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RE: COMP:Design Programs

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I think that we all strive to put together an engineering package that is
"coordinated" rather than looking like a series of dissimilar pages.
Although I found that Enercalc comes closest to uniformity simply because
many of the modules may be used in one calculations package, I feel that the
real issue is not how dissimilar the sheets look, but how well referenced
each calculation is in the entire package.
First, let me suggest that you submit your concerns to Enercalc via email.
Even if you plan to look for a replacment, I found that Mike Brooks is
sensitive to his users and will do what he can to improve or correct
mistakes. I do know that he takes reports in order of importance - dealing
with incorrect or problem output as a priority and "wish list" or minor
printing problems on a lower level. He also has a BBS site set up to allow
registered users to look for frequent program updates.
I suggest this because I am convinced that there is no perfect program out
there that can meet the needs of every person or one that is 100% accurate.
Engineering software is not as wide a market as business applications and
therefore the competition is either not as prevalent or are engineering
offices first and software developers second. There is competition - don't
misunderstand - but this is a very small community compared with others and
programs like Enercalc have served thousands of users for almost fifteen
years. I believe they are as dedicated to correcting problems and dealing
with clients as well as anyone else.

I too, strive for a consistant submittal package - switching between
MathCad, Excel, Enercalc, Risa, and many other programs that serve my needs
best. If I feel that I wrote a program within Excel that serves my needs
better than Enercalc, I tend to use it. My latest concern is that I switch
away from DOS based programs as much as possible. The reason is that I can
coordinate packages much easier from windows based programs that support OLE
or cut and paste applications. One way that I organize my package and keep
all of the elements together for output is to print each sheet to a scanning
managment program like PaperPort from Visioneer (and there are competitors
to them as well).
I create a folder within Paperport and when I print each sheet it appears in
the Paperport folder in a proprietary format. I am not happy with this
proprietary format and wish that they would provide conversion to PDF (Adobe
format). The best they do is to allow you to link to other graphic and
business applications for conversion and modifications. Once in Paperport, I
simply stack the sheets in order for submittal. I can then embellish each
sheet with additional notes, change the sheet numbers or add simple
This is great once you are near completion, but you still need to coordinate
the package prior to printing. I use Mathcad for my cover sheets and basic
Stress and Seismic to Wind Comparisons. I also use Mathcad where I don't
need Excel since I want all of my formulas to be easily read for errors. I
understand that Mathcad 7.0 offers links to Excel which improves embedded
OLE's - a really needed feature (I ordered 7.0 two weeks ago and have not
yet received it).
I use my own program for lateral analysis of light framed structures. This
is written in Excel so I try to make the analysis as complete as possible by
using worksheets. To do this I wrote into the spreadsheet: a coversheet,
lateral analysis, shearwall analysis including wall deflections, a shearwall
schedule that the spreadsheet generates, a basic shearwall plan that I can
embelish with load diagrams and wall numbers to help the plan check engineer
visualize what I am submitting, observation and inspection schedules, stress
and nailing schedules and drag/chord calculations. When this is printed out,
the lateral design for the building is virtually complete. I use Mathcad for
miscellaneous calculations that other programs don't do such as anchor bolt,
masonry bolts, grade beam design, beams on elastic foundations and other
similar stuff that might be specific to the project. I also include a sheet
index which is generated either in MathCad or in Word.
I use Visio or Smartdraw (MS) to create load diagragms and other sketches
that I need. These are typically linked by OLE to Mathcad and work very well
together. One problem reported by users is that programs such as Enercalcs
graphics are not scalable in Mathcad or Word. This is because Enercalc
Creates graphics in Windows Metafile Format (WMF) which has limitations. I
get this one confused, but either raster images or vector images are not
easily scalable - I believe it is Vector images and I also think that this
is what WMF files are. I have discussed this with Mike Brooks and he is
aware of the problems. In the meantime, most of us have windows based
graphic programs that can be used to convert between vector and raster
formats to overcome this problem temporarily.

Once I am ready to print, I need only send the package from Paperport to my
printer and let it print everything or specific pages. The output is very
good and the package remains in my archives together. It is true that I have
to find the native files to modify them, so I tend to save all files in one
folder with the projects title so that I know where to look and make backups
easier to handle.

I hope this helps, and I would be happy to hear how others are creating
submittal packages and managing them for posterity.

Dennis Wish PE
|It is a noble ideal to strive for the "all-encompassing" program that
|designs many elements of engineering requirements in its completeness,
|but think of our job security if a killer program that shows up
|Half of our profession may lose their jobs.
|Using a good computer program can help about 20-50% of our routine
|Here are my three wishes for an ideal program.  My number one wish is
|we can perform routine tasks as quickly as possible in order to
|on those more difficult things.  My number two wish is that, at the
|completion of the application, there is a uniform way to assemble
|calculations on to one report, instead of assemblies of reports from
|different applications. (Especially for the medium sized projects).  My
|third wish is the ability to present engineering formulas as they are
|supposed to look like. That way, they can be reviewed and checked
|reasonably. (Mathcad does not cut it.  It tries to take over the
|Currently, I am using Microsoft Word for writing and gathering my
|I also use the calculator supplied by Microsoft so I can do the
|calculation without the need of a handheld calculator.  Programs such
|as StlShape and RISA do the calculations and feed the results-in ASCII
|into the document.  Word has an easy process of making tables out of
|of text that are properly separated. I insert a minimal amount of
|from AutoCad or MS Paintbursh to make my reports more engineering like
|although they tend to takes a lot of disk space.
|Most of the powerhouse programs such as ENERCALC or STAAD present their
|reports on their fixed format, which are usually in mono space with
|their title block and page orientation. With a little bit of C code, I
|was able to strip off many of the page breaks, titles, headers that are
|embedded in the output files which interfere with the cutting and
|into my document.  Therefore, if there is a point in the report that I
|would like it to be emphasized, I can now do it in my report. You just
|can't add comments into their report when hard page breaks wired in
|Let me known if you want to get a copy of my "strip.exe."
|Szuchuan Chang, SE szchang(--nospam--at)
|Cupertino, CA
|P.S. If you would like to get a copy of StlShape, download it from this
|This program does not even come close of meeting my wishes however, the
|price is OK.