TO TAKE ADVANTAGE of computer assistance when preparing contracts, you don't have to re-invent the wheel. Various organizations and software developers have created easy ways for general and specialty contractors, their legal counsels and others to get down to the business of providing construction documents directly via computer. For example:
The Associated General Contractors of America's DocuBuilder Contract Document Software 4.0 (www.agc.org, 800/282-1423, annual subscription priced according to specific package ordered) offers access to a database of 90 modifiable standard AGC construction contract documents and related forms. Designed to enable easy editing, the program allows users to customize and modify documents in the same way they would using familiar wordprocessing software.
The contracts and forms cover all major project delivery approaches, including the AGC 200 series (general contracting documents), the AGC 400 series (design-build documents), AGC 500 series (construction management), AGC 600 series (subcontracting documents), along with AGC 800 series program management documents and a short form package that includes two short-form owner/contractor agreements with general conditions, two short-form subcontract agreements, purchase order and equipment lease.
Once the user selects a document from the Microsoft Word-like tree panel on the left of the screen, the master tree of the database shows, with colored symbols, other related documents and paragraphs and excludes incompatible documents.
Formatting options are numerous. Users can create customized headers for each document, with the ability to put date, company name, initial blocks and other project data on each page. Global replacement of generic terms such as owner and contractor is possible and font types and sizes, page margins and other variables can be changed to conform to company style.
As users work through a document, colored geometric shapes adjacent to each document and paragraph indicate its current status in terms of editing and inclusion. The original master text is always available unaltered for reversion or as the starting point for another document. Red brackets indicate the fill-in-the-blank fields in all documents. It is also possible to import text such as addresses or special provisions from Word documents using the Windows clipboard.
The solution allows users to print redlined versions of the contract that detail the changes from the original wording in context (enabling quick review and comprehension of the edited document) or print clean versions of the documents that hide the changes so they read seamlessly. Users can create custom headers for contracts, for an added degree of professionalism.
Offering expediency in preparation of multiple contracts, the program features the ability to copy, rename and modify a completed document for reuse on the same project and keep them in the same project folder. Changes in one document can automatically be reflected in related documents, eliminating extra keyboarding.
The program incorporates convenient right mouse button menus and mouse-wheel scrolling and a special feature that aids users in setting up columns and figures with automatic left, right or centered alignment.
Any program user with Adobe Acrobat software has the ability to print documents to the Adobe Acrobat Distiller to create PDF files that can be e-mailed as attachments.
While users can share versions of contract documents via e-mail, the program can be installed on local area network systems for even more direct collaboration.
Here are two 2006 editions of sturdy software solutions that can help keep desktops safe from outsiders and information on daily schedules and business contacts organized and tidy. Providing security and data protection for home-and small-office users who Web surf, e-mail and download data, Norton Internet Security 2006 (Symantec Corp. www.symantec.com, 408/253-9600) combines several integrated products and services, including Norton AntiVirus, Personal Firewall and Anti-Spam, onto one disk.
Many features operate proactively, automatically removing viruses, worms, Trojan horses, and high-risk spy-ware and ad-ware programs, providing automatic home page hijacking protection, and detecting and blocking viruses in instant messaging services and attachments. (Symantec's LiveUpdate, operating in the background, automatically checks for new protection updates when users are online.)
Act! by Sage 2006 (Sage Software, www.act.com, 866/333-0990) is a contact and customer management solution for single users as well as for up to 10 users on a network. The user-friendly software has 60 pre-defined fields and features the ability to add to unlimited date-and time-stamped notes to any contact. It supports managing and prioritizing activities and tracking of contact-related communications and features daily, weekly and monthly calendar views, activity alarms and ability to roll over incomplete tasks.
Users can generate any of 40 standard reports, including several based on customer interactions, which can be forwarded to Excel or saved in PDF or HTML format. The program integrates with Microsoft Office and IBM's Lotus Notes and other software as well as handheld devices.
Bill and Patti Feldman are freelance writers for magazines, building product manufacturers and other firms. They can be reached at [email protected]