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2019 Enhancements

And more are on the way!

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This year DesignSmart has been updated with more than 20 new features and enhancements both big and small. Below is a partial list of the more significant enhancements:

  1. We released a new revision tracking feature. When turned on, items that have been specified, ordered or invoiced are automatically "locked". Designers cannot make changes to locked items unless they click on the "lock" icon to temporarily unlock the item. Any changes made to the item while it is unlocked are automatically recorded in the Revisions log.
  2. Three new profit tracking reports have been added so you can view what you expect to make on a project, the projection of your profits during the procurement phase of a project and what the final/actual profits are.
  3. You can click a "Heart" icon to mark the products you love and plan to use again, and you can click on a "Star" icon to mark the products that your firm loves and wants to use in future projects.
  4. Finding and working with products has been simplified by showing images in more areas of the system.
  5. All staff have more control over their "Personal Preferences" so they can indicate what the default settings should be for specific screens. Designers typically want to view images while purchasing agents typically want to see lists sorted by vendors.
  6. Advanced filters have been added to make it easier to include or exclude certain types of information.
  7. Clients now have the option to create their own reports. 

(End of article) 

Categories: Company Updates


PresentSmart for iPad

New and improved

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PresentSmart for iPad has been updated to take advantage of the latest communication technology as well as the newest features in DesignSmart. PresentSmart allows a designer to show a client all of the items being proposed for the project so the client can indicate which items she likes and which ones she will decline. PresentSmart was developed with residential designers in mind, but it could be used by other types of design firms.

Key features: 

  1. Item details and images are loaded into the iPad prior to the presentation so there is no need for a wireless connection at the time of the presentation. This eliminates the stress of having a slow connection or having to ask for the client's network password.
  2. The client can be shown a mid-range and high-end version of the same item so she can select which one she wants.
  3. At the end of the presentation, the client can sign for the items she has selected.
  4. PresentSmart will update DesignSmart with the results of the presentation.

(End of article) 

Categories: Add-ons


Give yourself a special present this year

And it is even free

Wednesday Workshop How to Give Yourself a GiftWhy give yourself just one gift when you deserve two! And unlike most gifts that lose their value over time, these two gifts will continue to make a real difference in your life. 

Gift #1: A Password Manager

A what? A password manager is a software program you install on your computer to store really long gnarly passwords. But the magic is that all you have to remember is a single, simple "master password" to open the password manager program. Then the program does the heavy lifting by remembering and filling in these long passwords for you when you need to login to a site.

When I ask our clients how many use a password manager most will confess to having heard of them, but very few use them. You'd be smart to get one, if for nothing else than to protect access to your key financial websites.  I use the Wirecutter website to research things before I purchase them and they have a good review of the best password managers available. All have free versions and the "pro" versions aren't expensive.

Gift #2: A Credit Freeze (at least it isn't a gift card for cryotherapy)

In September a new federal law took effect that requires that all three credit agencies freeze your credit access for free when you request this. Then they have to thaw it upon your request. For better or worse, there is no software program involved with these freezes. It requires the somewhat old-fashioned process of picking up the phone and actually calling all three credit agencies to request this freeze.

If you've ever dealt with these agencies then you know that they tend to ask you financial questions from your past to confirm your identity. For example, they might ask you the name of the title company that closed on a house you sold thirty years ago. And if you get that correct, then the next question might be what was the title company owner's favorite color. But if you can get through this hassle, getting your credit freeze is a smart thing to do. Very smart. Unfortunately, it doesn't protect you completely, but it is a good start. And again as of September, it is free.  There are a lot of articles about this on the web, but here is one from Forbes. It has the names and telephone numbers of the three credit agencies you will need to call. (End of article)

Categories: Best Practices


Tangling with Tariffs

Adjusting to the new reality

iStock 926907538smallMany of our clients order directly from China and have been impacted by the newly imposed tariffs. When viewed within the context of DesignSmart, a tariff charge is not much different than a freight charge, a warehouse fee, or any other user-definable "sub-charge" that you can set up within the system.

