Automated Real Estate Software – The New Trend in Investing

The value of real estate has appreciated in the last few years. It also shows great potential for growth. Hence, now might be the best time to look at an investment in property. However, if you’ve spoken to someone who already has his knees deep in real estate investing, you will realize that a lot of things are easier said than done.

It requires skill and experience to scour the market for high value properties.

Then comes landing good buyers.

Finally, there’s a humongous amount of paper work to handle.

This is where real estate investing softwares might lend a hand. They automate the entire process of real estate investing. If you would like to know more about such applications, here’s a low down on some of the common features they offer.

Lead generation –

At the click of a single button you are able to find a comprehensive list of buyers and sellers scattered across the country. The information elicited includes names and mail addresses of buyers, owners of properties, the type of property (bank owned, foreclosed, low and high equity, absentee owner etc.) and amount of cash paid.

Website creation –

Every business needs a website, especially if you do not have a physical location from which operate. Not all of us know the technicalities of writing HTML codes and designing a website. The real estate softwares can help you create targeted and user-friendly websites that you can use to showcase your business.

Direct mail generator –

Marketing is the soul of a real estate business. The more you network the more leads you can generate. The direct mail generator feature helps you setup a highly productive and efficient mailing system. You can send out emails, newsletters, posters and flyers.

There are a range of pre-made email templates you can use to send out messages to your leads. Autoresponders make sure you can keep in touch with sellers and buyers even when you are not physically present to answer their queries.

This feature is a highlight feature of most real estate software given that the savings in time and money are large.

Investing tips –

This is a section that most newbies can benefit from. Most applications include a resource library with info on the basic aspects of the trade. An open community of members can also give you an opportunity to interact and build your resource with real-time knowledge about making, building and closing a deal.

Diverse user base –

Modern-day automated real estate investing software applications cater to a varied group of investors. It includes those who buy, fix and flip properties. If you are a landlord, it can increase the convenience of managing your properties including finding tenants and repairing and renovating properties between subsequent deals. There are also features that rehabbers and builders of new constructions can use.

Contracts and paperwork –

Real estate investment also means a lot of paperwork. Most applications offer tools to generate contracts. Features such as auto-fill enable you to fill personal details into letters, contracts and other property-related documents. You can sign them online, and then email or fax them free of charge.

There is one thing – you need to be realistic. Real estate softwares are tools you can use to streamline your business. You should have a real estate business to start with and some basic know-how on investing.

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What Does a Salesforce Developer Do?

A Salesforce developer is tasked with handling and customizing the Salesforce software suite. This software is designed to help any business with customer relationship management. It handles almost any aspect of customer relationship management (CRM) with a number of products that are designed to help you maximize your business potential. A Salesforce developer can help you to combine all aspects of your business into an efficient force in the marketplace. From your business itself, the technology it uses, and the customers your business relies on, the software is there to help you with all your CRM needs.

So what exactly does a Salesforce developer to?

To put it simply, a Salesforce developer helps to customise this software to make customer relationship management more efficient. By making your CRM more efficient, this allows you to develop and maintain the relationships with your customers – which is a vital part of every business. The software contains several different applications that allows for a great deal of flexibility for your business – and there are many opportunities for customisation if you employ the help of a Salesforce developer.

Here are some of these applications:

Sales Cloud: Sales Cloud is the number 1 CRM app in the world and millions of businesses have used it to enhance their customer relations and grow their products. By taking advantage of cloud computing technology Sales Cloud is able to do more for you than other CRM apps.

Service Cloud: Service Cloud is all about helping you develop customer connections. By utilizing cloud technology Service cloud can help you improve your customer service centres and enhance your social media marketing efforts.

Marketing Cloud: Marketing Cloud is an all-in-one social networking suite. This product will help you build a social network from the ground up or can be used to improve on any social network you already have created.

Salesforce Platform: This product is perfectly designed to help you create apps for any purpose you need. A Salesforce developer can create amazing social apps, innovative real time apps, and take advantage of the growing mobile market with mobile apps. Apps are the next wave of marketing and a Salesforce developer can help you get on top.

Chatter: This product is designed to help you improve communication not only within your business but with your customers as well. By using Chatter you can collaborate and communicate with each other no matter where you are.

Work.com: This product is to help you get more out of your business by making employees more efficient and maximizing their time and talents. Again, you can talk to a Salesforce developer to ask if they can help you make the most of this product.

Whilst the above information gives some idea of what the software and a Salesforce developer can do for you, the best thing to do is to give it a try. Once you have everything set up and rolling you will be asking yourself why you didn’t do this sooner.

Once you’ve got to grips with the software, it’s time to think about making it work for your business. It’s really powerful, but to make the most of it, it’s advisable to employ the services of a Salesforce developer. Then you’ll really be unlocking its potential.

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How to Repair DBF Files by Using DBF Recovery Software

As a computer user you must have heard about a DBF file or some of you have used it. DBF is a database file format used by various database software programs, such as: Visual FoxPro, Clipper, dbFast, CodeBase, MultiBase, dbXL, Arago and similar database programs. A database file is a collection of data organized in a tabular form. A DBF file can be easily opened, edited and saved by any of these database programs therefore, this file format is very popular among computer users.

The most common use of a database file is to store a large amount of data and information. The file is widely used in almost every sector, such as: corporate and educational sectors to store the data and information. It has become an essential file format for an individual and an organization.

