Strengths and Weaknesses of Waterfall Approach for Software Development

One of the most famous and widely used approaches for software development is the waterfall model. Waterfall approach is an old technique that has been in use for quite some time, but in modern times agile approach is gaining prominence.

Waterfall approach, as is evident from the name, refers to a systematic approach where one step comes after the other. It cannot go the other way round. The process works like the waterfall effect that flows in one direction, which is from up to down.

In this process the life cycle of the development process is predetermined. All the steps are defined before the start of the project. The approach is predictive, where the team is well aware of the order of each step and therefore works accordingly. It starts from the requirement analysis, the design phase and then proceeds on to the implementation, testing and the maintenance phases.

The waterfall approach can be quite beneficial for those who are quite clear on their requirements. A planned approach works for them because they want fixed processes and budget. Where fixed processes are beneficial, at the same time they can be inconvenient at times. In cases where the client is not clear on the requirements and finds in the middle of the project that he/she wants to change course, this approach can prove to be quite problematic.

Another point of the waterfall approach is that the requirement analysis and design of architectural structure can consume a lot of time. Extensive research is done initially as the next phases depend completely on the planning strategy. However, the good thing is that everything is thoroughly worked out and each aspect is studied beforehand. The developers in such cases know what is expected of them.

A waterfall approach works in a systematic order, with one step following the other and the testing phase comes in the end. If there are any big problems encountered in the testing phase, it means a long process to make the amends. The process can consume extra time and money.

We cannot conclude that one approach is better than the other, as every method would have its own strengths and weaknesses. The determination of success for each method depends on how it is being used and whether the approach suits the scope of work being undertaken. While one approach may be suitable for a particular project, it might become totally useless under different circumstances. For example, some believe that agile methods are not well suited for offshore development, as they require a closer contact and communication that is not possible in an offshore project.

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Clinic Management Software: Benefits of Clinic Software

Clinic management software is a web-based program which helps clinic owners manage their operations. It is already widely used in clinics in many regions of the world especially in the American continents, Europe, and Australia.

Here is a list of the many benefits of clinic management software.

1. It helps clinic owners simplify their business and helps them manage one clinic or a huge group of clinics.

2. It keeps and updates patients’ demographics like residence, gender, age, ethnicity, and diagnosis of patients.

3. It keeps and updates patients’ records like lungs chart, heart chart, kidney chart, weight and height charts, nutritional date, respiratory system chart and others.

4. It can print out prescriptions, patient records, billings, certificates, and others. It can also give information about patients’ prescription, medicine available, and the formulation of the medicine.

5. It completes receptions in an automated and systematized way.

6. It manages accounting needs and maintains the inventory.

7. It completes billing transactions.

8. It checks account balances.

5. It schedules multiple appointments.

6. It can send out multiple email reminders.

7. It allows patients to confirm appointment in real time with the use of a mobile phone or a computer.

8. It allows practitioners an easy and quick access to their schedule and patients’ record anytime.

9. It includes reporting tools which could quickly present, print out, or send out reports like patient visits, patients referred to other doctors, patients referred by other doctors, list of fee collection, and daily profit report.

10. It can multitask and designed for quick and easy usage which consequently lessens the stress of clinic owners and clinic employees.

11. It saves business owners a significant sum of money since clinic management software does not require expensive servers or IT support group.

12. It allows clinic owners maximize billable time and spend more time in taking care of their patients since almost all administrative procedures are supported by the software including the daily backing up of everyday reports.

13. It also allows clinic owners to spend more time in making their business grow.

14. Clinic management software general has security features like password facility to validate users, entry validation, data secrecy feature, and data access that is user defined.

Business establishments like clinics need to cope up with the fast advancement in technology nowadays. Otherwise, they will be left behind since most business enterprises are already using such software.

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Pick 3 Lotto Logix – What You Should Know

The primary goal of Lotto Logix is to present informational resources for many individuals who are interested in playing and winning in lottery. Lotto Logix locates and lists the best lottery websites having useful contents for players; determines the best possible methods and strategies for playing at the lowest cost; finding free lottery games and lists the vital factors a player needs for lottery software. If you want to learn about lottery games such as pick 3 Logix provides pertinent information, which may help you in terms of playing, betting, and winning.

