Products for your books, estimating, contacts

MASTERBUILDER 7 (Intuit Construction Business Solutions, www.construction.intuit.com, 800/726-6278) is construction management software that, with the appropriate modules, integrates estimating, scheduling, accounting, job costing, production and post-job analysis. The software, which includes trade-specific features that use proper terminology and details, is a single-entry system, eliminating time-consuming

MASTERBUILDER 7 (Intuit Construction Business Solutions, www.construction.intuit.com, 800/726-6278) is construction management software that, with the appropriate modules, integrates estimating, scheduling, accounting, job costing, production and post-job analysis.

The software, which includes trade-specific features that use proper terminology and details, is a single-entry system, eliminating time-consuming and error-prone double entry of data.

The software is available as a Solo Edition (starts at $995), suitable for subcontractors with annual revenues of $2 million or less, and as a Network Edition (starts at $3,000), for larger organizations with network requirements. More than 19 add-on modules (between $250 and $700 each) that fully integrate with the core accounting system, are available to provide flexibility to meet exact company needs.

Core modules for Solo include Job Cost, General Ledger, Accounts Receivable, Accounts Payable and Reporting. Core modules for Network include Job Cost, Cost to Complete, General Ledger, Accounts Receivable, Accounts Payable and Reporting.

Enhanced application modules, available for either version, include estimating, scheduling, purchase orders, subcontracts, change orders, payroll, progress billing, equipment management and service receivables. Inventory, document control, financial review and advanced payroll modules are available only in the Network edition.

Both versions generate a wide range of forms and reports, including bid requests, proposals, purchase orders, change orders, material cost reports, project schedules and punch lists. A Report Writer module, which allows customizing of the reports, is available in the Network version only. The module allows users to cut and paste text, designate different fields, and affords more flexibility overall in analyzing progress and other results beyond the generic reports in the system. Furthermore, Report Writer lets users generate reports in the style to which a company is already accustomed.

The estimating module features a pre-built, plumbing-specific database for thousands of material items and hundreds of assemblies that include labor, material, subcontract and equipment items. The assemblies calculate labor and material quantities with automatic price updates. The plumbing database includes flat-rate assemblies for service work billing, with tech time, travel time and the material required to perform a task. Users can also print out a de facto flat-rate book.

The module can automatically create a proposal, budget, purchase orders and subcontracts directly from the takeoff. A variety of reports summarize costs by vendor, task, cost code, phase and bid item.

Intuit Construction Business Solution offers fee-based scheduled online classes to train in the use of MasterBuilder 7, as well as online classes in construction accounting, in general. Participants need only an Internet connection and a phone.

Put estimates in Excel

Vertigraph (www.vertigraph.com, 800/989-4243) offers two software products, BidPoint XL and BidScreen XL, that plumbing and HVAC contractors could use as add-ons to Microsoft Excel, a popular spreadsheet software package, for measuring quantities from paper plans and from electronic plans, respectively.

BidPoint XL 3.0 ($999 + cost of digitizer) adds a digitizer interface that enables takeoffs to digitize directly to Excel, eliminating flip-flopping between Excel and a separate digitizing application.

An estimator using the add-on and a digitizer tablet can click on any spreadsheet cell and electronically measure and draw items from paper plans into the designated spreadsheet cell. Inputted quantities and digitized drawings are saved with the Excel file. Users are able to edit, format and print the digitized drawing while working in Excel. The solution enables users to apply a variety of colors, lines and symbols to the digitized drawings.

BidScreen XL ($999) adds on-screen takeoff capability from electronically distributed plans while working in Microsoft Excel.

Users can view, pan and zoom a variety of drawing files while measuring and color coding areas, lengths and count items in Excel. After identifying the drawing file, the estimator clicks on an Excel cell and electronically identifies and measures items on screen, using just the mouse. The quantity measurement is recorded into the Excel cell and the color-coded image is saved with the cell.

Contact management

The Rolodex Electronics Compact Electronic Organizer ($29.95, www.franklin.com), a thin palm-sized device just a little bigger than a card case, is capable of storing up to 5,500 names and numbers. Though it does not have all the capabilities of a PDA, it does not carry the price tag either and could be an inexpensive alternate resource for storing and accessing phone numbers, schedules, dates and notes.

The keyboard is tiny but big enough that you could use the eraser end of a pencil to tap in data. The organizer, which features a three-line display that also serves as a calculator and a calendar, comes with software on a CD disk that allows you to type in all the data on your own PC and, with the supplied cable, download that data into the handheld unit. If you really want to travel light, the keyboard is detachable from the data card.

William and Patti Feldman provide Web content for companies and write for magazines, trade associations, building product manufacturers and other companies on a range of topics.