What programs

Jay H

PFG, Picture Framing God
Dec 8, 2003
do you have on your pc? I just wonder if there is any program out there that I can't live without.
I use Microsoft Publisher nearly every day, for everything from labels and signs to newsletters and brochures.

I use MS Works more than MS Office - especially the database component.

I thought I couldn't live without Photoshop, but I've been playing with Photoshop Elements lately and find, for about $500 less, it does everything I need and more.
I guess I'll make this thread a little more specific. I have been looking at accounting software, pos software, framing stuff, bla bla bla bla and I can't decide what Im going to "arm" myself with. This stuff is EXPENCIVE. I guess I just wonder what people have decided they like to use daily and what they have tossed and wished they didn't give $300 for.
At the shop:

Lifesaver for the pos
Photoshop 8 for web page & wizard editing
Pagemaker 7 for newsletters/flyers
Office XP Pro
Digital camera import software
Macromedia Dreamweaver suite for web pages
Nero for the cd burner
Norton A/V
FTP Client

Wizard PC:
Wizard s/w
Cadd s/w
Vextrator to convert images to DXF
Quickbooks (we manually enter the deposit totals each day, as well as checks made out)

Are they all necessary? No. Minimum requirements would be a virus scanner, a good POS, and a financial program that better handles the big picture and annual tax changes. Windows itself comes with a basic word processor.
After further research I am ready to refine this question for the third time.

What is the minimum software you think I could get by on?

I am speaking specifically POS stuff. I am going to get Quickbooks. Do you think it would work to use that as my actual POS software to log sales and keep database and use a more inexpensive framing software ONLY to generate quotes and work orders? I like the professionalism and speed of computer generated quotes. However I don't understand how its necessary to buy $1500 - $2000 programs my first year. There are tons of programs under $300 out there. I know they don't have as many options but they will serve their purpose.

Please know Im not questioning the value of Lifesaver and Frameready, as I believe they are well worth their money. I just don't have that kind of money right now!

We wrote our own POS program using Excel. (cost for Excel around $150, I think). If you don't have the expertise or time to write your own program, purchase one. It'll be one of your best investments - beside your CMC.
Trust me, without it, you'll be leaving money on the table. It will pay for itself -just like your CMC!

[ 02-25-2004, 09:52 AM: Message edited by: Maryann ]
I'd go one further to say that the POS (or whatever pricing system used at the front counter) is probably more important to the business than a chopper, underpinner, or cmc.

Frames can be ordered chopped, or even joined at first (at a higher price) - to buy some time. You may have a local distributor, as we do, that offers CMC cuts for a modest fee.

But... if you're leaving money on the counter by under charging customers, over charging customers so they dont come back, or spending extra time to do the calculations manually - it could hurt the business.

Then again, there's a 32,000sf (120 year old?) shop right down the road from us that still uses clip boards to manually calculate their prices - and they do well.

There are so many variables to accurately calculate the price, that it seems like a lot of work to scan through books to get the prices for every estimate. With a POS the prices get updated weekly in your computer, as they come through from the manufacturer. It also tracks new mouldings/mats as well as what has been recently discontinued.

I'm a computer guy, so this is just my opinion. If I were a customer, I'd have more confidence in the price estimate knowing it came from a computer - and might be less likely to haggle with the sales person.


You might have a look at the Eatlite POS program


I almost certain I recall reading that a few US framers use it…….and it is been used in Australia so it will handle the $ symbol…….it been on the go for quite a few years and John McAfee who owns it is also the person behind the UK/Ireland version of the Grumble……he is also a framer based in Belfast………given Johns background it is most likely worth looking at….you can download a Demo copy from his site to play around with.


[ 02-25-2004, 10:14 AM: Message edited by: Dermot ]
That is actually the program Im very intrested in. I think its like $200 and change and unlimited updates. As my shop grows I am positive that program will not fill my needs. However for now it seems to do one thing very quickly and accuratly and thats price frames. Its not perfect but not $2000 either. After you get your prices set there is almost no learning curve to this thing.

My only concern I have is that I have to enter every address, sale, and other information in twice. Estlite and then Quickbooks.
We use Quickbooks too, but just enter in the daily batch totals (cash, visa/mc, discover, amex), and checks written out. Our quickbooks captures the totals from the daily POS closing report, so we can balance it against the bank account.

I maintain a neutral list of all known vendors and just posted a new version a few minutes ago at THIS LINK , if interested. There are 24 different POS vendors that I know of, and most of them have free downloadable demos that you can evaluate. Before making such an investment, I'd spend a while to try them out. Some are great, but many lack common features that will be important for the long haul.

ALL of them have their strong and weak points.


[ 02-25-2004, 11:13 AM: Message edited by: Mike-L@GTP ]

No offence meant, but it looks like you are wanting a do-it-all program for a bargain price. That may be one way to go but you are starting a business soon. That is the basis for your life from that point on. Why cut corners on the one program that will be the basis for all your customer calculations?

Lets say that you buy an inexpensive program for $300. You use it for 6 months and find that it isn't doing half of what you want a POS program to do. You will probably end up looking for something better anyway. I am not saying that Estlite or any other POS program won't fit your needs. What I am saying is that most POS programs have demo models that you can try before you buy to see if what they offer is what you want.