Lotto Logix limits its lists of lottery websites into 1 or 2 links so that players can choose efficiently. The websites are grouped according to their functionality in terms of software, results, and information. More so, Lotto Logix provides information of every website including tips, news, articles, freeware, books, statistics, shareware, programs, software, predictions, wheeling systems, and wheels among others. Since Lotto Logix has the objective of winning the lottery, it also provides assistance for players who would want to do the same. It is undeniable that not everyone has answers or solutions to winning in the lottery. Thus, Lotto Logix hopes in bringing methods and strategies to fit into one tool that will effectively lead to lottery winnings.

Although some lottery players do not believe in the usefulness of lottery software for games such as pick 3 Logix believe that it can help in storing, tracking, and charting winning number combinations. Lottery software provides predictions that are useful in choosing numbers to bet. The software can provide 90% accuracy in terms of distribution of numbers as well as the winning numbers since it lets you import your wheeling system. You can wheel all the numbers in you Pick 3, 5, or 6 games as you are allowed to filter number combinations.

In terms of free lotto games, Lotto Logix locates and lists every free online lottery games with legit prizes and uses state drawings for the winning numbers. On the other hand, Lotto Logix does not list all the games specifically if the websites for such games advertise extremely. This is because Lotto Logix thinks that it is much better to separate them from other free online lottery games that do not advertise as much. As such, it plans on establishing a link-farm page specifically for games that employ pay-per-click advertising or those that employ sign-ups in order to cover for the page cost. However, Logix is not very enthusiastic in creating such additional page. This is because most of these kinds of sites have too much demand that seem outrageous or unbelievable for players.

If you want to improve your odds of winning in lottery games such as pick 3 Logix has determined that playing more tickets is the only efficient way. On the other hand, it has also determined that it is more possible for you to win lower tier prizes while waiting to with the grand prize. It is best to establish strategies that allow you to track specific events for possible winnings.

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Effective Job Numbering And Cost Code Systems

Overview

Many companies have a sequential job numbering system, but have you considered the possibility of altering the numbering sequence so you can pull reports for a certain type of project or projects by year and the informational reports that could be generated?

And, are your cost codes sufficient to cover the details you need to see in your reports? Do you lump all site related travel and subsistence into one code, or do you have the details of hotels vs. Housing and meals vs. Subsistence?

Not all software programs are sophisticated enough to allow for customized job type numbering sequences; However, even the basic job cost software systems can be adapted to allow for an advanced numbering system.

Specific Job Numbering Sequences

Advanced reporting techniques can yield a wealth of information. How jobs are numbered so ease the reporting burden so projects of a certain type and / or year can be easily excluded from the software. Samples of numbering sequences could be based on the following criteria:

· Year project was awarded

· Public vs. Private works

· Commercial vs. Residential

· Construction vs. Service

· Division (s) of the Company

If your software allows, you may start the job number with the year awarded, followed by the job type and then a sequential number. Management may request a report for gross revenue on all the commercial contractor improvement projects in 2013. If you have a numbering sequence, this would be an easy report to pull, rather than go through all your 2013 projects and manually add the numbers to obtain the Results.

The job cost master file is another good source of information if all fields are completed and there is a common usage of custom fields that can be used to pull reports.

Cost Codes – Too few or Too Many?

Often we see cost code lists that spill onto multiple pages. Most job cost software programs allow for use of one cost code for multiple categories (Labor, Materials, Direct Job Expense, etc.).

A good source to use for establishing a cost code list is the bid recap and detail sheets used when bidding projects. This will yield the different stages of labor, types of materials to install associated with that labor, the different types of equipment to be rented, categories of subcontractors and the details of direct job costs to be incurred.

These activities can be "numbered" to establish a list of cost codes. If the software allows for use of one code across multiple categories, give thought to not duplicating descriptions, but arranging codes together by "type" of work being performed, rented equipment, direct job expenses, work typically contracted out, etc.

Keeping your cost codes consistent will then allow even more sophisticated reporting – management can now ask for all commercial contractor improvement projects in 2013 and the total cost of crane rentals for the year on those specific projects.

Why Go Through These Steps?

History is a great source of information when anticipating the future. Cost details can be analyzed for specific types of jobs when preparing to bid a similar project. Historical information can be analyzed for margins on certain types of projects or a division of the company to make decisions on whether or not a certain type of work is profitable.

