Contractor Compass Introduction
Contractor Compass is a set of dashboards designed to offer business owners unparalleled insight into their business. These super dashboards are powered by EGIA Contractor University. By that, we mean they closely follow the recommendations and best practices taught by the teaching faculty at EGIA. That faculty includes Aptora’s president, James R. Leichter.
Please see our KB article titled Preparing Total Office Manager for Contractor Compass™.
Currently, Contractor Compass is compatible as Windows Application only. At this time, it is not compatible with Apple (iOS) platform. Aptora recommends utilizing a work around by remoting into a computer that is running a Windows operating system or running a dual operating system on your Apple machine.
Minimum Microsoft Excel Versions Required
You must be using Excel 365 or Excel 2021 (32-bit or 64-bit). We use the FILTER function in many of our workbooks. The FILTER function is only available in Excel for Microsoft 365 and Excel 2021. In Excel 2019, Excel 2016 and earlier versions, it is not supported.
How the System Works
The system mainly consists of a desktop app and Microsoft Excel files. The Excel file is used to display your dashboard information. We have built two dashboards and there will be more to come. These will be offered for a nominal fee.
The Excel files are macro enabled and use the “.xlsm” file extension. They contain VBA source code that is used to securely connect to your Total Office Manager database. Once connected, the Excel file runs database queries called Views and Stored Procedures. These queries consume large amounts of information and place the data in a set of workbooks. This data is further processed using the power of Excel and fed into worksheets that are designed for presentation.
Why We Use Microsoft Excel
100% customization. Power software users demand extreme flexibility. They are always telling us they would like to see something different, and few people ever ask for the same thing. We built this system in MS Excel so that users could create nearly anything they wanted. MS Excel is the most popular spreadsheet software in the world. It is easy to learn and there is a lot of support for it.
Microsoft Excel along with Total Office Manager’s Microsoft SQL Server database, offer you complete and total access to your data and give you an almost unlimited opportunity to create any report imaginable.
You will need to have Contractor Compass® and Microsoft Excel® version 2019 or 365 installed and fully updated. You will need to have an active support plan for Total Office Manager. You do not need to have Total Office Manager installed on the same computer. You ill need your original Total Office Manager serial number to install Contractor Compass. That can be found on your original invoice and the About box in Total Office Manager.
Security and Permissions
You must have a user name and password. You will use the same one that you use for Total Office Manager. You will need to have permission to launch the Contractor Compass.
In Total Office Manager, go to User List/Security form > double click on a user name > click Next > navigate to the Reports section. You should see an option called Company Dashboard. Click the box to select it. This gives the user permission to use the Contractor Compass Launcher app and therefor open any dashboard.
Installing the Dashboard Software
The following applies to both on-premises and hosted (cloud) users.
When you invest in this dashboard software system, you will immediately receive an email with a download link. The download is a zip file. That link will be live for thirty days, so you have plenty of time to download it.
Unzip the file called Contractor-Compass-Installer.zip, to a location of your choice and run the ContractorCompass.msi to install the software. The install is easy. You will basically need to click a few Next buttons and you should be finished. Please keep all the default settings, unless you have a good reason to change them.
Launching the Software
Double click on the Contractor Compass icon or search for the application using the Windows Search feature. If you do not see the icon, you can double click on the program file located at: “C:\Program Files (x86)\Aptora\Contractor Compass\ContractorCompassDashboardLauncher.exe”
The first time you run the app, you will be taken to the Settings page and asked to configure the program.
- If Aptora hosts your software, please check the Is Hosted box. Otherwise, leave this unchecked.
- Only if Hosted: From the Host Name list, select a Host Name. You should only see one choice.
- Only if Hosted: Enter an Instance Name. The support department can provide you with this information.
- Only if Hosted: Enter a Port Number. The support department can provide you with this information.
- Enter a Serial Number. This is the same serial number that you use for Total Office Manager. You can get this by opening the About box in Total Office Manager. Is is also on your Total Office Manager invoice.
- Select a Server. This is the same server you would have selected using your Total Office Manager software program. See Configuration Tips below, for more information.
