Simple & Smart Answers for Professional Independent Adjusters


Xactimate Professional Review

March 27, 2015 | Adrian Eskew

xactimatetools & gear

I recently contacted Xactware and they were gracious enough to give me trial access to Xactimate Pro for a short period. Although I haven’t had the opportunity to fully evaluate the potential of this package, I have had the chance to develop some opinions from what I’ve seen so far. Based on comments on LinkedIn and other places, I thought a quick review might be helpful.

If you’re not aware of what Xactimate Professional is, it is the latest version of Xactware’s best selling estimating software, Xactimate 28, accompanied with cloud storage, a mobile version and web-based iteration. The idea is that wherever you may be, you will have access to all your estimate data.

In theory, this is an extremely exciting prospect. However in reality, there are a few key things I think you should be aware of based on my recent usage that you will need to evaluate before adopting for yourself. Let’s dive in!

Features - Online vs. Desktop

How does Xactimate Professional stack up against whatever version you’re already using? For starters, Xact Pro requires Xactimate 28, so if you haven’t yet made the switch, this will be the biggest change. Beyond that, the changes are boiled down to the differences based on the platform you’re using, whether it be desktop, online or mobile.

By and large, there are very few differences between the desktop version and online version of Xactimate. The interface is immediately familiar with everything exactly where you expect it to be. The biggest omission in the online version would have to be the ability to create valuations. As of this writing, valuations can only be completed on the desktop version. So anyone wanting to ditch the desktop version altogether will face this hurdle.

Perhaps the only other notable difference in the online version (that really matters) is that it is basically just Xactimate 28, online. That said, you will not be able to write estimates in any other version of Xactimate online if you pay for multiple licenses to accommodate different clients’ needs. This can only be done on the desktop version.

Features - Mobile

Xactimate available at your fingertips - anytime - sounds fantastic, right? Not so fast. There are enough differences here that I think will keep you coming back to the online or desktop version. Most notably, the way estimates are written on mobile.

If you’re like me, you’ve committed all of those line item codes to heart and are just as fast writing an estimate using those as with the reference or keyword search. Therein lies the problem, you won’t be able to use that muscle memory in the mobile version at all.

As a matter of fact, unless you have a sketch, there is absolutely no method available to enter line items in the mobile version of Xactimate. This to me is a major drawback to the mobile version and one that ultimately kept me coming back to the online version and eventually, the desktop version (more on that in a minute).

Being able to sketch a floor plan or roof from your phone or tablet is amazingly powerful. However once the initial wow factor wears off, you’ll probably find yourself missing the familiarity of the desktop version.

Being able to sketch a floor plan or roof from your phone or tablet is amazingly powerful. However once the initial wow factor wears off, you’ll probably find yourself missing the familiarity of the desktop version.

The map and gps function are the only mobile-only features. Sadly, I did not get a chance to check these out during my trial of the software, but would imagine that this could be useful. Especially on files assigned through Xactanalysis.

The Xactware Cloud

Ah yes, the cloud. What is it? Where is it exactly? What do we do with it?

Cloud computing is a concept that has been gaining popularity over the past several years. The premise is simple, store your data on a server somewhere and whenever you need to access it, its just there.

Here is where Xactimate Pro may present a problem for some. In my trial period I had no issues at all with Xactware’s take on the cloud. It was fast, reliable and worked as expected. The issue I did have, was accessing my data whenever there was not a live internet connection.

When you work on a file in Xactimate Pro, whether it be online, desktop or mobile, that file is ‘checked out’ and unavailable to be edited anywhere else. This becomes an issue when you are away from wifi or trying to access the mobile version when there is not a signal. It’s also an issue when you don’t have your mobile device and you are trying to access the file on a different platform.

Where most cloud services constantly sync to the server (or at least periodically), Xactware’s Cloud appears to update only when you ‘sync’ the file. This isn’t really cloud computing at all, but the virtual equivalence of downloading an ESX, manipulating it from your phone and then sending it somewhere else. If you are familiar with Xactanalysis transfer, you will understand the concept.

So why won’t this work? Well, I can imagine a number of scenarios where you stand to lose work:

  • your mobile device is lost or destroyed and you haven’t synced your projects to the cloud
  • you failed to sync a project from the desktop version and need it available in an online or mobile situation
  • you don’t have an internet connection for an unforeseen reason and need to work on a file not available on platform x

Any of these are possible, but the question that kept popping into my mind was ‘how do I make this work in a large scale cat?’ If you’re in an area that has no power, cell signal or internet, you may find yourself not being able to access your data. And although Xactware has addressed this with the desktop version, ultimately the benefits of the online and mobile versions are moot when faced with this scenario.

