Xactware, makers of a popular estimating program used in insurance restoration, plans to release a package in March called Xactimate for Remodelers.

Those who have seen trial versions say the software promises to fit into their work flow, integrating with such programs as ACT!; Microsoft Project, Excel, and Word; and Intuit's Master Builder and QuickBooks Pro.

Ken Badalamenti of Riviera Construction, Solon, Ohio, who participated in a focus group and has explored several estimating programs, says the program's "Sketch" function looks very user-friendly. It lets users draw and dimension rooms simultaneously. "I thought it was cool how it linked to MS Project," he says. "A few clicks and you were done."

Jonathan Kantar of Sage Builders, Newton, Mass., also saw a demo. He says if he can identify 90% of project cost through a sketch in a few hours, "that's pretty powerful." He currently uses an in-house program in Access but welcomes a product that integrates with Chief Architect. "It's nice to have a complete scope of work and enter the data just once," he says.

Xactimate for Remodelers automatically calculates removal and replacement costs, taxes, licensing, permit fees, labor, and markup. The program accesses, via the Internet, regional pricing databases that are updated quarterly with feedback from the field. Several thousand items are on the price list, along with definitions of what's included in the item, such as materials, labor, and equipment. A graphic accompanies many definitions. Users can add items or customize existing ones.

The software is expected to cost less than $150 per month per workstation, according to the manufacturer ( www.xactware.com).