Strengths and Weaknesses of Waterfall Approach for Software Development

One of the most famous and widely used approaches for software development is the waterfall model. Waterfall approach is an old technique that has been in use for quite some time, but in modern times agile approach is gaining prominence.

Waterfall approach, as is evident from the name, refers to a systematic approach where one step comes after the other. It cannot go the other way round. The process works like the waterfall effect that flows in one direction, which is from up to down.

In this process the life cycle of the development process is predetermined. All the steps are defined before the start of the project. The approach is predictive, where the team is well aware of the order of each step and therefore works accordingly. It starts from the requirement analysis, the design phase and then proceeds on to the implementation, testing and the maintenance phases.

The waterfall approach can be quite beneficial for those who are quite clear on their requirements. A planned approach works for them because they want fixed processes and budget. Where fixed processes are beneficial, at the same time they can be inconvenient at times. In cases where the client is not clear on the requirements and finds in the middle of the project that he/she wants to change course, this approach can prove to be quite problematic.

Another point of the waterfall approach is that the requirement analysis and design of architectural structure can consume a lot of time. Extensive research is done initially as the next phases depend completely on the planning strategy. However, the good thing is that everything is thoroughly worked out and each aspect is studied beforehand. The developers in such cases know what is expected of them.

A waterfall approach works in a systematic order, with one step following the other and the testing phase comes in the end. If there are any big problems encountered in the testing phase, it means a long process to make the amends. The process can consume extra time and money.

We cannot conclude that one approach is better than the other, as every method would have its own strengths and weaknesses. The determination of success for each method depends on how it is being used and whether the approach suits the scope of work being undertaken. While one approach may be suitable for a particular project, it might become totally useless under different circumstances. For example, some believe that agile methods are not well suited for offshore development, as they require a closer contact and communication that is not possible in an offshore project.

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Advantages of Antispyware Programs

Much like the antivirus programs, now a days anti spyware programs also is a must if you are browsing the net. Most of the antivirus programs provide a good job by taking care of the computer viruses. However, many of them fail to detect the spyware which gets installed onto the PC when connected to the internet. This is where Anti spyware programs comes to help. They do a good job by protecting our computers by identifying the spyware and promptly remove them.

There are so many antispyware programs are available in the market. Both in the Online as well as near to your computer retail showroom. However, you have to ensure that you buy a good Anti spyware program which fulfills the requirements what it promises. Also, make sure to check that the software works on your Operating System. Most of them work on Windows Operating system; however, there is no harm in double checking the same.

Some of the characteristics of a good antispyware program is as below.

Real time scanning

Real time scanning is the heart of these type of programs. The program once installed should reside on your system tray and should be able to do a real time scan in the background. This way it should be able to identify all kinds of threats like Adware, spyware, Trojans and the harmful key loggers.

Automatic Updates

There is no point in having an Antispyware software program which does not update the spyware definitions automatically and at periodic intervals.

Customer Support

Most of the time you will not be require to call up their helpdesk as the software will work automatically provided if the operating system is compatible and all the installation prerequisites are met. However, if you run across any installation problems or some kind of bugs customer service comes in handy.

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History and Components of a Modern Mainframe Computer

Mainframe computers are critical for some of the largest corporations in the world. Each mainframe has more than one modern processor, RAM ranging from a few megabytes to multiple-score gigabytes, and disk space and other storage beyond anything on a microcomputer. A mainframe can control multiple tasks and serve thousands of users every second without downtime.

The chief difference between mainframes and other computing systems is the level of processing that takes place. Mainframes are also different in terms of data bandwidth, organization, reliability, and control. Big organizations-banking, healthcare, insurance, and telecom companies, etc.-use mainframes for processing critical commercial data.

In this article, we discuss the evolution of mainframe computers and their components.

History of mainframe computers

IBM developed a critical part of mainframe computing, the Automatic Sequenced Controlled Calculator (ASCC) for arithmetic operations, in 1944. From the late 1950s through the 1970s, several companies manufactured mainframes: IBM, Burroughs, RCA, NCR, General Electric, and Sperry Rand, for example. Since then, System / 390 by IBM is the only kind of mainframe in use. It evolved from IBM's System / 360 in 1960.

