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Review: Drastic Improvements in D-Tools SIX Project Mgmt Software

Beta tester says D-Tools SIX can shave more than 50% off of project design, proposal and documentation time: "Every aspect of the user interface has been streamlined and improved."


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D-Tools was one of the first companies to offer specialized software to help integrators better manage the proposal, design and documentation process for their projects. Their last release was version 5.5 and it’s been several years since the software has seen an upgrade.

A few years ago D-Tools decided to undertake the task of completely rewriting their software from the ground up using the latest software development tools, and I think it’s fair to say that version 6 (D-Tools calls it SIX) represents by far the largest upgrade the software has ever seen since it first came out almost 15 years ago.

Our company has been a long term user of D-Tools and I was simultaneously eager yet hesitant to see what version 6 was going to offer. Frankly I didn’t know what to expect from the complete code rewrite, nor if it was going to address the types of improvements I was hoping to see as a long-time user.

Thrilled with Beta Test


Over the past few weeks I’ve had the opportunity to beta test SIX in-depth and I can say unequivocally that I’m thrilled with the results.

I was so excited by the massive improvements that on the second day I was writing my support team at D-Tools asking if it was safe to start using the beta software for production projects, even though using beta software for real work is something I normally avoid at all costs.

However the improvements were so drastic, and my resulting ability to produce project documentation so much faster, that I wanted to start to use it for some of our projects immediately.

User Interface


Every aspect of the user interface has been streamlined and improved.

It’s obvious that a tremendous amount of thought went into the redesign on both a macro and micro level. Even subtle details such as the terminology used within the software were re-evaluated and improved in version 6, with obtuse or unnecessarily long terms replaced with simpler and clearer terms for the user.

[continues after video]

Video from CEDIA CE Pro Blog Mobster Richard Fregosa

The software now employs the familiar ribbon type interface first introduced in Microsoft Office, and every command is now no more than a click or two away. All of the many views have also been redesigned visually so that the information on the screen is much easier for the user to consume.

Features, Features and More Features


There are so many new features in version 6 it’s not possible to cover them in a short review. I’d imagine they number well over a hundred -- project templates, the ability to mass update almost every aspect of the project, photo-realistic elevation shapes, to name just a few. D-Tools offers a nice overview of the changes in SIX (pdf).

Speed


As a user the biggest difference is speed. I’m not talking about the speed that the application loads, though that’s faster too. I’m talking about the speed with which the user can accomplish tasks.

I don’t think it’s an exaggeration to say that users will be able to work two to three times faster in version 6.

Many tasks which used to be laborious and required item-by-item adjustments can now be accomplished with a few buttons clicks.

Want to update the default wire length on 100 different wire runs in your project? Highlight all of the wire runs you want to adjust, right click and mass update the length for every wire in one click.

And that type of mass update is available for virtually every attribute of D-Tools items. Want to run a report and limit it to a specific group of items in a project? No need to even employ filters on the report, just highlight the items you want to report on and then select the report you want to run.





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Article Topics

News · Product News · Business Resources · Videos · Events · CEDIA · D-tools · Blog Mob · Cedia 12 · All topics

About the Author

David Haddad
David Haddad is principal of Vidacom, a Chicago-based integration firm that specializes in high-end home control, audio, video, lighting control and other home systems. Vidacom designs and installs systems throughout the U.S. Haddad also manages the dealer-only site Electronics Systems Integrators. David is a member of the inaugural CE Pro Blog Mob at CEDIA Expo 2012.

6 Comments (displayed in order by date/time)

Posted by John McDermott  on  09/08  at  10:19 AM

David, I’ve yet to see SIX in action in real life.  I’ve heard a lot of talk about how it is easier to work within one window, but I enjoy using three monitors to work faster. Is this still possible, or even better in any way?

Posted by David Haddad  on  09/11  at  10:07 AM

The program is in fact improved for multiple monitors:

1. You can now have multiple different projects open at the same time in completely different windows.
2. The improvement I like the most is that if you open a drawing you can also open what is now referred to as “project editor” (previously “datamatrix”) in a separate monitor and instantly maximize it there.  While it was previously possible to dock the datamatrix in a separate window it always had to be manually resized and moved around, now it is by default not tied to the Visio window and can be instantly maximized on another monitor.
3. You could also have the other main areas of D-Tools open at the same time, for instant the reports or catalog view.  Those however appear mutually exclusive, so in other words you could have open Project (separate), Drawing (separate), and Reports Center/Catalog/Client Center (these can only be one at a time).

Thanks,

David

Posted by Ryan Browm  on  09/21  at  06:04 AM

David, long time no chat.  This is a very well written review BTW.  I feel exactly the same way!  I’m super excited for users to get their hands on this.  A lot of the “little”; things that only long time users will appreciate were covered as well, things that will drastically improve efficiency and production time. 

Find and replace packages, package categories for database organization, more extensive user permissions, improvements to QuickLinks, copy and paste between 2 projects (sweet!), some really cool new wire shapes to auto-format the wires based on wire type, list goes on and on.  And not to mention that little sneak preview of the upcoming cloud integration at Cedia….  Yep.  Time showed off an app on his iphone where a tech receives his work order and can communicate directly back to D-Tools for completed work, notes, actual time spent, etc…

Bravo D-Tools.

Ryan Brown
D-Tools Certified Partner
http://www.medesign.tv

Posted by David Haddad  on  09/28  at  01:06 PM

Thanks for the comments Ryan, as well as pointing out some of the other new features.  It’s great to see you are excited as well.

I’m not easily impressed but I’m truly astounded by the depth of the improvements in 6, I’ve never seen a software upgrade that improved a product SO much.

Posted by Julie Jacobson  on  09/30  at  08:51 AM

And just to stroke David’s ego a little MORE ... I barely edited the piece. The guy can actually write.

Posted by Jeff Oakes  on  10/31  at  07:32 AM

David,

Nice write up indeed! Just wanted to give everyone an update - one of your “Like To See” requests has already been added…You can now edit key fields directly in the project. That includes fields for pricing, labor, IP address, and serial number.

The custom layout option is also on the way!

Thanks,

Jeff @ D-Tools

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