Software Roundup

By Stan Shook | Nov 15, 2011




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I only have 1,200 words to tell you as much as I can about some of the best estimating software programs available on the market, so I’m not going to waste any of them chitchatting. Let’s get started in alphabetical order … YEE HA!

Accubid Enterprise
True “per spec” estimating is finally here. Enterprise is not the Accubid you once knew. It’s a completely different estimating machine. OK, it’s not actually a machine, but the look, feel and function of it will make you think you are operating a machine.

Enterprise’s “per spec” estimating is a software technology that allows you to access and use your materials and labor database based on your project’s specification. Before you begin entering a takeoff, the program requires you to build your project’s specification: conduit types, minimum sizes, copper or aluminum wire, hanger and support types, etc. Once the spec is established, Enterprise does the rest, choosing items and building your assemblies as you enter takeoff counts and rolloff quantities.

You no longer have to endure time-consuming navigation through the database or custom modifications to assemblies you have built many times before. With this automation, Enterprise streamlines the estimating process and speeds up your takeoff time. You spend less time managing the database and more time focusing on your estimate and takeoff.

Enterprise also gives estimators the ability to create “system specific” Take-Off Pads, which are similar to the physical digitizer pads of yesteryear—you know, the coasters for your coffee cup? However, these pads are on your screen and are 100 percent customizable to your preferences, and you can have a specific pad for each system you are taking off. Entering cable tray? The program opens a takeoff pad with only cable tray elements on it. Entering feeders? There’s a pad for that, too.

It’ll sing you to sleep after the takeoff
What about after the takeoff is done? Have you ever needed to apply a different specification to your finished takeoff? Perhaps change the branch conduit from “steel compression” to “die-cast set-screw,” or convert an entire EMT project to an MC cable value-engineering proposal? Sure you have. With Enterprise, modifying already-entered items and assemblies is done instantly with just a few clicks of the mouse, across the entire bid or just for selected portions.

Cert-In Software WinTRF Estimating Systems
For some estimators, adjustable takeoff screens, fancy graphics, auto-counting and intuitive computer-aided design (CAD) recognition can be far too much to work with (and work around in some cases). Some estimators just want access to a highly stable, well-developed, clean database using a logically organized program. WinTRF Estimating Systems delivers such a system.

Cert-In Software offers both a single-user and a multiuser networked system that supports multiple estimators working in the same project at the same time. WinTRF has a simple look and feel and is easy to navigate for fast entry and takeoff organization.

When it comes to extending your project and producing reports, WinTRF is no slouch. Its bid import/export features are very powerful, allowing for flexibility to look at and break down your estimate to meet any bid form thrown your way. You can export to accounting systems, spreadsheet programs and word-processing systems.

Take this job and note it
The popular Sticky Notes feature allows estimators to place custom notes on individual database items or assemblies as well as specific entries in their takeoff audit trail. This feature gives estimators the ability to communicate with their boss or other estimators with notes like “Why was this item used?” or “This assembly needs to be changed” or “Reviewed by (insert name here).” Communication and note-taking during the estimating process is critical. WinTRF has made it easy and allows you to make your notes an integral part of your takeoff.

WinTRF also allows for mouse scaling and counting and supports Scalex Rotometer and other digitizer interface devices. And unlike like some of the bigger name programs, WinTRF is compatible with all the major materials pricing programs: TRA-SER, EPIC and NetPricer.

ConEst IntelliBid, Electrical Formulas,
BidTrac, SureCount and more!

ConEst has a very powerful selection of programs, each tailored to meet its customers’ specific estimating needs. The company’s PowerSuite integration tool, which provides complete integration of all its programs, enables seamless data transfer and saves hours of redundant data entry by your separate office departments.

Sounds pricey, right? Actually, it isn’t because each ConEst program is designed to run independently of the suite. So you can start with the program you need the most (Intellibid) and add the other solutions as your estimating and project management needs grow, along with your business.

For serious estimating tools, look into ConEst’s IntelliBid Lite, IntelliBid Plus and IntelliBid Pro. Each is very powerful and designed to fit your specific estimating needs, whether you are a one-man show or have 15 estimators.

Doing a lot of design/build estimating? Tired of performing all the long, tedious calculations? IntelliBid Design Build gives you the ability to calculate lighting requirements and electrical formulas, including loads, motors, voltage drop, service and feeder calculations, and more.

