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  1. #1
    Andy Petrick's Avatar
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    Default inspection software and hand helds

    Hey fellas I am new to the game and I am trying to figure out what kind of inspection software to use and what kind hand held to use if any. Any thoughts or recomendations would be greatly appreciated.

    Andy Petrick

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  2. #2
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    Default Re: inspection software and hand helds

    Do a search of the archives here. This subject has been covered several times in the past.
    As for me, I tried the hand held and found it was more trouble than it was worth but some like it. I had old habits of inspecting that made it hard to stop and enter info every few steps so it was hard for me to go back and enter missing information, sync the hand held, check for missing info, generate the actual report, proof the report, etc. Just too many steps. After forcing myself to use the hand held (Dell Axiom) I leaned over a whirlpool tub and dropped it into the tub full of water. That ended my experiment.

    Jim Luttrall
    www.MrInspector.net
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  3. #3
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    Default Re: inspection software and hand helds

    Well, if I were starting I would get a netbook for about $300-$400. Then I would park it in the kitchen and when I wanted to add something I found I would simply type it in the reporting software on the netbook. Then I would polish and finish the report at my home or office and email to the client.

    I use a PDA to collect and enter what I find wrong in a home. I take a bunch of pictures and then compile the report in the comfort of my home/office. When the PDA dies, I will switch over to the netbook.

    Why buy a PDA for $400 when you can get a netbook with WiFi, a 200gig hard drive, USB ports, a battery that last 6-8 hours and the keyboard is about 90% the size of a full size laptop?

    Trust your brain to remember what you see. You do not have to carry a device around to input everything you find. If you don't know what you should be looking at, then get a cheat sheet to remind you.

    I use 3D software.

    Scott Patterson, ACI
    Spring Hill, TN
    www.traceinspections.com

  4. #4
    Ian Niquette's Avatar
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    Default Re: inspection software and hand helds

    I like Scotts' recommendation of the PDA. I have done that and also just used a voice recorder as I am inspecting. Both work quite well. I tried laptops and netbooks, I just didn't like it. Some guy do though, so you will get a variety of answers. Take a few ideas and try them out, and go with what works best out of these for you.


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    Default Re: inspection software and hand helds

    I continue to experiment with a variety of PDAs, tablets and other non-keyboard devices.

    I've yet to find one that provides a superior result to a digital voice recorder and camera, and there are multiple "deal killers" for me, starting with battery life.

    IMO, if you want to use something smaller than a standard tablet / net book and running Windows this:

    http://www.gainsaver.com/catalog/Detail.aspx?&CCode=1008^Tablet+PCs&PageIndex=0&Pag eMax=40&cICode=69887

    with the "View Anywhere" option and your own upgrade to 2GB RAM is a good compromise.

    Be aware however that you will have to have the battery rebuilt rather than replaced when it dies.

    Michael Thomas
    Paragon Property Services Inc., Chicago IL
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    Default Re: inspection software and hand helds

    I use Dell Axim and PalmTech software. I like it but that's just me.

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  7. #7
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    Default Re: inspection software and hand helds

    I stopped using the PDA and switched to a tablet netbook. Much easier to use and.

    Department of Redundancy Department
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  8. #8
    William Brady's Avatar
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    Default Re: inspection software and hand helds

    Just wanted to chime in on this. I stopped using the PDA because someone on this site suggested that it slowed them down and I had to agree. They said all they used was a camera and how that worked for them. For the last couple of years that is all I use. I know what and how my reporting software works and all I do is take pictures that remind me of what I observed. It is fast but if you are new I suggest doing a number of inspections to get your feet of the ground. Then experment with things that make you more productive. I just like the way I do it now and it saves me lots of time.


  9. #9
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    Default Re: inspection software and hand helds

    I am with Scott and all the others. When my HP PDA died I thought about replacing it for about 60 seconds and bought an Asus Netbook with the 2gb memory upgrade for $300 through amazon. Its a no brainer. I long ago gave up on trying to enter data as I moved around the house. Just didn't work for me and the PDA normally end up on the kitchen counter plugged into a keyboard anyway.

