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What's the one tool you can't live without when doing your day-to-day job?

  • 1.  What's the one tool you can't live without when doing your day-to-day job?

    Posted 10-28-2021 08:02 AM
    Apart from webmail (Outlook) and communication tools (MS Teams, Zoom, Slack), what is the one tool that you desperately need to do your job? Or maybe the one tool that makes you known as a "guru" in your firm?
    For me, I can't do my modeling work properly without R programming software. I use it all the time for many automation tasks: data cleanup, preprocessing model inputs, result visualization, making GIS maps, building interactive dashboard, etc. Using R for my day-to-day work has been paying dividends as it has saved us and clients so much time and money.

    ------------------------------
    Tung Nguyen, PhD, Water Resources Modeler
    Jacobs
    Sacramento, CA
    ------------------------------


  • 2.  RE: What's the one tool you can't live without when doing your day-to-day job?

    Posted 10-31-2021 09:25 AM

    Dear Tung, it is a very interesting topic. I imagine that the answer sometimes depends on a specific area. In my case:

    Programming: Matlab (but I noticed that several friends are encouraging me to learn Python, it is free. Several applications are being developed in this language).

    Modelling (structural): SAP2000, ETABS.

    Notes: Notepad++ (it includes options to visualize certain symbols in several programming languages, but it is a Notepad), Evernote

    References: Zotero (it is free until 200 Mb of storage. I have a subscription, and I save a lot of time and money, citing).

    Prowritingaid and Grammarly: for non-native English speakers, those are great tools.

    PDF X-Change Editor: Great tool to visualize, edit and comment PDF's

    ilovepdf: a free tool on the internet to handle PDF's (i.e. divide pages).

    Regards,
    AG



    ------------------------------
    Andres Guzman Ing., M.ASCE
    Associate Professor
    UNIVERSIDAD DEL NORTE
    Barranquilla
    ------------------------------



  • 3.  RE: What's the one tool you can't live without when doing your day-to-day job?

    Posted 11-08-2021 07:21 AM
    Thanks for sharing Andres!
    I also use several programs that you list (Notepad++, Zotero, PDF X-Change). How do you like Prowritingaid and Grammarly? I am considering paying for it too

    ------------------------------
    Tung Nguyen, PhD, Water Resources Modeler
    Jacobs
    Sacramento, CA
    ------------------------------



  • 4.  RE: What's the one tool you can't live without when doing your day-to-day job?

    Posted 11-08-2021 08:57 PM
    Dear  Tung, I use both in different ways. Grammarly is a great tool to polish the message and assess the "emotion" expressed in each communication. On the other hand, ProWritingAid is a more professional tool but too comprehensive and sometimes could be overwhelming. It is important to configure the latter, so it checks just what you want. Nevertheless, both are great tools worthy of paying.
    Regards,
    AG

    ------------------------------
    Andres Guzman Ing., M.ASCE
    Associate Professor
    UNIVERSIDAD DEL NORTE
    Barranquilla
    ------------------------------



  • 5.  RE: What's the one tool you can't live without when doing your day-to-day job?

    Posted 12-23-2021 09:42 AM
    Hi Andres,

    Thanks for sharing! That's a very nice list but for the editing and doing mark ups on PDF's I still prefer using Bluebeam over PDF X-change. I was once a PDF X-change user and someone introduced me the power of Bluebeam! :) And for the notes, I use OneNote instead of notepad. Hope you can explore those softwares/apps! :)

    Regards,
    Marvin

    ------------------------------
    Marvin Mangabat M.ASCE
    Structural Engineer
    San Juan City
    ------------------------------



  • 6.  RE: What's the one tool you can't live without when doing your day-to-day job?

    Posted 12-23-2021 10:50 AM
    Dear Marvin, thank you for your recommendations!

    I suggest PDF X-change because several cool tools are still available for the free version (like typewriting machine, to insert text on PDF's, for free, without watermarks). Notepad++ is very useful for deleting any formatting options of text when copying and pasting information. Also, it is very suitable for coding. I use Evernote to keep my project notes and Google tasks for my daily tasks. BTW, I used OneNote for remote classes and share notes with my students.