If fields are available in the job cost master file, reports can be declined not only by type and year but by project manager as well to look at performance and estimate vs. Actual results.

Conclusion

When developing any numbering system, consistency is important in order to maximize the reporting results. Management should determine the information they wish to see and develop job numbers and cost codes that will allow for advanced reporting not only to themselves but provide useful information to estimating, project managers and accounting as well.

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Define Computer Hardware

It is quite well known that the working of the computer is dropped by hardware and software. One can define computer hardware as the electronic, magnetic, and electric devices that carry out the computing functions. Hardware is the physical components of the computer like microprocessor, hard disks, RAM, and motherboard. The peripheral devices such as monitor, mouse, keyboard, printer, and speakers can also be included in the list of hardware parts. The programs that run on the computers like Windows, C ++, and Photoshop are the software parts of the computer. A good example for an easy understanding of hardware-software definition is music CDs. The actual compact disk is the hardware, while the songs and music in the CD are the software parts.

There is another way to define computer hardware. Hardware devices are the executors of the commands provided by software applications. For example, let us see what happens when you click the print button of the web browsing software. The software application provides a command to the processor, which is the central part of all computer hardware. Processor in turn checks for an attached printer. If the printer is ready, the software will get a positive response from the processor. Then the software application provides instruction to the printer via the processor to print the web page. In that sense, hardware parts are the foot soldiers and software applications are the commanders in the digital operation that takes place within a computer.

The main player of computer hardware is unduly the microprocessor. It is the sun in the solar system of computer hardware devices. It is the central component and all other components work around it. It is an integrated chip on which a number of functions are incorporated. Two specifications determine its efficiency. One is its processing speed, which is measured in gigahertz. The other is its bit rate. Commonly available processors are 32 bit and 64 bit. The bit rate is a measure of the efficiency of a processor to carry out multiple operations at the same time.

One can not define computer hardware without mentioning the two types of memory used in computers. One is permanent memory. It refers to the magnetic storage capacity of hard disk. It is measured in gigabytes. The second is RAM or random access memory. This memory is able to store data only when the computer is switched on. The memory will lose all the data when the computer is switched off.

Another important product that one should mention when one defines computer hardware is motherboard. It is the electric and electronic circuit board on which all the other components are inserted. There are several other kinds of products such as sound card, video card, network card, and modem that complete the hardware spectrum.

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3 Main Causes of Kernel Errors

A kernel error is a failure in some code critical to Windows. If you have ever encountered a Blue Screen of Death (BSoD), then you have seen a kernel error. Windows is actually several layers of programs made to work together. You can think of Windows as if it were your body, with many pieces working together to make a whole, and, like your body, some parts of Windows are more important than others.

The kernel is the most important part of Windows. It includes critical programs to handle things like memory management and device drivers for the graphics card. These programs are like a body's heart and brain. If something in the kernel crashes, it will often cause all of Windows to crash.

Software Failures

Because there are a lot of programs in the kernel, there are many opportunities for bugs to appear. Although Microsoft does extensive testing to get rid of bugs, their testing facilities can not run through all the combinations that billions of computers use with Windows when some bugs get through.

However, many of the kernel failures are in device drivers written by companies that make hardware, not by Microsoft. Your graphics card, for example, probably uses a driver created by the video company. These companies often work with Microsoft to test their drivers, but having companies working together adds an additional layer of complexity.

Hardware Failures

A hardware failure can cause a kernel error. If your graphics card fails, it can send bad data to the graphics device driver, which then crashes, creating a kernel error. If your hard disk fails, it can corrupt files used by Windows and cause the programs that use those files to crash.

Registry Failures

Registry failures can cause kernel errors. The registry is a database of information that Windows uses to store information about programs. If the registry gets corrupt, the programs that use it can cause kernel errors.

Registry corruption can come from either software or hardware failures. Software corruption can come from a bug in one of the programs that writes information out to the registry. Or if you turn off your computer without doing a complete shutdown, the registry files may not get completely written to the disk. Hardware corruption can happen when the hard disk fails causing parts of the registry files to be lost. It's a good idea to do some research on kernel errors and other registry issues.

