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Formulae for success

Software - Latest software tools cut costs and save valuable minutes in a designer's day, says Lisa Russell.

Most people moan about some aspects of the software they use, but few bother to do anything about it. Engineer Ross Harvey, however, became so frustrated by a shortcoming in Microsoft Excel that he has developed an add-on which enables users to see every step of the calculations.

Excel is a very versatile package, says Harvey, but its one drawback is that the formulae cannot be seen once the work is printed out. 'It hides the calculation within the same cell that produces the result, ' he says, making it difficult to confirm the validity. 'How do you check a number that just sits there-' AutoSheet from his business, Niche Creations, overcomes this by working with Excel to enable calculations to be displayed in an easily readable format with names assigned to the variables.

'With AutoSheet the user can see every step of their calculations throughout their work, ' says Harvey.

Harvey works as an assistant engineer for Pell Frischmann and aims to become chartered this year. The software development takes place 'out of hours' but with his employer's blessing.

'Pell Frischmann encourages all staff to stretch themselves and innovate during their careers with the company - AutoSheet is a good example of this, ' says regional director Jon McPhee.

McPhee nds that AutoSheet allows users to visualise the flow of their work and is especially useful for engineering applications where calculations need to be printed or distributed to other people for checking. 'AutoSheet has allowed us to reduce costs on projects with repetitive based calculations, ' he says.

Harvey's own prime application is in bridge design but he says AutoSheet can be used in any area.

Pell Frischmann has proved a useful testing ground for his product. 'We have assisted by providing feedback from the various offices using AutoSheet on a number of projects and, in turn, benefit from use of the software, ' says McPhee.

www. nichecreations. com

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