Showing posts from 2013

About Start Software

Start Software is an award-winning developer and leading publisher of asbestos software, systems for the legal services industry and more.

Want to know more about asbestos software Alpha Tracker? Alpha Tracker is the most used asbestos software in the UK, Australia & New Zealand with more than 60m items of asbestos data stored.

Our legal services software Alpha Legal helps will writers, accountants, solicitors, IFAs and estate agents to communicate securely with clients. Read about developments here on the blog.

Or need help with Alpha Anywhere or Alpha Transform projects or software development? You'll find useful info here.

Happy Christmas!

Happy Christmas to all of our customers, suppliers and partners.  We hope you have a wonderful festive break and a very happy and prosperous New Year.

We're open every day over the holiday season (apart from the Bank Holidays) to support our customers so if you need help please ring the usual number - 0845 612 2402 or email

Finally, as usual we've made a donation to a local charity rather than spend money on cards and stamps. This year we're supporting a campaign by the Much Wenlock Community First Responders (CFRs) to buy a public defibrillator for the town.  Here's a photo of me (I'm one of the CFRs) with local butcher Paddy Ryan and fellow CFR Colin - Paddy is very generously supporting the £3,000 campaign:

Me, Paddy Ryan and CFR Colin launching the defibrillator campaign

3,000 orders and counting

We've just taken our 3,000th order for a software system - blimey!! Here are some "utterly fascinating" (not!) Start Software stats:

- we've been trading 14 years
- our customers have called us 14,584 times about their systems
- our asbestos systems have captured 15,453,242 items of data in the UK
- our software sells in 8 countries
- our office Internet connection is now 100mb which is 41,000x faster than our first Internet connection
- my brain is now 99.45% full.

If you got to the end of that list I congratulate you and wish you a very Happy Christmas!!


Tracker Dashboard v1.0.193 SVN47 released

Tracker Dashboard is one of key modules in the Tracker and Alpha Tracker product family used by asbestos consultancies and asbestos surveyors worldwide.  Tracker Dashboard sends automated, personalised emails to Tracker and Alpha Tracker users with stats, action lists and reminders helping staff to do their jobs efficiently and without needing to run separate spreadsheets and other action lists.

Tracker Dashboard v1.0.193 SVN47 with improved activity log and system timer
Tracker Dashboard also sends instant alerts emails during the day when events are triggered in the system. For example, the survey admin team might receive an email as soon as a surveyor has uploaded their asbestos data using Tracker Mobile.

The latest version of Tracker Dashboard (v1.0.193 SVN47) is now available.  This release has an extended system log and an improved system timer making it more reliable on busy servers and when running in non-UK timezones.

Please contact the office as usual if you would like this update.

Expect the unexpected! A real call from our 24x7 support desk

I just took this call on our 0845 612 2402 software support line:

Caller: “Hello, I’ve come home today to find a parcel has been thrown over my back fence. It contains liquid and my dog has the run of the garden.  If he had bitten into the bottle he could have died.  What are you going to do about it?!?!”.

Me: “You’ve phoned Start Software, we’re a software company”

Caller: “Fair enough”.

End of call!

Alpha Anywhere mentoring - we can help you to develop your own web-based software systems

As Start Software is Alpha Software's UK Professional Partner, we provide support and guidance to a number of UK developers switching to Alpha Anywhere from other development platforms.

For example, we've just started working with a developer wanting us to help him switch a Filemaker application to a web-based Alpha Anywhere system.

Kevin, another new Alpha Anywhere user has just managed to build a fully featured web-based property management system in just two months with our help.  We call this "Alpha Anywhere mentoring" and we're very happy to do it on a daily or hourly rate.

He said "...we have something pretty detailed developed which is taking shape nicely thanks to Alpha's rapid development environment and also the help of Robin and his team at Start Software where I've spent 2 days with them learning more of the environment".

Thanks Kevin - we have enjoyed helping you along the Alpha Anywhere road.