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Introduction to Fixed Asset Management

There are obvious benefits from implementing and maintaining a record and control over assets. Savings can be obtained from being able to both see current asset deployment and thenby maximizing their use. Monitoring assets will reduce unauthorized use or misappropriation and insure employees leaving a firm return assets under their control. In some cases a system is mandated by government regulations, terms of lending, public grant terms, insurance terms etc. One person can maintain and manage all fixed assets of a business if they have software to assist them. Computer systems and software available reduce complexity, save time and prevent mistakes. Why use an asset management software program?

While paper and pencil methods can be used, software programs assist in the recording, maintenance and auditing of assets. This saves time and gives a clear picture of assets since sorting and viewing in different ways is quick and easy.

The most basic 'solution' would be using a spreadsheet program such as excel. Even after migrating to software specifically designed for asset management there are times that a spreadsheet program may continue to be useful.

What is an Asset?

What you call an asset often depends upon your business activities. The first thing that comes to mind is fixed assets such as computers, production equipment, office furnishings etc. You might even wish to consider employees as assets or even service and maintenance contracts. A flexible asset management software program can provide a way to track many things most of us would not consider to be assets.

What are my first steps in setting up a system or 'solution'?

1: Decide what assets will be managed.

The more assets the more work in setting up your system. Limiting assets to only those over a certain dollar value is a good idea.

2: Deciding what characteristics of assets it is important to record within the software.

Your choices will not only have an effect upon the amount of work required but also the amount to which you can manipulate and view asset information by sorting on asset information field or combination of fields.

For example if you setup a field for 'location' then you can sort data to see what assets are in each location. If you also have a field for 'type' or 'class' then you could further sort and display to show only certain types of assets such as computers at one or more location.

As in every aspect of life one has to make tough choices between what is ideal and what is feasible. Your choices will have an effect upon data data when new assets arrive as well as collecting information about existing assets. Choices you make will also have a bearing upon your choice of software since some may not handle everything you want. One such a limitation is found within the AssetTrakker Pro software program. TrackitSoftware does not provide a method of tracking depreciation because it was felt this added too much complexity requiring the collecting and maintaining of a lot more data. Additionally, they felt, handling depreciation requires superior knowledge of government rules and regulations beyond the expertise of the very people that stand to benefit most from asset management. Accounting departments already calculate and account for depreciation. * Some software does promote depreciation calculation but only limited functionality that in most cases is not the way regulations demand.

Some help!

Below is a listing of Asset Attributes 'fields' for your consideration. You will not want to use all of them for your own 'solution' and may well have additional ones you need.

Asset #: The key identification reference used to track assets. They can be straight numbers or a number with an alphabet prefix. (0001 or A001). This number is used for audit purposes and for cross-reference.

Make: Manufacturer

Model: Use when arranging service or buying parts. Use as allowed grouping by model type.

Serial #: Specific asset identification. Needed when making warranty or insurance claims.

Cost to Repl .: Estimate the cost of replacing an asset. Useful for planning, risk assessment and insurance.

Cross Ref. #: Reference other asset number or tie together group of assets.

Type: Can be used for general grouping such as furniture, computer, shipping, etc.

Condition: Helpful to see what is likely to require replacement or decide on service needs.

Description: Other detail in addition to make, model, and serial number.

Memo: Additional information about the asset. If a computer you might want to list details of the hardware configuration or even the programs installed on it.

Department: This is helpful for sorting assets by department to assist in auditing.

Location: Good field to have so that a search / sort can give you a clear view of where assets are located.

Used by: Necessary if you have assets in the personal possession of an employee and / or assets off business concessions.

Date Assigned: Useful if assets are moved around or for telling how long an asset has been at its current location.

Expected EOL: The anticipated date when the asset will no longer be useful.

Funded by: Source of funds if provided by Bond Issue, or outside funds (loan) or a grant.

Cost: Total cost of acquiring an asset.

Date Acquired: Helps give some idea when replacement may be required.

Disposed: Indicates an asset has been disposed of.

Disposed Date: Date asset was disposed of.

Business Use%: Used if an asset is not used full time by the business to break down asset use. Not for everyone, but a field that imagination might find an indispensable use for.

OUT: Used for Tool / Equipment Tracking,

Taken By / In From: Used for Tool / Equipment Tracking to indicate who is taking or returning item.

Date Due: Used for Tool / Equipment Tracking to show when an asset is due back.

