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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


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


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


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


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


DesignSmart is available in the UK!



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



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:


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


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


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


Easy way to make life simpler

And safer

The vast majority of people use the same password for all the sites they visit which is similar to leaving your front door wide open, your lights on and a blinking neon sign in the front yard indicating, "Come On In!". Sure you can get away with this for awhile, but eventually you are going to get burned. Big time.

There is a simple solution - get a password manager. There are a dozen out there and they

Categories: Best Practices, Technology