Where this file format is very useful for users on the other hand, it may create some serious problems as well. Sometimes a DBF file may become inaccessible or invalid due to corruption. DBF is not immune to corruption; in fact, this file format is prone to corruption due to its large size and complex file structure. It might be easily corrupted due to various reasons, such as: virus attacks, malfunction in database application, hard disk drive failure, software collision, unexpected cancellation of DBF, human errors and many more. These are some common reasons which can play an important role in database file corruption.

While opening a corrupt DBF file you may receive some error messages something like these:

  • “File .dbf does not exist”.
  • “The fields in table did not match the entries in the database”.
  • “Access to table disabled due to previous error”.
  • “Database file appears corrupt: Page is of wrong type.
  • “Corrupt table”/ “index header”.
  • “Filename .dbf has become corrupted”.

These are some common errors which frequently take place at the time of corruption. For example: you are working on your DBF file, everything is fine. But all of a sudden your database application (Visual FoxPro or other) starts hanging. You have no other option other than restarting the system. But when you restart your system and open the same DBF file, in which you were working earlier, it does not open or you get an error message saying the file is corrupted or damaged. This must be very frustrating situation for any user since all the hard work will go into the vain. All the data and information stored in the file might be lost forever. You have to re-create the file, which might not be possible in some cases.

In such critical state a BKF file will definitely help you. If you have backed up the database file (which is now corrupted), then you can easily restore it from the BKF file. But sometimes the BKF file may not be available or corrupted or invalid. In this situation you can use third-party DBF recovery software. This is one of the most efficient and effective solutions to fix corrupt DBF files. The DBF recovery software is designed to repair an extremely corrupted DBF file and to restore maximum data from it. It is highly capable to resolve or fix all the errors from corrupted DBF files. The software supports all popular database applications, such as: dBase III, dBase IV, dBase V, Visual FoxPro, Clipper, dBFast, CodeBase, MultiBase, dBXL and Arago. The best feature of the software is its self-describing user interface. It requires no technical knowledge or skills to use this software. Any tech savvy and a novice user can easily and comfortably use this software to repair corrupted DBF files. The DBF Recovery software is available with free demo version. Users can download the demo version before buying the full software. This helps users to examine the features and performance.

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How To Spot a Fake Jimmy Choo Handbag

  • Label: The Jimmy Choo label is generally a lilac colored metal face fastened to a leather backing, and stitched to the interior of the handbag. Many fakes have the incorrect shade of lilac, either going to light or too dark in the purple spectrum. The label should read in either gold or silver. However, even if the colors are correct, the label may still not be in the clear. Because it often times the font details that are singular to authentic Jimmy Choo that many of fake handbags get wrong, and this is one of the best places to look when trying to identify a phony J. Choo.
  • Font: Always check out the "H" in Choo. On an authentic handbag, the horizontal cross-bar in the H should not be in the center of the letter, the way it is intended to be with regards to most standard fonts. Instead, the Jimmy Choo H should have the cross-bar closer to the top, about 75-80% of the way up the H, if measuring from the bottom of the letter. If the handbag has the correct H, move to the letters "O" in Choo. On an authentic handbag, the O will have a slightly bent look. This means that the "O" will appear as if someone snapped down on the top of the letter, giving the O an oval shape rather than a perfect circle. Spotting a fake Jimmy Choo handbag often times comes down to the subtleties in the font.
  • Hardware: Any screws located on handbag hardware will always be a flat head (-) screw. Jimmy Choo will never use any Philips head (+) screws in any of their handbags.
  • Dustbag: Fake Jimmy Choo handbags will often be accompanied by a dustbag that is an incorrect color or format. An authentic dustbag should have the logo: "JIMMY CHOO," with "LONDON" centered perfectly under the logo. The font should be an embossed gray, while the dustbag itself will be the famous lilac color. Many fakes will have incorrect font colors on the dustbag, as well as the incorrect dustbag color ie the wrong shades of purple etc. Good luck and safe shopping!
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Microsoft Access and Medical Private Practice

For physicians medical office software installation could be nerve-wracking, not because they want to avoid electronic medical records, but because the majority of the software packages are too complicated and very expensive for them.

The good news is, you can make your medical office software system uncomplicated and relatively easily maintained with one of the popular database software packages being used today, the Microsoft Access.

Microsoft Access is a relational database system developed by Microsoft. Microsoft Access is one of the easiest and most flexible database management solutions for the medical office and provides data validation and user-friendly features on data entry screens. It has been the dominant lightweight database system used for the last decade and has continued to grow with additional features. Access is a productive and very customizable solution for small medical practices and comes with MS Office (or standalone). However the next step up in a medical environment would be MS SQL Server but small medical offices usually only has need of a lightweight application and the added functionality with MS SQL Server, comes with a heavy price.

With this relational database system you can be up and running in one hour, which means that it is not necessary for your practice to spend lot of money to purchase, configure, update and maintain an SQL Server solution. Microsoft Access includes without any additional costs, points of integration with popular software packages including: Microsoft Word, Excel & Outlook and provides a free runtime version.

MS Access network setup is very easy. A medical office with 2-8 users is up and running within ten minutes, while installation and application maintenance is extremely simple. Virtually any user with a basic knowledge of Microsoft Access can handle all maintenance procedures without the assistance of IT personnel.

Keep also in mind that SQL Server is the flagship database system from Microsoft and it is suitable for use in environments with up to thousands of users. Microsoft Access can handle 2- 8 users and it is limited to 2 GB data storage.

