Are you searching for the best takeoff software available?

Obviously, we at Countfire might have a few opinions about that, but you’ll find that there are many options available.

In terms of software quality and functionality, not all of those options stack up well. Some involve more work than others, or a steeper learning curve to get started. 

Here, we’re dissecting the features that the best takeoff software should include:

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Truly automated counting

We’re putting this feature first because it’s one that people are often unaware of. The purpose of takeoff software is to help you count takeoffs, but not all solutions out there are truly automated.

There are takeoff software packages that include what they call “digital counting,” however this still involves the operator manually clicking on symbols to “tell” the software to count them. Some software will even call this “automated counting,” but it really isn’t. If you’re pointing and clicking, you have manual work to do and this will add time to your counting process.

Truly automated counting means that you don’t have to point and click on every symbol. With Countfire, once you select a symbol to count, it not only counts that symbol on the PDF you have loaded, but will also count that same symbol across the entire project. This is a huge time saver, especially when you consider how many drawings may be involved in a project.

The bottom line is, when you’re looking at takeoff software and it claims to count automatically, find out exactly how that counting works. If you’re required to point and click on every symbol, it’s not really automated at all.

Best takeoff software

Easy checking of your work

Accuracy is a key requirement of an electrical estimator, right there with timeliness! You need to be able to reliably and quickly check your work before any estimates are sent out.

The takeoff software you choose should allow you to check your work and make the process of doing so as easy as possible. When you’re looking at a software package, request a demo and find out exactly how checking your work is done. The idea is that it should be as painless as possible.

Countfire ensures a high level of accuracy by going through four stages of checking. These are:

  1. Hiding matched symbols in-app.
  2. Record drawing review
  3. Symbols removed drawing review.
  4. Check sheet review

These four stages help you to check for any missed symbols, mistakes or selections made under the wrong symbol descriptions. You can show or hide the background on the drawings to make it easier.

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Automatic counting of revised drawings

How many times do you receive revised drawings when you’re in the middle of a project? This is a relatively frequent occurrence and can result in hurried re-counts, often starting from scratch with manual methods of counting takeoffs.

You should expect that the best takeoff software will have features that allow for counting of revised drawings, without the need to throw everything out of the window and start over. Again, you’re looking for something that counts automatically.

Countfire offers automatic counting of revised drawings with three different options. If you’re uploading to the same discipline, you don’t even have to copy the symbol selections or descriptions.

The ability to split quantities

There are many scenarios where you may need to split the quantities you have counted on a drawing. For example, sometimes people will want to divide costs into sections, such as the landlord’s area of a building versus the tennant’s. 

If you’re using old-school, manual methods of counting, this can become a real headache, especially if the split quantity request is made after you’ve done your count. It often means re-doing significant portions of your counting.  

Your takeoff software should enable you to split quantities easily, however you need them done. 

Cloud-based software

Why should you choose cloud-based software over the types of software that you download or install to your hard drive? More and more software is going to the cloud these days, including packages that have been around for years, such as Microsoft Office.

If you were to take a cynical view, you might think it’s just so those companies can charge subscription fees for the software. However, there are several advantages to cloud-based software for the user.

Here are a few reasons why we feel that the best takeoff software is cloud-based:

  • The software provider is responsible for security. You can be sure that any company that values their reputation will constantly be monitoring security and making any updates as needed.

    By contrast, we all know that those updates don’t always happen when you’ve got software stored on a hard drive. It often involves someone “getting around to it”, meanwhile, there’s the potential for important data to be compromised.
  • The software provider is responsible for any updates and these are automatically deployed to you. Updates to features or any patches that need to be made for bugs are made by the developer. As a software user, you will always be using the latest version.
  • Your work is kept safe. Cloud-based software saves your work as you go, meaning that even if your computer crashes in the middle of counting takeoffs, your progress is saved on the cloud.
  • You can access the program from anywhere with internet or data connection. Let’s say you go out to a job site and find that updates need to be made. With cloud-based software, you can make the adjustments on-the-spot. 

Being cloud-based is definitely one of the benefits of Countfire. We’re always working to make improvements and add new features, and those updates get automatically deployed to our customers.

Check coverage area of devices

Your takeoff software should be able to do more for you than simply count takeoffs. For example, if you install fire alarms, then it’s very useful to be able to check the coverage areas of a planned system and ensure there are no gaps.

Usually, if you install systems like this, it’s your job to ensure that coverage meets a certain standard. The right takeoff software can give you a good visual across the coverage of your system, so that you know you’ve met requirements.

Countfire allows you to check coverage for fire alarm systems and for lighting control devices.

Best takeoff software

Be easy to use

Takeoff software can be quite complex. The best software should provide ways for you to easily learn and follow along, such as through tutorials. You should be well-assisted with learning the software so that you can be up-to-speed as quickly as possible.

Find out how the takeoff software you are looking at helps with the “getting started” process. Look for a comprehensive library of tutorials or knowledge base articles too – you never know what questions might come up in the future.

Offer excellent customer support

We would make this point here for any sort of software that you’d like to purchase, including takeoff software. You should be able to get help when you need it, via a channel that is easy for you to use.

Sometimes you’ll find that contact or help information is buried on websites and that it’s not so easy to get help. A good software company should make it easy to find help and should respond promptly when you ask for it.

The high level of support provided with Countfire is something our customers consistently mention when leaving takeoff software reviews.

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Final thoughts

These are the features that we believe the best takeoff software should include. You’ll find a lot of variation among the takeoff software that is available, but Countfire includes all of the points mentioned here.
We’d love you to check out Countfire for yourself – click here to start a free trial.