SpecWriter Users Guide Page 1 
  1. Introduction
  2. Installing SpecWriter
  3. General File Management
  4. The 8 Section System
  5. Starting SpecWriter
  6. Name & Display Settings
  7. Moving around the Program
  8. Learning You Way Around
  9. Basic Procedure
  10. Selecting Specifications
  11. Generating Specifications
  12. Creating an Estimate
  13. Set Customer Type
  14. Program Settings
  15. Customizing the Checklist
  16. Customizing the Specs
  1. Using the Takeoff
  2. Customizing the Takeoff
  3. Using the Estimate
  4. Using the Schedule of Values
  5. Using Field Notes
  6. Saving the Master File
  7. Using Checklist Templates
  8. Using Template Files
  9. Restore Excel Menu
  10. In Excel, Please Do Not...
  11. Copying SpecWriter Files
  12. Technical Support
  13. Legal Disclaimer
  14. Warranty
  15. License
  16. Copyright


  1. SpecWriter is an Excel spreadsheet program designed to write specifications and prepare estimates for residential and light commercial construction projects.
  2. SpecWriter works by providing you with a Checklist of specifications from which you select those that apply to your project.
  3. Once you've selected your specifications, the menu command "Generate Specifications" will copy them to the Specifications page, re-group them by section, number, outline and format them to create your customized specifications.
  4. SpecWriter's Checklist contains over 4,000 pre-written specifications for your immediate use.
  5. You can add, edit, overwrite or delete anything on the Checklist, which means you can customize it specifically for your business.
  6. You can change the Checklist selections and re-generate new specifications at any time.
  7. You may also create an Estimate Worksheet with the same categories and specifications as your contract documents.

  1. Follow the installations instructions to install SpecWriter.
  2. The installation program will...
    • Create a folder on your hard disc named "PowerTools"
    • Create a sub-folder named "SpecWriter"
    • Copy a file named "SpecWriter Master File.xls" into the folder.
    • Create a SpecWriter Files icon on your Desktop.

  1. All your SpecWriter files should be kept in a folder named "c:\PowerTools\SpecWriter".
  2. This folder will contain your SpecWriter Master File and the project files you create from the SpecWriter Master File.
  3. The SpecWriter Master File.xls is your primary copy of SpecWriter.
  4. Each time you want to start a new project, you will...
    • Open SpecWriter Master File.xls
    • Use File | Enter Project Name to enter the new project's name.
    • Use File | Save to Hard Disc to save the file using the new project name.
    • The new project will then have it's own file.
  1. Each time you want to make permanent changes to the Checklist in your SpecWriter Master File, you will...
    • Open your current SpecWriter Master File.
    • Make the desired revisions.
    • Select File | Save to Hard Disc
    • Replace the existing Master File with the revised Master file.
  2. It's OK to replace the SpecWriter Master File with a version you've modified with permanent changes as a new Master File.
  3. Do Not replace the SpecWriter Master File with a version you've setup for a specific project.

  1. To use SpecWriter, you need to understand the 8 Section specification format.
  2. Unfortunately, until you work with the Checklist, the 8 Sections won't have a lot of meaning.
  3. Nevertheless, we needed to introduce the concept at some point, so just read this section and understand that you won't really understand it's application until later.
  4. There are Eight main Sections to any project's Specifications.
    • Sec 1 General Description of the Scope of Work
    • Sec 2 Descriptions of Work in Specific Areas
    • Sec 3 Items included in the Basic Contract Price
    • Sec 4 Unit Cost Allowances
    • Sec 5 Fixed Cost Allowances
    • Sec 6 Options and Upgrades
    • Sec 7 Tasks by Owner
    • Sec 8 Contract Exclusions
  5. Checklist Specifications written for Section 1 & 2 apply only to those sections.
  6. Checklist Specifications written for Sections 3 through 8 are organized together by category because these selections must be made in relation to each other.
  7. In other words, the Scope of Work for all parties for any given subject must be decided together.
  8. The color-coded bar on the left side of the Checklist will visually identify the Section where the selected Specification will appear.