We are convinced that the best way for private medical offices around the world to enter the world of electronic medical records is to purchase a professionally designed but inexpensive and affordable Microsoft Access based software solution.

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Schedule Slippage – Root Causes

“The single most important task of a project: setting realistic expectations. Unrealistic expectations based on inaccurate estimates are the single largest cause of software failure.”- Futrell, Shafer

Introduction

With global and competitive market, it is very important to launch a product or service in the market on time, ahead of competitors. Definitely, timely launch depends on on-time-completion of the product development projects. Project planning has lots of challenges to overcome in order to finish the project on time – right from schedule predictability, envisioning future/possible risks and coming up with mitigation plans.

This article talks about some of the challenges, often faced in the Software Product Development industry that causes the schedule slippage.

Schedule slippage: Delay in the project completion from its initial estimated date of completion.

Each project plan will have a planned completion date (NRA, RA), and a bounding box or upper limit in schedule. Nowadays, it is a common practice to have three dates associated with any project plan:

  • Non-Risk Adjusted (NRA) date: Project completion date assuming no hurdles – Ideal conditions.
  • Risk Adjusted (RA) date: Project completion date assuming some risks will come on the way and will need extra time to attend to them.
  • Bounding Box (BB) or upper limit: The upper limit on the project plan before which the project has to be finished under any circumstances – Generally decided by the top management based on product/services roadmap and launch in the market.

Under ideal circumstances, any project is scheduled to complete by NRA date. Considering some risks that may come on the way and would eat some time off the schedule, the project should be over by RA date. If the risks were not envisioned and hence not planned well, then project may get delayed and would complete after RA date. Project completion crossing the RA or upper limit is neither good nor expected out of a well-planned project.

Root Causes

As we always plan for a project to get over before RA date, seldom is the case it happens as expected. There are multiples reasons for schedule slippage, right from improper planning, lack of resources to unplanned requirements and rework that eat away vital time off the planned schedule.

A typical project development process – Each project will have a team (development, testing and other functions) that will work through a process (requirement analysis, schedule estimation, design, implementation and testing) to deliver a product to the customer/end user. Each entity that participate in the project – directly or indirectly affect the schedule.

From the development process, we can identify the items that can cause delay in the execution of the project – for example, misinterpreted or unclear requirement adds up to completion time, unavailability of development tools or resources can prolong the project duration. Various processes like schedule estimation, detailed design and product development if not executed skillfully, may significantly blow up the project cycle.

For better understanding all these possible causes that may result in schedule slippage are categorized .

Let’s have a detailed look at the root causes of schedule slippage category wise.

1) Schedule Estimation: “The key is not to prioritize what’s on your schedule, but to schedule your priorities.” – Stephen Covey

For a project to be executed on time, it is very important to have it planned very well. Any mistake in project schedule estimation reflects as delay in the project completion from its deadline. There are several factors that contribute to improper schedule estimation:

· Underestimation of technical complexities: At the start of the project, many of the team members may not have thorough knowledge of technical complexities and hence their estimation would be incorrect. Sometimes it may so happen that the person giving estimates for a particular task is having no idea about the technical challenges involved in carrying out that particular task. You might hear, towards the mid/end of the project life cycle when the task is not finished on time – “Oh, I didn’t know that this feature also requires 5 more tasks to be done!” or “I was thinking this task to be so simple, but I under estimated it!”. · Lack of Design/Big picture: It is important to have a bigger picture / overview of the complete project to understand how a particular module/feature would fit in to complete project. Product or system level design helps in understanding the interfaces among other modules and the required coordination for product assembly and hence, a better insight into the work involved. Often, estimates without focus on detailed design tend to deviate more from the actual time taken for finishing the job. · Integration Testing: While making a project plan, testing also needs to be accommodated in the schedule. At times, the unit testing or testing done by individual contributors on their module is taken into account but not the system level testing. Toward the release, when all the individually tested modules are brought together, a system level or integration testing is a must. Having the time for integration testing not accounted in the overall project schedule will cause delay in the project completion.

· Unplanned dependencies: Project planning is not only about breaking the project into minute tasks and managing them. A well-planned project schedule also needs to consider certain unplanned dependencies. Some of these are:

o People: Optimum utilization of human resources calls for same set of people working in multiple projects. A person may not be available to work for currently planned/assigned project due to extended/unplanned work in another parallel project. Another issue related to people could be unplanned/unexpected attrition that will affect the project plan. Time is also lost in mentoring of new member by a senior (more experienced) person which goes unaccounted if not planned.

o Tools & Equipments: Project can be delayed if team is waiting for release of upgrade or procurement of any vital tool (hardware or software being used in the project) or if the equipments required for development and testing are not available. “We had a 3-months project for validating our existing solution on new product platform using customer DUT (device under test). We had to wait for the DUT for nearly 1.5 months as it got stuck in customs. After getting the DUT, we realized that it’s been damaged partially during transportation. As a result we had to ask for another DUT and whole project took more than 5 months to get finished.” – I am sure that such cases will be quite familiar to many organizations. Other reason for timely unavailability of tools / equipments is that they are shared among various projects to reduce the operating cost. Any unplanned dependency on their usage or wrong assumption about availability of these shared resources would cause delay in the program. Team members might have to work on shifts to optimize the usage of shared resources which can cause reduced work hours and/or productivity loss and results to schedule slippage.

