Rates and percentages. The next step is to
select the Labor tab from the Lists section of the Main Menu to
set labor rates. The program already has several Labor Items,
such as "lead carpenter," "carpenter," and "laborer," but you
can change or delete these labels and add new ones of your own.
(An Equipment tab allows you do the same for excavating
equipment, staging rentals, and so on.) You can assign a wage
rate to each labor category, which the program uses to
calculate base labor costs. Another tabbed window accepts
percentages for labor burden, as well as for overhead and
profit. These amounts will be added to base costs to calculate
the total price of the estimate.
Quantity takeoff. The Estimate menu allows you
to choose from a list of existing estimates to work on or
change. If you want to start a new estimate, accepting the
estimate number assigned by the program or supplying a number
of your own automatically moves you to the Estimate Header tab,
which is where you enter general estimate information. The
name, address, and phone number of your client, as well as the
date and any notes about the job entered here will all appear
at the beginning of the estimate and on any printouts.
Most of your work will take place in the three-part screen
behind the Estimate Entry tab, which is laid out in a way that
makes pointing and clicking quick and efficient. LiteningQuick
enables you to enter takeoff quantities following the natural
order of construction. To build an estimate, you "drill down"
through the hierarchy of Class Codes to find Cost Codes - the
individual items, such as footing steel, framing lumber, and
framing labor, that make up your takeoff. Double-clicking on an
item in the Add A Cost Line screen opens a box into which you
can enter quantities for the five cost codes categories:
materials, labor, equipment, subs, and miscellaneous (Figure
Individual items, or Cost Codes,
are added to the estimate on the Add A Cost Line screen.
Quantities affect any one or more of the five categories
associated with the item: materials, labor, equipment, subs,
If a class or cost code isn't listed, you can click on the
Add A Class Code or Add A Cost Code buttons to add them "on the
There is one caveat: LiteningQuick does not come with a
complete database. You will have to enter most cost items from
scratch. Of course, after you have completed a couple of
estimates, most of the common construction items you use will
be stored in the database, and the estimating process will be
Export to QuickBooks. While estimating, you
can select Review Estimate at any time to view and edit every
item in the bid. Once everything is just the way you want it,
the Estimate Reports tab opens a booklet of nested tabs that
offer the choice of sending reports to the screen or printer,
or to a file. You can print an estimate that shows all item
detail or that summarizes totals by class only; similarly, you
can include or exclude overhead and profit figures.
Finally, you can send the estimate to QuickBooks (Figure
Before exporting a LiteningQuick
estimate to QuickBooks, make sure the categories in both
programs match. Once an estimate is transferred, the data can
be used for job-cost accounting.
Before doing so, however, you need to go to the QuickBooks
set-up menu to match the accounts in QuickBooks to the
categories in LiteningQuick. Once the categories are in synch,
the transfer works smoothly, and the estimate data can be used
in QuickBooks to do job-cost accounting.
On-screen help. LiteningQuick does what you
expect it to do without requiring much effort on the part of
the user. And if you run into something confusing, there is
usually an explanation in the handy pink help bar. (Presumably,
pink makes the bar easier to see. But I'm color-blind, and I
had no trouble finding and using it.)
If you need more detailed help, you can activate the Help
Wizard, a large window that pops up over your work screen. The
down side is that the Help Wizard soon becomes a nuisance
because it pops up even when you don't need help. Fortunately,
you can turn the Wizard off again once you are familiar with
LiteningQuick is an inexpensive off-the-shelf program that's
simple to learn and use. Better yet, it links to QuickBooks,
another inexpensive off-the-shelf program that's simple to
learn and use. That makes it a hit in my book.
Craig Savage, a longtime computer user, owns Savage
Construction in Carpinteria, Calif. He publishes the Macintosh
Construction Forum and Window on Construction newsletters.