MadCap Flare: Using Conditional Tags for Controlling Large Stylistic Changes

One of the many benefits of MadCap Flare is using conditional tags. Recently, I’ve found conditional tags very helpful for making stylistic changes across an entire help project, particularly changes that take longer to make.

Some stylistic changes can be made quickly via Find and Replace. However, this is not the same when adding a word or phrase globally.

Imagine that you are publishing content according to an Agile process. You want to make a high priority change in the current sprint and decide that the stylistic change can wait, e.g., until the next sprint. By using conditional text, you can “hide” the in-progress stylistic change when you publish your high priority change.  When you decide to publish the stylistic change, using the conditional text, you can then “show” all pages with the new style. By using conditional text in this manner, your help file will always appear consistent. And the conditional text also puts you in control by letting you decide when to publish the change in question.

Conditional Text Example

You perform a survey and find that the wording of the interface procedures needs to be more specific. Users want to see the word “button” in procedure steps to avoid confusion with other UI elements of the same name. In this example, click Install appears is on its own, but it conflicts with radio button.

Main instructions

But you’ve decided that you want to see the word button after Install.

To be consistent, you want to add the word “button” throughout your help file procedures.

1. Creating the Conditional Tags

You first need to create the conditional tags in Flare. One conditional tag allows the word button to appear, while the other may be named without it.

2. Applying the Condition Tags to the Steps

You can then apply the condition tags to every procedural step where a button name exists. Using the Install button example, the same step is either Install button or Install on its own with the relevant conditional tag. You can use the XML or text editor to add the conditional tags.

XML editor -step conditions

code view step condition

As you may have many changes to make, you should choose the editing option that you can perform the quickest.

3. Publishing a Build with the Appropriate Condition

When publishing a help build, you set the appropriate Include and Exclude condition in the Conditional Text tab of the Target Editor.

runtime conditions (1)

If you are not ready to roll out the stylistic change on the current publication, you set Exclude for Button.WithButton and Include for Button.WithoutButton.

If you are ready to roll out the change, you set Include for Button.WithButton and Exclude for Button.WithoutButton.

Save Time By Applying Conditions at the Procedure Level

Instead of individual steps, you can apply a conditional tag to a procedure. All elements within a procedure have the selected conditional tag. This is easily done in the XML editor.

In the XML editor, the separate procedures appear as follows:

inherited view

The advantage of here is that you can save time on keystrokes.


The main advantage of using conditional tags is that you have a high level of flexibility. There are probably many other ways in which you can use conditional tags in Flare to control your Agile writing process. I am just beginning to explore these different methods. Conversely, if you have fewer files and you just want to make a quick change, you can simply add the word or phrase without any of the conditions. This is very easy to do using the XML editor.


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