“I was waiting for Matlab license to be released by another person in the team but he left the office without doing so and I lost 3 hours figuring out what to do?” – is it something you faced before?

o Other programs: If multiple programs have deliverable dependencies, then delay in one project will have cascaded effect on other projects, which directly or indirectly depend on its deliverable. “We got delayed because we had to wait for a critical UI component from the framework project team” or “We didn’t plan for bug fixes for a component which was supposed to be delivered defect free for our usage” are the common scenarios for delays in program which are dependent on other program deliverables. Parallel programs may affect the schedule of your program in a different way as well – Sometimes, management changes the priority of the programs running in parallel. If your project is considered as a low priority one then there might be lack of resources assigned to your project that may result in schedule slippage.

· Beta releases: How many times we seek feedback on our product during development? And how often we allocate time for it? It’s important to plan beta releases if we desire to have our product validated by expert users or lighthouse customers during development. Getting feedback from beta customers becomes important especially when their requirements echo that of a mass customer base. Process of giving workable releases to customers, collecting their experience, having their feedback analyzed, and then incorporating in the final product version takes significant time.

· Risk mitigation and plan B: Every project will have some or the other risks. These risks can be of varying severity and probabilities. While making project plan, it is important to treat the risk individually based on their severity and probability of occurrence. If high probable risks with higher severity are not planned with their mitigation plan (or plan B), they will have huge impact on schedule deviation from planned one. As in one of the previous examples quoted, getting a DUT on time for validation was a risk. Had there been a mitigate plan (plan B) like – Validate with other DUT or if DUT is not available here, let one developer travel to customer’s place and finish the validation on time, the schedule slippage would have been avoided.

2) People: Ultimately, projects are executed by people who may not be skilled or talented. Hence, looking for perfection in projects involving human beings may not be a feasible thought. Certain unpredictable and hence unavoidable issues under this category are:

· Poor leadership: Before thinking of project execution, it is project planning that actually would set the platform of success. Execution of the project depends on its team while planning is taken care by the project leader. The project leader is expected to have enough technical know-how to understand the project goals and to the details of the tasks involved. Poor leadership and superficial knowledge of assignments often results in invalid effort estimation and ad hoc task delegation causing stress and possible delay in project execution. People leading the team are also responsible for keeping the team spirit and motivation level upbeat. Poor personal commitment due to lack of motivation results in loss of productivity and may cause schedule to slip. Another reason that adds up to delay in projects is inability of leadership team to track the schedule progress and take the correction action.

· Attrition: If the project duration is large and job market is hot, it may be difficult to retain people in the project till its completion. Attrition may further delay the completion especially if the person leaving the job was in critical path. A person leaving the organization would leave a gap in the project that a new person may not fill immediately, which in turn causes sudden reduction in the task force.

· Learning curve: When ever a new person or team member is included in the project, he or she may require some time to understand the project to keep in pace with other members. Learning curve is needed for new team members, joining the team either due to attrition or due to any specific technical competency requirement. · Context switching: In smaller organization or groups where people work on multiple projects simultaneously, it is important to have some buffer for context switching. A person planned to work in project ‘A’ for two hours after a gap of two weeks, would take more than scheduled time to complete that task. Gap of two weeks and the fact that he or she was involved in other project would require some time for the member to get back to the context of current project. · Global development teams: In an era of globalization and outsourcing, it is common these days to have development team distributed over different geographical regions. Project plan needs to account for different time zones and working culture. You might expect an input for your task on Monday morning your time but it may be Sunday late evening for that person and finally when the input arrives, you might be on your way to home after work.

Sometimes schedule estimation might go completely wrong if you have not understood the work culture of the region your teammate belongs to – “In my previous work, I was given a task to be completed with a heads up that its very critical task and needs immediate attention’. When I asked my project lead how many days/hours I have for it, I had been time for 2 weeks for high priority and ‘immediate-attention’ work.” Definition of ‘urgent’, ‘high priority tasks’ changes with culture and region.

· Communication Issues: People communicate differently. If important issues are not brought to the notice of the team members, or are not escalated on time, the entire project may suffer. Often fear of embarrassment stops team members from reporting issues faced during execution leading to more time being spent on that task that can easily be executed additional help.

3) Customer Involvement: These issues are quite serious if customer or end users of the product are involved in the development phase. Understanding customer’s priorities, defining your expectation from their involvement needs to be clear and in agreement with both the parties.

· Expert user testing: In the beginning of the project, expert user testing cycle needs to be planned. Process of giving builds or releases for testing and collecting their feedback, analyzing and incorporating them in your product takes significant time which, if not planned, can delay your program. · Timely feedback: “I got feedback from customers for features, delivered in development milestone-1, after milestone-5 towards the release. These feedbacks are critical but now I am worried how to incorporate them without affecting the schedule.” It sounds like a common problem. Incorporation of feedback from customers needs to be planned well taking a commitment from the customer. · Product requirement specification review: Having a product requirement review planned and executed will keep you on right track throughout the project. Reviewing the requirement specification will avoid requirement related defects fixing which otherwise would have delayed, the project.

4) Ambiguous Project Requirement: For any project to be initiated, the first thing is to have requirements for it. In the product development life cycle, requirement phase acts like a foundation. Clear requirement or vision for the project navigates the team to success. However, requirements may not be clear at the time of estimation and may result in delay in the project completion. Issues related:

· Evolving specs: If you are making a product based on a standard which is not yet matured or still evolving, you are more prone to have this risk. Frequency changes in the specs will change the requirement for the project during different stages of product development and team will continue to work on something that is not yet evolved. This results in rework that would delay the project if time for dealing with these changes is not accommodated in the schedule. “We developed an algorithm and hence measurement that was based on certain industry standard. Towards the release of the product, the specs changed and our measurement was no more valid. We had to redo the algorithm to reflect the changes in the specs. This caused our product release delayed by 2 months.” · New requirements: Sometimes new requirements are added as the project evolves towards completion. Implementation of new requirements is not planned at the beginning of the project and hence is not accounted in schedule. Adding new feature without revising the schedule may result in delay.