Alpha Tracker contact/action management improvement in beta test

More Alpha Tracker updates are on the way with huge improvements to the contact and action management within the system:

better links from screen to screen

more comprehensive data capture

add calls and tasks from the project screen...

... or a quote

email contacts directly

create your own types of call/action

More flexibility for asbestos "priority risk assessment" within Alpha Tracker

The latest Alpha Tracker has new flexibility for clients wanting to assess priority risk scoring on asbestos items outside the usual "standard method" as each aspect of the risk assessment can be adjusted within the system settings facility.

Each aspect of priority risk assessment can now be adjusted

Please contact the office for more information on this system change.

Alpha Tracker mapping update in beta test

An update to extend Alpha Tracker's mapping features is currently in beta test and will be available to all users before Christmas.  The new facilities include extending the mapping available for clients, sites, projects and staff together with a full integration with Google Maps.

All data in Alpha Tracker is geo-aware and can be mapped

These extended mapping features work in conjunction with the new route planning facility described here:

Andy at the Microsoft MVP Summit

Andy Couch is one of the UK's leading Microsoft Access gurus with many publications and books under his belt and the coveted title of Microsoft "MVP" - Most Valued Professional.

Andy works with us on Microsoft Access software developments and has just been at Microsoft for a week meeting the Access development team and learning about their plans for the product.

It's incredibly useful to have the inside track from Andy and to have his expertise on tap.

If you need any help with an Access software development do get in touch - we're always pleased to have a no-obligation chat.

We're turning Start Software into a 24x7 global operation

The last few months have been really interesting and challenging for us.  For the benefit of our existing customers and to ensure that we have a growing business with new markets to develop, we have been expanding into Australia with the opening of a new office in Adelaide.  We're expecting to open more offices in other countries too - probably starting in the US.

169 Fullarton Road - our base in Adelaide
Sarah on reception
Busy working on the next release of Alpha Tracker
We're trying to make the most of the time difference between the UK and Australia, using the staff "down under" to provide technical support to our UK customers out of normal UK working hours and testing development work between UK working days so that the development clock never stops ticking.  For such a small company, this has been difficult to achieve but we're getting there - and the feedback from our customers has been entirely positive which is just what we wanted to see.

I'm learning all the time and happy to share my experiences if you're looking to do the same with your company - do get in touch if I can be of help.

Alpha Tracker's new route planning feature when scheduling appointments

We've got a full week of updates scheduled in Alpha Tracker - updates which will be of great use to asbestos consultancies and asbestos surveyors using the system to automate their operations.

One of the first updates being tested is a new feature in the in-built diary enabling auto-route planning when appointments are diarised for site staff:

The new appointment dialog will enable driving directions to be auto-calculated
Contact Dan or Judy for more info on the updates going live this week.

Tracker Dashboard v1.0.181 SVN43 now available

Tracker Dashboard is one of the software modules in the Tracker and Alpha Tracker product family used by asbestos consultancies and asbestos surveyors worldwide.  Tracker Dashboard sends automated, personalised emails to Tracker and Alpha Tracker users with stats, action lists and reminders helping staff to do their jobs efficiently and without needing to run separate spreadsheets and other action lists.

Tracker Dashboard also sends instant alerts emails during the day when events are triggered in the system. For example, the survey admin team might receive an email as soon as a surveyor has uploaded their asbestos data using Tracker Mobile.

The latest version of Tracker Dashboard (v1.0.181 SVN43) is now available.  This release has a new system setting allowing the alerts to be delayed and "batched up" so that users are not bombarded during the day with a constant trickle of alerts.  Instead, the alerts can be set to send only after so many minutes (eg 30 or 60), all in a batch.

Please contact the office as usual if you would like this update.

Here is "cloud" asbestos software Alpha Tracker running *above* the clouds...

Our asbestos software Alpha Tracker has been designed from the ground up to run on the web "in the cloud" - in other words, on hosted server space running anywhere you like, available to any web-connected PC, laptop, tablet or smartphone.  Alpha Tracker is powered by Alpha Anywhere - our development software of choice for web-enabled database systems.

