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Old 01-10-2017, 10:05 PM   #1
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Default Pencil/paper to tech transition?

I am thinking about losing the pad and pencil seeing as how I have an ipad that does not see much use. My ipad only has a wifi connection and the estimating and invoicing apps I have looked into need an internet connection to use them. I am looking for a solid invoicing app for small jobbing that I can develop a parts list in and more importantly use offline.
The ability to develop a parts list on my desktop and transfer over to the ipad would be ideal as well because I hate typing on the ipad.
Thoughts?
Thanks in advance
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Old 01-11-2017, 12:05 AM   #2
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Beware electronic pitfalls. Spend the money for backup devices and consider it your new religion. Remember, Jesus saves!


Seriously. I have stopped "upgrading" my phone because it has a bad habit of clearing my notes and photos. Also, if you change email addresses on your iPhone, your notes will all go bye bye when you delete your old email. Of course this is not stated during the process it's just something you have to know beforehand.

Do not think for one minute you can return to the old version if you do upgrade any device. They will give you instructions on how but somewhere in the middle it will fail.
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Old 01-11-2017, 01:08 AM   #3
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I hate typing on a tablet but used a small notebook easily when I was making notes.
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Old 01-11-2017, 02:09 AM   #4
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The app I have been using, QuickSale, only needs an internet connection when you want to email the estimate/invoice to the customer, which can be done later. I would check Mpengo, I bet it's the same, you only need a connection when you are syncing or emailing. You can turn the Hotspot feature on your cell phone on if you need a quick internet connection on the go.

For me, the iPad has been the greatest asset to my business so I bought the cellular version up front and pay $10 extra on my cell phone bill. This way it's always connected.

As for typing into the iPad, I never do it. I just speak everything into my iPad and iPhone, from notes to emails to text messages. I just spoke this entire post right now.
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Old 01-11-2017, 04:40 AM   #5
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I have been thinking about it lately and I think the tablet is really a mistake. There, I said it.

The tablet device hits a sweet spot in some ways, abysmal in others. It's great to use standing up; to use a keyboard or mouse you really need a work surface. Software developers have really latched onto it, making some very nice interfaces on their programs. It's nice and portable. For browsing the internet and watching youtube, the touch interface is enough. But the hardware isn't the real problem.

But the operating system is not made for working, it's made for Apple to wrap a customer into their platform: your software is in their store, your media is in iTunes, and data / information isn't really a consideration. I am going to say unless you're using software that stores your data in a really solid cloud platform (LOL funny when you think about that phrase) you're blowing smoke. Android is slightly better, but still not what you want.

If you use a convertible like the Surface Pro you get to have it both ways, works well like an iPad standing up or when you don't have a work surface, but a real operating system (Windows 10) with far more capabilities to run business software.

I am no great fan of Windows but having owned both and a really ridiculous number of computers over the years, this is how I see it after a lot of consideration.

Bit of computer history for you - Microsoft made a tablet version of their operating system going back to the Windows XP days, and there were business laptops that used it.You could spin the screen and close it and use a touch screen 15 years ago, with a stylus and on screen keyboard etc., just like the convertibles today. It just never caught on but it's an old idea.
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Old 01-11-2017, 08:04 AM   #6
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I have been thinking about it lately and I think the tablet is really a mistake. There, I said it.

The tablet device hits a sweet spot in some ways, abysmal in others. It's great to use standing up; to use a keyboard or mouse you really need a work surface. Software developers have really latched onto it, making some very nice interfaces on their programs. It's nice and portable. For browsing the internet and watching youtube, the touch interface is enough. But the hardware isn't the real problem.

But the operating system is not made for working, it's made for Apple to wrap a customer into their platform: your software is in their store, your media is in iTunes, and data / information isn't really a consideration. I am going to say unless you're using software that stores your data in a really solid cloud platform (LOL funny when you think about that phrase) you're blowing smoke. Android is slightly better, but still not what you want.

If you use a convertible like the Surface Pro you get to have it both ways, works well like an iPad standing up or when you don't have a work surface, but a real operating system (Windows 10) with far more capabilities to run business software.

I am no great fan of Windows but having owned both and a really ridiculous number of computers over the years, this is how I see it after a lot of consideration.

Bit of computer history for you - Microsoft made a tablet version of their operating system going back to the Windows XP days, and there were business laptops that used it.You could spin the screen and close it and use a touch screen 15 years ago, with a stylus and on screen keyboard etc., just like the convertibles today. It just never caught on but it's an old idea.
I am not really following you. All of my data is stored locally. I have the ability to run all the apps that I need to. I don't need a keyboard and mouse for the purposes I use the tablet for.