· Untold expectation: Requirements from the customers may be of two types – implicit or explicit. It is important to have the requirements well documented. Implicit requirements needs to be better defined and documented to avoid any confusion towards the end of the project. Customers may not describe their requirements related to system performance, memory issues, user interface quality and usability but they are very keen on providing feedback in those aspects once the product is given for expert user testing. If we are not clear about such requirements, out design might not address them. Addressing them towards the end of the project may call for design changes and extra work that would delay the project.

5) Unplanned Tasks / Reworks: Bounding box for the project is set by higher management and often lack buffer for unplanned task(s). Having more of unplanned task that creep up at different phases of project can cause schedule slippage. The unplanned tasks or rework may arise due to:

· Sustaining work: In smaller organizations, some of the project team may also be responsible for sustaining / customer support of existing products. These unplanned tasks, which come on event basis, related to customer support are always of high priority. Excess or prolonged sustaining work may take resource out of the planned project causing a potential threat for schedule slippage. · Defect fixes: Defects are bad as they degrade the product quality and consume extra time/effort to fix them. It is good to have testing of the intermediate releases of the project to find and fix defects sooner in the development life cycle. If the fixing-cycle for such internal-milestone defects is not planned, then either the project is either going to slip or product is going to be of poorer quality. Poor programming skill of the team, not adapting to modern programming practices and having ad hoc development processes may lead to higher number of defects which would take more time to fix then planned and cause slippage.

· Task spillover from previous milestone: Tasks that are not completed in previous milestone, due to whatever reason (inefficiency, vacation of the team member, resource crunch etc), will have to be completed in the next milestone thereby increasing the load on the team. If adequate buffer is not planned, these tasks spilled from previous milestone over to next, can delay the project. · Requirement change / refinement: Requirement changes during the product development will result in rework of what has been previously done with first version of requirement(s). Addressing changes in the requirements needs extra time and effort and may cause schedule slippage. In some cases, the requirement from customer is misunderstood resulting in wrong system design and implementation. Additional, unplanned time is lost in correcting the design/implementation which causes schedule slippage.

Conclusion

On time delivery is the challenge software development companies are facing globally. To have a complete control over estimated schedule, it is very important to identify the elements in the development cycle that cause schedule slippage. This article uncovers and explains the root causes of delay in programs using examples from real world. Having an insight to the root causes will help the program managers to make good decisions to avoid future schedule slippage.

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Review of Takeoff Software for Estimating Construction

So often people want to rush out and buy estimating software or takeoff software without first trying to define their internal estimating processes. Once the estimating process is clearly defined, then and only then, can you actually try to compartmentalize the process into segments. So often the segment is really quantity takeoff. Takeoff of what you may wonder? That is like the million dollar question. This article will speak about the takeoff software process which usually associated with estimating software processes. The takeoff software process can often be takeoff of materials for some folks, and to many others, the takeoff process of scoped systems to create estimates or proposals. This review or comparison will not try to explain the estimating software process but bring to you valid quantity takeoff thinking among estimators in a quest to find which product thinks the way you do. These are the opinions of the author.

I will review and compare 3 types of measuring takeoff products:

It is extremely important to note that these are ONLY measuring takeoff programs, NOT estimating programs.

1) Planswift

2) On-Screen Takeoff by On Center Software

3) Electronic Plan Takeoff Software

All three products have their strengths, however, Planswift and On-Screen Takeoff are stand-alone products and Electronic Plan Takeoff is actually dynamically integrated live with Microsoft Excel which means that it starts and finishes and saves in Excel. They all integrate with Excel, however, you will have to evaluate your thought process and decide which of the three products work-flow think along the lines of how you think. For instance, what is the first thing you do when you get a set of plans? Typically, you start flipping through the plans to see how involved the project is and what type of work do you see that is attractive for your company. Then when you decide you are going to estimate this job, more often than not, you start like 80% of companies in the world of construction estimating by opening your takeoff master template Excel spreadsheet. You rename your spreadsheet to the new job or project and off you go performing takeoff. This is where the differences are:

In Planswift, you decide what drawing you are on and then you perform the measuring of an item you want to perform takeoff on the plan. Unfortunately, that is not exactly how an estimator thinks. Planswift does give you the ability to add a type of takeoff item on the fly by naming it and then perform takeoff of it; somewhat of a very manual and slow process. They also provide you with the ability of applying a type of assembly to a takeoff to aggregate quantities of items in that assembly. Not quite the way an estimator thinks. It forces you to jump to different screens which slows down the process. Typically, the main start of anyone’s takeoff process, or some may think of it as a checklist approach, is to start with your own spreadsheet of YOUR items. Those items can be material items or can be scoped assembly system items. Either way, by starting with a master spreadsheet say in Excel for example, many estimators think of this as a risk reducer, not to forget things they normally takeoff. Being that Planswift is a stand-alone takeoff program, it typically saves your takeoff images in Planswift instead of your estimate in Excel, if Excel is your estimating system. If you are using Excel, you have to manually save your takeoff measurement numbers in Excel and your takeoff images in Planswift or elsewhere, just not in Excel where the takeoff quantity resides. Again, if you want to integrate with Excel, they force you to either export or import takeoff items from Excel rather than being dynamically integrated live to Excel. They do however have the ability to dump the measured quantity from Planswift into any Excel spreadsheet or Word document. The main purpose or the primary focus of this program is measuring, therefore it does a good job at that function. Most of the other functions require you to jump around different screens, and essentially, you loose your thought of where you are. There are some features that attempt to address the estimating process, however, there are many features that are missing for Planswift to be a full fledged estimating system; it is NOT one. Planswift does integrate with the leading estimating system Sage Timberline, but the integration is weak. Since Timberline’s power is in assembly takeoff and where most estimators reside in Timberline, Planswift does not give the estimator the ability to add quantities of miscellaneous Timberline items or one-time items that need to added on the fly to an assembly while they are in Planswift at the Timberline interview screen, and while being in the measuring phase. Planswift does allow the deleting of assembly generated items as well adjusting assembly item quantities in a different screen. Again, to perform all that, you are forced to jump around to different screens. No assembly is ever perfect in any estimating system since project conditions are always uniquely different, therefore, having to add items to an assembly is extremely important. That adding of items and associated quantities is an absolute requirement any estimator typically has to do during the takeoff measuring and estimating phase; something that Planswift struggles with as related to Timberline Estimating. Planswift does allow the direct send of measurements to Timberline Estimating items and assemblies while in Timberline Estimating, just as you would do with the old digitizer measuring boards. Training, support and maintenance are extra for Planswift. On-Screen Takeoff by On Center Software, and Planswift charge their annual maintenance and support fees per license (mandatory) which costs the end user more expense annually especially if a customer has more than one license.

On Center’s On-Screen Takeoff is the Grand Daddy of software takeoff products due to the fact that it has been around the longest. On Center recognizes that On-Screen Takeoff is primarily a measuring program. That is why they have a separate estimating program named QuickBid for those who want an estimating program. On Center does not try to trick you into thinking it is an estimating system. In On-Screen Takeoff, you also decide what drawing you are on and then you perform the measuring of the plan. BUT, before you start, you can load a master set styles of things you typically takeoff or measure from your own library. That process seems to be less complicated than that of Planswift. On-Screen Takeoff does give you the ability to add a type of takeoff item on the fly by naming it and then performing takeoff of it; somewhat of a manual and slow process as well. The program does come with many features that are primarily focused on simple measuring to advanced measuring issues all with attention to detail regarding easy navigation for the takeoff process. On Center does a very good job at that. However, there seems to be a disconnect of thought from an Excel spreadsheet items you may use for estimating and/or proposals. The integration to Microsoft Excel is not a dynamic live link, more like an after thought in my opinion. Yes, you can establish links to named styles to cells or ranges in Excel, somewhat rigid. But the question you will have to ask yourself, which will happen more often than not is: What do you do when you need to add things on the fly during takeoff and in an Excel spreadsheet? Again there will be manual associations you will have to establish with Excel which is another major slowdown. You have to manually save your takeoff measurement numbers in Excel and your takeoff images in On-Screen or anywhere you decide, except the takeoff images will not be saved in Excel where the takeoff quantity resides. This type of situation arises when a takeoff program is a stand-alone program. On Center’s On-Screen Takeoff has the best integration with the most widely used estimating system in the USA: Sage Timberline Estimating. It basically mimics the same interview process as you would do with the old digitizer measuring boards. By working directly with Timberline, On-Screen Takeoff allows the estimator to perform takeoff of a Timberline variable question and immediately returns back directly with the takeoff quantity in a Timberline assembly at the variable question. By virtue of this process, On-Screen Takeoff allows the estimator to continue his/her Timberline interview process in Sage Timberline Estimating by reviewing/massaging generated quantities, or adding items in a Timberline assembly as the estimator see fit. That workflow process gives full control to the estimator, good job On Center. Training, support and maintenance are extra for On-Screen Takeoff. On-Screen Takeoff by On Center Software, and Planswift charge their annual maintenance and support fees per license (mandatory) which costs the end user more expense annually especially if a customer has more than one license.

This next system is ONLY if your estimating system or proposal generator is Microsoft Excel. Electronic Plan Takeoff Software is a plug-in for Excel. You start your spreadsheet, you perform the measuring takeoff, you may even add some more items on the fly all the while you are in the measuring phase in the Electronic Plan Takeoff program. When you are done, even if you added items on the fly, they automatically appear in your Excel spreadsheet. Excel is the control of everything. Your project is started in Excel, your takeoff is saved in Excel, the estimate or proposal is/can be produced there in Excel; one program, one place. Many takeoff programs interface with Excel somehow, but only Electronic Plan Takeoff is live linked with Excel, meaning all your Excel spreadsheet descriptions appear in the measuring takeoff program so you always know where you are in Excel. That is a huge difference in comparison to Planswift and On-Screen Takeoff. You can even change a description of a takeoff item in Electronic Plan Takeoff and it is automatically changed live, in your Excel spreadsheet. When you talk about the estimating and takeoff phase you must keep processes cleans and easy and this program does just that. There is no getting lost in this program. Just like the other reviewed programs above, the central focus of this program is takeoff measuring, and it does a GREAT job at that. The navigation within the program is really simple and easy. It is not made to work with other estimating systems, but there is a version that allows the direct send of measurements to any Microsoft Windows program awaiting a keyboard entry, just as you would do with digitizer measuring boards. There is also a version that works with digitizer boards as well. If you use Microsoft Excel for estimating, or takeoffs, or proposals, then this Electronic Plan Takeoff program for Excel would be your best choice. The integration to Excel is unmatched in Electronic Plan Takeoff compared to Planswift or On-Screen Takeoff. What is quite different in Electronic Plan Takeoff is that training, support, and maintenance are INCLUDED with a purchase, whereas training, support and maintenance are extra for Planswift and On-Screen Takeoff. Moreover, annual support and maintenance for Electronic Plan Takeoff year two and beyond is a low fee per company per year, instead of per license. On-Screen Takeoff by On Center Software, and Planswift charge their annual maintenance and support fees per license (mandatory) which costs the end user more expense annually especially if a customer has more than one license.