Recovered Value: Net proceeds of the disposal of an asset.

Disposed Detail: Notes on how and where an asset was treated of.

Warranty: Indicates if asset is covered by a warranty or could be used if covered by a service / maintenance contract.

Warranty Expiry: It is useful to see what expiries are approaching for tracking maintenance or service agreements. Helps prevent paying for service covered by warranty as well as prompting the repair of items before expiration.

Image: Can assist in asset identification or where 'look' is an important feature. Useful if insurance claim ever made.

Value: Could be amount the asset is insured for. Risk exposure control.

Leased: Helps keep track of Leased vs Owned assets.

Lease End: Used to warn when assets have to be replaced or the lease has to be renewed according to the terms of the lease.

Lease Start: Commencement date of lease on leased equipment.

Lease Co: The name of the company from which an asset is leased.

Audit Date: This column records the date the batch scans of assets were made for audit purposes.

Auditor: Record the name of the person who performed the audit.

What next?

By now you have a good idea of ​​what asset information you want to track. Before looking at the various software packages available you should consider how many people will be entering data and how many will be accessing the data. For a smaller organization it is likely that just one person will be involved but in larger firms despite a number will wish to participate. Your situation could require purchasing more than one software license and the software must support multiple users.

Use a Barcode Scanner?

A barcode scanner can be used to speed data entry and auditing. This will add to the cost and most lower priced software packages offer limited support for barcode scanners. If properly incorporated into software a scanner can provide excellent value and save a lot of time, particularly for annual audit purposes.

Below are outlined the types of barcode scanners used with asset management software.

A 'dumb' tethered ccd scanner is cheapest and purchased for around $ 70. This can only be used when plugged into the computer and acts just to a keyboard in that you scan a barcode and it is put into whatever cell or space you are in.

A 'laser' tethered scanner is more money but will be able to scan smaller barcodes and sometimes have a defect field of view (easier to scan a barcode quickly).

A ccd or laser scanner which has built in memory so scans can be made and then the scanner can be brought back and plugged into a computer, and those scans uploaded. This is extremely useful for audit purposes. For maximum utility your software should be optimized to take advantage of this 'batch' memory capability. A capable unit can be obtained for around $ 150.

A laser scanner with internal memory, as well as an input screen and keys, means that after scanning a barcode you can add additional information. These are more expensive and again their use has to be integrated into your management software. While prices are coming down you are looking at units in the pocket pc price range plus scanner cost. It is usual for software utilizing these units to also, for some reason, be priced higher.

Asset Management Software

The range of prices for asset management software is $ 200 to $ 10,000 and all require you to do the entry of existing asset data as well as some setting up for your requirements. Some offer telephone advice at additional cost but hands on assistance only comes with expensive packages (this level of software requires expensive sales force and marketing expense so possibly their price, for the features provided, may seem high).

Purchasing Criteria a lot of people seem to use. You may have more.

1: Price 2: Ease of implementation of system 3: Ease of use 4: Ability to fit the business 5: Functionality 6: Potential to handle growth

What you can obtain for a reasonable price

A program with full relational database, such as MS SQL Server Express, or open source database. Today there is no reason to set for less power or quality. Microsoft provides their SQL 2005 'Express' DB version at no cost.

A program that allows you to attach images of assets. While not necessary for everyone it is something that someday you might want to use.

A program that integrates the use of inexpensive 'batch' memory barcode scanners because, if not now, at some point in the future such an accessory will save time and money. Used in auditing it assures an asset was actually seen as barcode had to be scanned.

A program that will permit the management of 10,000+ assets. With decent memory in your computer and a fast full relational database engine there is not much of a limitation anymore and while certain functions may slow down a bit even a low cost program should handle over 10,000 assets.

A program that is flexible so you can take advantage of features later instead of having to implement everything at once.

* If more than one person is to be given access to the database then you should ensure that different levels of access can be set for different users to prevent unauthorized changes to data.

What you can get but not cheaply.

A program that integrates directly into your current accounting system.

A program that has full professional depreciation calculations.

A program that runs directly off your company server (lower cost software runs off workstations and while a central database can be located on your server and accessed by individual workstations this is not the same as complete software being server based with applets on workstations.

