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Archive through June 09, 2020Nathan Woods, CSI, C11 06-09-20  02:14 am
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Scott Piper
Senior Member
Username: spiper

Post Number: 33
Registered: 08-2014
Posted on Tuesday, February 09, 2021 - 11:13 am:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

Nathan: six months in: any updates, observations, etc. I have been using BSD for almost 20 years and I trying to decide if moving from Speclink-E to cloud is the right thing for my small firm.
Nathan Woods, CSI, CCCA, LEED AP
Senior Member
Username: nwoods

Post Number: 836
Registered: 08-2005

Posted on Thursday, February 11, 2021 - 07:08 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

My team really likes the cloud version. We have mulitple offices, and previously, our SpecLink server was in one location. With the Cloud service, performance is such that I never hear complaints about it being slow anymore. That alone is worth a lot to me. On top of that, the interface is a lot better and less scary for my fresh crop of project architects starting their journey into specifications.

I'd call it a win in all respects.
Ed Storer
Senior Member
Username: ed_storer

Post Number: 70
Registered: 05-2009
Posted on Friday, February 12, 2021 - 08:55 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

Retired specifier here:

I worked with the originators of SpecLink in the late 1980's developing SweetSpec that became Masterspec Q&A. It was a great system (once I had a macro to take the output to Word Perfect).

I tried using BSD Spec Link for a single section for Terrazzo and found it to be unusable and I never looked back.

Masterspec SpecBuilder desktop was pretty good for a "first cut" at a specification, but I found their whole concept of assembling the project manual absurd. I would draft a section and immediately export to Word. The Masterworks macro suite was wonderful.

Though I am still fond of Rob Dean and Susan McLendon and have great respect for them, I didn't like the way BSD SpecLink worked. I'm sure that it has been updated and improved, but I wish Masterspec Q&A had stayed alive. It was very comprehensive, but proved difficult to update. It was developed by 5 specifiers with different styles and experience.

I may be a Luddite, but I've never seen an advantage to using the clouds.
Ed Storer, CSI Member Emeritus
Phil Kabza
Senior Member
Username: phil_kabza

Post Number: 679
Registered: 12-2002

Posted on Monday, February 15, 2021 - 03:43 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

Whenever these conversations come up, I notice that we specifiers love to talk about software and formats. What usually doesn't come up is the adequacy of the master section text in these several systems. Ultimately, we write specifications for contractors, CMs, installers, estimators, and code officials. They don't care what software it came from, and care little about formats beyond finding the information they need.

We all like the model car we decided to buy, and we all like our chosen specification system. I've used MasterSpec in a word processing format for over 25 years. I'm fluent in it; very fast with it; and know where I tweak it and where I don't have to. I can whittle it down for simple projects without bothering with short form or small project specs.

I've also used MasterSpec in its SpecBuilder Cloud format for one client and consider it no faster or more convenient than the word processing version.

I have great confidence in MasterSpec's "wordy" language because I know how it got there through years on the Review Committee. The words aren't there for us folks - they are there for the users who are not specifiers.

That said, best of luck choosing a system in which to invest your time and wisdom. There are several. None are bad. Buildings get built.
SpecGuy Specifications Consultants
Brian Payne
Senior Member
Username: brian_payne

Post Number: 230
Registered: 01-2014
Posted on Monday, February 15, 2021 - 03:53 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

Just my two cents, but in my opinion MasterSpec is more likely to be read correctly by an experienced specifier than an actual user. I don't find it's style terribly helpful for those that are not as familiar with reading specs.
Gail Ann J. Goldstead, AIA, CSI, CCS, CDT, LEED AP, BD+C
Senior Member
Username: ggoldstead

Post Number: 29
Registered: 03-2015

Posted on Monday, February 15, 2021 - 10:09 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