What makes tariffs different is that the tariff rate can vary by product. And according to news reports, the rates set recently will change again soon. 

There is no question that it will take design firms significant effort to keep up with the constantly changing rates and regulations. But if there is any good news in all of this it is that with some modest modifications, DesignSmart can be tailored so the process of assigning tariff rates to products and including tariffs in proposals, purchase orders, and invoices is as efficient as it can be.

If your firm is facing the quandary of charging tariffs, then give us a call so we can work together to figure out the best way to implement tariffs in your version of DesignSmart.  (End of article)

Categories: Technology


DesignSmart works with QuickBooks Online!

And yes the QuickBooks Pro version will still be supported!

QuickBooks logo

We are excited to announce that as of January 1, 2019
DesignSmart Version 6 will work with QuickBooks Online

Since 2012 DesignSmart has worked with the desktop versions of QuickBooks Pro and QuickBooks Enterprise. As recently as January of this year we concluded that for most design firms the Pro or Enterprise versions were probably a better fit (read more) for most design firms. We believe that the majority of firms that have offices in multiple states, carry inventory, have complex general ledgers, or have needs for the accounting features still lacking in QBO will opt to remain with the desktop versions.

But if your firm doesn't have those particular needs, then QBO has some real pluses:

  • Simplified User Interface - Intuit has gone to great lengths to simplify all aspects of the online version. For many users who come to it from the desktop versions, it feels like "Accounting Lite". There are not any screens in QBO that are as intimidating or as dense with information as the desktop versions. Even the reports seem simplified. 

  • Automated Sales Tax - QBO's automated sales tax feature means you no longer have to keep up with sales tax rates. Accountants will tell you that they spend more time trying to figure out sales taxes than they do income taxes, so there could be some bumps as this new technology matures, but it does seem pretty great. Will this feature become available for QuickBooks Pro and Enterprise? Good question. Stay tuned to find out.

Please click Continue Reading below to read more of this blog post.


Categories: Technology


Edit Images Within DesignSmart!

Let your annotated images speak for themselves

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It is true that a picture is worth a thousand words, but sometimes you need to enhance the picture by adding your own words or by making annotations. With DesignSmart's new image editor you can now annotate your images within the program itself. Add text, shapes, lines, symbols, arrows, flip, crop and more.  ‚Äč

Categories: Best Practices


QuickBooks Pro Hosted

A smart option for certain firms

A few months ago we posted an article about why we think the desktop version of QuickBooks Pro is still a better option for most design firms over QuickBooks Online. You can read it here

Recently we've had a few clients opt to have their QuickBooks Pro file hosted on a "Virtual PC" in the cloud. There are several advantages to doing this:

  1. It allows the owner, bookkeeper and outside account the ability to log into QuickBooks Pro from their work computers or home computers. 
  2. If a firm only has Mac computers, they can use their Mac computers to log into the virtual PC and run QuickBooks Pro.
  3. You don't have to purchase a PC just for running QuickBooks.

Below is an image of a Mac desktop running a Virtual PC window with QuickBooks open.


Using QuickBooks Pro on a virtual PC is no more difficult than running it on a local PC and the cost is very reasonable. And to make it a simple turnkey process, we'll setup the virutal PC so all you have to do is log into your QuickBooks file. 

If you'd like to know more about this option, please contact us.


Categories: Best Practices


A Unique Perspective

No two design firms are alike

Because we can customize DesignSmart to a client's specific requirements, we attract a wide range of interior design canstockphoto483120
firms. There are the small residential firms that deal in high-end projects, to the large national firms with dozens of staff in regional offices that specialize in commercial projects. Some focus on hotel remodels, some have dozens of salespersons, some pay their designers commissions, some have multiple warehouses, some only issue specifications and some provide procurement services. DesignSmart has features for all of these different requirements that can be customized.

Through the process of customizing our software for our clients, we learn a great deal about our client's workflow processes. This is an interesting aspect of our work and after having worked in this field for ten years it has become abundantly clear that no two firms are alike.