Here's a photo of Alpha Tracker running live at 39,000 feet - above the clouds - thanks to the Emirates' Airbus A380 and its WiFi.  Amazing.

It was my first time on the Airbus A380 and I was absolutely knocked out by it - the world's biggest passenger plane and so, so quiet and sophisticated.  Phenomenal technology.

Updates for Alpha Tracker Document Maker and Document Maker Service

Two new releases of Alpha Tracker Document Maker and the Document Maker Service are available now.

Alpha Tracker Document Maker v1.4.217 SVN16 is on general release as it Document Requests v1.0.90 SVN20.

Both are key components of Alpha Tracker, the leading web and cloud-based software system for asbestos surveyors and asbestos consultancies.

99.98% availability for Start Software's Alpha Anywhere-based systems

When we at Start Software design, build and deliver web-based software for our customers we don't stop working when a system goes live - we actively monitor how things are working to be sure that what we've created delivers what the customer wants and at the speed the users need.

We use Alpha Anywhere to build our systems - it's famous for being a great developer tool, enabling us to build software systems faster than other software houses, but we've also found that it is a very reliable platform for our systems.

Here's a good example - a great system that Dan built for a busy national property management business is now in use across the UK servicing requests for property maintenance tasks.  Looking at the monitoring stats for last month, we hit 99.98% availability:

How fast does it run? On average, each click from the user takes just 15 hundredths of a second:

That sort of performance is what we strive for - good-value software systems which are always available and which respond quickly for the users.  Good job Dan.

10 more asbestos surveyors trained on Tracker Mobile

Another day, another 10 asbestos surveyors trained!

Asbestos surveyors getting to grips with Tracker Mobile from Start Software
Tracker Mobile is the handheld data capture for asbestos surveyors, part of the Tracker family of software systems for asbestos consultancies.  Tracker Mobile has been used to capture more than 15 million (yes 15,000,000!) items of asbestos data in the UK so far - and counting.  Hundreds of asbestos surveyors use Tracker Mobile every day.

Today's group were using Motorola Android smartphones and Samsung Android tablets but you can also use iPhones and iPads (or mix & match).

Major update of Tracker Document Maker Service available

Tracker Document Maker Service is a Tracker and Alpha Tracker module which handles the production of asbestos reports and other document production.  Users request documents on their PCs and the server does the rest - the requests are queued and the server produces the documents on the user's behalf and then emails them a Word and PDF copy when the document is ready.

We have a major update available now - this is version v1.0.76 SVN15.

This release handles locked and missing templates is much more robust way compared to previous versions. It also has much more sophisticated fault and activity logging built in.

Please contact the office if you would like this update.

Major Alpha Tracker update released (SVN211)

Alpha Tracker, the premium cloud-based system for asbestos surveyors, asbestos consultancies and environmental specialists has just received a major update.

The new release, SVN211, has the following improvements:

  • a brand new set-up menu allowing almost every part of the system to be adjusted to suit the user's needs
  • new screens and fields extending the information that can be stored relating to asbestos surveys and projects
  • better facilities to enter new survey items direct via the web (rather than on a handset)
  • better screens for reviewing and editing data sent in by the surveyor
  • more flexible diaries using the integrated scheduler
  • improving invoicing facilities from within Alpha Tracker itself
  • plus lots more!
Please do contact the office to request the update.

Refresher training delivered to LOTS of asbestos surveyors!

We've had a busy week training new asbestos surveyors using Tracker Mobile for the first time, admin staff getting to grips with Tracker and then a session for lots of asbestos surveyors who needed some refresher training:

Next week's training schedule includes an asbestos consultancy switching from Tracker to Alpha Tracker and another group of asbestos surveyors using Tracker Mobile for the first time.

Tracker Dashboard v1.0.175 SVN40

We have a maintenance release of Tracker Dashboard available for installation.  Tracker Dashboard sends automated, personalised emails to anyone in your company (or outside!) with the information they need to run their part of your environmental consultancy business.

