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Classic Products Best Practices - OST QB DPC

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On Center Software wants you to get the most out of your software purchase and we receive many questions from users who are trying to setup their software for the first time or change their settings to take best advantage of the software. Well, we have compiled some "How to's" and "We wouldn't do that's" below. Not every environment is the same so you may need to customize a system that works for you. This article assumes you are using Microsoft® Access® database(s). See Related Articles for some great information on using SQL as your database engine.

We recommend that you consult with a qualified IT Professional before implementing any network sharing to ensure your network is up to the task. Making an initial investment in time and resources will help prevent problems after rolling out the applications to multiple users.

If you are looking for suggestions on simply speeding up the application's performance, see Improving the Performance of OST, DPC, and QB.

There is a lot of information we'd like to share with you, please take the time to review this entire article.

How to Share Information Between Users

First, ask yourself what you are actually trying to accomplish. If you want them to use the same Master Table information as you, they can use your database as a template and Synchronize with your database. (Synchronizing database is detailed in the product's User Guide). If you want all estimators to use a set of Master Tables, this is a great solution. They can still have a local database, but periodically synchronize with a network/Master database that a department manager updates. This will not affect existing bids but will affect bids that are created after synchronizing.

You can also share a database or a single bid. If you want the user to access a copy of your database including all your bids, you can store a copy of the database on a network drive (never a working copy) and advise the other user how to access it. You can also copy a database to a CD or USB drive and physically give the other user a copy of the database.

Never work in Microsoft Access databases stored on a network drive. Although the programs can access these databases, application performance can and will be significantly reduced and the possibility of the database becoming unstable and/or unusable is high. If you need to share databases and/or store databases on a network, you must use Microsoft SQL database (see Related Articles below).

You can also share bids with other users. Depending on the version of the software you are using you can use Bid Packages, Takeoff files, even send information directly from On-Screen Takeoff to other users.

Check out these articles:

OST - Importing and Exporting - Overview

OST - What is Project Express and What Can I Do With It?

QB - Importing and Exporting - Overview

Sharing a Database

Let us say your company employs multiple estimators and you want them all using the same Styles, Sets, Condition Assemblies, Item, and other master table information or simply to be able to access each others' work. This means accessing a centralized, shared database


If multiple users need to access any one database, Microsoft SQL Server is the approved solution. SQL Server allows an organization to centralize their information in a safe and stable server application and providing easy, scalable sharing.

See Using SQL Server to Share Databases for more details.

If you do not want to migrate to SQL, each user can work in his or her own database stored on the local "C" drive of their computer and synchronize with a master database (stored on a network) so that all users are starting with the same master tables. You can also configure the program to store BACKUPS of the database on a network drive, but the working database must be stored locally.

Users can share Bid Packages with each other via e-mail or Project Express (On-Screen Takeoff only).

Is it hard to switch from MS Access to SQL?

Not at all!  Migrating users to a SQL database is easy and the system requirements to house a SQL Server are very reasonable.

Instructions for creating SQL databases, synchronizing master tables, and copying over bids can be found in the User Guide for your product - the programs do all the hard work for you!  You will need to install a supported version of SQL and have the skills (or have someone you can rely on with those skills) to manage your SQL Server. 

Why not Share MS Access Databases?

Microsoft Access is suitable as a single-user, local database, it is not capable of handling the high volume of read-writes that occur when more than one user accesses a database through enterprise level software such as On-Screen Takeoff and Quick Bid. Sharing a Microsoft Access database can easily cause the database to become unstable or unusable.

SQL Server is designed for networked and shared environments and provides stable, reliable performance. SQL databases are generally not affected by one user experiencing system or network difficulties - SQL Server simply ignores the error and processes the transactions for the users who are still connected.

Storing Databases

Can I store my Database on a USB or External drive?

No, we recommend against that. You risk damaging your database.

We encourage you to setup the programs to store your backups on your removable media but your working database must be stored on your physical hard drive.

Can I Store/Work From a database stored on my Network?

As we've indicated above, this is not a good idea. Microsoft Access databases are prone to failure when accessed across a network by certain programs (such as OST, QB, DPC). 

Again, we encourage you to setup the programs to store your BACKUPS on the network but your working database must be stored locally. See OST - Program Options - Folders and QB - Program Options - Folders for details.

If you must store your data on the network, you must use SQL. See Using SQL Server to Share Databases for more details.

Can I store my Access Database in Dropbox, GoogleDrive, OneDrive, or any other "Cloud" service)?