An Early mainframe occupied a huge space. New technologies have drastically reduced the size and cost of the hardware. A current-generation mainframe can fit in a small closet.

Components of a modern mainframe computer

Like a PC, a mainframe has many components for processing data: operating system, motherboard or main board, processor, controllers, storage devices, and channels.

• Motherboard: The motherboard of a mainframe computer consists of a printed circuit that allows CPU, RAM, and other hardware components to function together through a concept called "Bus architecture". The motherboard has device slots for input cards and cable interfaces for various external devices. Where PC motherboards use 32- or 64-bit buses, mainframes use 128-bit buses. General instructions regarding the internal architecture help the motherboard connect to the other devices and retrieve data using binary computation.

• Processor: A CPU acts as the central processing point in mainframe architecture and includes an Arithmetic Logic Unit (ALU) for performing arithmetic calculations. It also works as a controller for the bus architecture and handles traffic and data requests. The processing power of mainframes is much higher compared to PCs, so that they can handle huge amounts of data.

• Storage devices: Storage devices are for entering, retrieving, storing, and recording data. Many are external devices, such as hard drives, tape drives, and punch card readers, all connected to terminals of the mainframe and controlled by the CPU. Their capacity for data storage can be hundred or even thousands of times that of a PC.

• Communication controllers: Communication controllers allow remote computers to access a mainframe. With the help of networks, LAN or WAN, communication controllers establish connections with various devices, perform data transmission over communication channels, and keep track of users at terminals.

• Channels: The "channels" are the cables used to connect the CPU and the main storage to other parts of the system and make sure that data is moved in a systematic way without losing its integrity.

Modern mainframes have advanced features such as expanded service management capabilities, cross-platform integration facilities, etc. And so are suitable for critical data center operations. The cost of maintaining modern mainframes is much less compared to older models.

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Medical Coding History – From Paper to Medial Coding Software

If we define medical coding as the assignment of alphanumerical characters to diagnoses, diseases, and treatments, then medical coding has been traced back to the 1600s in England with the London Bills of Mortality. A more standardized system of coding was developed for classifying death at the tail end of the 19th century. In 1893, Jacque Bertillon, a statistician, created the Bertillon Classification of Causes of Death, a system which was eventually adopted by 26 countries at the beginning of the 20th century. Shortly after the Bertillon Classification system was implemented, people began discussing the possibility of expanding the system beyond mortality as a way of tracking diseases.

By the middle of the 20th century, the World Health Organization (WHO) adopted a goal of a single global classification system for disease and mortality, entitled the International Classification of Diseases, Injuries, and Causes of Death (ICD). This classification system is updated every 10 years. The latest revision, ICD-10, is scheduled for adoption in the United States in 2013.

What started out as a small set of medical codes has evolved into a complex system that was initially standardized by the American Medical Association back in 1966 with current procedure codes (CPT) codes that are updated annually.

In the late 1970s, the Healthcare Common Procedure Coding System (HCPCS) was developed based on CPT. HCPCS has three levels of codes: Level One is the original CPT system. Level Two codes are alphanumeric and include non-physician services such as ambulances and other transportation as well as patient devices such as prosthetic devices. Level Three codes were developed as local codes, and were discontinued in 2003 in order to keep all codes relevant worldwide.

Recently, medical coding systems have been expanded to include other medical specialties. For example, there are coding systems related to disabilities, the dental field, prescription drugs, and mental health.

As the coding systems have become more complex and diverse, the need for training of medical coders has grown exponentially. Private training schools and public colleges throughout the country have developed certification programs. In order to be awarded a certificate, students must obtain a two-year degree from an accredited medical coding school and pass an exam given by the AHIMA.

Over the past 20 years, many coding processes have shifted from a paper-based system to a computer-based system using medical coding software and medical billing software. Many companies sell complete medical software-based coding solutions and myriad of products for specific medical disciplines, such as products that are specifically tailored to skilled nursing facilities, physicians, hospitals, surgery, cardiology, and more.

As medical facilities and professionals begin preparing for the conversion to ICD-10 in 2013, the need for more sophisticated medical coding software solutions and qualified medical coders will continue to grow.