This release supports better debugging and system logs to identify issues when staff are not receiving their daily dashboard emails.

Please contact the office to receive this update.

Cargill Taylor go live with Alpha Tracker

Dynamic asbestos consultancy Cargill Taylor have now received their Alpha Tracker training.  They are now busy collecting asbestos survey data using their Samsung Note smartphones and our Tracker Mobile handheld software.

If you would like to use Cargill Taylor's services contact either of the two Cargill Taylor directors:

Rodney Cargill, Director
07570 900807
Ricky Taylor, Director
07805 525365

Tracker manuals refreshed

Kim has been hard at work updating some of the Tracker manuals.  Take a look at to see the whole range.

In particular, we have a new manual available for our automated reporting system, Tracker Dashboard - download it here:

New software release - Tracker Document Maker Service v1.0.67

Tracker Document Maker Service is an optional module for Tracker and a fundamental part of Alpha Tracker - the leading software systems for asbestos consultants and asbestos surveyors.

We have just released a new version of Tracker Document Maker Service, v1.0.67 SVN12, which is more reliable on Windows Server 2012 and is also capable of attaching multiple formats of a document (eg DOC and PDF) in a single email.

Please contact the office if you would like this free update.

Confused about the hardware choices for Tracker Mobile? Take a look at this video

Our Tracker Mobile software, the handheld data capture system for asbestos surveyors and other environmental consultants, can be run on a wide variety of hardware including iPads, iPhones, Android smartphones and Android tablets.

Take a look at this video to see me explain the pros and cons of each style of device:

(Start's director Robin Bennett demonstrating Tracker Mobile, the handheld data capture system which forms part of the Tracker and Alpha Tracker asbestos surveying systems)

New Tracker Mobile training videos online

If you or your surveyors need to refresh their skills with Tracker Mobile, the handheld data collection system for Tracker and Alpha Tracker, go to this page to see a collection of new training videos:

Scroll down to the bottom of that page to see the 7 short videos - and feel free to share with your colleagues!

Screenshots from the Tracker Mobile training videos

Our order book is well and truly full

Like all small businesses we go through phases of feast and famine and we're now full to bursting!

We can't believe how popular Alpha Tracker is proving to be with asbestos surveyors and asbestos consultancies of all sizes - smaller ones in particular are finding Alpha Tracker to be an easy way to rid their businesses of the drudge of collecting data on paper and retyping into asbestos survey reports.

Have a look at our new "micro site" at if you want to see why we can't stop the phone from ringing... (TM) - our first ever trademark!

How proud are we!!

We've just had the paperwork through confirming that our trademark application for our site has been granted:

trimadvisor,com - helping you find the UK's best barbers! is an experimental search engine and review site for barbers - one we built in Alpha Anywhere as test site for web and mobile development. Alpha Anywhere is our favourite software development environment for web and mobile software projects.

Now we know what we're doing, we have a number of other applications in the pipeline, so watch this space...

99 support calls = busy week on the Help Desk

We've had 99 calls for assistance this week and the Help Desk has been strained at times.  Thanks for your patience if you had to wait to have your query answered.

Latest analysis of support calls at Start Software
Interesting analysis of calls - only the purple and yellow categories are bugs!

Judy's local wildlife!

Judy is working hard in our Adelaide office to bring the benefits of Alpha Tracker and Tracker Mobile to the Australian asbestos surveying industry (see

She sent us this photo on Wednesday - that's more exciting than seeing a squirrel in a tree!

Judy's Koala!

Customer satisfaction survey for 2012/13 - results are in

Last year's results were reassuringly good (see and this year's results show further improvements in our customer satisfaction scores.

Here are the two charts that please me the most:


Start Software - Delivery - 2012/13
This chart shows that our delivery satifsaction score has improved since last year, so we are better at delivering our software solutions to our customers.


Start Software - Staff - 2012/13
This one is the most pleasing - our customers like our staff!

Thank you for contributing to our annual customer satisfaction survey, we really appreciate it.