Phil Kabza's response resonates with me. I recently joined a firm that uses BSD speclink cloud. Like Phil, I find that it is no faster than using Masterspec on MS word. In fact, the software icons are small and hard to read. Popups obscure the icons. Sometimes, the system will only let you type slowly. Enter a word and go take a coffee break. It's that bad. The process is rigid, clumsy and actually quite time-consuming, especially at certain times of the day, the internet can be slow and highly unreliable, especially when you are close to a deadline. I feel like the BSD advocates on this forum are actually BSD marketing moles who are not coming clean.
Gail Goldstead
Rich Gonser
Senior Member
Username: rich_gonser

Post Number: 157
Registered: 11-2008
Posted on Tuesday, February 16, 2021 - 10:37 am:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

Unfortunately, when these kind of discussions come up, it becomes a iOS vs Android kind of talk. Or, mine is better than yours...

Whatever "product" one is the most familiar with is the one that is "best." Both serve their purpose. Throwing stones of one's personal frustrations of transition does not serve a purpose.

Given how I am extremely familiar with spreadsheets, symbolic values, and databases I find that working with MasterSpec/Word like swimming in molasses, extremely slow. Coordination is a strictly manual process. I get a lot of MEP specs based on MasterSpec. Many of these engineers do not even know how to edit it correctly. Occasionally, I have to coach them. Many school districts have masters as edited versions of MasterSpec. Most are years, if not decades out of date. usually, they are so butchered that the MasterSpec macros would have no chance of working.

I did see an earlier comment about the wordiness of MasterSpec. On that issue I have to state that it is far too wordy. I have a saying, "the more words used to describe something, the less you know."

An example is on a recent amphitheater project for a university, the MasterSpec based book was close to 3,000 pages. A current much larger performing arts center using MEP MasterSpecs was less than 1,800 pages... Volume does not equal quality.

I will agree that MasterSpec does have more detailed specialized content. But even with all their resources, they can't cover everything or keep up with company buyouts and product changes. BSD is updated daily, still not perfect. they can't fix what they don't know about.

Even on this great forum, some of us know more about a particular issue than others. I am always amazed at what I don't know by referring to this forum. So there is not one issue that fits all.
John Bunzick
Senior Member
Username: bunzick

Post Number: 1835
Registered: 03-2002
Posted on Tuesday, February 16, 2021 - 11:14 am:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

I suspect that the wordiness concern regarding MasterSpec is either 1) outdated, as it used to be much, much wordier 20 years ago; or 2) based on under-prepared project specs, where too much was left in. (Disclosure: I wrote about 30 to 40 sections in the MasterSpec architectural library). A lot of effort in creating a MasterSpec section goes into saying a lot with the fewest words possible. However, a lot of architectural products are quite complex, and simply cannot be specified without being comprehensive, perhaps seemingly wordy.

As to cloud systems: From the above comments, it sounds like these have been sold as being more efficient to the specifier (I haven't used them). However, I think that the real power of cloud-based systems probably hasn't been realized yet. These systems are databases, not simply documents. As they are refined, their power will increase. Think of Revit. No one claims (anymore) that the architect will "draw" faster - their power is in all the other things that modeling can accomplish.

I think specs are heading towards having a relational connection to the building model, itself really a database. Information traditionally trapped in a separate text document will be structured, and contained within the model. No reason this cannot include installation or administrative stuff, too, by the way. This simply cannot happen if specs are stuck in word processors.
Brian Payne
Senior Member
Username: brian_payne

Post Number: 231
Registered: 01-2014
Posted on Tuesday, February 16, 2021 - 11:24 am:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

Wordiness Example of current versions:

Company A:
A. Ceramic Mosaic Tile: ANSI A137.1, standard grade.

Company B:
A. ANSI Ceramic Tile Standard: Provide tile that complies with ANSI A137.1 for types, compositions, and other characteristics indicated.
1. Provide tile complying with Standard grade requirements unless otherwise indicated.
Nathan Woods, CSI, CCCA, LEED AP
Senior Member
Username: nwoods

Post Number: 837
Registered: 08-2005

Posted on Tuesday, February 16, 2021 - 01:55 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

Reading Gail's response, my brain leaped to that scene in Mel Brook's "Robin Hood" movie:

I have a Mole?