    I use 3D and its very easy to move reports between machines.

    //Rick

    Rick Bunzel
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  10. #10
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    Default Re: inspection software and hand helds

    Whatever electronic reporting method you use, finalizing the report in your home office is a good idea. Especially when you are a new inspector. You don't want to be rushed on site and end up handing over a report with mistakes and whatnot.

    Regardless of what you say at the inspection, if you ever get into trouble, it's usually because of lousy reporting.


  11. #11
    Eric Russell's Avatar
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    Default Re: inspection software and hand helds

    I tried the PDA, but found it to be more trouble (i.e. slower) than other methods. What works best for me is a good digital camera and maybe a small notepad. I take pics of most all issues and concerns, and write the occasional note in the pad. Both fit in the chest pocket, or the cargo pocket of my pants, and are easy to get to. Like Scott P., I rely alot on my memory as to the issue being displayed in the picture. A good HI will have a good database of comments already stored in the software, and its just a matter of clicking a mouse. I wouldn't get too high-tech too soon, unless you're a techy already. You will find your own "flow" through the inspection, and will get ideas as you go as to what would work good for you. I didn't like the digital recorder, but some do. Whatever you decide, good luck!


  12. #12
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    Default Re: inspection software and hand helds

    Small tape recorder to catch all the house 'specs' and a small laptop to use in the kitchen, in my truck between jobs or back at home. I've found there's no catch all system that works for every inspection as far as where to write the report. If I can find a comfortable spot in the house I'll often get most of the report done while I'm there.... if/when is smells like dirty feet and potatoes I get the info I need and get out of there.


  13. #13
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    Default Re: inspection software and hand helds

    I just take a picture of anything I am going to put in the report, then I load them in my laptop and go through each section, (90% I remember in my head) then go back and look at all the unused pictures and finalize the report right there on the spot. I never forget anything this way.

    BTW I'm using Home Gauge and love it, you can use a PDA with it as well but I haven't completely figured that part out yet.


  14. #14
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    Default Re: inspection software and hand helds

    Andy,
    Are you a WAHI member ? We were at the last continuing education class in the Dells and maybe you saw us there. Some inspectors like the PDAs and some do not. We have been doing home inspection software for over 12 years and have thousands of inspectors throughout the country. We especially have a lot in the Midwest area since we are out of Wisconsin. Please give us a call and we can send you out a demo packet or take a look at our website.
    Collecting the data during the inspection without having to reenter it later is much more efficient and lets you do other things in the evening then create reports.


  15. #15
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    Default Re: inspection software and hand helds

    A while back I learned just how much you can do with a good memory and a pocket note pad, and a digital camera.
    I got to the inspection and found that my computer bag was safe and sound right next to my desk.......at home..........45 minutes away.


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    Default Re: inspection software and hand helds

    I've experimented with a wide variety of hand-held data entry devices for home inspections... and for my style of inspecting and reporting I've ended up going back to a digital voice recorder and a good quality digital camera.

    That said, at least for running Homeguage the best of them all was the Motion Computing LS800 - small enough to be truly portable, but with enough screen real estate to allow you to run full-fledged windows programs while using a handwriting recognition pane.

    I still regard my LS800 is a very cool device - its what I usually take with me for casual web browsing (with the G4 modem) when I'm on the go, and I really enjoy not being limited to the sorts of web browsers present on cell phones and having the ability to run my full suite of windows applications on a small screen in a pinch - for example I can pop the CF card out of the camera, pop it into the LS800, and review what I've seen with clients in full sunlight using the 800's "view anywhere" screen. And because input is stylus rather than touch-pad based you have enough precision of input to operate existing windows programs via their current interfaces.

    Unfortunately, the deal killer for me with this device is that it just hasn't got the horsepower to run Dragon Naturally Speaking 10 with a reasonable speed/accuracy compromise - I've gotten horribly spoiled by my i7 office PC with 8GB of memory and an SDD - on that machine Dragon translates speech to text as fast as I can speak with almost perfect accuracy, far faster than I can type, and without spelling errors.