The negatives that you posted aren't realistic, at least not for me. I couldn't imagine using a laptop. And I have no need for my tablet to convert into one. Yes, the Surface is cool, but I have no need for it.

I do 90% of my business on the tablet. Then when I am at the office I sit in front of my 27" monitor to do the other 10%. The surface doesn't fit into that equation with it's small display. I would still have to use an external display.

My current office computer is a MacBook Air that never leaves the desk, it's connected to the monitor and keyboard/mouse. I thought it would be good having a super portable laptop in case I needed to bring it out, but the tablet covers every single use I have for it when out of office.

I like having the big monitor so I can open multiple windows at once, for work I mostly use that when entering invoices and receipts into QuickBooks. It makes it easier, but the truth is that I could get by just fine using QuickBooks Online on the tablet, which would pretty much make my entire business computerless.

I know that other people have different preferences, maybe if they were using AutoCAD in the field or something. But your complaints about the cloud and software haven't affected me.

I have always considered a tablet to be a consumption device. Something you use to read and surf the web mostly. But with the availability of so many great apps plus the speech to text technology getting so good, it's a very viable contender for an on-the-go businessman.

In closing, I throw my iPad Mini into my tool tray and take it with me into every job, it takes up no room and is very durable in the case. I use it right there at both the beginning and end of each job I do. I couldn't imagine carrying in a $1,000+ Surface into each job like that.
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Old 01-11-2017, 08:36 AM   #7
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I keep trying to go electronic also but I always end up back with a legal pad and pen. You can get a key pad for the I-pad I believe.
I try using the calenders and just keep reverting back to my whiteboard calendar.
I like the idea of going digital but just can't get myself to stick with it.
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Old 01-11-2017, 08:41 AM   #8
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Surface pro is not expensive... by the time you buy a keyboard for the iPad, the Surface Pro is less money for the processing power.

The availability of your data is dependent on the software - didn't you just have trouble getting some of your info out of the app you use?
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Old 01-11-2017, 08:42 AM   #9
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I keep trying to go electronic also but I always end up back with a legal pad and pen. You can get a key pad for the I-pad I believe.
I try using the calenders and just keep reverting back to my whiteboard calendar.
I like the idea of going digital but just can't get myself to stick with it.
"You can get a key pad for the I-pad I believe."

Yeah, there are dozens of different covers for the iPad that open up like a laptop and have a full keyboard.

As for you going digital, it's a bit different since you have multiple guys out there doing various things and you would have to get them onboard with it too.
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Old 01-11-2017, 08:45 AM   #10
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The availability of your data is dependent on the software - didn't you just have trouble getting some of your info out of the app you use?
That has nothing to do with whether the data is stored on the device or the cloud. Which was the complaint you made above which doesn't really make any sense to me.

I use an app that is no longer supported by the developer and doesn't give a way to export customer data. That could happen on any software, it has absolutely nothing to do with whether the software is used on a tablet, Windows computer, Mac computer, etc.
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Old 01-11-2017, 08:46 AM   #11
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"You can get a key pad for the I-pad I believe."

Yeah, there are dozens of different covers for the iPad that open up like a laptop and have a full keyboard.

As for you going digital, it's a bit different since you have multiple guys out there doing various things and you would have to get them onboard with it too.
Hell I have a hard time just geting them to write up their jobs they way it is.
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Old 01-11-2017, 08:57 AM   #12
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Hell I have a hard time just geting them to write up their jobs they way it is.
For you yourself you should try transitioning with notes and the calendar. The nice thing is that you can type out notes and attach pictures on the big screen of your computer, but then when you are out of the office you can pull them up on your phone. The same with the calendar. And then you can give your men access to it too.
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Old 01-11-2017, 09:37 AM   #13
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That has nothing to do with whether the data is stored on the device or the cloud. Which was the complaint you made above which doesn't really make any sense to me.

I use an app that is no longer supported by the developer and doesn't give a way to export customer data. That could happen on any software, it has absolutely nothing to do with whether the software is used on a tablet, Windows computer, Mac computer, etc.
That's true, the software selection is the determining factor. There's just so much more out there for Windows, especially if you're looking for one software to do it all, rather than just invoicing / estimating.

With the Surface or other Windows convertible you get your cake and eat it too, if you are doing something that's going to involve some typing, you can set up at a table and go to town. If you have something quick to do standing or walking the job, you're still set.