  1. Start Excel, Select File | Open
  2. Look In "c:\PowerTools\SpecWriter"
  3. Open "SpecWriter Master File.xls"

  1. The Program Settings control many important aspects of the program.
  2. As you become experienced in SpecWriter, you will probably change one or more of them to suit how you wish to operate the program.
  3. For the time being, we recommend you leave the settings alone except for the two you need to review before you can proceed.
    • Use Settings | Program Settings | Display | Screen Resolution to adjust SpecWriter's page size to match your monitor.
    • Use Settings | Contractor Info to enter your company name into your SpecWriter Master File.
  4. When you're done, use File | Save to Hard Drive to save the file as a new SpecWriter Master File.
  5. From then on, when you open your SpecWriter Master File to start a project, it will already have your company name entered.
 SpecWriter Users Guide Page 2 
  1. Use the arrow keys to move around any page.
  2. Use the right side scroll bars to move up and down a page.
  3. Use the mouse pointer on the file tabs at the bottom of the screen to move between pages.
  4. Use Checklist | Lookup/Goto to view an alphabetical list of checklist categories you can select and jump to.

  1. The fastest way to learn your way around SpecWriter is to open the master copy and go tearing through it for about an hour.
  2. You should check out every menu command, examine every screen, click every button, and try to figure out what everything does to everything else.
  3. Be bold, try to break the program!
  4. When you're finished, simply close the file without saving it!


  1. Double-Click the SpecWriter Icon on the desktop to open the SpecWriter Master File.
  2. Use File | Enter Project Name to enter the project name.
  3. Select a Checklist Template (optional)
  4. Use Specifications | Generate Specifications to generate test Specifications using the template settings.
  5. Select the desired specifications from the Checklist.
  6. Use Specifications | Generate Specifications to continue.
  7. Review and revise as necessary.
  8. Use Estimate | Generate Estimate Worksheet to continue.
  9. Complete the Estimate and Summary, revise as necessary.
  10. You may preview and/or print any document at any time.
  11. Use File | Save to Hard Drive to save file at any time, and always save the file at the end of your work session.

  1. Start at the top of the Checklist, with the square box cursor in the tag column.
  2. Use the arrow keys to move down the Checklist, and use the small "x" key to select the specifications and descriptions that describe the project.
  3. You may also delete an "x" with the delete key at any time.
  4. Always select at least one header for each specification group. The headers are in bold, dark blue print on the screen.
  5. Use the color coded left side column to remind you which section of the Specifications page that specification will appear.

  1. Use Specifications | Generate Specifications to initiate the procedure. SpecWriter will then...
    • Copy the specifications you "Tagged" from the Checklist to the Specifications page.
    • Re-sort the Specifications by Section.
    • Organize the Specifications in an outline.
    • Insert the header and footer on each page.
  2. Use Specifications | Preview to review how your specifications will appear when printed.
  3. If you wish to change anything in the Specifications, just change the Checklist and generate new Specifications.
  4. You may generate specifications as many times as you wish.
  1. Use Estimate | Generate Estimate Worksheet to initiate the procedure.
  2. SpecWriter will then...
    • Copy the specifications you "Tagged" from the Checklist to the Estimate page.
    • Re-sort the specifications by Section.
    • Organize the Specifications in an outline.
    • Place the specifications into a worksheet with additional columns for unit costs, quantity, costs, etc.
    • Add the Cost Codes.
    • Insert an Estimate Summary section at the bottom of the Estimate that subtotals your costs and allows you to add the appropriate markup for overhead and profit.
  3. When you create a second estimate, SpecWriter will ask you if you want to save the first estimate for reference.


  1. Use File | Set Customer Type.
  2. This command will allow you to replace the word "Owner" with any of the displayed alternates throughout the entire Program.
  3. You may switch back to "Owner" at any time.

  1. Use Settings | Program Settings to access the Settings dialog box.
  2. Checklist Columns will display or hide certain columns on the Checklist.
  3. Pages to Display will determine which of the pages are visible.
  4. Estimate Font Sizes will allow you to change the fonts, most notably when the dollar figures are too wide for the columns.
  5. Screen Resolution will change the zoom level to fit your monitor.
  6. The Default Folder is the location of your SpecWriter Files.
  7. Display Caution Messages allows you to turn the messages off.
  8. The Default Rates allow you to set the defaults used in the Estimate.