CPT is a registered trademark of the American Medical Association.

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What Are the Advantages of Using a Web Based Project Management System

Every project needs a large number of people for the completion of any task. Projects are of several kinds, and there capacity level is also variant. In order to help the managers control all tasks, management system was introduced. Project management system is used to make the managers feel easy. The first type of a project management system is manual.

However, nowadays much web-based project management software is available in the market. There is no need to process data manually. Everything is computerized; managers just have to enter the basic information into the system. Nowadays, lots of project managers are opting for web-based project management systems. They have access to the web-based project management software’s, and tools.

Using a web-based management system has several benefits. Project managers can reach their computers from anywhere, not only computers, but they can also contact their team members and check the progress of work. Discussing any problems that arise with the team is a lot easier. Team members can also interact with each other via e-mail.

Project scheduling is the basic solution of web-based task management plan in a large organisation. In many ways a web-based activity management plan can help your managers achieve optimum results. Whether a project is based on finance, marketing, construction, or information technology (IT), and web-based project management plan can help t.

Web-based activity management plan helps managers to make a proper scheduling plan of the project. Web-based software has many tools which help in managing time, and activities. The software includes spreadsheets, network diagrams, or Gantt charts to control the task management scheme.

In project-management scheme, HTML, ASP, or PHP are the supported languages coded into the software, and browser. The team can access it through a web browser. Moreover, main software is installed on to the server for multiple clients.

Project management scheme helps managers to supervise all the team easily. If the manager finds any team member late in the completion of the task, he/she can track the problem, and change that member, thus, avoiding any delays.. Web-based project-management-system enables the mangers to distribute the workload according to the capability of human resource (HR). In addition, he/she can monitor the performance of each person involved in the completion of a job. This web-based project management system also enables the manager to measure the achievement, and performance of the team in accordance to the strategy chalked down for completion, or achievement of the target.

Web-based project-management system keeps the human resources satisfied from the point of view that whatever performance he/she is given is being registered, and is not over looked. If, a company is using a custom-made programme, which is flexible to different projects, it remains cost effective, and is not a burden on the bottom line. For different projects, which have different dynamics, companies may need a tailor-made programme for them, This can be a little costly, but it ensures better management, proper monitoring, and timely completion of tasks, ultimately ensuring good performances. Nowadays, this web-based project software is a very important tool for the management of any project. Furthermore, using the correct project management scheme, and software, can help managers to manage their project smoothly, and effectively.

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Why Architectural Drafting Is Common in Architectural Design

For architectural design projects, while there is the emphasis on using 3D models and architectural BIM modeling, the time-tested practice of using architectural drafting and 2D technical drawings is still commonplace in the AEC industry. Architectural drafting has evolved from the drawing board to computer-aided design and drafting (CAD) software programs. Drafting practices help to provide architectural construction drawings that include the technical details of architectural, structural and electrical elements required for the construction of a building. To understand the stage at which architectural drafting takes place, the workflow of a building design lifecycle must be considered.

The basic workflow of an architectural design project starts with the architect creating a conceptual plan which is usually modelled into architectural 3D models and rendered as photorealistic images for marketing and presentation to clients and customers.

Once the conceptual design is approved by the client, the design is then progressed into more detail and shared with other parties such as structural and MEP engineers. The way in which the design is progressed for the ‘design development’ phase by an architect lends itself to two options, either to develop a 3D model with more detail and then create subsequent sheets and details using a 3D tool such as Revit or AutoCAD, or as is still commonplace, to develop the concept design in 2D using more traditional methods. From the conceptual plans provided by architects and engineers, a drafter can convert these designs using CAD software programs to create technical drawings.

Architectural drafting is the process of creating technical drawings which include the floor plan, sections, elevations, detailed drawings and other documents in a construction drawing set (CD Set), which are typically required for the construction of a building.

