Easy estimatesGone are the days when a contractor could pull a pencil from behind his ear, scratch out an estimate on the back of an envelope, and rest assured that the customer understood that the real price would be three times the quoted amount. Nowadays, customers actually expect an estimate to bear some resemblance to reality.

Enter QuickBooks Easy Estimate, a solution to be released this spring for small contractors who need an easy way to create professional proposals and estimates. Users enter the details of the job, and Easy Estimate calculates the estimate and merges the information into one of several industry-specific templates for easy formatting and printing - and once the job is done, the program allows the estimate to be turned into an invoice. It also lets users re-use previous estimates as templates for new jobs.

Price: $99.

Intuit Inc.

www.quickbooks.com

(877) 683-3280

OK for Tom Cruise

You've seen it in the movies and on TV: While the guards are distracted, Tom Cruise (or Kiefer Sutherland) sidles up to a computer, plugs in a nifty little device, and downloads from the villain's computer all the information he needs to save the world. It's OK when Tom and Kiefer do it, but what about the disgruntled employee or corporate saboteur who wants to steal information from you?

With the proliferation of portable storage devices - they're given away at conferences, the way key chains used to be - businesses need protection of the sort offered by SmartLine's DeviceLock, which lets them manage and control access to PC equipment and ports. With Version 5.7.2, you can set a wide range of specific permissions and privileges, right down to specifying the serial number of an individual device that can access an individual machine. The software lets you prevent thieves from downloading proprietary information onto CD-ROMs, DVD-ROMs, floppies, ZIP drives, portable hard drives, USB drives, digital cameras, MP3 players, and even Bluetooth and WiFi-enabled devices - unless, of course, it's Tom, in which case there's no way you can stop him.

Price: Single user - $35; up to 200 computers in one network domain or group - $2,500; up to 200 computers in one location - $7,500.

SmartLine Inc.

www.devicelock.com

Online timesheets

Shift Technologies continues to expand the functionality of the components in its ThinMind suite of Web-based workforce management solutions. This time around, it's the turn of the ThinMind Timesheet Reporting application, which now includes automated project and issue status collection, expanded report grouping options, usability and approval process enhancements, and more. Timesheet Reporting 6.1 and the rest of the ThinMind suite - Expense Reporting, Issue Tracking and Project Management - is available online through an application service provider model; Shift Technologies offers a 30-day free trial.

Price: $5 per user per month. Volume discounts available.

Shift Technologies Inc.

www.thinmind.com

(888) 404-7386

Risk library

The butcher, the baker and the candlestick maker all steal in their own way - one puts his thumb on the scales, another mixes sawdust with his flour, and the last tricks you into buying scented candles. The point is, every industry has its own risks and, similarly, its own accounting issues. How do you account for the sawdust - or the goodwill lost when a customer stinks up his house with that scented candle? CFRA's Industry Risk Assessment Profile Library provides accounting risk assessments for 62 different industries, highlighting the red flags particular to each, and showing where exactly in the financial statements to look for tell-tale data. CFRA plans to update the assessments annually.

Price: Contact vendor.

CFRA

www.cfraonline.com

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