Asbestos Survey Report re-branding/re-design service

In association with our graphic design partners, we can now offer an asbestos survey report re-branding and re-design service to give your asbestos reports a new style and lease of life.

If you are using Tracker or Alpha Tracker to automate your asbestos surveying and reporting but are disappointed that your survey report is a bit old fashioned or needs a tidy-up, why not ask us to quote to redesign it for you?

Our graphic design partners can even produce a whole new company logo for you - just let us know if you're interested in a whole brand refresh.

Contact Elaine in the office to discuss options and prices.

Appentice Daniel's first week done!

It the end of new apprentice Daniel McCullen's first week at Start Software - so far so good!

He has been enjoying speaking to you on the phone and logging your calls and queries.  With 99 calls for assistance logged this week, Elaine has certainly appreciated the help!

New faces at Start Software

We are welcoming Daniel McCullen to the team on Monday.  Daniel is joining us to work on the Help Desk to increase the number of support personnel we have available to our customers.

Daniel will also be working on Mobile Data Studio and Alpha Anywhere software development projects when he is not helping customers with queries.

As we are expanding, we are looking for more staff (see especially those with experience in Alpha Five or Alpha Anywhere.  Are you looking to work for a company which specialises in building database applications running in a web browser and mobile data applications?  Get in touch!

Tracker Web Server v1.5.458 SVN64 released

The latest version of Tracker Web Server is available for immediate use.

Tracker Web Server is the client portal for asbestos systems Tracker and Alpha Tracker, enabling building managers to access asbestos and other environmental risk management information about their sites and buildings.

This version, v1.5.458 SVN64, has an improved display for the site non-asbestos register.

Please contact the office to request the update.

Asbestos consultancy ACS go live with Alpha Tracker

Leading UK asbestos removal and surveying consultancy ACS have today gone live with their Alpha Tracker automated asbestos system.

The ACS asbestos-focussed web site
ACS have chosen to use iPad Mini devices with Tracker Mobile for their on-site data capture and three of the ACS surveyors today attended Start Software's Telford training facility to run through the operation of the system for management and refurb/demo surveys.

ACS surveyors and admin staff getting to grips with Alpha Tracker

Start Software's Telford training facility with ACS staff
ACS admin staff also attended to see how to maintain the Alpha Tracker database of customers, quotes, projects (jobs/surveys) and lab data.  Not forgetting the in-built diary!

Support call stats for September 2013

Another very busy month with 299 calls responded to.  The support team managed to respond in time in 9 calls out of 10 - not bad but we could do better.

Start Software - Support Call Stats -  to September 2013

Tracker Dashboard v1.0.168 SVN39 released

A new version of Tracker Dashboard (v1.0.168 SVN39) is available with improved charting logic & other cosmetic improvements.

Tracker Dashboard sends regular automated emails to Tracker and Alpha Tracker users containing key stats, charts and action lists delivered straight into the user's Inbox.

Please contact the office if you would like this update.

7 days of support calls - why do our customers phone?

7 days of support calls at Start Software - 13/9/2013 to 20/9/2013
Why do our customers phone us for help?

Every call to our support line - 0845 612 2402 - is logged and analysed as part of our ISO9001 Quality System and our commitment to customer satisfaction.  Here's the breakdown from last week:

  • a quarter of the calls into the office were requests for modifications to our asbestos software systems, Tracker and Alpha Tracker.  Our customers ask for extra features, new data exports or modified asbestos survey reports - no problem at all
  • one in ten calls were requests for help with general IT problems - not our software at all! We always do our best to help but we do have to prioritise calls which relate to our software systems, naturally
  • five calls last week were reporting software problems but when we tried to to reproduce the problem ourselves, we couldn't.  It really helps us to fix problems if you can show us exactly how to make the problem happen.
In total last week, only 13 calls were actually reports of software "bugs" - errors or unexpected behaviour in our software systems.  That's 13 too many of course and we strive to keep on top of software errors to help you get on with your business as smoothly as possible.

