simple conref for a note and then imported the map file with one DITA file that contains the actual note and a second file that references the note via a conref.
Flare happily imported the information and turned the conref into a Flare snippet. It’s worth noting that the referencing, while equivalent, is not the same. In my source DITA files, I had this:
<note id=””>Do not feed the animals
Thus, we have two instances of the content in the DITA files — the original content and the content reference. In Flare, we end up with three instances — the snippet and two references to the snippet. In other words, Flare separates out the content being reused into a snippet and then references the snippet. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing, but it’s worth noting.
Specialized content is not officially supported at this point. According to MadCap, it worked for some people in testing, but not for others. If you need to publish specialized DITA content through Flare, you might consider generalizing back to standard DITA first.
When you import DITA content that contains attribute values, Flare creates condition tags based on those values. I imported a map file with a topic that used the audience attribute: one paragraph had that attribute set to user, and another had the attribute set to admin. When I looked in the Project Organizer at the conditions for the WebHelp target, conditions based on my audience values were listed:
DITA support level
Flare supports DITA v1.1.
If you’re looking for a path to browser-based help for your DITA content, you should consider the new version of Flare. Without a lot of effort, we were able to create WebHelp from imported DITA content. Flare handled DITA constructs (such as conrefs and relationship tables) without any problems in our testing. Our only quibble was with the TOC entries in the WebHelp (as mentioned in Part 1), and we’ve heard that MadCap will likely be addressing that issue in the future.
We didn’t evaluate how Flare handles DITA-to-PDF conversion. However, if the PDF process in Flare works as smoothly as the one for WebHelp, Flare could provide a compelling alternative to modifying the XSL-FO templates that come with the Open Toolkit or adopting one of the commercial FO solutions for rendering PDF output.