The difference between Architectural Drafting and Modelling

Architectural drafting refers to creating 2D technical drawings and architectural construction drawings which are mainly used by contractors and consultants on site. Architectural 3D modelling refers to creating 3D models and renders of photorealistic images which are mainly used to present the architectural design for marketing purposes and then progressed from there to create the 2D technical drawings, in effect feeling like an extra stage (the 3D modelling element). The main software used for drafting, to create 2D technical drawings is AutoCAD while modellers use Revit and ArchiCAD to create 3D models and rendered images. Architectural draftsmen need to have basic 2D and 3D software knowledge such as AutoCAD and knowledge of technical codes and drafting guidelines specified by organisations such as American National Standards Institute (ANSI), American Society of Mechanical Engineers (ASME), American Design Drafting Association (ADDA), Public Works Government Services Canada (PWGSC), National Institute of Building Sciences (NIBS), BSI British Standards Institute and Standards Australia Code AS1100. Architectural modellers need to have a deeper understanding of architectural, building and construction concepts and experience with 3D software programs such as Revit and ArchiCAD.

Why Architectural Drafting is still Common in Architectural Design Practices

Architectural 3D models are preferred by architects and designers because they provide a 3D perspective of the conceptual plan of the building; it makes management of project data easier and allows for design changes on the go. However, construction companies that require technical specifications of the architectural project prefer 2D technical drawings and architectural construction drawings because they provide accurate details required for construction, most of the resources involved in construction understand 2D drawings, there are no issues with compatibility of software as compared to when using 3D models and it is a suitable solution to meet the budgetary requirements of a construction project. Some of the reasons why architectural drafting is preferable by several construction companies include:

• Suitable as per construction requirements – In some building projects, 2D technical drawings or architectural CAD drawings are sufficient to complete construction, where additional information that 3D models provide is not required. A construction drawing set (CD set) includes all the floor plans, elevations, sections and detailed drawings required for construction. Technical codes, symbols and other additional information such as the type of material are provided in technical drawings. Therefore, construction companies find 2D technical drawings sufficient to successfully complete construction.

• Availability of technical resources – Not all companies have technical resources to deliver 3D models. While drafting teams are qualified to work on AutoCAD to deliver 2D technical drawings, they may not be qualified to work on Revit to deliver 3D models. In the construction industry, the availability of drafting teams who can provide 2D technical drawings is ample compared to companies that provide 3D modelling services.

• Availability of software – The adoption of new software and practices is gradual and slow in the construction industry. The software used in building projects varies from country to country. Some countries use ArchiCAD and AutoCAD Architecture instead of Revit, therefore leading to the incompatibility of project data. 2D technical drawings in AutoCAD are widely used and compatible making it a preferred option to Revit 3D models.

• Suitable as per cost and budgetary requirements – In most cases, construction companies do not find the need to invest more in 3D models, when drafting solutions provide detailed technical drawings which are sufficient and relevant enough for construction. There is also the added investment in resources that are competent enough to understand and implement architectural 3d models on-site.

While architectural 3D modelling and BIM modelling provide design-related information typically required for architects and designers in the design stage of the building project lifecycle, architectural drafting provides technical drawings that are not just about aesthetics but about high-performance detailing of construction elements. Architectural CAD drawings specifically communicate the design intent and help in the construction of buildings which companies find relevantly sufficient over 3D models. Even as construction companies will need to eventually evolve to combining the use of 2D technical drawings and architectural 3D models until then, the time-tested practice of using architectural drafting and drawing solutions in construction is here to stay.

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Effective Job Numbering And Cost Code Systems

Overview

Many companies have a sequential job numbering system, but have you considered the possibility of altering the numbering sequence so you can pull reports for a certain type of project or projects by year and the informational reports that could be generated?

And, are your cost codes sufficient to cover the details you need to see in your reports? Do you lump all site related travel and subsistence into one code, or do you have the details of hotels vs. Housing and meals vs. Subsistence?

Not all software programs are sophisticated enough to allow for customized job type numbering sequences; However, even the basic job cost software systems can be adapted to allow for an advanced numbering system.

Specific Job Numbering Sequences

Advanced reporting techniques can yield a wealth of information. How jobs are numbered so ease the reporting burden so projects of a certain type and / or year can be easily excluded from the software. Samples of numbering sequences could be based on the following criteria:

· Year project was awarded

· Public vs. Private works

· Commercial vs. Residential

· Construction vs. Service

· Division (s) of the Company

If your software allows, you may start the job number with the year awarded, followed by the job type and then a sequential number. Management may request a report for gross revenue on all the commercial contractor improvement projects in 2013. If you have a numbering sequence, this would be an easy report to pull, rather than go through all your 2013 projects and manually add the numbers to obtain the Results.