We're recruiting again

We're increasing the size of our support and development teams - do you know someone who might be interested?

Job: Customer Support

Our support desk deals with 100 calls for assistance from our customers each week and each call is logged, investigated and responded to with care.  In order to respond in the time-scales set by our customers, we need support staff to be quick-witted, pro-active and able to handle busy times with calm professionalism.  It goes without saying that our support desk staff also need to be good with technology!

The successful applicant will be working with software such as Alpha Anywhere, Mobile Data Studio, Microsoft Access and Microsoft SQL Server as well as Android and iOS smartphones and tablets.  They will also learn a great deal about the markets we work in including asbestos surveying (for our Alpha Tracker product).

Job: Apprentice Software Developer

We produce market-leading and award-winning software for a number of industries.  We need more Alpha Anywhere developers urgently to increase the size of our development team.  If are you looking to start a career in software development using tools that can build powerful database-based systems for web and mobile then get do in touch.

For more information, contact Elaine on 0845 612 2402 or via our web site.

Midland Industrial Contractors go live with Alpha Tracker

Midland Industrial Contractors ( are a respected insulation service business with a new focus on asbestos surveying and other asbestos services.

Having worked with Tracker before at previous companies, the MIC directors choose the latest version of Start Software's asbestos software Alpha Tracker to help them to reduce administration and increase efficiency in their business.

Click the image above to find out more about Midland Industrial Contractors and their asbestos services.

Access User Group workshop at Coventry Airport

Never has there been such a collection of Microsoft Access nerds around one table at one time!!

Today's meeting at Coventry Airport focussed on productisation - turning a piece of software into something which can be sold repeatedly into a specific vertical market.  In our case, we've sold asbestos software to asbestos consultants, asbestos surveyors and asbestos consultancies (Tracker and Alpha Tracker) and Toy Libraries (Toy Tracker).  The group shared best practice and our collective experience of pricing, support, version control and bug tracking.

Start Software at the Access User Group
We also talked about the future - are we at the end of the era of desktop software delivery?  Is the future all about delivery of browser-based applications in tools such as Alpha Anywhere? A really good day spent in the company of our fellow Microsoft Access software developers.

Alpha Tracker update SVN167/30 released

Alpha Tracker - our cloud-based asbestos software for asbestos surveyors, asbestos consultants and asbestos consultancies - has been updated fortnightly since its launch and the latest release is SVN167/30.

Some of the areas improved are:

  • on-screen presentation of asbestos survey data 
  • processing of new building data captured on site
  • timesheets (new!)
  • invoice production (cosmetic and functional enhancements)
  • on-site (pre-survey) risk assessments (new!)
All Alpha Tracker customers will receive the update automatically over the coming weeks.

Start Software's new offices

Remember Del Boy Trotter's van with "New York, Paris, Peckham" on the side?

I feel like we're heading the same way now that we can boast "London, Adelaide, Telford and Bridgnorth"!

Bridgnorth was first and is now our support & accounts office.

Telford was next and is our space for our software design and programming team.
We've now added Adelaide with a sales office supporting our Australian Alpha Tracker customers.

And finally our space above the IoD in Pall Mall gives us a perfect facility for working and meeting clients when in London.

SLR Environmental go live with Alpha Tracker and Tracker Mobile

Specialist asbestos surveying consultancy SLR Environmental is Start Software's latest Alpha Tracker customer making full use of the asbestos software's on-site data capture and automated asbestos report production.

Directors Sam Lee and Steven Ives attended their Alpha Tracker and Tracker Mobile training course today at Start Software's e-Innovation Centre training facility.

SLR's Steven Ives working with Tracker Mobile

Sam Lee from SLR Environmental practising with Alpha Tracker
SLR decided to use Samsung smartphones for their on-site data capture (a mixture of Samsung Galaxy S3 and Galaxy S4 units) but in the future they will be feel to switch to iPhones, iPads or Android tablets as Start Software's Tracker Mobile handheld asbestos surveying software enables surveyors to choose the device they feel most comfortable with.

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