By Joe Stoddard. If you're into technology, the International Builders' Show was a great place to be. Here's a handful of highlights from Las Vegas.

Mission control. Remodeler Norm Seff's BetterACT! was the first, and is still the best, relationship/document manager for remodelers. Sitting on top of generic ACT!, BetterACT! tracks project details, then spits out customized letters, reports, and other documents with just a few clicks. The new version sports better connectivity with QuickBooks, Excel, Word, and Microsoft Project, and a slick new installer.

Handheld fever. Conventional tool maker Bosch enters the digital realm with their version of Dan Hampton's Punch List, another "best of" application. Punch List lets you track project loose ends on a PalmOS handheld and communicate with whoever's responsible via fax or e-mail.

Remodelers are also going to like CDCI's cPM scheduler, which expertly bridges the gap between desktop and handheld computers. Easier to learn than the typical scheduler, cPM is simple and powerful.

Intelligent design. Trelligence Affinity 2.0 for Residential is hard to explain, but if you do design/build, you need it. Affinity captures project requirements (kitchen to the left of the family room, mudroom in back, etc.) during a client interview. Then, using those parameters, it creates a bubble diagram that can be manipulated and exported into CAD. Reporting tools keep client expectations and budgets in check throughout the job.

Also big news for design/build remodelers is the new SoftPlan release. SoftPlan 12 has an excellent DWG (AutoCAD) import/export utility, as well as dozens of features users have been screaming for: auto-dimensioning; multiple undo-redo; terrain (site) modeling; an upgraded stair modeler; and walk-through animations, to name a few.

Frank J. Borkowski

--Joe Stoddard, a technology consultant to the construction industry, can be reached at