Tarasoft TITAN 2002

 Software Review by Mike Dooley, Systems Administrator,
North San Diego County Association of REALTORS
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Disclaimer:  The following editorial reflects the opinion and experience of the author, and does not constitute a mandate or recommendation of any specific product or manufacturer by NSDCAR.

 

I was recently afforded the opportunity to review a new product in the MLS database management arena, called “Titan 2002”, by Tarasoft Corporation. 

This company, located in British Columbia, Canada, has burst on the local scene in a big way, and I was told that the Titan 2002 product was reviewed favorably by our MLS company, Sandicor. 

Mr. Mark McKay, who is Tarasoft’s resident sales manager in San Diego, was kind enough to send along to me an evaluation copy of this software, and my impressions upon using the product are as follows: 

First of all, the word that instantly came to mind when installing and preparing to use TITAN 2002 was “polish”.  This package, while constantly being updated and improved (as changes to our local MarketLinx Tempo MLS system take place), has the look and feel of expensive, shrink-wrapped software of the Microsoft genre.  Menus and window dialogues are predictable, intuitive, and follow the standards employed throughout the Microsoft family of products.  No ugly surprises, no “aftermarket”, unsightly color schemes; buttons and controls work predictably, and with surprising speed.  Of particular note was the fact that when an error did occur, (my fault, not the software’s), the error message which displayed not only identified the problem, but explained it concisely and recommended the best solution.  This, in my opinion, is the way software error messages ought to be handled.  Kudos to the Tarasoft programming team! 

After quickly installing the software, I proceeded to immediately download a large selection of listings from the MLS, (all active listings in the two zip codes comprising the City of Vista), and just to really tax the application, I chose to download all the associated pictures, as well.  As I kicked off this process, I leaned back in my chair, quite prepared to observe a long, slow process fraught with cryptic error messages and unexplained departures from the expected.  I was delightfully surprised, to the contrary!   This little program absolutely whizzed through the download process, and then initiated the picture download as a separate process, allowing me to begin working with my selected listings immediately, even though the pictures were not yet available.   This, folks, is a nice feature for those with dial-up Internet access, since the download of pictures can take quite awhile; this feature shows excellent thinking on the part of the programmers who put TITAN together, as it allows the busy realtor the opportunity to move on to other tasks, while the lengthy photo download process occurs.  All too often I see software that’s written more with the programmer in mind than the end-user… here was a refreshing departure. 

TITAN 2002’s screen is a thoughtfully-arranged grouping of essential elements for working with the listings database, including a full display of the currently-selected property (including picture), a scrolling display of all the downloaded listings in tabular format, a status bar which shows the essential information on the current database, (total records, active vs. expired, sold, and “other”), with a legend identifying the symbols used to indicate the status of listings in the table, (new, updated, unchanged, etc.).  Like most Microsoft Windows-compatible software, the user is provided with a full set of text menus, a full set of icon-based or graphical menus, and numerous “hot-key” indicators to allow touch typists to invoke functions without reaching for the mouse. 

The real strength of this program is revealed in the menu choices offered for many of the repetitive tasks within the software… it can all be automated, so that an agent’s selected database of listings can be instantly refreshed with new information from the MLS system’s servers on a scheduled basis, allowing the realtor to start their day with a fresh batch of listings, instantly observe those which have changed since the last download, and never a need to stop and reload data during more productive tasks.

Here’s a screen-shot of Tarasoft TITAN 2002’s interface:

 

 

Another noteworthy set of features, not yet available here in San Diego, but slated for inclusion when the Tempo MLS system becomes linked to property tax records, is the contact management database, which is already equipped with export functions to transfer records into ACT!, Agent 2000, GoldMine, Maximizer, Microsoft Office, Online Agent, Top Producer and Word Perfect.  This feature set again points to an amazing degree of forethought and design quality in the Tarasoft product, in this reviewer’s opinion.  I should point out, at this juncture, that the delay in availability of these features is not due to any incompatibility in the software, but to the fact that Internet display of tax records, in compliance with the RETS standards for such data, is still a bit behind the curve, but the MarketLinx Tempo system will accommodate these functions as soon as possible. 

Incidentally, when I noted the absence of contact management menu items in my copy of the program, I determined to contact the Tarasoft support staff.  While tempted to immediately take the “high road”, and call my contact in the Tarasoft sales force, I instead opted to call the support number, as though I were an end-user in trouble.  When my call was politely answered, I stated that I was a Titan 2002 user with a problem, and could I please talk to a support person?  Well, I was floored when the young lady who answered the phone said, “What can I help you with, today?”  They don’t use answering machines; they don’t shuffle you to voice mail, unless all incoming lines are occupied.  When I asked about their response-time targets, she said that they prefer to start each day with a “clean board”, which means they attempt to address all of the day’s issues by end of business.   Refreshing, to say the least. 

The software features links to MapQuest, Microsoft Streets and Trips, and Microsoft MapPoint, so mapping is a breeze.  A unique, “Slideshow” button allows timed, repetitive display of listings on your screen, so that you can set up a recurring presentation of selected listings to play, for instance, on an office computer that’s otherwise idle.  Good marketing stuff to catch the wandering eye. 

The listings display may be ordered (sorted) by 16 different criteria, and displayed in either ascending or descending order.  This feature, coupled with a “filter” feature that allows listings to be eliminated according to a predefined set of criteria, creates an excellent “drill-down” capability to isolate and identify subsets of listings with just a couple of mouse clicks.  It’s very easy, very intuitive, and not burdened with techno-lingo to baffle the uninitiated.  My only fault with these features is that I’d like to see more “nested” sort criteria, so that one could sort within a sort, to achieve a more targeted set of records.  I spoke with Tarasoft’s representative about this, and was promised consideration in future releases. 

An instant email interface allows rapid distribution of your selected listings to your prospects, and allows a choice of email formats for the best possible viewing on the receiving end.  Choose HTML (Hypertext Markup Language, the programming language of Internet web pages), or Adobe’s Acrobat “pdf” format for your mailed listings, and you’re guaranteed a presentable listing format, not the unformatted, text-based listing format of yesteryear.  Options are afforded to include the “Listing Remarks”, a clipped listing, a full listing, and a “Hide Property Address” option, as well as an appended message box to contain your personal message with each listing sent.  The “clipped listing” feature allows a point-and-shoot selection of just those lines of listing text you wish to include from the MLS information.  Very handy for controlling the degree of information you wish to impart, depending on the target audience. 

The “Preferences” page within the application allows configuration of a plethora of program functions and setup options, including up to four dialing configurations, internet connection choices, CMA fonts, header and colors, and even a choice of database directories, so that you could maintain different data sets, for instance, for different agents or users on the same machine. 

Thoughtful additions to the package include a conversion calculator that converts to over 40 different units of measure, a word processor (called Tarasoft Write 2002) which allows merging of contact and listing database fields into documents, database utilities to compact your databases and regain space from deleted records, or repair a corrupted database, and an email wizard to quickly mail listings to your prospects. 

In summation, I found Tarasoft’s TITAN 2002 package to be a well-designed, easy to use, and impressively capable tool kit for the prospecting agent.  If you’re comfortable with the familiar appearance and feel of Microsoft’s Windows user interface, you’ll find this a seamlessly integrated product that will let you get up and running with a minimum of mystery and re-training.  Look for this software soon, in your North San Diego County Association’s REALTOR® store.

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