Skip to main content

Office Tools Pro — Office Tools Pro 2005

From the October 2005 Review of Mid-Range
Accounting Software

Office Tools Pro 2005 is a complete office management suite, offering document
management, calendaring/scheduling, project tracking and contact tracking. This
package is best suited for accounting firms and law firms with less than 20
active timekeepers. Steven L. Jager, CPA (,
heads a Sherman Oaks, California-based full-service accountancy firm with a
special emphasis in tax controversies and accountancy services to individuals
and closely held businesses. He says the product’s functionality and performance
as well as the knowledge of the vendor about its customers’ needs are
what drove him to select Office Tools Pro. “To have, in one single program,
the ability to manage and track client data, correspondence, billings and to-dos
is an awesome timesaver.” Jager also warns prospective users to be prepared
for a steeper learning curve than might be expected: “It takes time to
learn how to use the program well.”

Ease of Use/Flexibility — 3.5 Stars
Office Tools Pro 2005 is a module-based (or “Feature” based, as
the brochure states) software package. Firms have the option of purchasing features
for contact management, scheduling, time and billing, records management, document
management, and project management. Smaller firms would greatly benefit from
the all-in-one nature. The product is based on MS Access database tools, therefore
causing some rigidity to layout capabilities. However, a clean interface is
readily available, showing contact lookup, available program features and an
“Activity List” for the currently selected user. This approach is
very useful, especially for users who are regular phone users. In the same screen,
they can update information about a contact on the phone, enter notes about
the call and record upcoming activities. Certain input and review panels may
require refreshing the data, as real-time updating does not always occur.

Users are provided with a simple timesheet in summary mode that allows for
line-item entry of company, work code, description and time spent, with summary
information for the current pay period. A detail view is also available for
easier entry of detailed notes and project billing information. Billing processes
are provided in a similarly easy manner. Nine different types of invoices are
available, and invoice wording is customizable. Speed and stability become the
major drawbacks for firms with more than 20 timekeepers, but for the purpose
of our prototype firm outlined on page 8, this would be a very comfortable product.
A new SQL version has a planned release for fall 2005, which will allow for
greater numbers of projects, clients and timekeepers.

Scalability/Stability — 3.5 Stars
Most small firms find themselves in need of a package to track their clients,
projects, schedules and billing. The integrated nature of Office Tools Pro makes
for a great product — no need for extra spreadsheets, home-grown databases
or large monetary investments in what will be under-utilized software. In its
present form, the software works best for smaller firms experiencing moderate
growth, though that may change with the upcoming release of their newest edition.

Each toolset has the ability to work relatively independently, giving firms
the opportunity to get comfortable with one before moving on to another. This
makes the setup time less of a major commitment — an important consideration
for sole practitioners. Unfortunately, the software can perform in unexpected
ways, like giving out macro errors. However, a quick call to customer service
allows the user to report the error, and a patch should be made available within
a two- to four-week time period; sooner if possible.

Productivity Tools/Features — 5 Stars
Office Tools Pro customers can choose from the following features: contact management,
scheduling, time and billing, project or case/matter, records management, and
document tools. Remote timekeeping is offered, though online use is not. Offsite
timekeepers must export their timecards and send a database file back to the
main office for importing.

Of the features available, perhaps the most useful combination is the document
management and the records management set. Records management provides an interface
for recording hard copy storage and retrieval information, complete with project,
file and box number; bar code information; and location. Document management
handles the electronic copy information with the ability to log related company,
project, staff person, category of work, and file type. Standard MS Office document
types, as well as WordPerfect and scanned images are available. All documents
cataloged in the document management system remain on the file system and can
be opened from within the document management interface.

The activity list with the schedule feature is also useful, as users have
the ability to review other users’ lists. Although no calendar integration
is offered with Outlook or Exchange, the reports that can be generated and the
ability to record activities as time entries provides the necessary tools to
be productive with an easy-to-use interface. The notes section also works quite
well for recording comments regarding particular companies, and notes can also
be synched with Palm Pilots. A complete Call Messaging and Tracking system is
provided with pop-up reminders for callbacks, time entry for clocked calls,
and note taking with a separate section for results/follow-up.

Reporting — 4.5 Stars
Few reports are provided without the ability to customize; nearly all require
some sort of selection regarding detail level, sorting and filters. With the
wide variety of filters provided, firms should be able to obtain the information
they require to do complete billing analysis, employee productivity and profitability
of clients. New custom reports are possible with extensive knowledge of Access
Programming, though it would be best to request custom programming. This capability
is not included directly in the program.

Support/Help/Updates — 5 Stars
Office Tools Pro has seen regular updates for several years, and the company
continues to provide innovative tools and features to its users. Phone support
is ready and willing to assist, and future updates and upgrade ideas are always
welcome. Jager says his experience with the company’s technical support
is usually good. “They try very hard to answer questions and to accommodate
special requests/needs.” Upcoming features include a new SQL version and
online updates, and the patch cycle provides monthly updates as necessary. Extensive
documentation can be found at the company’s web site, and a knowledgebase
has recently been implemented, as well.

Integration — 3.5 Stars
Capabilities exist for contact sharing with Outlook *.PST files. Other integration
includes Palm Pilot synching for contacts and time entry. As the product is
intended as an all-in-one solution, integration is primarily between the components
of the suite. Tax and research programs are not integrated at this time.

Relative Value
Small firms of between five and 15 timekeepers will find Office Tools Pro an
appropriate fit, and sole practitioners should also consider this product. The
ease of setup and functionality provided best fit those companies that cannot
spend considerable time in the setup and training process. For firms looking
to add hard and soft copy document management at an affordable price, Office
Tools Pro might be the answer. Office Tools Pro can be purchased with all the
features listed in a 10-user package for $1,700 (includes upgrades, support
and training for one year); sole practitioners can purchase the professional
suite for $300. The annual renewal license is 35 percent of the current license
price. Companies switch-ing from competitive products may be eligible for discounts.

2005 Overall Rating — 4 Stars