    Regards,

    AG

    ------------------------------
    Andres Guzman Ing., M.ASCE
    Associate Professor
    UNIVERSIDAD DEL NORTE
    Barranquilla
    ------------------------------



  • 7.  RE: What's the one tool you can't live without when doing your day-to-day job?

    Posted 11-01-2021 09:47 AM
    Filemaker Pro. A data base program that helps my 70 year old mind remember contacts, invoices (I am self employed), and equipment lists.  I have used it for the past 25 years and would be lost without it. It is actually a combination of WORD, EXCEL and Photo. (It can do calculations, spell check and carry photos)

    A relatively inexpensive program that works on Mac and PC. I am up to almost 4000 entries in my Contacts data base. Names, phone numbers, pictures, dates, addresses, photos.

    Example. I worked EPCM on a mineral processing plant in Southern Bolivia. We had 500 pieces of equipment on the list. Pumps, crushers, conveyors, float cells, ball mills, tanks, thickeners, filters. With FilemakerPro I had a list of all that had drop down lists.   I had the equipment name, number, purchase order number, who we bought it from, what it costs, where it was located, status (Ordered, shipped, in transit, stored on site, installed). One can input pdf files so maintenance books can be easily retrieved. Data sorting is impressive.
    Monthly reports can list how many pieces have been installed ie 299/500 or $25 million/$75 million.​ And it can be set up so that it is in a different language with a click. ie Spanish in this case.

    I am sure that other major Engineering companies have their own software that does similar- but I am self employed and a one man band and can't afford a massive system.

    BTW the equipment list had a large SAG mill and a ball mill. We ordered 3 drives so we had a backup. They came from Australia and the third one fell off the truck during transport 5 km from site. It had to be shipped to Chile for repair. Then the Chilean Government employees all went on strike and getting it back across the border after repair became a challenge.

    I am a Mining/Civil Engineer and I have no idea what R programming software is or does.

    Richard G. LaPrairie PE
    LMI Engineering
    Reno Nevada

    ------------------------------
    Richard LaPrairie P.E., M.ASCE
    LMI Engineering L.L.C.
    Reno NV
    ------------------------------



  • 8.  RE: What's the one tool you can't live without when doing your day-to-day job?

    Posted 11-08-2021 07:21 AM
    I've never heard about Filemaker Pro and had no idea that there is a versatile program like that exists. Is it expensive?
    And sorry to hear about your unwanted experience with repairing equipment. I hope it didn't cost you too much in the end due to delayed repair.
    Cheers

    ------------------------------
    Tung Nguyen, PhD, Water Resources Modeler
    Jacobs
    Sacramento, CA
    ------------------------------



  • 9.  RE: What's the one tool you can't live without when doing your day-to-day job?

    Posted 11-29-2021 03:02 PM
    I must agree 100% that a database solution like yours (Mr. LaPrairie) is invaluable.  Even for specific technical facts.  Over the years I've built a couple of databases where I store all sorts of facts and figures for the various assets I manage (dams, stream gages, power plants) and it's available to other engineers at my company.  Time series data go in there too.  It's better than a printed reference handbook in many ways (though we have one of those too, it is handy to flip through bookmarked pages and faster than mousing around pointing and clicking just to find one key value).

    My most useful tool is my HP 42S calculator.  Well, I have the calculator but haven't replaced the batteries in years.  I use an HP 42S simulator on my phone called Free42.  I simply don't understand how anyone could use a non-RPN calculator with complicated formulas, or, for repeating a calculation several times.  And don't get me started on Excel, a business and financial tool, being used by engineers! Bah.  Water flow weir calculations (like depth flowing over a V notch weir converted to gallons-per-minute) I have programmed, ready for checking the computer's output. I trust my calculator and can do the calculation in reverse as a double-check before hitting "send" on that email with my name at the bottom.  I even use it to do meter to foot conversions (I sometimes forget, is it 3.28 or 3.048?)

