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Keyboard shortcuts in MadCap Flare

Published in ISTC Communicator, Autumn 2016.

Introduction

Many authors work most quickly and efficiently if they can keep their hands on the keyboard and do not have to interrupt their flow by reaching for the mouse. This means that assigning keyboard shortcuts to common commands can be very beneficial.

Flare has always supported keyboards shortcuts to some degree. For example, even in Flare 1 you could create a new topic by pressing Ctrl+T. However, when Flare 11 was released, the support for keyboard shortcuts was taken to a new level.

Keyboard shortcuts in Flare are now fully customisable, meaning that you can add your own chosen shortcut to almost any command, button, or option within the Flare interface. You can also replace the factory default keyboard shortcuts with your own preferred key combinations. Finally, it is even possible to set up keyboard shortcuts for assigning specific paragraph and character styles by recording macros to which you then assign the keyboard shortcuts. In this article, I will explain how to do all of these things.

Modifying an existing shortcut

To view the list of default keyboard assignments, select the File tab, click the Options button, and then select the Keyboard Shortcuts tab. You'll see the screen shown below.

Keyboard Shortcuts tab

There are two types of commands that can have keyboard shortcuts:

  • Global: commands that you can use anywhere within the Flare interface
  • XML Editor: commands that are specific to working in the XML Editor

To change an existing keyboard assignment for a command, simply select the command and then select the required Key Assignment and Modifiers (Control, Shift, and Alt). If the combination that you select has already been assigned to another command, you will be alerted to this by the command showing in the Other commands using shortcut field.

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Creating new keyboard shortcuts

Many useful commands do not have keyboard shortcuts assigned to them by default, and are not shown in the list of available commands. If you want to assign a keyboard shortcut to an unlisted command, you can do so by first clicking the Unlisted Commands button.

I recommend, as a minimum, adding keyboard shortcuts for Bullet List and Numbered List, since lists are an extremely common feature of technical documentation and user assistance.

Assigning shortcuts to styles

Before Flare 11, there was only one way to apply a style by using the keyboard, and that was somewhat convoluted. It involved pressing Ctrl+Shift+H to display the floating Style Picker (shown below), using an Up or Down Arrow key to move to the required style, and then pressing Enter.

Floating Style Picker

With Flare 11 and above, it is now possible to apply a style using a single key combination (such as Ctrl+N), though it is not very obvious how to set this up unless you are in the know. The trick is to record a macro for the action of applying the style. You can then assign a keyboard shortcut to the macro.

To record the macro:

  1. Open a topic in Flare’s XML Editor and place your cursor in a paragraph.
  2. On the Tools tab, click Record.
  3. In the New Macro dialog, enter a name (such as Apply Note).
  4. Using the drop-down list of style on the Home tab, select the required style (for example, p.Note).
  5. On the Tools tab, click Stop.

To assign a keyboard shortcut to the new macro:

  1. On the File tab, click Options.
  2. Using the Command Scope dropdown, select XML Editor.
  3. Scroll down the list of options to find the macro (prefixed with Playback:).
  4. Select a Key Assignment and Modifier in the normal way.

Sharing keyboard shortcuts

Keyboard shortcuts are among the few settings in Flare that are not project specific. Since they are defined within the global settings available from the Options button on the File tab, they can be used for all of the projects that you work on. The settings are stored in an XML file named Commands_3.mccmds, which is located in the AppData\ Roaming\MadCap Software\Flare folder on your computer.

If you would like to share your keyboard shortcuts with other authors in your team, you can do so by copying your version of this file to the same location on their computers (overwriting the version that they already have). Note that this would result in those authors losing any keyboard shortcuts of their own that they might have already set up.