New DesignSmart server option

Fast, easy and affordable - Works with Windows PCs and Macs


There are many benefits to "cloud" technology and approximatley 50% of our clients run DesignSmart from one of our cloud servers.  However, there are two important advantages to hosting DesignSmart data in your office rather than in the cloud:

  1. It will be faster. Consequently you will enjoy working with the system more. To understand the speed difference, consider that with a cloud server data and images have to travel 1,000's miles as opposed to 100 feet. Even if you have a super fast internet connection, hosting the data in your own office is going to be faster and day-in and day-out you will greatly appreciate the faster responsiveness.
  2. It will be less expensive in the long run. 

If your firm does not already have what is known as a server, then we recommmend the Apple Mac Mini (starting at $499.00) to host your DesignSmart data. It gets the name mini from the fact it is only 9" x 9" x 2". Even if you only use Windows PCs in your office, your PCs will connect and work seamlessly with the mini. 

Getting setup couldn't be any easier. We will purchase the mini online, install all of the necessary software and configure it to work with your network. When we send it to you all you have to do is plug in the power cord and a network cable. No need to plug in a monitor,  a keyboard, nor a mouse. When we need to make tweaks to your program, we'll simply connect to the mini remotely from our offices.

(Click Continue Reading for FAQs)


Categories: Best Practices


Easy way to safeguard your email

For those who use web based email programs


In January we posted an article about the importance of using a "password manager" software program to store all of your passwords. You can read the article here

In the article the growing threat of BAD people hacking your online email account and literally holding it for ransom was mentioned. This happened to one of our employee's parents. 

If someone hacked your email account and required $500 or $5,000 ransom to release it back to you, would you pay? Hopefully you won't be faced with that decision, and if you follow our recommendation below, then you won't ever have to decide. You could simply tell the BAD person, "Thank you, but no thank you. I have a copy of my email. Have a nice day!"

The recommendation? (click Continue Reading)

Categories: Best Practices


Website for finding a local bookkeeper!

Complete with certifications and references!

Hiring a bookkeeper is not easy, but if you use QuickBooks then the task gets much easier. Why? More than 95% of small businesses use QuickBooks so more bookkeepers know QuickBooks than any other accouting system.

QuickBooks even has a website to you help find bookkeepers (or "Pro Advisors" as QuickBooks calls them) in your local area. 


Keepin in mind that with our QuickBooks Connect module all of the clients, vendors, projects, deposits, purchase orders and invoices that you create in DesignSmart get pushed into QuickBooks with the click of a button. This eliminates double entry and allows your bookkeeper to spend her or his time, and your money, more efficiently.

To learn more about QuickBooks Connect and QuickBooks, please contact us.  [End of article]






Categories: Best Practices


Entering Dimensions Just Got Easier!

dimenRecently a designer suggested to us a better way to enter dimensions. We thought it was a such a good idea that we put it in DesignSmart 5.0

Her  idea was that a rug needs certain dimensional prompts (width and lenght) whereas a lamp needs others (height, shade diameter, base diameter). So why not let design firms set up the dimensional prompts for various items? And while we are at it, go ahead and add an icon to make it a more visual process.

To see a 1 minute video of how it works, please visit our videos section.

Categories: Best Practices


Product Release: DesignSmart 5.0

Our best release ever!

Today we are releasing DesignSmart 5.0. Serious project management software for serious designers.

What is new?

  • New user interface - A completely new fresh and modern look
  • User definable item templates - now you determine what data fields you want to enter
  • View and edit components and primary items on the same layout
  • Three new items list views: Image List View, Status List View, Split View
  • Audit logs - a log of who changed what when
  • Remote App (optional) - requires no software installation and provides faster access to your data no mater where you are
  • Four new graphic layouts for images
  • Simplified editing of purchase orders and invoices
  • Improved interaction with our QuickBooks Connector module

Contact us today see an overview of this new version!

Categories: Design, Company Updates, Technology


Web Access To DesignSmart Data!

Give your clients more access to the data they need

DesignSmart has newer and better ways for you to share your DesignSmart data with your clients via the Internet. 

How does it work? Your clients will go to YOUR website and click on a "Client Login" button. Then they will be required to enter a login name and password so they will only have access to the data they should be able to view. 

Our optional WebSmart module is a great way for residential design firms to allow their client access to DesignSmart data. Commercial design firms will have unique requirements specific to their workflows.

Last week we finished a custom web application for a commercial design firm because their clients were requiring real time project reports via the web. Previously the design firm had emailed weekly reports, but that was not longer sufficient. Their clients needed all of their staff to be able to look up current and past reports online.

The design firm also needed their clients to be able to enter comments and questions for each project report. These comments were then automatically emailed to the appropriate designer in charge of that project. (Please click Continue Reading)

Categories: Best Practices


Hyper Custom QuickBooks Reports

We know QuickBooks

Our newest client has over thirty designers, project managers and accounting staff who will be using DesignSmart.  One of their critical management reports is a highly custom QuickBooks report. While you can create filters in QuickBooks to generate your own custom reports, QuickBooks is unable to create this specific report.  The reason is that this report requires pulling data from various areas in QuickBooks, manipulating the data, then outputing the data into the final report format.

Six years ago our client contracted with a firm to develop this report.  The report worked reasonably well, but took 15 - 30  minutes to run. And only one person in the firm could run it.

We are going to develop the same report and expect it will take less than two minutes to run. We should have the report completed by the end of this month and I will update this blog with the actual time. However we have developed similar reports and feel confident that two minutes is conservative.

Added bonus:  any staff person will be able to run this report in real time!