No mole here, just a user. My intent in this thread was not to solve the weighty and mighty latent issues related to WHO is allowed to write specs and the quality of the content.
Brian Payne
Senior Member
Username: brian_payne

Post Number: 232
Registered: 01-2014
Posted on Tuesday, February 16, 2021 - 02:11 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

:-) My brain leapt to..."If I'm a mole then why am I paying so much for the software, shouldn't they be paying me?"
Dewayne Dean
Senior Member
Username: ddean

Post Number: 222
Registered: 02-2016

Posted on Tuesday, February 16, 2021 - 03:39 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

We use SpecLink Cloud and are happy with it. All of our consultants log into our projects and create/edit their sections right in our project.
Then all sections have the same font, same layout, same header and footer. Kind of nice actually.
ken hercenberg
Senior Member
Username: khercenberg

Post Number: 1342
Registered: 12-2006

Posted on Tuesday, February 16, 2021 - 04:43 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

I've used MasterSpec for what seems to be countless years. My understanding is that is was originally developed for speculative office buildings as that was driving the market back then and continued to grow, trying to be everything for everyone as best they could. Business sense dictated that they include as much information as possible in as few Sections as possible, resulting in masters that can be very confusing if you don't know the thought process behind their creation. After using them a couple of times it's pretty easy to find the salient information and delete the rest. I've always told people that if you're not sure you need it, delete it. You'll make fewer mistakes.

As to BSD, until recently the database was great but the technical content, well, not so much. Again, it was created to be additive so knowing your topic was critical unless you were comfortable issuing specs with huge holes in it. MasterSpec was created to be used by mostly deleting extraneous information and adding the missing bits and pieces.

If you like one, use it. Don't complain about it. Fix it. Both organizations are receptive to your input. They'll listen if you offer useful content. Just like the rest of us.
Stephen Wilson
Senior Member
Username: swilson

Post Number: 6
Registered: 02-2019
Posted on Wednesday, February 17, 2021 - 11:18 am:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

BSD SpecLink user here; I solemnly swear I am not a mole.

I started writing specs on BSD SpecLink-E, so I'm used to the additive, database-based spec writing style. I also like how the red/yellow/green section linking makes it a lot easier to avoid including mutually exclusive spec language.

When I moved to my current firm, we were using MasterSpec / Avitru SpecBuilder Cloud. I was able to work with it, but I really disliked it over SpecLink, mainly due to the slowness of editing and the excessive wordiness of the specs. (See Brian's post above for example.) I got our office a SpecLink Cloud trial and convinced other spec writers on our team to give it a try. Everyone was fine with the switch. (Note however everyone else was an architect or LA who does some specs, not full-time spec writers.)

It seems like there are (2) issues here in the conversation:
1) SpecLink vs. MasterSpec library / editing style
2) Cloud based vs. desktop based editing

I prefer BSD for the following reasons.:

Library and Editing Style:
- Additive, rather than subtractive language leaves fewer opportunities for conflicting specs
- Simpler language is less wordy
- Database links save time when editing content
- Easy to switch from Outline to Full Spec without losing content or having to rewrite a section

Cloud-Based Benefits:
- Never have to be connected to a network or VPN to edit specs
- No need to download database updates; they are always there in the cloud when a section is updated
- It's easy to export .doc or .pdfs for issue and record files
- GUI is pretty good compared to the old SpecLink platform
- Importing sections from .docs is relatively easy
- We can have consultants log in and collaborate on the same spec (a new feature which I've not used but am eager to try)

Also, for what it's worth, BSD has very good technical support and customer service.

I think the best asset Deltek MasterSpec has over BSD is the "evaluations" section. There is a lot more supporting text and info if you need to reference it. There's some of that in SpecLink but it just isn't as developed.

Just my two cents!
J. Peter Jordan
Senior Member
Username: jpjordan

Post Number: 1146
Registered: 05-2004
Posted on Wednesday, February 17, 2021 - 04:02 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

I have been looking at SpecLink for more than 25 years. Because of its origins, the manufacturers/products included tended to be limited and sometimes did not include the primary players in the industry.