I would not take somebody else's opinion for what program you should buy. Help is fine but going on what someone else says about a POS program without knowing if it will fit your particular needs is like buying a horse that is standing in a stall from outside the barn door without even seeing if he will ride!

When I started my framing business I decided that I would spend my money on only the best that I could buy. Much of my equipment wasn't the costliest, but it best fit my needs for the way I wanted to work and run my business. I still have all that equipment and the only changes I would make is the chop saws, not because they don't do the job I expected but because they are noisy and I would like to have a quieter setup for mitering.

If you buy a program later on, one of those $1000 POS jobbies, you can also add to that purchase price the cost of the cheapie program that you bought before you found out that it wasn't what you really wanted. So why put an extra $300 or whatever into a program that doesn't do what you want it to? It isn't that hard to do the math longhand for your estimates at first and check out the offerings in the meantime. Then you can make an informed decision on what you really want to spend your money on.

Just another framer's opinion but one of experience. I won't go into the POS program that I started out using.

Framer your point is VERY valid. I expected this response sooner or later. If this were a question about mat cutters inevitably somebody would say, "this is the most important thing you will buy. Money shouldn't be an issue here". Same thing for choppers, glasscutters, employees, signage and on and on. If I bought just the best software that I will need this could easily get up into the $4000 range quickly. Now that just isn't reasonable for a one man shop it’s first year in operation that only offers 200 moulding samples.

The only advantage that I am seeing on the more "pricey" programs is the yearly update. This isn't valuable to me because I have time to update my few samples. Plus that update could be the same price per year as the software I want buy. So no I can't just simply add that amount on top of a newer program.

I guess because there are plenty of people still using a pen and paper to figure these things, even a bad program will be better than none. I have downloaded and used just about all of the programs that offer free d/ls.
Does anyone know of a stand-alone CMC mat design software program that works without needing to have a CMC machine?
I could write this list all day! I'll start out with what I use regularly:
POSperfect II (retail POS, runs across multiple sites with multiple terminals, great stuff!!!)
Framz Today (old DOS based frame pricing, does a good job)
Photoshop 7 (my design staff have CS, not me yet but I WANT it NOW)
Ultra VNC
PcAnywhere (on it's way out, see above)
Norton Ghost
Norton almost everything actually
Imageready (yup, I am one of the three in the world who uses it)
Corel Draw
Cutlist Plus
ISO Buster
SPT32 (Gunnar software, works in "no machine mode")
MS Works for any gaps and bits and pieces
Borland db admin
Hey Joe

Thanks for asking the question about software. My partner and I are in the same boat. We're spending money on a week-long framing class in Florida, purchasing equipment, an existing gallery, etc. We also want to purchase POS software but can't afford at this point to spend a lot of money on it. Once we open and hopefully start making money down the road, we'll purchase the really good software, but for now just can't swing the cost.

I was told by several people to make sure that we get a really good matcutter which we are planning on buying new. We would really like to lease a CMC but that's just not in the cards right now...we want to make sure that we're somewhat successful before we do that rather than possiblly having to close in a year and be stuck with the lease.

So after this long-winded reply, I'll just repeat the Thanks, go back to Mike's website and try some of the software.

This thread sure did come back from nowhere. Its brings back a few memories when I was still in the "planning" stage. I think I could already write a book.

Leasing a CMC is by far the best decision I made. The only risk is selling sloppy mats without it. If you are looking at mat cutters it makes me think that you are somewhat unfamiliar with cutting mats. This is an art! I remember watching dad spend hours on a complicated mat. He was an artist. If you are not, just imagine what you will save in labor alone? This morning I cut 5 double opening mats (one square and one oval) for sports pictures. I programmed the cmc in about 3 minutes and then hit "cut". Before I got back from the fridge with my tea it was done. This would have easily taken me an hour, if I made no mistakes, by hand. I only use my old mat cutter for cutting nice straight edges for my business cards.

As far as POS goes I got the wrong one. I will battle it for this year probably, but I wouldn't recommend it. If you want something that is cheap and really really stripped down and will simply price framing I would recommend http://estlite.scenes.biz/ I liked it and wish I would have looked closer at it. I do have to say after one month that I still would have preferred pin and paper to any $2500 program.
I realize, Jay, that cutting mats is an art. That's one of the many reasons why we're spending the money for classes, among others. I also realize that we won't be very good until we've gotten a lot of practice in...even then we won't be as good as someone who has been doing it for quite a while. We'll just have to struggle through til we get good. That's why we've made arrangements for the owner's son (who has been custom framing professionally for about 15 years) to do our framing until we get to the point where we feel that we can do a quality job on even single-matted stuff.

Unfortunately, we have somewhat of a budget and putting out $1100 - $1300 (using money borrowed from the bank for startup costs) for a mat cutter is more economically feasible than paying $300 / month for a CMC in addition to $1400/month rent for the shop, loan payments for startup costs, insurance, heat, electric, phone, security system, etc., etc., etc. Yikes! what are we doing??? We must be crazy. :eek:

Unfortunately, neither of us had parents in the business...we'd certainly be be better off if we had; however, that didn't happen and yet we're still going to try fulfill a dream of ours.

I appreciate all the help that we can get. Hopefully, a year from now we'll be well on our way to successful careers!