  1. Once you've gotten used to what SpecWriter actually does, you'll want to start customizing it for your business.
  2. First, scan down the Checklist, and use the "Collapse/Expand" feature to "Collapse" (hide) entire Categories of Specifications you don't think you'll need on a regular basis.
  3. Simply Click on the little " + " plus sign in the left column, at the end of the black line, adjacent to the bottom of each Category.
  4. Clicking the " - " minus sign will expand the Category at any time.
  5. Also, while scanning the checklist, use the "Red Letter" feature to identify your Standard Specifications.
  6. Select any specification, then press "Control-R" to change it's color from black to red.
  7. This is a visual tool designed to assist you in making you checklist selections.
 SpecWriter Users Guide Page 3 
  1. Most users will add between 30 to 100 customized specifications.
  2. You can add specifications to your Master SpecWriter File at any time.
  3. Use the F-2 key to edit a specification at any time.
  4. Use Checklist | Add Specification Line to insert a blank specification row at any point in the Checklist.
  5. Use Checklist | Delete Specification Lines(s) to remove the selected rows completely.
  6. Use Checklist | Insert Special Note to insert a new row with the text "Special Note:" in the beginning of the specification.
  7. Use Checklist | Insert New Category to insert an entire new, blank category description ready for further editing.
  8. Use Checklist | Insert Allowance to insert a blank allowance description at the bottom of the current category.
  9. Always keep your specifications to one row maximum. Break up long specifications into separate rows if needed.
  10. Always save the SpecWriter Master File after you've added new specifications.

  1. The Takeoff page provides you with an area to calculate and record the Project's basic quantitative measurements.
  2. Based upon your entries, the Takeoff will perform calculations for masonry, roofing, drywall, etc.
  3. Once you've completed the Takeoff, you can access and transfer any of the figures from the Takeoff into the Estimate page by pressing "Control-L" from the Estimate page at any time.

  1. Open the Takeoff menu to view the menu options.
  2. You can add, edit or delete any row in the Takeoff.
  3. You can also insert a blank new section anywhere in the Takeoff.

  1. The Estimate is a worksheet formatted to assist you in calculating and summarizing the many figures in a typical estimate.
  2. The Estimate worksheet contains the same specifications as the project specifications with two notable exceptions:
    • The allowances are NOT grouped together. They are positioned with their applicable specifications.
    • The estimate does not include the Options, the Owner's Tasks, or the Exclusions. The only thing the estimate is concerned with are the items you are going to pay for.
  3. The idea here is to proceed down the worksheet, category by category, and enter your estimated cost for that category.
  4. Your estimated cost might be calculated from historical unit costs, or it could be a bid or quote your received, or it could simply be a SWAG.
  5. Use Estimate | Presentation Options to change the estimate to different formats as your situation may require.
  6. Without regard to how you determined the estimated costs, the Estimate Summary will:
    • Total all the figures in each applicable column.
    • Allow you to add percentages for Supervision and other project overhead costs.
    • Allow you to enter percentages for Overhead and your Compensation (Profit).
    • Total all the numbers.
  7. Please note that the Overhead and Profit dollar figures are a margin as a percent of the Total Price, NOT a markup on the costs.

  1. The Schedule of Values is comprised of the headers you selected from the Checklist, with adjacent columns for entering costs, markup and price.
  2. The SOV is designed for commercial projects that require you to submit a Schedule of Values as part of a bid submission package.
  3. Some residential lenders also want a SOV with the loan application because they will utilize it as the basis for the draw schedule.
  4. Some Builders use the SOV to estimate their projects or simply as a "Preliminary Rough Estimate"
  5. You can always generate the SOV, view it, and then decide if it's of any use to you.
  6. If you don't need to use the SOV, just ignore it.

  1. Field Notes are a document created from your Checklist that is specially formatted to be used to take notes during discussions with potential customers.
  2. When you return to your computer to write the specifications, your printed notes match your SpecWriter Checklist.
  3. When you select the menu command "Generate Field Notes" the program will copy the checklist in that file, exactly as you have it customized, exactly as you've collapsed it, to the Field Notes page, where it will go through a process that will reformat the page, place checkboxes next to each specifications, and reduced the font size to create room for handwritten notes.
  4. I recommend generating and printing up Field Notes only when you've made changes to the Checklist since you're last printing.
  5. It's easier to bring the Field Notes to a print shop and have them print you multiple copies.

  1. Always make any permanent changes to your SpecWriter Master File. (SpecWriter Master File.xls)
  2. After making any permanent changes, always save the SpecWriter Master File by using File | Save to Hard Disc to replace your previous copy of your SpecWriter Master File.

