FASTTRACK SCHEDULE 9 FROM AEC SOFTWARE just may be the project management software that will convince you to stop using that old white board. The software runs on both PCs and Macs, and at $349 for a single-user license, it's roughly half the cost of Microsoft Project.

As simple to work in as Microsoft Word or Excel, the latest version lets builders easily set up production schedules using 30 example schedules or preset templates. The software also lets builders link one task to another. For example, if the drywall team is late, the super can adjust the schedule to a view that shows how the delay affects the rest of the schedule and then use this updated view to determine where to make up for lost time.

Builders concerned that their supers and subs won't be able to read the fancy charts that users build in FastTrack need not worry: The software lets builders show schedules in calendar form as well. Calendars can be customized for each subcontractor and then e-mailed or printed and faxed.

FastTrack also lets builders track project costs, calculate gross margins, and track labor usage. Experienced project managers will like the fact that FastTrack files can be used in Microsoft Project as well.

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