The job cost master file is another good source of information if all fields are completed and there is a common usage of custom fields that can be used to pull reports.

Cost Codes – Too few or Too Many?

Often we see cost code lists that spill onto multiple pages. Most job cost software programs allow for use of one cost code for multiple categories (Labor, Materials, Direct Job Expense, etc.).

A good source to use for establishing a cost code list is the bid recap and detail sheets used when bidding projects. This will yield the different stages of labor, types of materials to install associated with that labor, the different types of equipment to be rented, categories of subcontractors and the details of direct job costs to be incurred.

These activities can be "numbered" to establish a list of cost codes. If the software allows for use of one code across multiple categories, give thought to not duplicating descriptions, but arranging codes together by "type" of work being performed, rented equipment, direct job expenses, work typically contracted out, etc.

Keeping your cost codes consistent will then allow even more sophisticated reporting – management can now ask for all commercial contractor improvement projects in 2013 and the total cost of crane rentals for the year on those specific projects.

Why Go Through These Steps?

History is a great source of information when anticipating the future. Cost details can be analyzed for specific types of jobs when preparing to bid a similar project. Historical information can be analyzed for margins on certain types of projects or a division of the company to make decisions on whether or not a certain type of work is profitable.

If fields are available in the job cost master file, reports can be declined not only by type and year but by project manager as well to look at performance and estimate vs. Actual results.

Conclusion

When developing any numbering system, consistency is important in order to maximize the reporting results. Management should determine the information they wish to see and develop job numbers and cost codes that will allow for advanced reporting not only to themselves but provide useful information to estimating, project managers and accounting as well.

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Website Design – Hardware and Software Tools You May Need

Before you get started with your new website or editing your current site, you need to consider which hardware and software tools you may need to support your efforts.

When it comes to hardware needed this can be very simple or reasonably complex depending on your particular needs. Of course, if you plan to create a new website (or even view your new website later) you need a computer. Simple enough, right? Not necessarily. We prefer to work with Apple Macintosh (OSX Leopard on MacBook Pro) as we do a lot of intensive graphics work and have previously invested in Adobe Creative Suite software (Photoshop, InDesign, Flash, Dreamweaver, etc.). It is just as easy to create your new website using your Windows PC but we would suggest you stay away from using Windows Vista (any version) and migrate to Windows 7 or stick with Windows XP. These operating systems are just much more stable and reliable.

Another consideration for hardware should be some sort of backup hard drive or removable USB memory stick(s). It is important that you back up all of your website data to a removable drive in the event your computer crashes, is broken or is stolen. When you create website files, most of your data will be stored on the website hosting servers but, in many cases, you will have many other “builder files” that usually never make it to the hosting servers. If you lose this data you will be forced to start from scratch in many cases. Another piece of hardware that many forget about is a HD Video Camcorder. If you plan to include video on your site, you should be investing in something half decent; you can normally pick up a good video camera that also captures “still photos” for under $500.00.

When it comes to software needed, this can be somewhat more complicated, again depending on what your website design goals are. At the very least, you will need some sort of text editing software, FTP (file transfer software), graphics creation software and then a variety of other tools as you progress.

Here are some of the most common subjects you should consider when planning the design of your website product.

COMPUTER

Do you currently have a computer that can process large files (i.e. – video files) quickly and efficiently?

WEBSITE SERVER

Are you planning to host your own website portal? If so, do you know what type of hardware and server software you will need?

BACKUP HARD DRIVE or USB STICK

Do you currently have some sort of backup hard drive equipment or plan?

VIDEO CAMERA

Will you be creating custom videos for your website and, if so, do you have a HD video camera ready to go?

MOBILE WEB DEVICES

Are you planning to make your website “mobile web friendly”? If so, do you have an iPhone and an iPad? Android phone? Blackberry device? These will be needed for testing purposes!