Microsoft and Excel are registered trademarks of Microsoft Corporation. Planswift is the registered trademark of Tech Unlimited, Inc. On-Screen Takeoff and QuickBid are registered trademarks of On Center Software, Inc. Sage Timberline Office, Sage Timberline Estimating are registered trademarks of Sage Software, Inc.

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Double Towel Racks – The Easy Way To Increase Space

Bathrooms almost always pose a storage challenge. They often have minimal space to do all the jobs we need to do in there and to store everything we use while we're in there.

When a bathroom is shared by a couple of people, or even an entire family, unique storage challenges come up, and they require unique solutions. When, say, four people use the same room for bathing, an obvious problem is: where do you put all the towels? Bathroom hardware manufacturers came up with a better solution: double towel racks.

A traditional single towel rack provides sufficient space to dry one towel. If you've got four people using four towels each day, and you have a typical bathroom, you'll need a wall covered with towel rods to provide enough drying space.

Double towel racks provide an innovation solution to this all-too-common bathroom storage problem. You'll find double towel racks come in traditional finishes like polished chrome and polished and antique brass, and popular finishes like brushed nickel and oil-rubbed bronze. You can find economic versions of double towel racks in unfinished wood and ceramic-and-plastic. Regardless of the amount the wall space you have available to install this hardware, you'll find one to fit your space; They come in the range of standard sizes.

If your bathroom is short on storage, you'll usually be open to considering any new space-saving solutions. You can find bathroom suites with a double towel racks installed below. Imagine-in the space where you could normally dry a towel or two, you can double your hanging space, and have room to store a few fresh folded towels and other bathroom essentials, too.

Double towel racks are an excellent solution when you've got lots of damp towels to handle, but other solutions do exist:

• Install a row of pegs or hooks along the wall of the bathroom.
• Install one or more multi-prong hooks on the back of the bathroom door.
• Buy a shower curtain rod with a towel rack incorporated in its design.
• When you purchase shower doors, look for ones where the handles double as towel bars.
• Install suction-cup hooks inside the tub surround.
• Place a swing-arm towel bar to the wall next to your tub or shower. This way, the towel bars extend into the room; They are not limited to hanging against a wall.
• Hang a hook over the bathroom door, linen closet door, or the door of the water closet. These over-door hooks come in single, double, and multiple hook versions in colors and finishes that either stand out or blend in.
• Repurpose an old-style coat rack and use it to hang towels in the bathroom. It takes up only a single square foot of precious floor space.
• If you want to add furniture to your bathroom, look for a hall tree, which is usually reserved for use in the foyer or a mudroom. They come in many styles and finishes, equipped with hooks, mirrors, storage benches, and shelves.
• If you've fortified enough to have a sizable linen closet in your bathroom, visit the closet organization section of your home improvement store. These stores have trained personnel who can help you look at the space you have and redesign it to suit your needs.

Installing a couple of double towel racks can provide a simple way to add storage space to your bathroom. But investigate all the possible storage options for your unique bathroom design challenges. You're not limited to one solution-think creatively and combine them to make a bathroom that works for you.

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Different Types of Hospitality Management Systems

Hospitality management systems are the software that runs your hospitality business. From the food ordering system in your restaurant, to online accommodation booking software, it enables efficient communication and management of your operation, ultimately increasing revenues.

With a range of hospitality management systems to choose from, understanding what is offered is important in order to find the right system that is tailored for your needs and budget. Depending on the type of operation you manage, you should consider the following systems, their advantages and suitability to your company.

Accommodation management software:

Accommodation software packages range from those aimed at B&Bs and small motel owners to ones for running big hotels, clubs and resorts. The basic package offers simple guest and room management, while the more complex ones cover every aspect needed to manage and run a big hotel chain. This includes reservations, service, retail, inventory, staff roster and training, accounting and much more.

Front desk: A front office software package should enable reception staff to keep track of all bookings, state of rooms, guest details and charges, coordinate restaurant reservations for guests, plan housekeeping duties and process guest check-in and check-out. They should also provide a means to communicate effectively with all travel agents and activity operators linked to the system. Features you should look out for include: Reports for arrivals & departures on a specific date. Guest ledger and reservation details, including activities and special requests. Room rates, discounts, package deals, group bookings, etc. Visual schematic of hotel rooms and status. Visual schematic of calendar with room availability. Facility for printing check-in cards for guests. Flexibility in re-assigning guests to different room. Facility to easily add charges to rooms from restaurants, spa, gift shop, etc. Incorporate all payment options upon check-out and print receipt. Print work roster for staff Facilities for storing guest history Communicate efficiently with reservation and travel agents

Housekeeping/maintenance software: Easy-to-use software for the housekeeping and maintenance departments of your accommodation place will increase the efficiency of cleaning and servicing of rooms. Main features of this module will be: Keeping track of room status – dirty, cleaned, inspected, check-ins and check-outs, etc. All information such as number of guests, number of beds, length of stay, special requests (e.g. baby cot, high chair) should be visible to both housekeeping staff and management. Staff can enter maintenance issues as they arise, and those are automatically sent to the maintenance department. Staff can request cleaning materials and toiletries ordered. Staff can keep track of laundry status for uninterrupted linen supply.

