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06
June
2015

LEED THE WAY!

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

10
April
2015

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.

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

05
April
2015

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

26
March
2015

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

01
March
2015

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

19
January
2015

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

08
January
2015

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

19
December
2014

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

21
October
2014

Vendor Bookshelf (New!)

All of your vendor catalogs at your fingertips

The new "Vendor Bookshelf" is a great new addtion to the DesignSmart Library. Simply drag & drop the PDF, Excel or Word files that your vendors supply and just that quickly all your staff have access to these documents. Regarless of the type of doucment you enter, DesignSmart converts the contents into searchable text. This means you can type in a search term like "Winslow table" and all the documents with this term will appear! (Click Continue Reading for more information)

Categories: Best Practices

20
October
2014

DesignSmart is available in the UK!

Cheerio!

union-jack

We are excited to annouce our new DesignSmart server in the UK. The server is housed in the same type of commercial grade data center as our US based servers and is capable of hosting dozens of UK based design firms.

We are looking forward to growing our client base in the UK and to the possibility of opening a sales office there next year.   (End of post.)

 

Categories: Company Updates, Technology

01
October
2014

RoomScan

Easy way to measure rooms with your iPhone

From the Uncrate website we came across a great app for measuring rooms and square footage with your iPhone.  From the Uncrate website:

ROOMSCAN

Screen Shot 2014-10-01 at WedOct 1 14

Need to quickly get the dimensions of a room? You could drop some serious coin on a laser-based measure, struggle with conventional tape, or just use  This brilliant app lets you walk around the room, doing nothing but just touching each wall with your iPhone or iPad. it draws the floor plans automatically, whether it's a small square room or a complex layout, and measurements are estimated to the nearest half a foot, giving you both the wall lengths and square footage. (End of post.)

Categories: Technology

30
September
2014

Announcing - SmartEmail!

Access all staff email in DesignSmart

For years principals have requested that they and their staff be able to view all email that their staff sends and receives in the Communications log in DesignSmart. We are very excited to announce that starting next month a new add-on module called SmartEmail will make this possible!

Regardless if you use Outlook, Gmail or another email service, this add-on will pull all relevant email that is sent to or received by your staff into DesignSmart. The key word here is "relevant" so here are the "out of the box" guidelines: 

Categories: Add-ons

26
September
2014

QuickBooks 2015 Released

QuickBooks Pro 2015 has recently been released. At this point the program is so complete and feature rich it is hard for them to find new features to add to it, but they always do. This year it appears that they've added some of the look and feel from QuickBooks Online to QuickBooks Pro.  For an in depth review of the new features, here is a good article.

From what we see based on our interactions with design firms, only small firms have switched to QuickBooks Online.  The majority of firms continue to use QuickBooks Pro with the larger firms upgrading to QuickBooks Enterprise. 

Categories: Technology

05
September
2014

Making DesignSmart Your Own

Choose your colors, fonts and more

This week we were working with a client who had customized various layouts and reports in DesignSmart more than we had ever seen before. It was really impressive! When assigned to the "Administrator" security level in DesignSmart, you can modify the look and feel of every layout and report. That means you can rearrange where things are positioned, change font and colors. Most of our clients are too busy to do this so they have us make changes for them.

While we are always happy to make changes, we generally recommend that clients consider taking the time to learn 

 

Categories: Best Practices

22
August
2014

Macs versus PCs

The debate never ends

Some years ago discussing the pros and cons of Mac versus Window operating systems could lead to heated discourse. Today the topic doesn't evoke as much passion or interest, but I will share some recent experiences since I work with both operating systems on a roughly 50/50 spilt.

Apple Macs

I switched to Macs five years ago when I couldn't figure out how to get our home printer to work with a PC laptop. In the bell curve of computer competency, I am in the top 10% of computer geeks (admitted with embarrassment rather than pride), but doing basic tasks like connecting a PC to a network or adding a printer had become inexplicably difficult on a PC. When I moved to a Mac the first week was "Hmmm, this isn't how we do things on a PC so I'm not sure I like this". That hesitation was replaced with a sense of wonder, appreciation and relief. Relief that I could easily connect my Mac to a printer or a network 


 

Categories: Technology

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