WEBSITE CREATION SOFTWARE

Do you have any website creation software (i.e. – Adobe Dreamweaver or Microsoft Front Page) installed, licensed and ready to use?

GRAPHICS EDITING SOFTWARE

Are you planning to create your own website graphics or edit pictures? Do you have the necessary software (i.e. – Adobe Photoshop or Photo Studio)?

DATABASES

Are you planning on creating a database for your website and, if so, do you know which software to use for this purpose?

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Turn Your Basement Into a Virtual Shooting Gallery

An indoor shooting simulator is easy to add on to most projection based home theater systems, and in most cases is an inexpensive way to add hours of entertainment for the whole family. People of all ages enjoy playing the wide range of games that are available for the system, everything from “Baseball Challenge” to “Elephant Hunter” will keep your family and friends entertained. Utilizing a shooting simulator is not only a great way to add excitement to your home theater room; it is also a get way to keep your shooting skills sharp.

System Basics:

There are a few basic requirements for adding a shooting simulator to an existing home theater. The simulator runs on a normal Windows based computer, software is compatible with Windows XP, Windows Vista and Windows 7. The image is broadcast through a projector to a screen, which most projectors and home theater screens will be suitable for use with this simulator. Now all you need to add is a basic simulator package, which includes a rifle, case, camera and five games. Installation of the simulator will only take about thirty minutes to setup and install the new software and hardware. Now you are ready to start enjoying the very best of simulated shooting. To recap the items you need: computer, projector, screen and a simulator package.

Benefits of Indoor Shooting:

There are many advantages to adding an indoor shooting simulator to you home theater room, these are just a few.

Convenience- having the ability to practice your shooting skills from within your own house, cuts down on drive time to the range and you can fire up your system anytime you want.

Cost Savings- ammunition is expensive! You will save a lot of money practicing your skills using a true to life replica laser firearm verses using live ammo.

Safety- using a laser firearm is a much safer weapon to practice will and it’s a lot better for your hearing.

Shooting Variety- with a shooting simulator you have the ability to practice your skills on a wide range of software titles. You can practice shooting skeet and with just a touch of a button you can switch over to another game and practice your marksmanship on simulated popup targets.

Entertainment- Gather you friends and family, challenge them for the highest score or for bragging rights.

Packages and Software:

With this system, there are many packages of both hardware and software available. Looking for a portable package or maybe a complete package if you don’t have a projector, computer and screen? Those packages and more are available. There are over 35 software titles currently available, which can be purchased separately or in 15 game packages. Software titles are being added, so you will always have the option to buy the latest games on the market. Do you have the best Halloween party on your block? There is a Halloween software package that will insure your party is unforgettable. Do you have a young hunter or marksman that could benefit from “Hunter’s Education” software? It is an option on this simulator. Teach them everything from ethical shooting to animal anatomy, with the hunter’s Ed package. Looking to hone your archery skills? This simulator has packages available for you bow enthusiasts. There are several optional firearms which can be added to the system, to maximize the skill development and enjoyment of the simulator.

Adding a shooting simulator to your theater room is easy and a cost effective way of increasing the entertainment value of your room as well as improve shooting skills. If you would like some more information on the shooting simulators or have any questions please contact me through the website.

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Review of Takeoff Software for Estimating Construction

So often people want to rush out and buy estimating software or takeoff software without first trying to define their internal estimating processes. Once the estimating process is clearly defined, then and only then, can you actually try to compartmentalize the process into segments. So often the segment is really quantity takeoff. Takeoff of what you may wonder? That is like the million dollar question. This article will speak about the takeoff software process which usually associated with estimating software processes. The takeoff software process can often be takeoff of materials for some folks, and to many others, the takeoff process of scoped systems to create estimates or proposals. This review or comparison will not try to explain the estimating software process but bring to you valid quantity takeoff thinking among estimators in a quest to find which product thinks the way you do. These are the opinions of the author.

I will review and compare 3 types of measuring takeoff products:

It is extremely important to note that these are ONLY measuring takeoff programs, NOT estimating programs.