Recently a client made what seemed to be an unusual request: she wanted items that had already been invoiced to appear on new proposals. At first, it seemed like she and I were speaking completely different languages because what she was requesting seemed counter to standard practice. In fact, for a number of reasons DesignSmart goes to some effort to ensure that invoiced items are not allowed to appear on proposals. Yet from her perspective, putting invoiced items on proposals had been the norm for as long as she had been in the design business and it was surprising to her to learn that no other DesignSmart clients had requested this feature. Eventually, she was able to articulate why they did what they did, and as is frequently the case, oddly enough it made sense in the context of their workflow.

Most of our clients would not be able to use a project management system that was not customized to work the way they needed it to work. If you'd like to learn more about DesignSmart,  we'll be happy to discuss your workflow processes and how DesignSmart can be modified to reflect those process and, perhaps, by brainstorming together we can even improve on them. 

Categories: Best Practices


Version 6 - New and Improved

New features added monthly

Since we released Version 6 six months ago, the following new features have been added:

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  1. Adding predefined PO notes based on the category of the item being ordered
  2. New ability to set the order for rooms so they appear that way on reports
  3. A new more efficient way to replicate room distributions (for the SmartHospitality clients)
  4. Ability for designers to setup their email signatures for outgoing emails
  5. Improvements to the Finish module for replicating finishes
  6. More control over how specifications are generated and what they include
  7. New task entry and task tracking module
  8. The ability for users to create custom reports
  9. The ability to add notes to proposals
  10. Hyperlinks for shipper tracking numbers

What is in the works?

  1. Ability to look up sales tax rates by address
  2. A more efficient way to enter vendor deposits in QuickBooks

If you would like to see these new features or discuss a feature you think your firm might need, give us a call.

Categories: Best Practices


Hey WOO. Yes, I'm talking to WOO!

WOO Commerce is a software module used to create online retail stores mostly for non-retail websites. For example, if an interior design firm has a website promoting its services, and it also sells a few products online, then chances are good it uses WOO Commerce to sell the online items. It is used on thousands, if not millions, of websites because it is versatile and affordable. You've probably made many purchases on sites using WOO Commerce. 

Recently a DesignSmart client who has thousands of products in DesignSmart decided to offer these products for sell on their website which uses WOO Commerce. One option was for the staff to manually key into WOO all the product information that is in DesignSmart. This would take days of work and be prone to typos. And anytime a new product was added to DesignSmart, it would have to be added again in WOO. Or if a price changed it would have to be updated in both DesignSmart and WOO. You get the picture: days of manual data entry with a high probability of WOO not having the correct information.

The solution to this nightmare was for the programmers at The Smart Designer to develop the code to electronically transfer all the products in DesignSmart directly into WOO Commerce. No dual entry, no delays, and no chance of WOO not having the most up-to-date and accurate data from DesignSmart. 

If your firm sells products both via your design projects and via your online store, and you'd like to be more efficient in the way you keep everything in sync, then give us a call. We'd like to talk with woo. 




Categories: Add-ons


There are only two tools in the world

What are they?

Recently I was tasked with opening dozens of old messy paint cans that had accumulated in our basement over the years and filling them paint can openerwith cat litter. The litter absorbs the paint and solidifies it so the cans can be thrown out with the trash. 

The first tool I grabbed to open the cans was a regular screwdriver. It took some prying and finagling, but with some effort I managed to open the first lid. The second lid took more effort, more twisting, and more prying but it eventually yielded. Looking at the dozens of remaining cans before me, it seemed like surely there was a better way to open them.

And fortunately there was and it was called a "Paint Can Opener" (queue sound of hand hitting forehead). Most paint stores give them away because they are very simple pieces of metal with a small "J" hook. With this device you simply need to pry and because of the way it is designed, lids come off easily. 

This experience reminded me of what an old farmer asked me years ago, "Son, there are only two tools in the world. What are they?" As usual, I was clueless, so he explained, "The wrong tool and the right tool." 

Our philosophy about software is that any serious design firm will be unique and they will require that their software work the way they need it to work. We customize our software for all of our clients because when you are going to use a software program day in and day out, and the program is critical to the operation of your company,  having the "right tool" can make all the difference in the world. 



