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Evaluating Estimating Software

Discussion in 'General Software' started by mbarden, Dec 29, 2006.

  1. mbarden

    mbarden Active Member

    Oct 1, 2006
    Hi Everyone,
    In my former life I sold and supported estimating software to the collision industry. I am currently looking at 2 packages. Estimate by Estimate Software Corp and Easy Estimate by Cyrious Software. I am looking at these primarily because they export invoices to QB. I have been on a trial with Estimate and must admit that it is very handy yet does not have a lot of features that I would expect to see if a piece of software being developed today. IE no "right click" features and very little configuration capabilities. The Cyrious Software appears to have those but I have nto had a usable demonstration copy to work with. I will NOT purchase a piece of software without putting it through the paces. The devil is in the details.
    Any info on either of these would be appreciated.

    Mike B
    Big River SIgn Co.
  2. wildside

    wildside Very Active Member

    Aug 28, 2005
    we tried "Estimate" and it never made it through the trial period before it was on the way back.

    A member here developed his own software called GraphixCalc. Worked pretty good for what we needed at the time.

    Currently we have upgraded to Cyrious SMS and love it, had some experience with it in the past, but got to a point where the price was not as big of an issue as what it can do for us.
  3. bob

    bob Major Contributor

    Nov 4, 2005
    I ran Estimate for a brief while then got rid of it. Not only did I disagree with some of the specific fundamental principles but in general I found that the Aristotelean approach to pricing was excessively anal and counterproductive.

    One fundamental with which I disagreed is that the software only accounts for the actual square feet of media used. I always consider the number of linear feet typically unrolled to produce the work and price accordingly. As well as Estimate's accounting for app tape, etc. In this shop app tape and like goods are expensed along with all of the other supplies. If it has to be accounted for, it's just part of operating expense.

    The myriad of settings such as difficulty of this or that, market conditions, and perhaps even phases of the moon, results in work that is functionally identical not being priced identically. With the model used in Estimate it's well nigh impossible to come up with an ad hoc price off the cuff when asked.

    I want and have a price model that has much coarser resolution such that I pretty much know that an X by Y sign of n sides with m media will be $K plus marked up substrate. Using this model a small percentage of the time I don't make what I should and a small percentage of the time I make more than I should but 80%-90% of the time it works out just right. Moreover, life is so much simpler this way.

    One thing for which Estimate can be useful is as a price rationalization tool. In this model you already know what you want to get for the work so you plug in values and twiddle settings in Estimate until it comes up with the very number you had in mind to begin with. Then when someone questions your pricing, you can whip out Estimate to justify what you already knew.
  4. Replicator

    Replicator Major Contributor

    Nov 19, 2006
    Sun City, AZ
    We use Estimate - from Estimate Software Corp -

    Only because we like the layout and the customized logo header . . .


    However we always use the Free-Form insert for products or design and labor

    as it just is not a user friendly program for someone to manually set up all

    of the variables wanted, and then to have to rely on the program to make all

    of our pricing decisions for us . . .
  5. WVB

    WVB Very Active Member

    Feb 25, 2005
  6. Replicator

    Replicator Major Contributor

    Nov 19, 2006
    Sun City, AZ

    I might check that out thanks !

    Considering all I use estimate for is the estimate itself and not the sign features !
  7. ChiknNutz

    ChiknNutz Major Contributor

    Apr 18, 2003
    If you are interested in GraphixCALC, the website is www.graphixcalc.com. The pro version is a free download and defaults to a timed trial period. Any questions, just ask.
  8. Checkers

    Checkers Very Active Member

    Jul 24, 2003
    I've used or Demo'd most of the major estimating & CRM programs geared towards the sign industry, including Chris' GraphixCALC.
    No matter what program you use, it takes some time thought and effort to get it set up and running accurately. It took me about 16 to 24 hours of tweaking Estimate to get it where I am comfortable with the pricing and exporting invoices to QuickBooks. I would assume the other programs would take just as long if not longer to get everything tweaked to where it needs to be.
    Anyway, I would say that you get the most bang for your buck with GraphixCALC. Another shop I do some work with uses it as their primary pricing program. As an operator, I found it easy to understand and use. I was quoting signs with it in just a few minutes. However, I didn't get into tweaking the numbers or ingredients, So, I can't comment on the back end of making the necessary adjustments to get it to accurately price for your shop. The other think is it appears to lack the QuickBooks compatibility.
    Estimate is what I use now. The base program is reasonably priced and you can upgrade or purchase additional pricing modules as you develop the need for them. The program with all the bells and whistles, including the QuickBooks link, will set you back well over a grand though.
    It's been a long time since I've used them, but Cyrious and Activity POS are are CRM programs that can and do a lot more than estimates and invoices. From what I recall, both programs have features that allow you to maintain your client and vendor database so you can do custom mailings, track job status, and keep track of inventory, purchase orders, and financial data and a whole lot more. While these features are important to have, the cost of the software puts it somewhat out of reach for a cost concious start up company. If I remember correctly, the starting price for either was around $2500 - $3000.

    Good luck,

  9. mbarden

    mbarden Active Member

    Oct 1, 2006
    Thanks Brian,
    I was hoping to get your input as I remember you mentioning that you are using Estimate. A funny thing; The original version of the sofwtare that I sold for 12 years was called Estimate. We sold it to the collision industry so they could write estimates on crash damage using flat rate times. I have to admit I like some of the automation in the Estimate product that I have been looking at. I have downloaded Chris' GraphiCalc Plus and will take a hard look at it over the weekend.
    I have been tweaking Estimate quite a bit and have found it to be what i woud consider accurate on the estimates that I have compared so far. I have found that it may be off a little bit on large vinyl jobs, but I really don't know because I have never done one.

    Thanks Everyone
    Mike B
  10. Si Allen

    Si Allen Very Active Member

    Jul 17, 2004
    Hey! If Bob doesn't like Estimate...then it seems to me to be the one to buy!

  11. f3rri

    f3rri Member

    Jul 4, 2006
    I've been using estimate for about 3 years now. The vendor support is not worth it everytime there is a fuel shortage it doesn't accomodate for the change. I really hate the fact if you use a few different computers that it is nearly impossible to have them always up to date. I hear you guys on the waste material things as well as the transfer tape. For a few hunderd dollars it wasn't bad to get started with but not bad to use for a few years. it helps keep your jobs logged and what you bid out for future reference.
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