ENHANCED COMMUNICATION in the office and in the field can make everybody's day easier. Here are three programs with distinct capabilities.
PDFs in a jiffy
Offering flexibility for contractors seeking an enterprise-wide PDF technology, Bluebeam Conversion Server v 2.0 file creation software (Bluebeam Software, www.bluebeam.com, 866/496-2140) enables automatic conversion of AutoCAD and SolidWorks CAD files and Windows files to PDF (including large-format PDF), DWF, TIFF, JPEG and seven other file formats in a server environment.
The solution relieves CAD workers of having to otherwise create PDF files for communication or storage. Plus, it allows non-CAD project team members to collaborate on drawings with virtually no learning curve and enables team members to easily send clients PDF versions of CAD drawings.
Any workstation operator can access the program through a network connection, which interfaces with the "watched folder," the network PDF printer and an API (application programming interface). A watched folder is a Windows folder set up on the network drive for the purpose of periodically checking for any changes oradditions to files in the folder.
Whenever a DWG file is changed or a new DWG file is added to a particular folder, Bluebeam Conversion Server v 2.0 is able to recognize that and create a PDF file of it. This automatic conversion can be immediate or can occur at scheduled intervals.
The software automatically calculates the appropriate scale and rotation, paper weight and line thickness and supports line merge from overlapping drawings, eliminating the need for operator adjustments of those factors when creating a PDF file. Configuration options include page size customization, automated bookmarks, text stamps and watermarks.
In addition to the server software, Bluebeam offers desktop products, Bluebeam PDF Revu Standard Edition, AutoCAD Edition and SolidWorks Edition, which install buttons in the toolbars of AutoCAD, SolidWorks, Word, Excel and PowerPoint for one-button creation of PDF files. For all other Windows applications, the software includes a PDF printer driver that allows users to create PDF files from them.
Dragon Naturally Speaking Speech Recognition 9 Professional software accepts speech input accuracy approaching 99% at a speed (up to 160 words a minute, which is three or four times faster than most people type), without any of the script-reading or preparedtext-based training that previous versions required. Onscreen tutorials get users going with the solution almost right out of the box.
The software can be used for letters, contracts, change orders, notes, reminders and any other words for use in Microsoft Office applications, including Microsoft Internet Explorer and almost any other Windows-based application.
The solution, which comes with a headset and is network ready, can be used in conjunction with a Nuance-approved Bluetooth wireless microphone for dictation into any Nuance-certified handheld device for automatic transcription when synched to a PC. Users can navigate Web pages by speaking rather than typing URLs and links.
A handy vocabulary customization tool enables users to build a vocabulary tuned to contractor/construction (or any other) vernacular. The software can correct misrecognized works via voice, mouse or keyboard and "learns" from the correction, so it won't make the same mistake twice.
SAM Pro Enterprise (Data-Basics, www.databasics.com, 800/837-7574) is a proactive comprehensive service management, mobile workforce and back-office accounting solution for HVACR contractors involved in service work, construction and facilities management. The customizable software suite employs proprietary Rules-Based Management technology that aims to optimize operational efficiency by functioning on the premise of management by exception — the software handles routine situations and alerts appropriate personnel to early-stage problems. A contractor's core business "rules" are established upfront and are reinforced throughout all aspects of the organization.
The suite offers 20 modules, including dispatch board, inventory management, job costing and job-quote management software, from which management can build a solution.
The new wireless field service module, TechAnywhere 2.0, supplies technicians equipped with wireless devices such as tablet PCs and Blackberrys with mobile access to work orders. The module, which visually emulates paperwork orders on the tablets, features drop-down boxes for data entry, automatic conversion of handwriting to text, and online access to equipment history, notes and specifications. Information entered in the field is available in real time across the whole system.
When deployed on Pocket PCs and tablets, TechAnywhere utilizes "store and forward" synchronization when out of network range. Technicians using a tablet PC can attach scanned documents or images to work orders and generate and print invoices for completed work orders while onsite.
Escalation Manager technology uses pre-defined "escalation profiles" that enable the system to automatically e-mail, fax or page the service manager if a work order is not fulfilled in a timely fashion.
The Web-enabled CRM Anywhere module, which supports a Web-client interface, gives customers instant access information on work orders, approve quotes and review reports over the Internet.
Bill and Patti Feldman are freelance writers for magazines, building product manufacturers and other companies on a broad range of topics. They can be reached at [email protected].