Online reservation system: This software package is essential to any accommodation place. It helps you increase direct online bookings instantly. Prospective guests can view hotel rooms (size, choice of beds), availability and prices, plus services and facilities offered. The systems should have instant confirmation of credit card payments or other secure online payment method. After payment of deposit and confirmation by email, guests should be able to login to view or change their reservation details. Cancellation policies should be stated, airport transport options mentioned.

Hospitality management systems for point of sale (POS) operations: This includes restaurants and bars, the hotel gift shop, spa, tour desk and other guest services. It should have the options of direct payment or charge to room. Apart from recording normal vending operations, it should include issuing daily transaction reports to management or the accounting office, and a daily revenue report.

In the POS sector there are many operating hospitality management systems catering for the food vendor sector, namely restaurants, cafés, takeaway shops and delis.

Restaurant (POS) management packages. For POS management packages, you have the choice of an off-the-shelf system for restaurants and cafes, where you can set the options that suit your operation, or a customised one, specifically configured for your business. Most systems are quite easy to use and are cost effective. Their features vary, but most offer the following: Order taking, tallying, and cashier options using a hand-held PDA system. Credit-card processing interface Receipts customized for your business. The more advanced systems also offer: Integrating all transactions with your accounting software. Full inventory/stocktaking facility Translation facilities to selected languages.

Administration software: This module is directed at top management and offers access to all levels of the organization. It provides instant access to the data base of all sectors, ensuring total transparency of operations Overseeing and early intervention by senior staff can prevent mistakes being made by inexperienced employees and save money and the reputation of your business. · Other facilities in this package may include:

Tools for setting different rate systems for rooms and services: daily, seasonal, special promotions, etc. Statistical data – percentage occupancy over set periods, and other data used for policy making and customized reports for board meeting presentations. Organizing promotions and package deals. Inventory for different departments. Employee accounts and employee training programs

Remember: with the high staff turnover common to the hospitality industry, it is important to choose a system that needs minimal training to use, and has ‘secure areas’, which only authorised personnel (with the proper clearance) may access and use.

Choosing and introducing hospitality management systems for your business is a significant undertaking, both operationally and financially. But once up and running, the system will increase efficiency, cut costs and improve the service in your company. You will have happier staff and happier guests, who will promote your business and ultimately increase your revenue.

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Kitchen Design Ideas

Kitchens have so many design options that they are literally never ending. Kitchen design ideas include features such as cabinetry, tiles, counter tops, appliances, hardware and fixtures. Each feature on its own has a multitude of design options and the possible combinations are endless. Two identical kitchens with only one different feature can look like very different kitchens when finished. Because of the vast number of design options, thoroughly research what products are available on the market and get a fairly good idea what it is you are looking for.

The main feature in any kitchen is the cabinetry. It is more often than not the first thing that people notice in a kitchen. The layout of the cabinetry is unique to each kitchen. Measure the size of your kitchen and determine the types of cabinets and where you would like them placed. If you have a solid wall with no windows, doors or appliances opt for floor to ceiling cabinets full of drawers for storage. Include a broom or cleaning closet in these cupboards. Glass fronts in corner cabinets are a popular design feature. Cabinets have a wide variety of door styles. There are recessed, flat paneled and raised cabinet doors. Each of these options comes with several design choices. Once you have picked the design of your cabinets you need to decide on the stain that suits your kitchen space. Opt for lighter colored stains for smaller kitchens to keep them feeling open and spacious.

Counter tops are also an important feature in a kitchen. They too are highly visible. Counter tops should be chosen for durability as well as looks. Granite counter tops are the most popular choice today. You may also choose from engineered stone, ceramic tile, laminates, wood and stainless steel. The material and color of your counter tops should compliment your cabinetry, backslash and tiles. If your kitchen is a large room but does not have a lot of counter space you might want to consider adding an island for additional space. Not only does an island adds counter space but also storage space.

Flooring is an integral kitchen feature. Most kitchens are done with ceramic tile flooring but wood floors and laminates are growing in popularity. Many kitchens have tiled backslashes. Be sure that the tiles used in your backslash compliment the flooring. Besides the type of flooring you use, you must also pick a color of tile, wood or laminate as well as texture. Quite often a kitchen with light colored cabinetry will look best with a slightly darker floor and vice-versa. Contrast between the cabinetry and the flooring, no matter how small, creates the illusion of depth.

The kitchen design ideas listed above are just the tip of the iceberg. We have not even touched on cabinet hardware, lighting fixtures, sinks and taps, paint colors or appliances. Matching appliances are ideal in any kitchen. Stainless steel appliances are a favorite because they match just about any kitchen design. Families with small children may wish to consider black appliances since stainless steel shows fingerprints. Put as much thought into the small features as you do the larger ones. Something as simple as buying the wrong cabinet hardware can ruin the look of the completed project.

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