ConEst’s PowerSuite is a complete business management solution. It integrates all the company’s powerful tools into a complete project management system. BidTrac keeps your estimate organized, storing bid data, requests for information, proposals, phone memos and job specification data. JobTrac helps you track changes to the job’s original contract price. You can track the status of change orders, alternates, submittals and all correspondence, daily logs and documentation related to each project.

And there’s more! ConEst also has T&M Billing Manager, a billing management tool, and Permit Trac, which can help you streamline and better coordinate your permit processing.

ConEst has also recently announced the integration of IntelliBid with a powerful electrical design program called DraftLogic Electrical. Combining these two gives electrical contractors a complete design, takeoff and estimating system.

Maxwell Systems Estimation 9.3
Construction Estimating software

Maxwell Systems has released version 9.3 of its powerful estimating database program Estimation, which includes numerous database maintenance enhancements.

The program can also integrate with EastCoast CAD/CAM, making Estimation’s capability to link directly with AutoCAD files more fluid and glitch-free.

Maxwell Systems Estimation is a complete estimating solution for electrical contractors. By tying together estimates, labor needs and cost analysis, this software helps contractors bid more accurately, save time on paperwork, and achieve greater overall efficiency and cost savings. The company’s construction estimating software includes advanced functionality for estimating; comprehensive purchasing for materials management; project management; digital and digitized takeoff; and integration of estimating, purchasing, and accounting systems.

Maxwell Systems is a provider of complete construction business management and property management software solutions and services. Along with Estimation, Maxwell offers a full suite of high-performance project management and estimating products: ProContractorMX, American Contractor, Management Suite, and StreetSmarts.

Getting tired of counting 2-by-4s? In-screen estimating is real!

Accubid has LiveCount, McCormick has On-Screen, ConEst has SureCount and Maxwell’s Estimation has one, too. Everybody’s doing it and doing it well. Spot and dot the drawings on screen and, with the click of a single button, send your selected takeoff directly into your database program.

Symbol recognition and counting software has finally arrived, and it’s really hot. If you are still using highlighters, pens and a clicker, you are falling way behind the curve. The technology has finally matured, and this stuff really works. So along with the money you have budgeted for buying the estimating software, make sure you throw some more in to add the in-screen counting software. You can thank me later.

McCormick Version 9.3
If it’s not broken, just keep making it better. Many software companies think they have to overhaul their software every few years. The problem is they deliver something new that isn’t perfected, which can become a serious problem for estimators who don’t have time to be perpetual beta testers.

Such is not the case with McCormick’s newest versions of its ESI WIN 3000, 6000, 8000 and 12000 estimating systems. These programs have continued to get better and more stable every year. This is mostly due to the high-level of dedication and quality control by McCormick’s programming and tech support teams.

Version 9.3 has several new features focused around speeding up the program screens, providing users higher levels of security and database control, and making materials cost updating faster and more secure.

Transmission/Distribution, a 2010 NECA ShowStopper
Electrical contractors do not only perform work on commercial buildings. Many contractors focus on installations outside and up in the air. For them, McCormick has developed and released its new Transmission & Distribution Program, built specifically for contractors who need to estimate high-voltage substation and transmission systems.

The program is based on the Rural Utilities Service standards, and along with all the usual commercial installation materials, the out-of-the-box database also includes many items specifically used for substations and high-voltage transmission installations. For instance, the software handles cable and wire types, such as XLP, POLY, AAC, and ACSR; poles; bases; support structures; anchors and guys; arrestors; capacitors; insulators; isolators; load-break terminations; elbows; and many others. It also includes all the additional parts involved.

Applying McCormick’s powerful menus and multiple workspace pages functionalities, the company has made it simple and fast to access all of these parts and assemblies. The company combined this design with its patented multiple windows takeoff and ease of creating assemblies; it makes takeoff entry super fast.

Well, I’m out of space, so that’s it for this year’s roundup. I’ve barely scratched the surface of all these amazing programs, and I wish I had more time to learn and tell you about them. Since I don’t, I recommend you give each of the companies a call for a demonstration.

SHOOK has been estimating for more than 23 years. Until recently, he operated a fully staffed estimating company, TakeOff 16 Inc. He is currently focusing on writing, teaching and speaking about electrical estimating. Read his blog at or contact him directly at [email protected].

About The Author

Stan Shook was ELECTRICAL CONTRACTOR's estimating columnist from 2005 to 2012. He works as an electrical estimator in California. Read his blog at or contact him directly [email protected]





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