    I've been tempted to goose the 800 up to 2GB, add an SSD and upgrade to windows seven (several people have done this successfully), but I'm pretty sure that now that ipad has launched we will be seeing a slew of new tablets with the muscle to run modern applications

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    Last edited by Michael Thomas; 04-16-2010 at 02:22 PM.
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  17. #17
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    Default Re: inspection software and hand helds

    Quote Originally Posted by Jack Feldmann View Post
    A while back I learned just how much you can do with a good memory and a pocket note pad, and a digital camera.
    I got to the inspection and found that my computer bag was safe and sound right next to my desk.......at home..........45 minutes away.
    That is the only way I have done inspections for the last several years. Except I leave the notepad behind.

    Some of the photos have what may appear to be someone throwing gang signs but really is just shorthand I developed to help me remember which room the picture refers to.

    I have one camera that I user during the inspection. I have a backup camera in the vehicle. I have another backup camera at the house. All have 2 gig memory cards. On average shoot 100-150 pics per inspection. Some pics are for general reference while others are specific defects. Start by shooting 4 sides and 4 corners of the exterior. Helps to orient yourself and remember where the HVAC, gas meter, exhaust flues, etc are located. Often you can figure out which bedrooms are where by window locations.

    I always start at front door and work around the house room by room. Take a pic under the sink and shows supply and waste pipe material. Take a pic of the shutoff valve for location. Take a pic of the electrical panels to record amp and voltage. Take pic of the cardboard ruler in the insulation for depth. Take a pic of HVAC data plates. Everything you would write down, just take a pic. Only problem is the floor squeak they want to whine about. Haven't figure how to take a pic of a sound yet.

    When you download the pics, you should be able to figure out the location of defects by remembering the order you wandered through the house.

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  18. #18
    William Brady's Avatar
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    Default Re: inspection software and hand helds

    I love Bruces description of his process for doing an inspection. But 150 pic. now that would confuse me. Sorry just kidding. I start every time at the front left corner of the house and work my way around. I do the same for the roof and very room. Left to right. Pictures of the pipes, panel for the hot water, electric, HVAC etc. I take pictures of the good and not so good stuff. I make it a point of putting in things that are good so the report is not all negative. I want the buyer to feel good about his purchase by saying good things and that helps them through the rough spots of the report. If they are not present as is typcal in this area with lots of out of town buyers I don't want them hung up on just the negative.

    I am not sorry to have purchased the PDA. It's a good tool but just found it hard to manage and it slowed me down. I had to sit somewhere and make entries as I went along. It made the reporting time at home faster however. I just know my software really well and it goes quickly with the picture process.

    One thing I heard in the beginnig that I did not pay attention to was knowing your report. I started with a book supplied by AHIT and worked with it but felt that I needed to step it up to quickly. Big mistake but I got away with it. So know what goes where in your report and I will make you a good inspector faster.

    I use AHIT Inspect It and Office Pro. That is all I have every tried and I know how hard it is to get used to another package so I'm sticking with what I got.

    Good Luck


  19. #19
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    Default Re: inspection software and hand helds

    Quote Originally Posted by William Brady View Post
    I love Bruce's description of his process for doing an inspection. But 150 pic. now that would confuse me. Sorry just kidding. I start every time at the front left corner of the house and work my way around. I do the same for the roof and very room. Left to right. Pictures of the pipes, panel for the hot water, electric, HVAC etc. I take pictures of the good and not so good stuff. I make it a point of putting in things that are good so the report is not all negative. I want the buyer to feel good about his purchase by saying good things and that helps them through the rough spots of the report. If they are not present as is typical in this area with lots of out of town buyers I don't want them hung up on just the negative.
    We all do what works for us. I have actually cut back on the photos and carry more in my head. I take specific photos for specific reasons. I don't take general room shots. I take a closeup of a defect and then sometimes include an accompanying photo of a wide enough area to provide context. Say maybe a closeup of a defective receptacle and a second photo of half the wall including furniture or fixtures to help locate the specific receptacle within a specific room. The only note taking or data collection system I use is the camera.

