CostX in Review: Comparing to Competitors

At Exactal, we can tell you time and time again how good our products are, but we know you want to hear it straight from the user’s mouth. This month, we have a guest blog post from Jack Szewera, estimator at Fugen Australia. The below is an excerpt from Jack’s analysis of four popular estimating packages in the Australian market. Find out what real clients think- read more below!

Analysis of Various Takeoff Systems: CostX (Exactal)
CostX is my choice of working platform. I must say that after properly analysing available programs it was money well spent. I’ve worked on the 2D version for the past 9 months and just recently upgraded to 3D which gives me the ability to complete my take-off from BIM. It is certainly the most expensive tool out of them all! But in saying that, if I didn’t know that you can buy a Marshalltown trowel with a perfect rubber handle to reduce the number of blisters on my hands, I would still be using a trowel with a timber handle. My productivity would suffer as well as the quality. If you ask me if I would pay an extra $20 to lay an additional 20 bricks a day – absolutely! I’d say CostX is my Marshalltown.

  • Uploading drawings takes no time at all, you can scale the whole set of drawings at once and if you need to adjust the scale to each drawing you can do so later in drawing properties. The program reads plans exactly as they are in PDF, DWG etc format. You can turn off each layer if needed. Software does not freeze, all functions work trouble free and the program reacts straight away. (3D has the option to open drawings in separate tabs and drag them to other screens, not available in 2D).
  • I find it very easy to use, there is no clutter. Once you get used to the interface of the software it’s pretty much bullet proof. I was never put on hold by their support team who were always helpful and friendly. The program has been divided into two stages. First, complete your “Dimensions” take-off from the plans, then second, move on to “Workbooks” to calculate what you need. This may not sound like a big difference to other programs, but it simply makes sense. Doing one thing at a time results in less possibility of making a mistake.
  • CostX is the only program tested that truly can read encrypted data. Taking off dimensions can be done in Line mode where the cursor connects to lines drawn by an architect (curved, on angle, it doesn’t matter) or if needed, you can choose Point mode where the cursor will snap to the nearest object. All data is added to the Dimension Group where you can see separately measured items, negative or positive. Once take-off is completed you can move on to your calculations. Workbooks look like an Excel spreadsheet and in many forms it simply is. There are a few constant formulas built in, but what’s more important, you can change it all to suit your needs. Simply drag dimensions from the left-hand side and drop into your workbook. The program will ask you what type of dimension you would like to transfer (height, length, wall area, count, or custom created by you). Workbooks can be saved like in any other program – customised template with all the formulas, can be used from job to job.
  • Software generates reports to various types of files BMP, CSV, DBF, HTML, PDF, RTF TIFF XML etc. You can also export data to files that are compatible with other estimating apps. I generally export workbooks to Excel, which copies the exact layout from CostX to the spreadsheet. This creates my report.
  • Mark-ups created within the software are probably the weakest feature. Software publishes to PDF, DWF, but expands the size of the file. Tested original file size of 901KB after export changes to 6.9MB! If you have a few drawings to send to dropbox (or similar) it is the only option. This can be avoided by simply right clicking on the drawing, copying it to clipboard then pasting it in any third party software to create mark-up. I use AdobePro but any app or even Microsoft Word will do the job and file size will be saved as normal. 3D preview and mark-up available.

In conclusion CostX is the only system I have come across that has been designed for accurate quantity surveying. Its capability to read encrypted data from plans, comparing to other programs puts it in a class on its own. Rest of the software is literally AdobePro measuring tool, with the capacity to automatically show the results within the system. This software does not have a beautifully designed way of estimating costs with lots of windows, like other programs do – however this can be confusing to start with and affect performance. Instead, it has a clean spreadsheet that can be designed and saved just like Excel (and to be frank, what could be easier than working in a similar environment to the most popular tool on the planet). Company templates can be designed and used across all estimators.

CostX 3D fully supports BIM where more encrypted data can be stored, I am halfway into my online course, and can see the potential of this tool. Data encrypted in BIM files doesn’t just end with recognising vector lines, all quantities information, can be extracted from the drawings just the way they have been designed by the architect.

Overall Rankings:

Software Competitor 1 Competitor 2 Competitor 3 CostX
Ease of Use 2 5 2 3
Using as a Beginner 3 5 3 4
Extracting Quantities 2 2 3 5
Export Reports, Compatibility 4 3 4 5
Practicality for Quantity Surveying 3 3 4 5
Program Performance 2 4 1 5
TOTAL 16 21 17 27

If you’d like to know more about how CostX can help your business, please contact your local sales office here.