  1. Templates are Checklist selections you decided to name and memorized as a group.
  2. In other words, you can memorize what you've tagged on the entire Checklist, give it a name, and later recall that template at any time.
  3. Templates are intended to allow you to pre-configure typical projects as a "quick start" for writing specifications for a new project.
  4. For example, you can memorize the basic specifications for a commercial tenant build-out (demo, metal stud walls, suspended ceiling, etc.) in your Master File, then use the template each time you are specifying that type of project.
  5. After selecting a template to get started, you should then proceed with reviewing the Checklist to make any necessary changes and additions.
 SpecWriter Users Guide Page 4 
  1. Template Files are SpecWriter files you've setup for a specific purpose.
  2. Template Files can be setup for your model homes, which will allow you to quickly revise them for a specific buyer.
  3. Template Files can also be setup for re-occurring projects, such as a standard detached two-car garage you build constantly.
  4. Don't get confused by the concept of a Template File, they are simply files you've already created for a general type of project that you will open and continue to customize for a specific project.

  1. This command will allow you to jump back and forth between the custom SpecWriter menu and the standard Excel menu.
  2. You may switch to the Excel menu at any time, however, we are not responsible for anything you do to the file from within Excel. This includes performing any of the items listed in the next section.

  1. Change the height of any row anywhere in the Program.
  2. Perform massive moving and copying of the Checklist Categories.
  3. Attempt to word wrap a specification that's too long for one row.
  4. Change the font sizes.
  5. Ask us to fix anything you did while you were in the Excel menu, and outside of our programming control.


  1. On occasion you may need to copy a SpecWriter file from one computer to another, for example from your laptop to your desktop.
  2. The typical SpecWriter file is usually to large to fit on the standard 3.5 inch 1.44 meg floppy disc.
  3. For these occasions we recommend you utilize a file compression utility program such as WinZip or PowerArchiver to compress the file, thus making it small enough to fit on the floppy.
  4. WinZip or PowerArchiver (and other similar programs) are quite easy to use, and will allow you to either zip the file (which will require you to have the program on the target computer to un-zip it) OR to create a "self-extracting" file that can "unzip" itself on the target computer by simply double-clicking the file name.
  5. You can buy WinZip in any computer store or download it from their website at www.WinZip.com for approximately $35.00.
  6. As an alternative, you can download a FREE copy of PowerArchiver from their website at www.PowerArchiver.com
  7. WinZip and PowerArchiver are nearly identical in every respect EXCEPT that PowerArchiver is FREE.


  1. Technical Support is available online through our website at www.PowerTools Software.com and by email at support@PowerToolsSoftware.com.
  2. The full text of our Technical Support Policy is available at our website at www.PowerTools Software.com.
  1. SpecWriter is a tool for creating documents used in the course of administrating construction projects.
  2. The SpecWriter program, it's manual and this website ARE NOT legal dissertations, legal opinions, or legal advice.
  3. You, as the Program User, MUST REVIEW every document created by the Program for accuracy, completeness and correct use BEFORE implementing the document.
  4. You, as the Program User, MUST obtain the advice of an Attorney BEFORE using any of these documents.
  5. You, as the Program User, accept ALL LIABILITY for the accuracy, correctness, correct use and correct application of the documents provided herein or created by you.
  6. PowerTools Software, Inc. accepts NO LIABILITY for the accuracy or correctness of the documents, or for the correct use or application of any documents provided herein or created by the user, or for the contents of the program, it's manual, or the website.
  7. This is only a part of the full LEGAL DISCLAIMER, which is incorporated into the installation program and may also be viewed at www.PowerTools Software.com
  1. Generally, our Warranty provides that the software and the distribution media (Installation CD or disc) will perform substantially as represented or we will replace it at our cost.
  2. The full text of our Warranty Policy is available at our website at www.PowerTools Software.com.
  1. SpecWriter is owned by PowerTools Software, Inc. and is licensed to you for your use under the terms and conditions of our License Agreement.
  2. The full text of our License Agreement is available at our website at www.PowerTools Software.com.

  1. SpecWriter, it's manual and the contents of the website are copyrighted property and are protected by US and International Copyright Law.
  2. The full text of our Copyright is available at our website at www.PowerTools Software.com.

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