1) Planswift

2) On-Screen Takeoff by On Center Software

3) Electronic Plan Takeoff Software

All three products have their strengths, however, Planswift and On-Screen Takeoff are stand-alone products and Electronic Plan Takeoff is actually dynamically integrated live with Microsoft Excel which means that it starts and finishes and saves in Excel. They all integrate with Excel, however, you will have to evaluate your thought process and decide which of the three products work-flow think along the lines of how you think. For instance, what is the first thing you do when you get a set of plans? Typically, you start flipping through the plans to see how involved the project is and what type of work do you see that is attractive for your company. Then when you decide you are going to estimate this job, more often than not, you start like 80% of companies in the world of construction estimating by opening your takeoff master template Excel spreadsheet. You rename your spreadsheet to the new job or project and off you go performing takeoff. This is where the differences are:

In Planswift, you decide what drawing you are on and then you perform the measuring of an item you want to perform takeoff on the plan. Unfortunately, that is not exactly how an estimator thinks. Planswift does give you the ability to add a type of takeoff item on the fly by naming it and then perform takeoff of it; somewhat of a very manual and slow process. They also provide you with the ability of applying a type of assembly to a takeoff to aggregate quantities of items in that assembly. Not quite the way an estimator thinks. It forces you to jump to different screens which slows down the process. Typically, the main start of anyone’s takeoff process, or some may think of it as a checklist approach, is to start with your own spreadsheet of YOUR items. Those items can be material items or can be scoped assembly system items. Either way, by starting with a master spreadsheet say in Excel for example, many estimators think of this as a risk reducer, not to forget things they normally takeoff. Being that Planswift is a stand-alone takeoff program, it typically saves your takeoff images in Planswift instead of your estimate in Excel, if Excel is your estimating system. If you are using Excel, you have to manually save your takeoff measurement numbers in Excel and your takeoff images in Planswift or elsewhere, just not in Excel where the takeoff quantity resides. Again, if you want to integrate with Excel, they force you to either export or import takeoff items from Excel rather than being dynamically integrated live to Excel. They do however have the ability to dump the measured quantity from Planswift into any Excel spreadsheet or Word document. The main purpose or the primary focus of this program is measuring, therefore it does a good job at that function. Most of the other functions require you to jump around different screens, and essentially, you loose your thought of where you are. There are some features that attempt to address the estimating process, however, there are many features that are missing for Planswift to be a full fledged estimating system; it is NOT one. Planswift does integrate with the leading estimating system Sage Timberline, but the integration is weak. Since Timberline’s power is in assembly takeoff and where most estimators reside in Timberline, Planswift does not give the estimator the ability to add quantities of miscellaneous Timberline items or one-time items that need to added on the fly to an assembly while they are in Planswift at the Timberline interview screen, and while being in the measuring phase. Planswift does allow the deleting of assembly generated items as well adjusting assembly item quantities in a different screen. Again, to perform all that, you are forced to jump around to different screens. No assembly is ever perfect in any estimating system since project conditions are always uniquely different, therefore, having to add items to an assembly is extremely important. That adding of items and associated quantities is an absolute requirement any estimator typically has to do during the takeoff measuring and estimating phase; something that Planswift struggles with as related to Timberline Estimating. Planswift does allow the direct send of measurements to Timberline Estimating items and assemblies while in Timberline Estimating, just as you would do with the old digitizer measuring boards. Training, support and maintenance are extra for Planswift. On-Screen Takeoff by On Center Software, and Planswift charge their annual maintenance and support fees per license (mandatory) which costs the end user more expense annually especially if a customer has more than one license.