Technical content varied, but tended to be weak; and I am not talking simply about writing style.

Both of these issues are being addressed by BSD, but they have a long way to go in my view.

BSD says that their database can be customized for a particular office, I find that you really want to take advantage of all of SpecLink's features, this process can be tedious.

I really, really, *really* like BSD's database approach and the use interface, but because of that, formatting leaves something to be desired if your are picky about that sort of thing.

The licensing cost is, for me, daunting; when you throw in the cost to do the customization, it is way too much for me. For larger scale operations, this may not be a problem.
J. Peter Jordan, FCSI, AIA, CCS, LEED AP, SCIP
E.A. (Unregistered Guest)
Unregistered guest
Posted on Wednesday, February 17, 2021 - 04:05 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

As a counterpoint to all the BSD love being spread around, here are some reasons why I use MasterSpec (not a paid advertisement, and I'm definitely not their biggest advocate, just someone who uses it regularly and has decided I like it better than the alternatives):

Library and Editing Style:
- Subtractive rather than additive. I work directly with project team members who most of the time don't know what they don't know. Seeing something in a draft of the section can help them understand they might be missing something they should research. In an additive process, they'd never know they might be missing something unless I add it to the draft first, thus defeating the additive process.
- Consistent language. I've seen many versions of manufacturer's specifications, and other guide specifications. I've found MasterSpec to have the most consistent language from one section to another. It may be wordy, but at least it's consistent. It's also not perfect, but they are receptive to feedback.
- Database editing with e-SPECS is so much more efficient than I've experienced with BSD Speclink. This is magnified when you understand I'm maintaining a set of office masters to be used in the software rather than out-of-the-box MasterSpec content (or BSD if I was using their software). e-SPECS just works with paragraph styles which I've already got in my masters (i.e. very little effort on my part to get it to work in the software from Word document). In BSD I have to put in all the links and things to make it quicker to edit. I haven't seen that the return on investment of time is really there for BSD when I compare it to importing and editing a new master in e-SPECS.
- Orphaned paragraphs aren't really a thing in e-SPECS. It's possible to have them, yes, but I can probably count the number I've seen in the past 5 years on one hand that were an accident. I'm constantly seeing orphaned paragraphs that are getting adopted by other parent paragraphs in a consultant's sections they are producing with BSD. Some to the extent that they cause significant issues with the content of the specification. I suspect this is based on the additive editing process and links not quite being all sorted in BSD. So while it is fixable, it's another investment of time that I don't have to really worry about with e-SPECS.
- Updates are released quarterly. I maintain a set of office masters based on MasterSpec sections that have been added to and deleted from over time. I rarely add a section straight out of MasterSpec to projects anymore. The same would be true if I was using BSD's sections. Releasing updates once per quarter isn't too much to handle when I can take half a day or less and go through the updated sections, see what changed, and update my office masters as needed. I'd have no way of allotting sufficient time to manage BSD updates to reflect them in my office masters on the fly.
- I've reviewed a fair number of a third-party specifiers sections they've written for projects using BSD content. In the hands of a knowledgeable specifier, you can get really good sections. In the hands of someone who doesn't know as much, there is a lot that gets left out. I suspect some if this goes back to the comment Stephen Wilson made about MasterSpec's "evaluations" and the supporting information. BSD is lagging here and it doesn't help when you have specifiers that only know how to work the software, not the content in the software.
- Notes to specifiers. This is upfront and in your face in MasterSpec. In BSD you have to click on things to find it and usually it's pretty lacking so after a while you simply stop looking for it. This goes back to the less than knowledgeable specifier problem.
- I don't have to use e-SPECS or Speclink or even the Word plugin MasterWorks if I don't want to. MasterSpec sections are easily edited straight from the downloaded content. No other software required. Yes, you lose some function, but that's a tradeoff some people are ok with.