Hand holding and in house training to get your system up and running. There are firms that will sit down with you and ask you all the right questions, set up your software, audit and list all your assets and then train your staff how to operate and maintain your 'solution'. Most, to my knowledge, will recommend a mid to high priced software because it is easier to sell (commission higher as well) and easier for them to install due to their familiarity with it.

Nuts and Bolts

Gathering your Asset Information How you perform this step depends upon your situation. In our discussion below we assume you do not have existing asset information, in an existing excel spreadsheet or other format. If you do then you would save work by exporting / importing that data into your asset management software.

Starting your Asset Listing and Numbering from Scratch

This is an advantage because you are not limited by inherited constraints. Of course it is more work, as you can not just load in existing asset information but have to collect everything yourself.

Collecting asset information is time consuming. Getting this information accurately, with as little work as possible is important. Thinking about how to do the job and planning will help make this big job easier.

The following is how I suggest doing this but you may have your own, sometimes better plan.

Create data entry sheets that you will have people write in information about assets under their control. Your asset management software may create these or you could make up an excel spreadsheet to obtain them.

Try and obtain some 'buy in' from the department or location manager with control over assets. The closer to the asset you can allocate some responsibility the better that asset will be controlled. 'It's my department's asset' is more powerful an incentive than 'it's IT Dept's asset'.

Final steps

After entering data, that your co-operative managers helped you obtain, it is time to work with that data within your asset management software. It should not take long to become familiar with how it can present information to you on screen and in reports.

Now sit back and enjoy how easy it is to manage your assets.

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Advantages of Antispyware Programs

Much like the antivirus programs, now a days anti spyware programs also is a must if you are browsing the net. Most of the antivirus programs provide a good job by taking care of the computer viruses. However, many of them fail to detect the spyware which gets installed onto the PC when connected to the internet. This is where Anti spyware programs comes to help. They do a good job by protecting our computers by identifying the spyware and promptly remove them.

There are so many antispyware programs are available in the market. Both in the Online as well as near to your computer retail showroom. However, you have to ensure that you buy a good Anti spyware program which fulfills the requirements what it promises. Also, make sure to check that the software works on your Operating System. Most of them work on Windows Operating system; however, there is no harm in double checking the same.

Some of the characteristics of a good antispyware program is as below.

Real time scanning

Real time scanning is the heart of these type of programs. The program once installed should reside on your system tray and should be able to do a real time scan in the background. This way it should be able to identify all kinds of threats like Adware, spyware, Trojans and the harmful key loggers.

Automatic Updates

There is no point in having an Antispyware software program which does not update the spyware definitions automatically and at periodic intervals.

Customer Support

Most of the time you will not be require to call up their helpdesk as the software will work automatically provided if the operating system is compatible and all the installation prerequisites are met. However, if you run across any installation problems or some kind of bugs customer service comes in handy.

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Introduction to Silk Test Architecture

Normal use of an application consists of a person manipulating a keyboard and mouse to initiate application operations. The person is said to be interacting with the GUI (Graphical User Interface). During Silk Test testing, Silk Test interacts with the GUI to submit operations to the application automatically.

Thus Silk Test can simulate the actions of a person who is exercising all the capabilities of an application and verifying the results of each operation. The simulated user (Silk test) is said to be driving the application. The application under test reacts to the simulated user exactly as it would react to a human rest. Silk Test consists of two distinct software components that execute in separate processes:

The Silk Test host software

The 4Test Agent software

Silk Test host software

The Silk Test host software is the program you use to develop, edit, compile, run and debug your 4Test scripts and test plans. This manual refers to the system that runs this program as the host machine or the Silk Test machine.

The Agent

The 4Test Agent is the software process that translates the commands in your 4Test scripts into GUI-specific commands. In order words, it is the Agent that actually drives and monitors the application you are testing. One Agent can run locally on the host machine. In a networked environment, any number of Agents can run on remote machines. This manual refers to the systems that run remote Agents as target machines. This manual refers to the systems that run remote Agents as target machines. In a client/server environment, Silk Test drives the client application by means of an Agent process running on each application’s machine. The application then drives the server just as it always does. Silk Test is also capable of driving the GUI belonging to a server or of directly driving a server database by running scripts that submit SQL statements to the database. These methods o directly manipulating the server application are intended to support testing in which the client application drives the server.

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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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