Categories: Best Practices, Technology



We have developed our first LEED features!

Recently one of our clients was required to submit specifications that included LEED details, so they contacted us to develop these new features. It essentially came down to developing a a new LEED report and LEED data entry table (see below). We were able to provide all of the required features in less than a day. 

Their client, the developer of the property, even had specific categories that the design firm was required to use.  Since the developer's categories were not the same as the ones the design firm use on their other projects, we came up with a solution for that as well.

If you have LEED projects and would like to have LEED features added to your version of DesignSmart, then please contact us.


LEED image


Categories: Best Practices


QuickBooks Cloud Hosting

Access QuickBooks from anywhere!

Many firms would like to be able to access their QuickBooks Pro/Primer file from home, office or the road. Recent drops in the cost of cloud computing now make this more affordable and easier than ever before.

The process works by purchasing a virtual computer from a hosting company. If you are not familiar with the term "virtual computer", then think of it as one very powerful computer that can be segmented into many virtual computers. Millions of companies use virtual computers when the task at hand (like running QuickBooks) doesn't require the capacity of a complete server.

We have used and had good results with hosting QuickBooks in the cloud using two hosting companies: Atlantic.net and Colossus Cloud. Atlantic is slightly more expensive, but offers solid state drives.  For hosting QuickBooks, you can get an adequate virtual computer from Colossus starting at about $40 per month. 

The technology used to access and work on these virtual computers is called "Remote Desktop" (RD) and it works for both Mac and PCs. This technology has been around for decades, but it has gotten better in that it can print to your local printer and support multiple monitors.

RD is simple to use. All PCs have a Microsoft program called "Remote Desktop" that allows the computer to connect to another computer. Open the program, enter the web address of the other computer, enter your log-in and voila you'll be on the remote desktop.  If you use a Mac, you'll need to download the free Microsoft Remote Desktop app from the App Store, but...

Categories: Technology


Sync About It

When syncing is a good idea

Most DesignSmart clients either have us host their data on one of our regional servers, or they host their data themselves on their own server. However there are scenarios where it makes sense for some companies to utilize our optional SmartSync add-on module. Here are two examples that illustrate when syncing can be advantageous.

One of our clients is an international design firm with offices around the world. The firm wants the designers in every office to have access to the projects and spec data that are created in the other offices. The internet can be really fast, but when dealing with global distances it would simply be too slow to run DesignSmart in the conventional manner. For this reason it makes sense for each office to have their own copy of DesignSmart running in their office, then sync the data throughout the day.


Categories: Technology


Monitor Stands


Whether you use one monitor or multiple monitors, it is important to position them so that they are positioned in an ergonomically healthy position. And it is nice not to have to give up a lot of desktop space to accommodate them. That is why it is usually a good idea to invest in a monitor stand.

For years we have been using the LX Dual Side-By-Sid Arm by Ergotron (left photo). This is a well built stand that has held up well over the years. While we have no complaints, at $300 it can cost as much or more than the monitors it supports. 

Recently we purchased the Dual LCD Monitor Desk Mount Stand Heavy Duty from Vivo (right photo). The LX offers more articulation, but for our purposes the Vivo is sufficient. Because it only cost $50, we were not expecting such a heavy, well constructed, solid stand. We recommend it!

stand 1

stand 2

Categories: Technology


Two Monitors Versus One?

Is less more?

Would you and your staff be more efficient if you started using a second computer monitor? With a second monitor you can run one program on monitor A and another program on monitor B. When you move your mouse it will float across both monitors as if they were one big monitor. 

Most people would assume that they would be more efficient. A white paper from Dell supports supports this theory (article here) as does this academic paper (article here). External monitors have become so affordable that you can purchase a quality one for less than $200.

However, an interesting article in the New York Times last year (article here) argues that two monitors can provide more distractions and ultimately lower overall productivity. Having used multiple monitors for many years, I cab identify with many of the author's points against a second monitor. 


Categories: Best Practices


WebSmart - New and Improved!

Give your clients internet access to your design concepts

We are excited to release a new version of WebSmart. This add-on module allows your clients to use a web browser to:

  1. View images of your design concepts for their project(s)
  2. Post comments and questions
  3. Approve items for purchase

A lot of work has gone into making WebSmart so simple to use that many of your clients will be able to use it with no training. To see it for yourself, give us a call so we can walk you through it! 

Check out the new WebSmart video in the "Videos" section of this site.


Categories: Add-ons


Be proactive and protect your computer

You'll be glad you did

A recent article in the New York Times about computer hackers was so frightening it gave me the "he-be-ge-bees" and made me immediately take certain precautions to better protect my computer data.  

The article (read it here) explains how hackers can gain access to your computer, encrypt your files so you cannot open them, then require that you pay them a ransom (in Bitcoins of course) in order for them to provide you with the key to decrypt your files. And these ransoms can be in the thousands of dollars. What a nightmare that would be.

I mentioned this article to my co-worker Robert and he responded that his mother's email account had been hacked this way. We are talking scary stuff here. The good news is that


Categories: Best Practices


How efficient is your firm?

Suffering from too many staff meetings?

Recently a client requested that we develop a new report that we thought was interesting. First some background. This client is an architectural firm with interior design and procurement divisions. For the past few years they have been using DesignSmart's time tracking feature to track all of the staff's hours. These times are pushed into QuickBook twice a month.

While DesignSmart has reports that show the hours spent by staff on projects, what is interesting about the report the client requested is that they want it to indicate what percent of the work week each employee is being productive. 

For firms with larger salaried staff and/or departments this type of report can be a 

Categories: Best Practices

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