The short answer is "NO", but check out: Can I Use "Cloud" Storage with Classic Products? for more information.

Again, you can setup the programs to store your "Backups" to your Cloud drive, but your working database must be stored on your physical hard drive.

Managing Your Database Size

Over the course of years working with our own software, On Center Software has determined that the size of MS Access type databases should not exceed 40 megabytes. If you notice unusual performance/activity in your database, the first thing you need to do is Compact and Repair your database. Instructions for this are in the program's Help system and online User Guide under "Databases".

As time goes by, every database gets larger, even SQL databases - this is normal. Certain activities such as copying and pasting Bids from database to database, importing Bids or Change Files, or copying takeoff from bid to bid can cause your database size to increase. If your MS Access database size is over 40 megabytes, it is time to Compact and Repair. If the size of the database after compacting and repairing is not significantly reduce, it may be time to start a new database. Instructions for creating databases, synchronizing database, and copying bids can be found here: OST - What is a Database? and QB - What is a Database?

If you experience over-sized databases regularly, you may want to migrate your projects to Microsoft SQL. See Using SQL Server to Share Databases for more details.

Your databases need regular and routine maintenance including Compact & Repair and Shrinking (SQL-only). See: OST - Compact and Repair and QB - Compact and Repair for instructions.

Using On-Screen Takeoff and Quick Bid Interactively

Using On-Screen Takeoff and Quick Bid interactively is a great way to get the most out of your programs. There are a few things you can do to make sure you do not run into problems with interactivity:

General Reminders

Never 'cross-connect' OST and QB database. Only one On-Screen Takeoff database should ever be interactive with any one Quick Bid database and vice versa. This means, you must maintain a 1:1 database relationship between the programs - you must not connect bids from two or more On-Screen Takeoff to any single Quick Bid database, nor connect On-Screen Takeoff bids in a single database to different Quick Bid databases. The way the programs need to maintain master table information between each other can cause multiple duplicate entries in each database and severely affect program performance.

All new Bids, Alternates, Change Orders, Bid/Typical Areas, and Conditions are created, modified, deleted in On-Screen Takeoff. Anything that affects the takeoff portion of the job is done in On-Screen Takeoff.

Items, Assemblies, Materials, Labor, and Markups (anything involving money) are handled in Quick Bid.

Both products must be installed and authorized on the machine where the Bid is being opened or the interactive link will be broken.

See these articles for more information: 

QB - Interactivity with On-Screen Takeoff

The Basics of Interactive Bids and Troubleshooting Connection Issues

Microsoft Access Users

Each user must work in his or her database for both applications. 

Never store Access-type databases on a Network Drive, in a Shared folder, or allow access to the database by more than one person at a time!  Your database will become damaged and you will lose data.

Users may synchronize their databases to Master databases to keep their master tables current but users must not share (work in) the same database - they will cause each other's bids to disconnect and possibly be overwritten.

If your users must share databases and they will be using the bids in Interactive mode, you must use SQL databases and provide each estimating group with a single On-Screen Takeoff and a single Quick Bid database to use.

See Using SQL Server to Share Databases for more details.

Upgrading Your Computer to a Different Operating System

Before upgrading your Windows version, On Center recommends that you uninstall all On Center Software products. After installing the new Operating System, reinstall the software. Although Windows attempts to migrate installed applications, there are files and settings that may be overwritten or lost that are critical to the proper operation of your software.

As a general rule, On Center doesn't recommend upgrading an operating system (for example, you are running Windows 7 and get the prompt to upgrade to Windows 10). We recommend performing a clean installation of your shiny new version of Windows and then reinstalling all needed programs. This may take a little longer but provides a better, more stable environment.

The following articles are chock-full of great information:

Upgrading Classic Products to Latest Version

Suggestions for Improving Computer Performance

Moving your data to a new Computer


We avoid telling our customers "Don't" as often as we can, but these are some disasters waiting to happen...

  • Use Peer-to-Peer networking/file sharing (housing a database on one end user's machine and sharing that database over your LAN).
  • Use more than two or more On-Screen Takeoff databases linked to one Quick Bid database (or vice versa). Interactivity must be a 1:1 relationship. See the Quick Bid User Guide for more information.
  • Store Microsoft Access databases on a network drive, removable drive, or in a "Cloud" folder.
  • Allow more than one person to work in a Microsoft Access database at any one time.
  • Use a shared login for SQL databases.
  • Skimp on training - shortcutting training will cost your company and users in the long run. 

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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