Calculators, apps, software extend functionality

For tallying numbers quickly and accurately in the field, first came a handheld calculator. Then came dedicated programs that turned a generic calculator into a construction calculator. Now if you carry the right kind of Smartphone, you don't even need the calculator to perform fast project-relevant calculations at jobsites, at client meetings, or any place else on the go.

For tallying numbers quickly and accurately in the field, first came a handheld calculator. Then came dedicated programs that turned a generic calculator into a construction calculator. Now if you carry the right kind of Smartphone, you don't even need the calculator to perform fast project-relevant calculations at jobsites, at client meetings, or any place else on the go.

Construction Master Pro (Calculated Industries, Apple iTunes Store) is now available for the iPhone, iPad and iTouch. The application includes all the functionality of the developer's Construction Master Pro for Windows (a PC-based construction calculator) and the handheld Construction Master Pro calculator, and includes an application of the Construction Master Pro Trig as well.

The application supports dimensional math and conversions, including feet-inch fractions, inch fractions and yards, and comes with preset fractions (1/2" through 1/64") and comes with built-in help for definitions, explanations and examples of keystrokes. Right angle solutions include a pitch key to streamline calculations of slope and grade. Area and volume solutions include length, width and height keys; square and cubic; basic and advanced circular calculations; and weight per volume conversions. Other special functions include cost per unit, paperless tape and four memories. (Numerous other functions are designed for carpentry and more general contracting.) An expanded tape function enables users to load, save and print calculations. Calculations can be exported via copy and paste to other Windows applications.

TMS Service Agreement Calculator by Team Management Systems Inc., www.hvacserviceagreements.com, is designed to quickly compute a suggested price for a residential or light commercial service contract for one, two or three years based on the equipment to be covered and the estimated time and materials needed to perform scheduled inspection visits. The solution produces professional-looking proposal letters and service agreements. Users can pull up an annual calendar of inspections due each month and drill down to see details.

Ascente by Compusource, www.compusource.com, is an integrated software suite designed for commercial and residential HVAC, plumbing and electrical service contractors who focus on service, but also do some new construction. It includes core modules centered around operational tasks and an array of add-on modules that especially address the unique needs of a service contractor.

Common key modules include MobilePro, which runs on any mobile hardware device that runs Windows XP Pro Tablet operating system, service dispatch management, preventive maintenance, maintenance tasking, integrated GPS, paging and construction job cost. Other options include flat rate book interfaces and quick PO entry.

The MobilePro module enables field service technicians to directly input all work orders, eliminating the need to file a hard copy that would then have to be manually inputted into the system at a later time, thus speeding turn-around times for invoices. Technicians can also update their status at the jobsite directly into the system, and if they have the added feature of X-Charge, which accommodates credit card payments, they can do credit card processing on site.

The Quote Processing system module provides a means to enter quote requests and produce detailed printed proposals, any of which can become a service order or a job once a proposal is accepted. The system also provides management reports for tracking the productivity of sales representatives and their quote requests and proposals through the sales cycle. The module also can track customer complaints and feedback.

Wireless Dispatch enables automatic transmission of service calls directly to the corresponding technician's wireless device. The technician has access to customer, job and service order data and can respond immediately to inquires and change orders. Because the software shows dispatchers which field technician is available and where they are located relative to the service call site, jobs can be quickly assigned to the closest available technician. The module can also monitor job progress and, when the job finishes, create an invoice.

NotesPro affords the ability to attach notes within Ascente to any file. Scanned documents such as copies of permits or photos can be attached to the notes as well. Notes can be prioritized in terms of importance and may be designated as a pop-up alert that appears in a window when the user activates the file.

The Service Management system tracks service calls from the initial customer call through job completion. The call-taking screen provides immediate access to customer data, service history (including problem description, type of call, billing cycle amount, and description of work performed), and technician activity, and allows for printing of dispatch tickets, paging technicians, updating technicians' schedules, and posting labor to work orders and payroll simultaneously. It handles T&M, flat rate, fixed price and "not to exceed" work. The module supports "drag and drop" call scheduling and assignment and defines priority and service call status with full-color scheduling screens. The module also enables calculation of technician commissions based on user-defined percentage rates for individual billing types.

Ascente is fully integrated with Traverse from Open Systems, a recognized leader in the accounting service arena. The Traverse accounting software system can manage the full range of accounting tasks, including purchasing, accounts receivable, accounts payable, payroll direct deposit, bank reconciliation, inventory, point of sale and general ledger.

Bill and Patti Feldman are freelance writers for magazines, trade associations, building product manufacturers and other companies on a broad range of topics. They can be reached at [email protected].