On-Screen Electrical Estimating – Chapter One

Also known as on-screen takeoff or digital takeoff, the time for this type of software has come. If you are not familiar with these programs, they allow you to perform takeoff on your computer screen. You will not need to obtain paper documents. 

The concept has intrigued me since I first ran across an on-line plan room that offered one of these programs as a free on-screen plan viewer. When I downloaded and installed the viewer, I was offered a free trial of the “complete” version. This version allowed me to count and measure items right on my computer screen by pointing and clicking the mouse.

 I played with the program for a couple of weeks, and discovered a few problems. The most significant was that very few projects were available as digital files at that time. It was also expensive to purchase and maintain. Most of us already have multi thousand dollar estimating systems with annual maintenance fees. At the time I did not believe that I needed another $3,000 program and more maintenance fees.

Fast forward to 2007. We had been receiving about half of our estimating projects as digital files this year, so I did another survey of on-screen estimating programs. I found many more offerings with a price range of $1,000 to $5,000. These new programs had many more tools, features and improved interfaces. I did a free demo on the $1,000 program and found that it had the power to takeoff and organize the most complex of electrical projects. We have been using it for about 18 months now, and purchased another license today.

 On my next post, I will talk about what I like and dislike about on-screen estimating.

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2 responses to “On-Screen Electrical Estimating – Chapter One

  1. I think these “on screen” take-offs can work, but only if the quality of the drawings is good. As we all know, less engineering is being done, and at the same time, more and more is being placed on the drawings. I love the jobs where the power and about 6 low voltage systems are all on the same print. I don’t think the on-screen would work for jobs like these.

    • I agreed with you when I first purchased the program. After using it for awhile, I discovered that the zooming and panning was very natural and quick. There is also an entire rainbow available for color coding. These features make it easy to get through congested drawings.

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