Armstrong Standard Is Available In The labs, Free

As has been mentioned repeatedly throughout this edition of AppraisalPress, 2009 will bring many changes to the appraisal industry. One of those changes will be the release of the sixth generation of WinTOTAL, code named Armstrong Standard. Right now, you can download a prototype from our labs website at www.alamode.com/labs.

As you probably know, the labs is our "think tank," where we set aside the time to slow down, brainstorm ideas, build prototypes of those ideas that have promise, and then release them to appraisers in order to get feedback and make refinements until it's ready to be officially released as part of our integrated product line. Past graduates of the labs include DaVinci Mobile Pro and DaVinci Desktop Pro, as well as our integrated Virtual Earth mapping, Bird's Eye imagery and GPS integration with WinTOTAL's Map Wizard. (pq)

Now, it's time to release Armstrong Standard as a prototype, and you can download it today. But what is Armstrong Standard? Who is it designed for? What should you expect? And why should you care?

What is Armstrong Standard?
In a sentence, Armstrong Standard is the single biggest leap forward in WinTOTAL technology since moving from DOS to Windows in 1993. Armstrong Standard is a complete, 100%, from-the-ground-up rewrite. Not a single line of code is being reused, and it's being rewritten in the latest programming language, C# (pronounced See Sharp). We've even rewritten the entire forms engine from scratch, giving us a more modern, stable platform that will power WinTOTAL for years to come. We've been working on that for well over a year now, and have had Alpha (as opposed to labs, Beta and Final) release prototypes in the hands of hundreds of appraisers for months, working out kinks and making refinements based on their feedback, all building up to this labs release.

Armstrong is also the first formfiller ever designed using a "labs mentality." In the software industry, many major companies have started using a lab environment to involve the ultimate end user of the products in the design and refinement processes. We're the first and only (to my knowledge) real estate technology company (not just appraisal technology company) to use a lab environment. And thus far, it's been an incredibly smart move that's resulted in products better representative of what you as an end user want and expect.

Another “first” Armstrong can lay claim to is being the only appraisal formfiller in the country to earn the “Certified for Windows Vista®” logo.  Considering that Armstrong hasn’t even been through Beta testing yet, that’s quite an accomplishment.  Only Certified for Windows Vista software has undergone rigorous Microsoft compatibility tests for ease of use, better performance, and enhanced security. Microsoft creates the standards and tests, and we worked to ensure that from the very beginning, Armstrong meets them.  Because Armstrong is a complete rewrite, submitting our Alpha builds for certification and recertifying as we go ensures the final release will be a clean, stable product.  And while Armstrong is Certified for Windows Vista, it also runs great on Windows XP.  And with Windows 7 on the very near horizon (See “Windows 7 Is Looking Good”), we’ll also work to ensure that Armstrong is compatible and earns the certification designation for that operating system as well.

Who is it designed for?
This Standard version of Armstrong is a simple, low-to-the-ground formfiller that is light on the bells and whistles, but heavy on the cutting edge technology and ideas for which WinTOTAL has been known for over 23 years. Armstrong Standard is perfect for those users who have always wanted a simplified version of WinTOTAL. Or it's ideal for trainees who need an inexpensive, simple formfiller that will work with their supervisor's system. Or Armstrong is excellent for appraisers who want a lightweight formfiller for use on a laptop or tablet when they're not in the office. It's also perfect for ClickFORMS and other users who have always wanted to switch to WinTOTAL, but may have been a bit wary of moving to a more fully featured formfiller for fear of being overwhelmed with bells, whistles and learning curves. Armstrong Standard is a perfect fit for all these scenarios.

After Standard has been released, we'll work on Armstrong Enterprise, which will have all the features (and more) that can be found in the current versions of both Aurora and Athena.

What should you expect?
The first thing you'll notice about Armstrong Standard, especially as a WinTOTAL user, is its simplicity. There's no Appraisal Desktop, no Comps Side-by-Side (although that may be revisited), no Comps or Photos Databases, no Digital Workfile. Here are some other differences that you'll want to look for when trying out Armstrong:

  • There are only two PowerViews - Forms and Sketch. We've simplified and streamlined the traditional tools in WinTOTAL, further simplified by virtue of creating a "Standard" formfiller, and cut out many of the extra steps and processes you're used to doing now to fill out a report.
  • Rather than having a Maps PowerView, there's now a single Maps button on the toolbar that launches the Map Wizard. From here you'll be able to retrieve all your maps and data, and the forms and data are added to your report for you. Nice and simple, no extra steps.
  • Instead of going to the Photos PowerView, launching QuickPix and importing photos into your database, in Armstrong Standard it's all done "in-line." You simply go to your photo page (probably already in the report template), click a photo slot, and a small floating toolbar appears that lets you browse for your photo, scan, optimize and has other useful photo management tools. Again, nice and simple.
  • The forms engine also gives us some nice new flexibility. For example, in Armstrong you can "break up" forms by clicking and dragging to rearrange them. So if you'd like to put your additional comps page after page 2 of the URAR, you can click and drag that form in your Contents into the right spot within your 1004. Or you can collapse your forms and move the form headers around to re-sequence your report.

Many, if not all, of the features WinTOTAL users associate with the formfilling functions in the program have been kept, and in most cases improved rather than simply reheated. For example, QuickLists are a must and something no other formfiller has. You still have the ability to save and enter text in single and multiple fields, but now with the prevalence of dual monitor systems, you can "undock" the QuickList pane from its place on the left side of the screen and dock it at the top, bottom, left, right, or leave it free floating as its own window.

The Sketch PowerView is another nice improvement. Rather than going to the Sketch PowerView, clicking New, and going through the other traditional steps, our DaVinci sketcher is imbedded directly into the PowerView. That means you simply start sketching and the floorplan drawing is automatically added to your report, even multi-page sketches. This is a slick addition that only could have happened because we created our own sketcher (through the labs), and with this ground-up rewrite of WinTOTAL.

Also, you'll want to check out the new secure signature process we're introducing in WinTOTAL. This technology will set the bar for signature security for many years, and it will only be in WinTOTAL. To read more about this, read our previous article on secure signing in Armstrong here.

Why should you care?
You may be thinking, "I'm not a techno-nerd, and I don't speak geek, so why on Earth would I want to try out a WinTOTAL prototype?" Simple. First off, you don't need to speak geek. We speak appraiser fluently. Second, you've probably said more than once, "I wish they'd have asked me how to build this thing." Now you've got the chance to try out a prototype formfiller and help shape the design. Third, Armstrong Standard will be the platform on which the Enterprise level is later built. It's better to get the foundation the way you want it before layering on additional floors. So weigh in now. We want your feedback as we create the best formfilling software on the planet.

Visit www.alamode.com/labs to download Armstrong Standard today.