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Using a Tablet PC (such as the Microsoft Surface) with On Center's Classic and Cloud Products - OST QB DPC

Views: 95 Last Updated: 02/07/2023 09:04 am 0 Rating/ Voters
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Can On Center recommend a Tablet PC for me to buy to use with your programs? (answered below)

Does On Center recommend the Microsoft Surface Pro? (also answered below)

What about Apple products? (see ALL - Using Apple hardware (a MAC) with On Center's Products)

Do On Center's products work with "Touch" screens? (see ALL - Using Touch-enabled Screens with On Center's Products)

Tablet Recommendations

Although On Center Software cannot make specific recommendations or endorsements regarding personal computers, tablets, or other peripherals, we want to provide our customers with some guidance on the current crop of Tablet PCs available that should work well with our software. Please note, just because software should work on a specific tablet doesn't mean you can use "Touch" to work with our programs. Please see the Related articles for information on whether your Tablet uses pointing technology that will likely work with our products.

First, you will need to determine what you will be doing with the Tablet. The activities you will be performing and the size of the jobs you will be working on factor into your choice of Tablet PC.

Activities you perform may include:

  • Percenting takeoff objects and Recording Time (DPC foreman)
  • Managing Projects (DPC project manager user)
  • Performing Takeoff and Estimating Projects (On-Screen Takeoff and Quick Bid users)
  • Viewing Plans (On-Screen Takeoff and PlanViewer)

Questions to ask yourself

  • What is the average size of your projects and the complexity/size of the digital plans/Plan Sets you use?
  • Do you bid large jobs (greater than $10M), with numerous change orders?
  • Do you manage plans with numerous addenda (many plan sets)?
  • What type of plan files do you normally use (PDF, TIF, etc.)?  
  • What else will be running on this machine (Outlook, Accounting software, other services, etc.)

You also need to decide what form factor suits your business needs. Many of the smaller, more affordable models are Slates. Slates are similar to an iPad™, they often do not include a hardware keyboard (may be an accessory). The screen does not stand up on its own the way a laptop screen does so a separate stand may be required. At the other end of the spectrum are Convertible models, which are basically a laptop PC with a screen that swivels around to become a tablet. These are generally more powerful but heavier and pricier.

On Center does not recommend tablets with screen sizes smaller than 10" - they are simply too small to be used efficiently in the field.

Reminder: If a Tablet doesn't support using a Wacom pen-type stylus (also called an active digitizer screen/stylus), you must use a mouse for performing takeoff. Finger pointing/touch is simply not precise enough for performing takeoff although page navigation, panning, zooming should work fine using finger gestures. We recommend you contact the manufacturer of any machine in which you are interested before purchasing to make sure the hardware is an appropriate/working solution for your needs - better yet, see if you can use a demonstration model for a few days.

What to Look For

Microsoft maintains a list of great laptops, tablets, and convertibles (2 in 1) on their Web site: https://www.microsoft.com/en-us/windows/devices - one of our personal favorites is the Surface Pro line of tablets, notebooks, and laptops.

Inclusion in Microsoft's list does not constitute a specific endorsement of any manufacturer or product. On Center is simply stating that the product should meet the expectations for performance and suitability but does not provide support or specific advice for any hardware products.  

When looking for a tablet, we recommend looking for a machine with the following specifications:

Entry Level

Suitable for small to medium-sized jobs with one or two change orders at most.  These would also be suitable for plan viewing and viewing of smaller projects.  Entry-level devices are not designed to work well for large-scale projects (multiple buildings, change orders, addenda), or for working interactively between On-Screen Takeoff and Quick Bid (except for the last-minute changes a Project Manager may need to make).  Because of the hardware limitations, these would not be the best choice for replacing an estimator's desktop computer.  The biggest benefits to these machines is lower cost, lower weight (matters if someone is carrying the PC around a job site), and extended battery life.

