No single estimating software package is right for every masonry contractor. Most estimating software can be customized to meet a contractor's particular needs, and some programs are compatible with other applications, such as accounting or job cost. A few estimating systems can be used with digitizers (programmable stylus pens that convert blueprints into digital data) for rapid material take-offs.Be sure to do considerable research and consult with a manufacturer extensively before purchasing estimating software. Also, find out when the software was last updated and whether the manufacturer can provide ongoing technical support.

TUT masonry estimating software
TUT Estimating has many masonry-specific features, such as production-based labor, in which mason-day production costs are combined with crew-day costs to reflect in-the-wall unit labor. This software also allows users to charge equipment by the crew day and allocate cleaning by the square foot. When a contractor with TUT Software wins a bid, TUT automatically sets up job-cost tracking. TUT Estimating is fully integrated with the software developer's other applications

Tradesmen's masonry estimating software
In contrast to TUT Software, Tradesmen's masonry estimating software has more estimating knowledge and formulas built into the program. This user-friendly product is a fast and easy estimating tool, even for people who are unfamiliar with computers. With this Windows-driven program, an estimator can click and drag a complicated wall assembly into a wall take-off in just 5 seconds, instantly creating a detailed material/bid price report. Any special pieces, fittings or variations in mortar color can be calculated at the same time as the regular material and labor costs. The software can be integrated with job cost, accounting and digital plan-measuring systems. Proposals that are generated can be faxed right from the estimating program.

Masonry ProE
Developed by a large masonry contractor, Masonry ProE was the first masonry-specific estimating software available on the market. The product will work on any IBM-compatible computer, 386 or higher. A color monitor is recommended but not necessary. ProE leads the estimator step-by-step on the way to a winning estimate.

SIRIUS Estimating
SIRIUS Estimating provides assembly of all aspects of a project into a complete bid. When a masonry contractor receives the contract, the estimate can be transferred automatically to SIRIUS job cost and billing applications. The estimating program is designed around the estimating database. The take-off function is online, enabling the user to enter items, call in assemblies or select items from the database. Costs are controlled by labor, material and four other user-defined cost types within each phase of the project. Labor rates, labor fringes, taxes, overhead and profit are automatically calculated for each item.

BIDDAY bidding software
Designed to run on a Windows 95, 98 or NT operating system, BIDDAY allows the contractor to take last-minute subcontractor and vendor quotes and see the new bottom line instantly. When a price changes, BIDDAY instantly recalculates and reapplies a contractor's markups.A "history file" shows all quotes from the beginning of the bid, so the user can easily track a price changes. In the "history view," the user can review all changes made to an item and replace the current bid with the previous one, eliminating the need to sort through stacks of bid forms. Information retrieved from the history file for any of seven cost categories (labor, material, equipment, subcontract and three user-definable cost categories) can be posted to the bid sheet quickly.

Precision Estimating Extended
Precision Estimating Extended makes it easier for estimators to analyze and fine-tune their work. Estimators can sort and view their estimates by client, location, project type or a variety of other criteria to quickly track down a single estimate or group of estimates. For a more detailed estimate analysis, the software lets users open and compare several estimates at a time. Estimators can drag items from one spreadsheet and drop them into another for quick creation of alternate estimates. The product can be integrated with digitizer software to enhance the efficiency of material take-offs. Using a digitizer stylus, an estimator touches a point on a blueprint and then touches another point, pulling quantities directly off the plans, based on the dimensional scale that has been entered into the computer.

Quest for Masonry
The digitizer is an integral feature of Quest for Masonry, which runs on a Windows 95 or NT operating system.. As fast as the user can take the stylus pen and touch a point on the blueprint, then another point and push a button, quantities will be pulled off the blueprint. Estimators don't have to use a keyboard at all. The system is said to be accurate to four decimal places.A new feature of the software, Express Takeoff enables an estimator to easily recall digitized quantities "on the fly" from selected parts of the take-off and place them directly into the estimate without having to change screens. Other enhancements to the software include a "concrete paving assembly" added to the Sitework Module and a new module for estimating tilt- up concrete construction.

The Contractor's System
This hand-held, pocket-sized computer is designed to be carried to the jobsite to make needed calculations instantly. The computer has 14 built-in, ready-to-run programs that cover a wide range of field estimating situations. The Contractor's System requires no previous computer knowledge or experience. The computer is completely self-prompting and asks the user every question it needs to provide the required calculations. Program listings include brick masonry, block masonry, footing concrete and excavation. The computer asks for the length of the wall to be veneered with brick, for example. After the user enters this information, the program provides the estimated quantity of brick, bags of mortar and tons of sand required.