    What would you consider be a manageable number of photos per inspection? Do you also take additional notes in some other format: written, voice recorder, PDA?

    Can you provide some examples of "good" things that you include in your reports? On average, what percentage of the total report contains "good" things? Have you gotten any feedback from clients or agents regarding the inclusion of "good" things in your reports?

    "The Code is not a peak to reach but a foundation to build from."

  20. #20
    Daniel Leung's Avatar
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    Default Re: inspection software and hand helds

    Quote Originally Posted by Bruce Ramsey View Post
    Haven't figure how to take a pic of a sound yet.
    Switch your camera to video mode.


  21. #21
    William Brady's Avatar
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    Default Re: inspection software and hand helds

    Good things. Can't say about how much of the good I include it really takes just seeing something I like and documenting it. For example a photo of the flashing around the vents on the roof (flat roof's for the most part here). I would say something in the box next to the picture I put into the report that the flashing are good with an arrow pointing to them. No ground to stucco contact is another one that I add if it presents itself. Just anything I find that looks like the buyer might be interesting in seeing. I feel like the report is representing what's good in the home also.

    Got into this habit doing third party stucco work and I like the comments I get from adding positive comments. I do not use a note pad (but should) I find that the pictures remind me of all I need to remember about why I took the picture. I know from the sequence of the photo where in the house it was taken. I inspect from left to right. I like all the things you say and maybe I should be into the habit of taking a larger picture of the area and the defect contained in that area. Another reporting softeware I use for stucco puts a red check mark on the photo after it has been used. Large numbers of pictures sometime get a little confusing so I like the check mark. My HI sofware does not provide that feature so I guess that is why I do not take lots of photos.


  22. #22
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    Default Re: inspection software and hand helds

    Quote Originally Posted by Scott Patterson View Post
    Well, if I were starting I would get a netbook for about $300-$400. Then I would park it in the kitchen and when I wanted to add something I found I would simply type it in the reporting software on the netbook. Then I would polish and finish the report at my home or office and email to the client.

    I use a PDA to collect and enter what I find wrong in a home. I take a bunch of pictures and then compile the report in the comfort of my home/office. When the PDA dies, I will switch over to the netbook.

    Why buy a PDA for $400 when you can get a netbook with WiFi, a 200gig hard drive, USB ports, a battery that last 6-8 hours and the keyboard is about 90% the size of a full size laptop?

    Trust your brain to remember what you see. You do not have to carry a device around to input everything you find. If you don't know what you should be looking at, then get a cheat sheet to remind you.

    I use 3D software.
    I too use 3D for many years. The problem with the PDA does not appear to be going away as it appears they will no longer be made. For me the smart phone is too small. What type of touch screen netbook are you using and how does it hold up?


  23. #23
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    Default Re: inspection software and hand helds

    Netbook keyboards are smaller than normal which I find impossible to really type on. Also, from what I've seen the overall quality/durability of the netbooks is poor unless you spend big bucks.

    Maybe look into a used tablet/laptop. IBM/Lenovo/Fujitsu/Toshiba are the brands that come to mind. They all make very high quality machines and you can get a screaming deal off Ebay on some corportate lease returns. Big companies typically give out new machines every couple years and sell the returns to guys that put a bunch on Ebay. You can often find a machine that has barely been used and runs all your software.

    I have a small IBM that was a $2500 machine in 2006 when it was new. I picked it up for $300 and the keys looked like they had barely ever been touched. It's got a full size keyboard, a 11" screen and weighs about 3 lbs. (including a 6-hour battery). For the money a netbook doesn't even come close.

    Edit: I haven't checked prices for awhile - here's a great machine for $279. This my exact machine. I'm tempted to buy it just for a spare.

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  24. #24
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    Default Re: inspection software and hand helds

    I am using 3D on an Asus EEE and really like it. Battery life is 5 hours and training my fingers to the keyboard took a couple of weeks (thank god for spellcheckers).

    Low cost of initial purchase and small size were the key point for me. After a job I usually will dump the 3D file to my desk machine and finish the report from there.