Categories: Best Practices


Easy way to safeguard your web based email

A reposting of a 2015 blog post that is worth reading


Recently a  bright person who keeps up with these kinds of things explained that he had switched his email account from Gmail to a free email service called Protonmail. He was concerned about the overall dominance of Google and who had access to his emails. Prontonmail is based out of Switzerland and encrypts all emails so theoritically no one can read his emails. 

Maybe I should be more concerned about who can read my emails, but honestly it is very hard to imagine anyone wanting to read them. So our firm will continue using the Google suite of business applications, Gmail being one of them.

What does freighten me much more than someone reading my emails, is someone hacking my email account and holding it for ransom.  I wrote about this a couple of years ago and the issue has not gone away. The good news is that there is a fairly simple way to protect yourself.

Click the "Continue Reading" button to view the archive blog posting and to learn the solution!

Categories: Best Practices


Custom Modules

Our clients can be very clever

creative IdeaOur clients are constantly surprising us with interesting new ideas for DesignSmart that will help make their firms more efficient and profitable. While we can't go into the specifics, the two below are indicative of the kinds of bright ideas that clients come to us with:

1. CRM / Dashboard module

A new client was initially leaning toward a well known CRM program for their sales team, when they recognized the benefits of having custom built CRM features within DesignSmart. This would make their sales and quote generating processes seamless. And sales staff would only need to learn one program. Sales management could track sales activities and sales goals in the same program. And when quotes result in sales, the sale details will be pushed to QuickBooks electronically.

They came to use with very specific requirements of what they wanted in their CRM module and after a few rounds of mockups and conference calls, we collectively came up with a dashboard layout and features that will work well for their unique workflow. And the cost was only nominally higher for the hybrid version of DesignSmart and CRM module, than the stand-alone CRM program they had been considering.

2. WooCommerce Integration

While it is unlikely you have heard of  "WooCommerce", you've been to websites that use it because it is the most popular "web-store" module for WordPress websites. With the new DesignSmart Products module, it is easy to set up the products you want to sell through your website and through your designers. A client recently asked us to develop a module that will integrate DesignSmart's products with a WooCommerce web-store in real time. What this means is that as soon as a product is added or updated in DesignSmart, it is instantly added or updated on the website. And when orders are entered on the client's website, DesignSmart will pull them down from Woo, mark them for review, then with a click of a button they are processed into QuickBooks.

 Do you have an idea for a module or feature that you can envision adding to DesignSmart that will take your firm to the next level? If so, then give us a call. We enjoy hearing new, creative ideas.

Categories: Best Practices


Gantt Charts

Show your progress to clients!

DesignSmart Project StatusGantt charts are one of those things that most of us have heard of before, but if asked we'd be hard pressed to explain what it is.  Then when we see one, we have one of those, "Aha. That is what I thought it was" moments.

The easiest way to describe a Gantt is that it allows you to list all the tasks in a project and their duration. Then you can indicate which tasks are dependent on others. For example, the painting has to be completed before the wallpaper hanging can start. The end result is an effective graphic that helps one better understand the scope of a project.

For many people, one powerful feature of a Gantt is that if a task takes longer than planned, when you update i's new end date, any tasks that are linked to that task are automatically pushed out as well. 

You can enter the tasks in DesignSmart or online directly into the Gantt chart. You can set up user definable fields of information to be included on the Gantt. Once you have all the tasks and their dates entered, you can share with a web link with your client so they can view the Gantt chart as well. Clients can save the Gantt as a PDF, PNG, JPG or export to Excel.

Categories: Add-ons


Version 6 is released and unlimited training is free!

freeWe are pleased to announce the release of DesignSmart Version 6. It is by far our best version yet and not only because it works on the web. It has more features, more speed and is overall a better project management tool.

Ready to jump in and take it for a spin? Then sign up for the free trial and register for the free training. Each day we cover a different aspect of the system. By the end of the week you will be a DesignSmart guru!

Categories: Best Practices

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