With the release of Author Tools 184.108.40.206 we have done quite a bit to make the product better. We have added in a number of new features that make it even easier to author documents, we have made some small changes to existing functionality and of course we have fixed one or two bugs that we noticed along the way.
Here are the release notes that show you what we have done, with examples of the changes.
The first thing we will want to highlight with this release of Author Tools will be all of the new features that we have added. Because we use Author Tools ourselves, when we notice that there is something that annoys us, or a better way to do things, then we are sure that these will be features that bug you all as well, or that will make your life easier.
Here is a summary of what we have done to improve the tool.
Automatically show the Selection Panel
One of the changes that we are super excited about is that we now automatically show the Selection Panel whenever we add in a new slide from the Write ribbon bar. We are always watching the Selection Panel because it shows us all of the placeholder names, and when they get out of sync then Author Tools is not able to find the right content to put in the right area.
Up until now we have had to go into the Home ribbon bar and click on the Arrange dropdown list and then select the Selection Pane option for it to show up.
Although this is only a few clicks, after you have done it a few hundred times, it starts to get annoying.
Now if you use any of the insert buttons within the Write ribbon bar to add a slide and the Selection panel is not shown, it will automatically become visible.
New and Simpler Storyboard Template
We have made a lot of changes to the Storyboard template that we use as the basis for all of the documents, and have tried a lot of different formats and placeholders along the way. We now think that we have the ideal storyboard.
Some improvements that we have made include:
Simplifying the number of placeholder shapes within the slides so that we just have the information that is useful. i.e. Section slides do not have pictures, but have more space for text. We have removed some of the placeholders like Keywords etc. but you can still use them if you like, you just need to add the placeholder into your storyboard.
Added smaller, slide bookmarks, and also organized them from right to left based on the level they are in the document. We think this looks nicer.
Added a Rebuild Master Option
As we change the storyboard templates, one thing that has irked us is that all of our old storyboards still have the old format and don’t look as nice. So with this release we added an option to take an old storyboard and upgrade it to the newest format.
All that we need to do for this to work is to open up the Write ribbon bar and then click on the Rebuild Master button.
This will take all of the content from the old Storyboard and then move it over to the latest Storyboard that we have in the Themes directory.
Added a Split by Part/Chapter/Section/Article for Presentation
A few releases back we added a feature that would allow you to split the word documents into separate files based on the Part, Chapter, Section and Article. This is an easy way to create individual documents without having to manually cut and paste from a master file. We have been creating more and more presentations from our content and decided to add this feature into the Presentation section so that now when we build our PowerPoints they will be automatically split for us.
All we need to do is check the Split by xxx flag on the Publish ribbon bar and let the application do the rest for us.
Added a Reset Slide button
When the placeholder names get out of whack on the storyboard then Author Tools has a little bit of a hard time working out where the content it. We have had an option that will update the placeholder names when we built the documents, but sometimes we just want to update a slide by hand.
Now when we notice that the placeholders are not quite right, all we need to do is click on the Reset Slide button on the Write tab.
That will re-apply the slide template and also update the names. As an added benefit, all of the text formatting remains in place. When we did this by hand by resetting the slide, sometimes items that we had bolded or added other embellishments to lost their formats.
Added a Create Sections button
There has always been an option within Author Tools to automatically create sections based on the title of the slides, but it has been part of the Publishing process. With this release we added a button that allows us to create sections at any time without having to create a document or a presentation.
To do this, all we need to do is open up our storyboard and then click on the Create Sections button.
Author Tools will then add sections at every structure level within the storyboard. This is a great way to see the organization of the storyboard.
Added an option to load steps from Screen Shots
This is one of our most favorite changes that we added to the Author Tools, and this feature allows us to pull in all of the images from our Screenshots folder and have Author Tools create steps automatically for us. In the past we have had to have the Storyboard open as we have been creating our steps, take a screen capture and then paste it into the slide. Although this worked well, we realized that there was a better way to do things.