    //Rick

    Rick Bunzel
    WWW.PacCrestInspections.com
    360-588-6956

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    Default Re: inspection software and hand helds

    Quote Originally Posted by Rick Bunzel View Post
    I am using 3D on an Asus EEE and really like it. Battery life is 5 hours and training my fingers to the keyboard took a couple of weeks (thank god for spellcheckers).

    Low cost of initial purchase and small size were the key point for me. After a job I usually will dump the 3D file to my desk machine and finish the report from there.

    //Rick
    Is this a touch screen and if so can you "touch" the boxes on 3D? If not how do you enter the info. We have used Ipaq PDA's for years and like them but are worried they will not be available in the future. 3D is pushing the htc phone, but it is small and I use Verizon


  26. #26
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    Default Re: inspection software and hand helds

    Is this a touch screen and if so can you "touch" the boxes on 3D? If not how do you enter the info. We have used Ipaq PDA's for years and like them but are worried they will not be available in the future. 3D is pushing the htc phone, but it is small and I use Verizon


  27. #27
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    Default Re: inspection software and hand helds

    Check out the new 10" CTL2Go from CTLCorp.com. For $499, it's by far the best tablet for the money.

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  28. #28
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    Default Re: inspection software and hand helds

    Quote Originally Posted by Dominic Maricic View Post
    Check out the new 10" CTL2Go from CTLCorp.com. For $499, it's by far the best tablet for the money.
    Which version are you using? Win 7? and how much ram 1 or 2 gig


  29. #29
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    Default Re: inspection software and hand helds

    Quote Originally Posted by Fred Klein View Post
    Which version are you using? Win 7? and how much ram 1 or 2 gig
    I've owned the 9" version that they just retired last week for over a year and love it. I take it with me to all the conferences and whenever I travel and it works great. They just sent me the new 10" model for me to review. It's running Windows 7. Whether you want 1 gig of ram or 2 really depends on what you're going to do with it. I tell our software users to just get the 1 gig of ram unless they routinely take over 150 photos per inspection. Having the extra ram helps to speed up the batch import feature. If you're running any inspection software that runs directly on top of Word I'd get 2 gigs of ram. If you're running something like ours, 3D, or HG you should be fine with just 1 gig. You can always upgrade on your own later for about $40.

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  30. #30
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    Default Re: inspection software and hand helds

    Quote Originally Posted by Dominic Maricic View Post
    I've owned the 9" version that they just retired last week for over a year and love it. I take it with me to all the conferences and whenever I travel and it works great. They just sent me the new 10" model for me to review. It's running Windows 7. Whether you want 1 gig of ram or 2 really depends on what you're going to do with it. I tell our software users to just get the 1 gig of ram unless they routinely take over 150 photos per inspection. Having the extra ram helps to speed up the batch import feature. If you're running any inspection software that runs directly on top of Word I'd get 2 gigs of ram. If you're running something like ours, 3D, or HG you should be fine with just 1 gig. You can always upgrade on your own later for about $40.
    I was looking at there site and see they offer 1-3 year warrenties etc. Any thought? Have you had any problems with yours? I would go with Windows 7 Pro since I am on a network. I use 3D and have for 8-9 years. Of course I will not be able to use the pocket 3D but will have to use the full version.


  31. #31
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    Default Re: inspection software and hand helds

    Quote Originally Posted by Fred Klein View Post
    I was looking at there site and see they offer 1-3 year warrenties etc. Any thought? Have you had any problems with yours? I would go with Windows 7 Pro since I am on a network. I use 3D and have for 8-9 years. Of course I will not be able to use the pocket 3D but will have to use the full version.
    It runs fine on 3D. I talked to Carl and some of the other guys at the ASHI Conference in Vegas about the last version.

    I don't usually bother with warranties with devices under $1000. It includes a year warranty. I just looked though and saw the "Upgrade to 3 Year Complete Care Accidental Damage Coverage" for $155. If that includes replacing a device you drop off a balcony, it might not be a bad deal. We have a direct account rep there as we send so many users to them(email me at Dominic@HomeInspectorPro.com for a discount code). I'm going to email him and ask about that warranty. That would be the only one worth considering.

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