Entry level machines typically come with the following specifications:

  • Windows 10 Home or Windows 10 S-Mode - neither are acceptable operating systems. You will need to upgrade to Windows 10 Pro to use our software.
  • Atom™ processors (single- or dual-core)
  • 2 GB of RAM
  • Hard drive - 32GB or larger (usually solid state - no moving parts)
  • Weight less than 2 pounds (or so)
  • One USB or connection port (if any)
  • Capacitive Touch Support (not expected to work with OCS software), Optional Active Digitizer support (uses a hard-plastic nub pen, not just finger-touch) may be available
  • WiFi connectivity (Broadband (cellular) is a huge convenience but it is often not available on these lower-cost models)
  • Usually, costs less than $600.00 US

These are relatively 'lightweights' in the computing world. If your projects contain more than one or two change orders, multiple divisions, or you intend for this machine to replace your desktop computer, look at a "Power User" model.

Power User

These models would be suitable for performing takeoff and estimating on mid- to large-scale projects although, if the project is very large, working on a desktop with multiple monitors is significantly more efficient.  These machines are considerably more powerful than the Entry Level models but are usually more expensive, heavier, and generally provide shorter battery run-times.  

  • Windows 10 PRO (Windows 10 Home and Windows 10 S-Mode are not acceptable operating systems. You will need to upgrade to Windows 10 Pro to use our software. If you are running Windows 10 in "S-Mode", you can perform a one-time, one-way upgrade - see https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/help/4020089/windows-10-in-s-mode-faq for details).
  • Intel i5 or i7 processor
  • 8GB RAM
  • Hard drive - 128GB solid state hard drive (the largest hard drive you can afford is recommended)
  • Optional Broadband connection (cellular)
  • Multiple USB and other input/output ports
  • Active Digitizer support (uses a hard-plastic nub pen, not just finger-touch)
  • Usually costs over $800.00, sometimes up to $2000.00 or more

These are serious machines and cost more than the lesser powered 'entry level' models, but they are worth every penny to a power user.  Most could easily replace your desktop computer, provided you can connect multiple monitors and a real keyboard and mouse to them.

Whichever tablet you purchase, be sure to ask the vendor if it supports the use of WACOM-style active digitizer pens (a hard, plastic nib, not an eraser-type tip) - finger pointing is convenient, but is not compatible with OST, QB, or DPC (some gestures work but the programs are not designed for finger/touch). Always ensure the hardware you are considering meets or exceeds On Center Software's System Requirements before you purchase the hardware. We recommend that you ask the reseller if you can demo the product before purchase to ensure it meets your needs and that our software works to your expectations on the device.

Can I use a Microsoft Surface™ with On Center's products?

Surface PRO Line

Go for it!  We love the Surface Pro and consider it a great option for field work or even as a desktop replacement. You must be on the latest version of our software (OST/DPC 3.93 or higher, QB 4.95 or higher), however, to license properly.

At this time, On Center has not tested our software on the Surface Book, however, there are no technical reasons the software would not work fine on that device.

Surface GO 2

Yes, however, all Surface GO 2's come with Windows 10 running in "S-Mode" which prevents installing any applications that are not delivered through the Microsoft Store. You can perform a one-time one-way transition to Windows 10 Pro, see https://support.microsoft.com/en-us/help/4020089/windows-10-in-s-mode-faq for details.

As far as hardware goes, follow the guidelines above when choosing which configuration suits your needs. Do not try to save money by buying the cheapest tablet you can find - make sure it has enough horsepower and storage space for 3-4 years of projects.

The original Surface and any computer running Windows RT

The first Surface™ tablet released in October 2012 is known as the Surface RT.  Windows RT is not a supported operating system - it is designed to run apps available from the Microsoft Store and does not support running applications installed from an external source (nor is its hardware sufficient for running On Center's products). On Center's products will not work on any device that runs Windows RT.

Product documentation (user guides) describes functionality in the latest version of each major release and may not match the functionality in the version you are using. Please check the Product Information and Downloads pages by clicking one of the product buttons above.

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