Now for every step that we are documenting we just press the Windows+Print Screen buttons. That takes a screen shot and placed the image in the Screenshots folder within the users Pictures folder.
Now if we just click on the Import Steps button, Author Tools will find all of the images within the folder and insert them in as steps for us automatically. All that is left is to narrate the steps.
We have made some other changes along the way to make the tool easier to use. While not specifically bugs in the system, they are not really new features either, so we thought that we would point these out as well just so that you know that they are there.
Ignored hidden Shapes
The first item on the list was to have the tool ignore hidden shapes. Within PowerPoint we can hide shapes on the slide which is a great way to keep the content, but not necessarily show it when we publish it. With this release we just made sure that hidden shapes were ignored.
For example, if we start off with a Storyboard with some images, we can see on the Selection panel that all of the shapes are visible.
When we publish the document then all shapes including the pictures are inserted into the document.
If we want though we can hide any shape – for example here we hid a picture that was useful, but not necessary for the walkthough.
When we rebuild the document the image is not used.
Updated the Missing Style Error Message
When building a Word document, one of the most common errors that we come across is that the Word template does not have all of the necessary styles configured. It’s not a bug in the system, it’s really that we are just using an old or outdated template. A few releases back we “improved” the error messages by centralizing them in one routine, and as a result when the tool found that there was a missing style, it told us that it was missing, but didn’t tell us the Style Name so that we could update the template.
Now when there is a missing style, the message includes the name of the Style so that we can add it to the Word document and rebuild the document again.
Copy slide layout on Update Master
One small tweak that we made to the Update Master feature was to also update the Slide Layout to the master template as well. This means that the placeholders and formats became more consistent. Before this was added, it was really a twostep process to reset the slide and then update the master. Also this means that we don’t lose text formatting.
Removed Summaries from TOC
Another small change we made was to remove the Summaries from the Table Of Content slides. A small change, but a goodie.
Rearranged the Write ribbon bar
The Write ribbon bar has grown organically for the past couple of releases, and we thought that we should get it back under control and organize it a little better.
Now the Write ribbon bar is broken out into more logical groupings, including the breaking out of the insert slide options into the Structure group and the Content group. This makes it a lot easier to see the separation of the two types of storyboard slides.
The final section in these release notes will be all of the fixes that we have done. Although the tool is good, it has had its fair share of bugs, and we don’t think that these will be the last of them. But at least we have squelched these ones.
Fixed Certificate Error
A lot of people had problems installing the last release of Author Tools because it kept on coming up with a security error complaining about an invalid certificate. We finally worked out how to fix this and now everyone should be able to install the kit.
Fixed the Section and Article summary on presentations
We noticed that when we created a Presentation for the Sections and the Articles, if there is a Summary placeholder on the template then the summary was not being populated from the parent level – i.e. the Chapter etc. Now when we create the presentations, these slides pick up the parent level title and show them in the Summary placeholder.
Fixed the Slide Reset to check for the Design Name
We noticed that when we reset a slide, if the storyboard had two slide templates with the same name, but within different master groups then the first one was used. We now check for the Design name as well so that it will reset the slide to the right template slide.
Fixed the Presentation heading not showing with blank headings
You may not know this, but you don’t have to put headings on every slide. If you leave the heading blank, then it should inherit the title from the previous cell in the storyboard. Or at least that’s what we thought it was supposed to do. Now it does.
For example, in this Storyboard the first cell has a heading.
The subsequent cells do not have a heading.
When we create the Presentation the cells that did not have a heading just use the previous heading.
We think that this release of Author Tools is the best one yet. We added a number of new features to the tool, we improved some of the old features to work better and we even fixed a few problems with the tool to make it work how we designed it to.
This release is now in the can and ready for shipping.
If you have it installed already then just update the tool and you are good to go.
If you don’t have the tool, then check it out here and try it out – the Student Edition is free and a great way to get your feet wet with the tool: http://www.dynamicsaxcompanions.com/collections/author-tools