There are two main types of construction software: "stand
alone" programs that do just one thing, like estimating or
accounting; and "integrated" software that combines several
programs - estimating, job cost, accounting, scheduling, and
even CAD - into a single system. The advantage of integrated
software is that data entered one time can be used by several
different modules without re-keying. Unfortunately, integrated
software packages are complicated and take a long time to learn
to use. It can be six months or more before everything is up
and running smoothly.
In the middle ground are stand-alone programs that integrate
with just one other program. Lately, I've been interested in
programs that connect to Quicken and QuickBooks, the popular
bookkeeping software from Intuit. One estimating program that
does a nice job of sending a budget to QuickBooks is called
LiteningQuick Estimating from Litening Software.
LiteningQuick ($149) requires Windows 95
or 98 and is available directly from Litening
Software, 2450 Peratta Blvd., Suite 207, Freemont,
CA 94536; 800/333-6675 (orders only);
This Windows-based program is in its third version, and
shows a lot of maturity from earlier versions. If the promise
of total integration has eluded you, don't despair - there are
off-the-shelf answers, and LiteningQuick is one of them.
Before you can start estimating,
you need to select a set of categories, or Class Codes, that
will organize the estimate data. LiteningQuick provides three
sets: the 16 CSI (Construction Specifications Institute)
divisions; the National Association of Home Builders
categories; and a standard set of 13 codes built into the
program. You can add or delete predefined class codes, or use
the Your Company tab to create your own codes (Figure 1).
igure 1.LiteningQuick comes
with three ready-made sets of database categories, called
Classes. You can add or delete classes, or build your own
custom list. The database is incomplete, however. Most items,
called Cost Codes, will have to be entered from scratch before
you can start estimating.
Incidentally, the display screens in LiteningQuick use
several sets of tabs, just like the tabs on manila folders.
When you click on a tab, the menu "unfolds," displaying a list
of choices. The tabs are a wonderful way to present large
amounts of information in an easy-to-understand metaphor.