- Select the Database (aka: Company File) you wish to connect to. If hosted, you will need to enter the name of the database you wish to connect to. Example: ABC Service Company
- The Company Dashboard Path and Custom Dashboard Path should default to the correct locations. You should not have to change these settings.
- Click the Submit button.
- If you need to know more about your server and database, open Total Office Manager, click File > Company File Information > click the File Properties tab.
- For all on premise installations, please enter your Total Office Manager found under Help | About.
Software File Locations
This information is FYI for technical users. Most users will not need to know this.
- The software program files are installed here by default: C:\Program Files (x86)\Aptora\Contractor Compass
- The data files are installed here by default: C:\ProgramData\Aptora\CCompass
- The Excel dashboard files are located here by default: C:\ProgramData\Aptora\CCompass\Dashboards
- Your custom Excel dashboard files should be placed here: C:\ProgramData\Aptora\CCompass\CustomDb
Launching the Dashboards
- Click the View Dashboards button to see a list of available dashboards.
- Double-click the dashboard of your choice. Excel will open and the data will start loading into the Workbook.
- There may be a delay between your click and a progress bar opening, indicating that Excel is loading data. This delay can take several minutes, depending on how much data Excel is trying to load. If you accidently open two or more Excel files, you can just close them.
- You see a warning from Microsoft Windows or Excel that you are opening a potentially unsafe file. Please click Ok or Continue. We have no way of preventing this warning. See Tips below, for more information.
- Microsoft Outlook Conflict: It may not be possible to open MS Outlook when you are loading a dashboard. We are looking into this issue.
Understanding the Dashboard Information
We have added a large number of comments in the Excel files. Hover over the arrow as shown to see them. Check for a Tips or Preferences tab for other helpful information.
Fixing Wrong or Incomplete Information
Many users will notice problems related to inaccurate, incomplete, or missing data. It is essential that you are using Total Office Manager to its fullest extent otherwise you will not be able to get the most out of this system.
Unclassified means that no Department was selected on the Customer:Job. Unclassified is used in other places too, to indicate that some information was not selected.
Please read the following KB article and follow the steps very carefully. Preparing Total Office Manager for Contractor Compass™. Please see Related Topics below.
Customizing Your Dashboards
Start with a copy of an existing dashboard. Build your own files and place them in the custom file location. Your custom Excel dashboard files should be located here: C:\ProgramData\Aptora\CCompass\CustomDb
You must be comfortable with Microsoft Excel to make modifications or to build your own dashboards. You may also need to be familiar with VBA (Visual Basic for Applications). This is a type of source code and it is used extensively in our system. We have added robust comments in the source code to help developers.
Aptora Support agents will not be able to help you modify, alter, create, or fix custom dashboards or Excel files. They will not be able to help you understand or interpret the data presented in a dashboard. They cannot offer advice on what the various values should be other than direct you to existing documentation.
Aptora can refer you to trainers and or business consultants that you could hire to assist you.
Updating Contractor Compass
Click the Information icon or click the About button. You will be able to quickly see if there is an update available by looking for the Update Available label. Click the Check for Update to download and install it.
Caution: The update will overwrite the Excel files located in the Dashboards folder. If you modify a dashboard, you should make copies and use the copy for your own custom dashboard.
- The Excel files must be launched (opened) from the Contractor Compass Launcher to load Total Office Manager data. The Contractor Compass Launcher uses a secure user name and password that it passes to the database before it can make a connection. You can open the Excel dash board files with Excel, but it will not load any information.
- When you close Excel, you will be asked if you wish to save any changes, even when you did not really make any. The changes were related to the data being loaded. Saving allows you to open the Excel file directly from Excel and view the data that has been saved. If you made changes to formatting, you may wish to save those but be sure to make copies and use the copy for your own custom dashboard.
- You see a warning from Microsoft Windows or Excel that you are opening a potentially unsafe file. This is because we are running macros and VBA code. Please see the KB article called Change Macro Security Settings in Excel.
- If you see a red bar at the top of the Excel file, your computer security settings may be blocking the the file from running macros. This is a default setting when a file is downloaded from the internet. To unblock, you will need to edit the file properties and Unblock it. For more information on unblocking an Excel file, please review the article Macros from the internet will be blocked by default in Office.