Re: wordiness of MasterSpec language:
- It may be wordier, but in my opinion, it is easier to decipher the meaning of things based on context. The example posted above for tile is a great example. If I'm a young aspiring architect trying to understand the tiling section and I have never heard of ANSI A137.1, I have no idea what it even refers to in the Company A example, except for standard grade (whatever that may mean). With the Company B example, I at least gather it refers to tile type, compositions, and other characteristics. That little bit of context might mean I can decide whether to look it up and review the standard or not. If I have to look up every standard just to get some context, that's a lot of wasted time. So while it's not the most concise, it does convey important meaning to some readers.
- I also start my office master sections from the MasterSpec short form versions. The language tends to be toned down a bit there. If I need more, I go looking for it in the full length version. This alone can usually cut a page or more from most sections (sometimes significantly more). I'm also able to edit down some of the more egregious aspects of the MasterSpec language (about half a page or more per section). That adds up in a Project Manual.

There are probably some other things I could add, as well as plenty of criticisms for MasterSpec, but this is what I was able to put in writing relatively quickly (apologies for the length, if I had more time it would be shorter...) while waiting for some information from a project team.

Bottom line, I agree with Phil's comment that the final reader of the specification probably cares little how it was made. I think both platforms can produce good content ... I've found I prefer MasterSpec in the hands of a knowledgeable professional over the years.
Sheldon Wolfe
Senior Member
Username: sheldon_wolfe

Post Number: 1050
Registered: 01-2003

Posted on Thursday, February 18, 2021 - 02:27 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

Brian, your comparison of Company A and Company B illustrates why I preferred SpecText to MasterSpec. SpecLink, which was originally based on SpecText, evolved to lose much of that efficiency.

Stephen, MasterSpec's evaluations were the reason I continued a subscription for many years, even though I didn't use it for specifications.
John Bunzick
Senior Member
Username: bunzick

Post Number: 1837
Registered: 03-2002
Posted on Wednesday, February 24, 2021 - 04:51 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

The example of MasterSpec wording for tile may or may not be a good example of being too wordy. I don't have a copy of that standard at hand, but it may be that the spec is intentionally limiting the parts of the ANSI standard to the things listed in the spec language. Many standards have stuff you DON'T want, and that sometimes means more wordiness to narrow the focus. I don't know if that's the case in this example, but the text does appear wordier than needed.

One note about the short language versions of MasterSpec: these are created by deleting paragraphs for particular Part 1 and Part 3 requirements, and also deleting product types that are less common. For products remaining, some paragraphs are occasionally deleted, but most of the text for the remaining paragraphs is not shortened.
Loretta Sheridan
New member
Username: leshrdn

Post Number: 1
Registered: 11-2021
Posted on Tuesday, December 21, 2021 - 02:42 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

I used to use MasterSpec with VisiSpecs. I currently use SpecLink Cloud. Here is my two cents (or three with inflation) on the three products:

VisiSpecs does not provide content. It works with MasterSpec and Word to edit. It made it soooooooo much easer to assemble project manuals. The company is REALLY responsive to questions, problems, suggestions, etc. The add-on makes it very easy to create templates (if one client likes Arial vs. Times New Roman, for example.) I also really like the way it could create custom reports. And it also helps speed up the editing process. It is cloud-based (you upload your files to a "project" on the cloud) so it does seem to get slow when the internet gets busy, sometime in the afternoon. It helps make MasterSpec / MasterWorks MUCH more user friendly in a lot of aspects.

VisiSpecs also has a Revit plug in. At first, I was overly concerned with linking spec sections to Revit families within the model, but then I took a step back and looked at for what it really is: A QA/QC tool. You don't have to actually link everything; you just have to make sure that everything is covered in the specs. The linking tool also helps with conversations with the design team, I found.