Pricing

While your specific costs may vary, the additional functionality provided in Xactimate Pro seems to be worthy of the price tag.

I subscribe to Xactimate annually and was told that an upgrade to Xactimate Professional would cost approximately $636 annually on my account. This cost would be prorated with the remainder of my subscription should I have chosen to upgrade, or I could set it up to manually add the functionality month-to-month by calling Xactware and authorizing the subscription charge to my credit card on file.

At least for me, I would gain the ability to access any of my work online or from a mobile device for as little as $53 per month. When you also factor in that the cost of the commercial valuation add-on ($15 monthly) is included with Xact Pro, you are basically paying $38 a month.

As long as your data was backed up to the cloud, you would be able to buy any computer or mobile device and (theoretically) pick up right where you left off.

That is a pretty incredible value when it comes to peace of mind. Especially if you are prone to computer crashes or your laptop/mobile device is stolen or lost. As long as your data was backed up to the cloud, you would be able to buy any computer or mobile device and (theoretically) pick up right where you left off. I know people that would gladly pay $40 a month for that peace of mind!

Final Verdict

However, at the end of the day I am not ready to upgrade to Xactimate Professional. At first I was a bit taken by the beautiful interface and the power of having sketch at my fingertips (on my iPhone or iPad). And trust me, it’s cool!

So why am I not going to keep the subscription active? I began an estimate from my phone one evening while sitting on the couch. The roof I was sketching was not incredibly complex, but it did have some height variations that I was trying to incorporate. On both my iPhone and iPad, the app would crash whenever I tried to manipulate the roof eave heights. Even though I didn’t lose any of my work, it was a bit frustrating, but not to the point of giving up altogether.

Next, I realized that I could only prepare an estimate for the roof through sketch, and even then I could not add line items manually. The only way to get to the line item lists is through the reference search. Like I mentioned earlier, if you’re familiar with the line item codes this is almost a waste of time. There is the ability to use macros, which would work well in a cat situation where all repairs were fairly similar.

Still, not enough to make me give up altogether. I simply realized that my workflow using the app would likely not involve any heavy estimating. So I synced the project to Xactware’s Cloud and jumped to the online version the next day to finish up.

Here, I was able to fix the roof height issue and easily add the line items. It was time to label the photos. I always take my photos at full resolution for my digital camera, however knowing I was dealing with a web connection I resized them first.

The online version of Xactimate had no problem pulling the photos in and I happily labeled and added descriptions for approximately 35 pics. Once I was done I clicked ‘ok’ and waited. And waited. And waited some more. The little wheel spun and spun but I never got the sense that anything was happening. After an hour I clicked cancel and in my ignorance, started over, thinking that I was the problem. And just like before, no go.

Since I had not downloaded the desktop version of Xactimate 28, I was stuck. Ultimately I ended up re-writing the entire file in Xactimate 27 on my desktop.

Final Final Verdict - Is it worth it?

While I will definitely come back to Xactimate Professional in the future, the trial period and my own busyness prevented me from being able to delve too far into the benefits that it could add to my own workflow.

Plus there are the questions of where your files go if you no longer subscribe to Xact Pro. Do you get to keep them or are they lost until you pony up the subscription fee again and download them from the cloud? A question I did not get answered but think I know the answer to.

I would also definitely like to see a more traditional cloud model introduced, where you can jump from desktop to mobile to online seamlessly. The ‘check out’ system seems too much like Xactware’s attempt to enter into the cloud estimating space without a huge overhaul and doesn’t feel fully fleshed out.

The ‘check out’ system seems too much like Xactware’s attempt to enter into the cloud estimating space without a huge overhaul and doesn’t feel fully fleshed out.

So is Xact Pro worth the extra cost? In my opinion, absolutely. I have yet to have a month where I have not had to activate the Commercial Valuation feature within Xactimate, so my actual cost for pro would be about $38 monthly. With the ability to manipulate estimates in a variety of ways and (given time to properly setup) quickly prepare estimates from the road, it's massively appealing. Accompanied with the peace of mind that comes with a constant backup that someone else has to maintain is almost worth the cost alone.

I’m sure I will pick up the subscription once things slow down and I can properly setup a new workflow, but for the time being, I’m out.


There you have it. While this was a quick and dirty review, at least you now have an understanding of what the package is capable of. There is definitely some cool stuff going on at Xactware, especially when you look back at previous iterations of the software and see where they’ve come from. So do you have plans to upgrade to Xactimate Pro? Is Xact Pro already crucial to your workflow? Share your experiences and plans in the comments!


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