Weighing the Options

As software solutions for the construction industry continually evolve into more sophisticated business tools, contractors may find it difficult to decide what will work best for their companies.

Whether switching to a different software system or shopping around for the first time, contractors need to consider the following:

Needs. Look for software to suit your needs but not for more. For example, it's fruitless to implement a program that provides a whole-business management solution if your company only needs accounting and payroll solutions.

Training. Does the software company provide training programs? Where and how will training be conducted -- onsite, online, or via another medium?

Support. Investigate the technical support and maintenance programs that are offered.

Distribution and upgrades. How easy is it to buy and update the software?

Learning curve. How long will implementation take?

Transition. Should you phase out old software while phasing in the new system or pilot the software before switching over on a full scale?

Contractors of all types ask for reliable and accurate software that will simplify their tasks and make every operation as quick as possible. The construction software industry will continue to develop solutions to meet these needs.

Intuit. QuickBooks Premier: Contractor Edition 2003 contains the same features that QuickBooks Financial Software provides but also offers features specially designed to help the contractor better track and bill expenses, evaluate a job's profitability, change and track estimates, and more. Nine customizable reports include a job status report, a purchase order tracking report, and a billable time tracking and monitoring report. (800) 2-INTUIT. www.quickbooks.com.

Courtesy Software

Synapse Software. BuildWorks construction management software allows users to do accounting, estimating, job costing, scheduling, purchasing/work orders, and change order management tasks, says the firm. The software merges QuickBooks and Microsoft Office to offer greater business efficiency to small and mid-sized contractors. (800) 420-2541. www.synapsesoftware.com.

AirToolz Software. AirWavz construction scheduling and communication software allows contractors to monitor and communicate changes through handheld wireless devices or Web browsers. Contractors can create one centralized schedule. (480) 483-4391. www.qcmtech.com.

Courtesy Upperspace

Upperspace. DesignCAD 3D Max Plus modeling software provides complete 2-D and 3-D modeling capabilities. Drawings can be imported from and exported to file formats including DWG, DXF, VRML, JPG, and HPGL. The software features 14 dimension commands; modeling tools include solid subtraction, union, intersection, and interference checking. (800) 223-3223. www.upperspace.com.

Courtesy Bosch Power Tools

Bosch Power Tools. The Digital Power Tools line features PunchList, a handheld- and PC-based task list manager that links to the Internet for automatic messaging and integrates with desktop scheduling and project management systems. Drop-down menus allow users to manage task lists and distribute updates and task assignments. (877) BOSCH-99. www.BoschTools.com.

Turtle Creek Software. Goldenseal 2.2 integrated business management software allows estimating, accounting, job costing, and project management, as well as contract writing, material takeoffs, payroll, and more. The software is designed for small and medium contractors. (888) 272-1008. www.turtlesoft.com.

Courtesy WinEstimator

WinEstimator. WinEst Virtual Takeoff, when used with WinEst Project Estimating v.7 software, allows onscreen takeoffs of scanned or digital blueprints without an external digitizer. Using "soft copy" building plans supplied on CD-ROM or downloaded online, contractors can quantify project estimate items and assemblies onscreen. The data can then be exported to WinEst Project Estimating v.7. (800) 950-2374. www.winest.com.

Courtesy DataCAD

DataCAD. A 3-D viewing and presentation program, o2c_Interactive allows designers to present and save multiple design scenarios in a highly compressed Internet-deliverable format. Designers can edit materials and textures, process photorealistic images, and publish results in an HTML format, e-mail attachment, or Word or PowerPoint documents. (800) 394-2231. www.datacad.com.

Courtesy RenoWorks

RenoWorks. RenoWorks visualization software allows dealers and contractors to apply different exterior home building products to a digital image of a home or a blueprint to show clients different design schemes for their projects. The software allows the user to apply products, change them, view different colors, and build combinations of windows, doors, siding, roofing, stone, and brick. (877) 980-3880. www.renoworks.com.

Courtesy SoftPlan Systems

SoftPlan Systems. SoftPlan Architectural Design Software version 11.2.4 enhances the previous version's tools. The software allows users to build virtual models with working drawings, 3-D renderings, materials lists, and cost estimate reports. SoftPlan also connects items in the models that are affected by each other. Its tools eliminate repetitive tasks, says the firm. (800) 248-0164. www.softplan.com.