SpecLink is great for the brevity of language. (Someone pointed that out earlier.) I think it is probably great for offices that don't have a dedicated spec writer as the "linking" feature can help people be consistent within a spec section: make sure they include what should be included, and delete what should be deleted. However, I find it is missing certain references to standards that are in the out-of-the-box MasterSpec, which I find concerning. Had I not worked with MasterSpec for a certain number of years, I might not be aware of the missing standards. I also am not a fan of the organization of the section: I prefer Performance Requirements as its own article -- I think it makes it easier to find when evaluating submittals. I also wish that you could hide articles within a section -- sometimes it gets to tedious to scroll through miles of something you are NOT going to include. I also find I miss the brackets -- while the bracket report in MasterSpec and in VisiSpecs is not the best, at least I can easily find where I failed to make a selection. With SpecLink, the selections default to the more common, and I worry I might miss something that I really should ask the design team, or one of the consultants about. (More on this later.) I have not yet had the change to use the Revit linking tool in SpecLink.

MasterSpec / MasterWorks is a bit clunky to work with and a bit wordy. However, it has been around for a long time, and the information has been vetted pretty well. The Supporting Documents feature is great with some very useful information. This is HUGELY batter than the "Notes" that SpecLink provides.

(I have not used the cloud version that Deltek /Avitru has developed, so I don't know how that affects the "clunkiness.")

One of the things about MasterSpec that I like is that if I overlook a selection, and the contractor gets a spec with brackets still in there, they usually ask about it. (Per A201, "the Contractor shall make known any errors, inconstancies, or omissions discovered or made known to the Contractor...") If I fail to "make a selection" in SpecLink, it will just show up as the default text. Which may generate an RFI if the default is [____], but if it is the wrong selection, UGH! Related to that: If I need to send a section to a consultant for review/comment, the selections/options are all visible. I cannot figure out how to do what with SpecLink. (You can export an edited spec section as a Word doc or you can export a full text section as a PDF, but from what I can tell, the selections/option are only included as the default text.

I also prefer the organizational structure of MasterSpec. (Though maybe just because that is what I am accustomed to.) I like the way Action Submittals and Informational Submittals are separated into two different articles. (It's in a single article in SpecLink.) I like the way performance requirements are in a single article. (And not repeated.)
Nathan Woods, CSI, CCCA, LEED AP
Senior Member
Username: nwoods

Post Number: 849
Registered: 08-2005

Posted on Tuesday, December 21, 2021 - 03:16 pm:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

Thank you for posting your thoughts Loretta. Just curious, are you an independent, or embedded into a larger firm?

While I am at it, please allow me to extend my thanks to all who have contributed to this thread. It's been very informative.
Loretta Sheridan
Junior Member
Username: leshrdn

Post Number: 2
Registered: 11-2021
Posted on Wednesday, December 22, 2021 - 10:44 am:   Edit PostDelete PostPrint Post

You're welcome, Nathan!

I work for a firm. I used to work for one firm, and I just recently moved, and started at a new firm.

I do not work for VisiSpec (Chalkline) but I am a HUGE fan of it. I cannot stress how much time it shaved off just the process of assembling project manuals! Where I used to work, before we started subscribing to VisiSpecs, we needed to receive the consultants spec section at least one day, though preferably two days prior to the drop-dead deadline for the project manual. I also love the way it made navigating through a section easy and fast. And they have this status flag thing which is great for "marking" sections. You can use the flags the way you want -- I used red for sections that needed major work, green for "good to go!", blue for PDF files in the project, etc.

One thing I forgot to mention about MasterSpec that I prefer over SpecLink Cloud is the manufacturer's listings. I know that the macro on MasterSpec kind of screws with VisiSpecs a LOT, and our IT people hated it (apparently, it has some security issues...) But I found it helpful. (I am not sure f the cloud based version has the same macro issues.)

And something I forgot to mention about SpecLink Cloud that I really like is the way sections are updated. It is easy, fast, and from what I can tell, doesn't screw with your office edits. I am not sure how the cloud version of MasterSpec works in that regard; it may work just as well.

I didn't talk about SpecsIntact, but basically that one is not an "option." You only use it for the projects for which it is REQUIRED because you HAVE TO. Though I have to say that the most recent release greatly improved things in it. And working in SpecsIntact made it a little easier for me to relate to the tags in SpecLink.

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