You can set up the iPad with a keyboard and maybe a mouse but it isn't always totally smooth. Windows 10 does a decent job of switching from tablet to keyboard and mouse mode.
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Old 01-11-2017, 09:46 AM   #14
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they make small wireless keyboards that work well for people like me, since I find the pads useless without them. you can even tote around a full size one that rolls up if that suits you, or if you have fat fingers like me.

However, what larmguy said is seriously important, and if you don't have a good backup strategy that ends up with a disconnected drive of some sort in a desk somewhere, forget it.
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Old 01-11-2017, 09:53 AM   #15
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Surface pro is not expensive... by the time you buy a keyboard for the iPad, the Surface Pro is less money for the processing power.

The availability of your data is dependent on the software - didn't you just have trouble getting some of your info out of the app you use?
The issue with the Surface Pro is no LTE built in so you have to run a network off your phone which is a pain the A. I like things that work as a stand alone product. Once they change this I will be getting one.
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Old 01-11-2017, 10:01 AM   #16
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Thank you kind gents for this great information. I was just playing around with ipad last night and realized that within notes I can add pictures and also jot down notes with a stylus. This is a great feature and seals the deal for me.
The ability to created a contact and material spreadsheet via MS Excel is important to me to be able to back up crucial information but also to be able to easily import this saved information into another program if the app developers decide to end software support as HackWork mentioned.

The apps I have tested so far:

Joist: Joist app is preferred by many Ontario contractors based on it's reviews. It appears to be a Toronto based company and I like to support local, however it appears their offices have since moved to California.
I gave it a try... It is a very easy app to use but the features are lacking. Joist gives the ability to add material and contacts via an Excel spreadsheet, however not enough detail can be added for this information.
There are no categories for material other than being in alphabetical order.
This is not very convenient for electrical contractors, maybe if one only used flat rates? I also do not like that the information is cloud based only as I am unsure what joist is actually doing with my clients information. The app is free so they must be selling information to someone. It also needs an internet connection to do anything to do anything which I do not like.

Quicksale: (thank you HackWork for the recommendation) I downloaded the free version and it's basically exactly what I am looking for to a T but as mentioned, if app development has ended then I cannot take the risk. I also do not like the fact that all information needs to be entered via the ipad only unless the paid version has an editable export feature? If not then that's a deal-breaker for me. I really like the detail of this app though and am tempted to purchase it anyway but I am afraid that with the next few ipad updates, or if I decide to buy a new ipad, the app will not be supported.

Mpengo: This one looks promising but no demo to try out. The app looks like it will be too in depth for my needs anyway as I just do small resi service calls from a one man shop but the more features the better I guess. I do not like the brown color scheme, can this be changed? Can contacts and material be entered via Excel and imported? I have emailed the developer and they are actually another Ontario based company literally 15 minutes from where I live and operate.

Well that's it so far and I will keep looking.
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Old 01-11-2017, 10:06 AM   #17
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Sorry all I should mention that I have not "tested" Mpengo yet and that I have only looking into it, sorry about that.
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Old 01-11-2017, 10:08 AM   #18
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Why not just go with online Quickbooks?
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Old 01-11-2017, 10:18 AM   #19
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Mpengo: [/B]This one looks promising but no demo to try out. The app looks like it will be too in depth for my needs anyway as I just do small resi service calls from a one man shop but the more features the better I guess. I do not like the brown color scheme, can this be changed? Can contacts and material be entered via Excel and imported? I have emailed the developer and they are actually another Ontario based company literally 15 minutes from where I live and operate.

Well that's it so far and I will keep looking.
Haven't used that one in a while but last I checked there is no way to customize the product and I wouldn't expect that to ever change as it's an app.I did like the service report it produces as you can add photos, however all my guys complained like crazy about using it and they prefered Quicksale as it was easier and straight forward.
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Old 01-11-2017, 11:06 AM   #20
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That's true, the software selection is the determining factor. There's just so much more out there for Windows, especially if you're looking for one software to do it all, rather than just invoicing / estimating.

With the Surface or other Windows convertible you get your cake and eat it too, if you are doing something that's going to involve some typing, you can set up at a table and go to town. If you have something quick to do standing or walking the job, you're still set.

You can set up the iPad with a keyboard and maybe a mouse but it isn't always totally smooth. Windows 10 does a decent job of switching from tablet to keyboard and mouse mode.
You are absolutely right about this.

IMO, there is a line, blurry to some and solid to others, and when you pass that line the Surface becomes indispensable while a tablet is nearly useless.

For me, I haven't come to that line yet, I am still in the territory in which a tablet can do everything I need, in many cases better than the Surface. I think other small contractors may be in that situation as well.
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