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Building A New Resource
Before you can really make FastTrack Schedule truly useful in a financial way you must input meaningful resources. In the case of staff, you must put your employees into the system. You do this in the Resource view by selecting a row and then choosing Information from the View menu. A new palette appears. There are just two tabs: Information and Work Calendar. Type a name, select a type, and put in the correct cost and rate information. (see image 012). I put some standard numbers that are meaningful here in the Boston market.
The next tab is the Work Calendar. See image below (image 013). What you do is put in your standard hours and then build exceptions into particular dates. What would really be awesome is if the work calendar function could work like an office wide employee calendar system, with employees inputting personal work schedule information (especially deviations to their standard weekly routine) into the system rather than those doing the scheduling with FastTrack Schedule. That way the system to could except real-time changes to the staffing (resources). That would be one very impressive addition to the program.
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Building Your Office Resource Schedule
One of the questions I immediately had after I explored the resources capabilities was, "how do you reuse resources previously inputted into the system?". To do that you create a new file, put all of your staff and other resources into the resources schedule, then save the file as a template file. Now each time you make a new project schedule you open the template file, do a save as, and now your entire staff's resource information is ready and available to you during scheduling operations. While this works fine, it would be nicer to have a way for resources to live as universal properties which can be remembered and utilized in any schedule you create, allowing templates to be populated with other more specific information.
New in FastTrack Schedule 8
FastTrack Schedule 8 has a new Aqua-compliant interface and AEC Software's implementation and UI design are exceptional. New in version 8 are tabbed dialogs -- actually multilevel tabbed dialogs, and AEC Software has created a more Office-like (as in Microsoft Office) menu structure. Picking colors for bars, backgrounds and other graphics has improved with a new Color Picker supporting millions of new color choices. You can choose from RGB, CMYK, or web-safe colors and you can also create your own custom colors and save them for reuse. (See image 014).
FastTrack Schedule 8 now supports extensive QuickTime image support, with graphic file format support for GIF, Photoshop, SGI, Targa, and QuickTime image file formats, added to the existing JPEG, PNG, TIFF, and PICT and Windows bitmap formats. You can save schedules to these formats as well.
The program is easier to learn now thanks to extended dialog help tags. Simply move the cursor over a tool bar item or dialog item and hold down the Option key when the help tip appears and an extended version of the help tip will appear. We suspect this is actually a new Apple OS X API for help in applications.
The latest version can open files created in version 6-7 and FastTrack Schedule enjoys the same excellent cross-platform binary compatibility between Windows and Macintosh.
One item we didn't look into is the Palm OS device mobility and synchronization features. We will be reviewing FastTrack Schedule 8 for Palm OS in a separate review in the future. Our only major criticisms of the application revolved around the way resources are handled and the limited nature of the personal calendar capabilities. Without those minor drawbacks, FastTrack Schedule 8 would have received our highest recommendation: five out of five!
FastTrack Schedule 8 offers a large set of feature improvements to make it a worthy upgrade, especially if moving to Mac OS X is important to you. This review was focused on using it for the first time, demonstrating how the fundamentals of project scheduling can be accomplished with FastTrack Schedule 8, and how the application can bring time and money together to help you substantially improve the management of scheduled projects.
For architects, the appeal of this software for scheduling is its exceptionally strong graphics appeal, easy to use interface, and the flexibility of managing staff resources across a range of projects simultaneously. For all professionals on the Macintosh who require that they manage and schedule various events or projects, FastTrack Schedule 8 is the must application they should consider buying in order to simplify and improve their job.--- ANTHONY FRAUSTO-ROBLEDO, Editor
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