If you already have a user guide, you might find it difficult to maintain if it was created in software like Microsoft Word or InDesign.
Although these applications do a good job of creating a presentable result, they aren’t designed for technical documentation that is constantly evolving.
Additionally, using these formats can make it difficult to publish all of your content for different variants of the same product. Over time, you’ll end up with piles of disjoined documents that you have to manually collate each time.
User Guide Conversion Services
Our technical authors are experienced in converting documents in PDF, InDesign, and Word format into a format that can be easily maintained and published.
We can then mark up sections of your document according to the product variant that it relates to. When we output your manual, we only select the sections that are relevant for that variant. We can also publish versions for print, email, and web.
This is called single-sourcing, and it’s the standard way of creating flexible documentation that is easy to update and easy to publish.
Our preferred tool is Madcap Flare. But you don’t need to use it at all. Simply hand your old user guides over, and we will convert and manage them into the new Flare format. We’ll then output the help content in as many formats as you need, using a bespoke layout for each one.
Why Convert Word User Guides?
The most common file types you are likely to work with are Microsoft Word documents. As the world’s most popular word processing software, you are more likely to be sent content for a manual or product guide as a Word .doc file than in any other form.
Word has many quirks, and getting a layout right can take considerable effort. Over time, the business becomes less and less willing to update Word user guides because of the chance of introducing flaws.
There is another advantage of converting Word documents for easier publication; you can incorporate images and PDFs, or convert old documents entirely so they can be published together in one final output.
Our Technical Authors Can Help
The conversion process from Word to MadCap Flare is not entirely straightforward. You have to be particularly careful about preserving layouts and styling, especially if you are importing a full technical manual.
It’s fairly common to end up with hundreds of div styles, for example. This creates a messy result in Madcap Flare.
Rather than struggling with the process of converting and updating manuals, simply hand the job to us. Our technical writing team can help you to convert any Word documents you want to use into Flare. With years of professional experience using Flare, our technical writers will ensure a stable, clean conversion that will avoid any undue delays to your project.
How We Convert Your User Guide
There are four main stages to converting a Word document to our software and maintaining it correctly.
Step 1: Preparing the document
If you want to preserve the layout and look of your original Word document, preparing it pays dividends. We’ll swap all of your Word inline styles for universal CSS styles that can be applied throughout the manual.
In-line formatting is where people change style and formatting as they write a document – for example, by using short-cuts to add bold or italic text, or manual indents to create lists. Plenty of people do this naturally when using a word processor. But an HTML-based programme like MadCap Flare struggles to interpret these ad hoc changes, and will often lose the formatting completely.
This is particularly important with multi-level lists, which are very common in technical documentation. If the different levels have been created by in-line formatting, they may not be nested properly and will cause issues when manipulating your Flare document.
Step 2: Importing the User Guide to MadCap Flare
Our technical authors carry out an automated import of the content from your Word document into our software.
Step 3: Reformat and Tidy the User Guide
After a Word import, or the combination of different documents, we usually find that there is some additional formatting work to do.
For example, we’ll need to recreate any images that have been created using the drawing features in Word so that they can be maintained in the MadCap suite efficiently.
At this stage, we also analyse the document and remove any unwanted styles. This creates the final uniform appearance.
If you require manuals in different output formats — for example, HTML 5 and PDF — we’ll create a layout template for each one at this point. We use your company branding to ensure that each output looks consistent.
Step 4: Manual Rewrite and Restructure
Now, we restructure your manual. We look at the different product variants that you have, and we’ll identify which parts of the content are universal, and which parts are specific to one variant.
Once we’ve marked up all the sections, we can quickly output a manual for each variant by selecting it from a list.
This is also the ideal time to do a general grammar review of the manual. We can rewrite sections that are unclear, create new content for the manual, or remove sections that you no longer require.
Step 5: Manual Maintenance
The final step is maintenance. We recommend that we revew your release notes or similar internal documents each time your software or hardware is updated. We’ll then apply the changes to the user guide and output new versions in each of the formats you use.
Most customers have us update their manual every three to four months. Thanks to the efficiency of single-sourcing, this is much more efficient than it would be if we had to update several iterations of the same manual in different Word or InDesign files.