On Center’s On-Screen Takeoff is the Grand Daddy of software takeoff products due to the fact that it has been around the longest. On Center recognizes that On-Screen Takeoff is primarily a measuring program. That is why they have a separate estimating program named QuickBid for those who want an estimating program. On Center does not try to trick you into thinking it is an estimating system. In On-Screen Takeoff, you also decide what drawing you are on and then you perform the measuring of the plan. BUT, before you start, you can load a master set styles of things you typically takeoff or measure from your own library. That process seems to be less complicated than that of Planswift. On-Screen Takeoff does give you the ability to add a type of takeoff item on the fly by naming it and then performing takeoff of it; somewhat of a manual and slow process as well. The program does come with many features that are primarily focused on simple measuring to advanced measuring issues all with attention to detail regarding easy navigation for the takeoff process. On Center does a very good job at that. However, there seems to be a disconnect of thought from an Excel spreadsheet items you may use for estimating and/or proposals. The integration to Microsoft Excel is not a dynamic live link, more like an after thought in my opinion. Yes, you can establish links to named styles to cells or ranges in Excel, somewhat rigid. But the question you will have to ask yourself, which will happen more often than not is: What do you do when you need to add things on the fly during takeoff and in an Excel spreadsheet? Again there will be manual associations you will have to establish with Excel which is another major slowdown. You have to manually save your takeoff measurement numbers in Excel and your takeoff images in On-Screen or anywhere you decide, except the takeoff images will not be saved in Excel where the takeoff quantity resides. This type of situation arises when a takeoff program is a stand-alone program. On Center’s On-Screen Takeoff has the best integration with the most widely used estimating system in the USA: Sage Timberline Estimating. It basically mimics the same interview process as you would do with the old digitizer measuring boards. By working directly with Timberline, On-Screen Takeoff allows the estimator to perform takeoff of a Timberline variable question and immediately returns back directly with the takeoff quantity in a Timberline assembly at the variable question. By virtue of this process, On-Screen Takeoff allows the estimator to continue his/her Timberline interview process in Sage Timberline Estimating by reviewing/massaging generated quantities, or adding items in a Timberline assembly as the estimator see fit. That workflow process gives full control to the estimator, good job On Center. Training, support and maintenance are extra for On-Screen Takeoff. On-Screen Takeoff by On Center Software, and Planswift charge their annual maintenance and support fees per license (mandatory) which costs the end user more expense annually especially if a customer has more than one license.

This next system is ONLY if your estimating system or proposal generator is Microsoft Excel. Electronic Plan Takeoff Software is a plug-in for Excel. You start your spreadsheet, you perform the measuring takeoff, you may even add some more items on the fly all the while you are in the measuring phase in the Electronic Plan Takeoff program. When you are done, even if you added items on the fly, they automatically appear in your Excel spreadsheet. Excel is the control of everything. Your project is started in Excel, your takeoff is saved in Excel, the estimate or proposal is/can be produced there in Excel; one program, one place. Many takeoff programs interface with Excel somehow, but only Electronic Plan Takeoff is live linked with Excel, meaning all your Excel spreadsheet descriptions appear in the measuring takeoff program so you always know where you are in Excel. That is a huge difference in comparison to Planswift and On-Screen Takeoff. You can even change a description of a takeoff item in Electronic Plan Takeoff and it is automatically changed live, in your Excel spreadsheet. When you talk about the estimating and takeoff phase you must keep processes cleans and easy and this program does just that. There is no getting lost in this program. Just like the other reviewed programs above, the central focus of this program is takeoff measuring, and it does a GREAT job at that. The navigation within the program is really simple and easy. It is not made to work with other estimating systems, but there is a version that allows the direct send of measurements to any Microsoft Windows program awaiting a keyboard entry, just as you would do with digitizer measuring boards. There is also a version that works with digitizer boards as well. If you use Microsoft Excel for estimating, or takeoffs, or proposals, then this Electronic Plan Takeoff program for Excel would be your best choice. The integration to Excel is unmatched in Electronic Plan Takeoff compared to Planswift or On-Screen Takeoff. What is quite different in Electronic Plan Takeoff is that training, support, and maintenance are INCLUDED with a purchase, whereas training, support and maintenance are extra for Planswift and On-Screen Takeoff. Moreover, annual support and maintenance for Electronic Plan Takeoff year two and beyond is a low fee per company per year, instead of per license. On-Screen Takeoff by On Center Software, and Planswift charge their annual maintenance and support fees per license (mandatory) which costs the end user more expense annually especially if a customer has more than one license.

Microsoft and Excel are registered trademarks of Microsoft Corporation. Planswift is the registered trademark of Tech Unlimited, Inc. On-Screen Takeoff and QuickBid are registered trademarks of On Center Software, Inc. Sage Timberline Office, Sage Timberline Estimating are registered trademarks of Sage Software, Inc.

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