    ------------------------------
    Dudley McFadden P.E., D.WRE, M.ASCE
    Principal Civil Engineer
    Roseville CA
    ------------------------------



  • 10.  RE: What's the one tool you can't live without when doing your day-to-day job?

    Posted 12-20-2021 09:17 AM
    RPN --- Yes.

    ------------------------------
    Michael Mills P.E., S.E., M.ASCE
    Structural Engineer
    Tulsa OK
    ------------------------------



  • 11.  RE: What's the one tool you can't live without when doing your day-to-day job?

    Posted 11-29-2021 03:00 PM
    Mr. Nguyen I am glad to hear of the benefits of R for your work.  For my part I've been using Python for those tasks for 20+ years so that's the road I'm on.  R seems pretty capable too.  I have seen engineers actually cutting/pasting tens of thousands of rows of time series from one Excel file into another, then into another, then into ArcGIS, next AutoCAD, then working all morning trying to plot it, day after day.  How do they have time to analyze data and check their work when so much time is spent dealing with CSV files? How can engineers be assured that nothing changed between different analyses if you have no way to compare ("diff") input files? Who knows how many blunder errors creep in to those hidden cell formulas!  Especially with geotechnical and water resource data, there are so many datasets with so many conflicting values which require judgment and analysis to discern.

    ------------------------------
    Dudley McFadden P.E., D.WRE, M.ASCE
    Principal Civil Engineer
    Roseville CA
    ------------------------------



  • 12.  RE: What's the one tool you can't live without when doing your day-to-day job?

    Posted 12-12-2021 09:41 AM
    Thank you! I completely agree with you here. Using scripting tools not only speed things up but also prevent human errors.

    ------------------------------
    Tung Nguyen, PhD, Water Resources Modeler
    Jacobs
    Sacramento, CA
    ------------------------------



  • 13.  RE: What's the one tool you can't live without when doing your day-to-day job?

    Posted 12-09-2021 07:47 PM
    Dear Tung,

    I can't do anything without writing it down on paper first. I spent a lot of pencils and notebooks. Handwriting gives me a clear sense of what I have to do and what I expect to accomplish, even programming. That's my primary tool.

    I used to program in Visual Basic 6.0, but  I couldn't successfully pass to VB.NET. It is still surprising how many applications are still available in VB 6.0.

    In the last couple of years, I migrated to VBA in Excel. That is suitable for routine tasks and keeps the VB6 syntax, so the learning curve is not wasted after all these years.

    Nowadays, I use MATLAB (or the French language Scilab) to do the "heavy lifting."

    And yes, I also check, from time to time, the results of the spreadsheet with my handheld calculator.

    ------------------------------
    Luis Vasquez-Varela Aff.M.ASCE
    Civil Engineer
    Manizales
    ------------------------------



  • 14.  RE: What's the one tool you can't live without when doing your day-to-day job?

    Posted 12-10-2021 04:19 PM
    For me (structural), it's plain old Microsoft Excel. We use all kinds of fancy modeling software and design aids, but pound-for-pound, I do most of my calculations in Excel. I have spreadsheets premade for all kinds of repetitive calcs, and I'm at the point now where I trust my own spreadsheets over "black box" software, where I can see the equations and track back the individual calculations, as opposed to plugging a bunch of info into a program and having it spit out an answer.

    I once found a major discrepancy between the results of my own spreadsheet for calculating composite steel beams and the results given in a very well known and widely used structural calculation software suite. I worked for hours trying to figure out what MY error was, and finally decided to come at the problem a different way and investigate what errors the software designers might have made to yield their results, and in short, I found it. I brought it to their attention, and they agreed and fixed the program. Thankfully, their error would always produce  conservative results. If not, it would have been a much bigger deal. Their results were off by up to 40%, so not a minor thing.

    Excel just takes pen-and-paper calcs and lets you do them quickly, repeatedly, and once properly debugged, with less opportunity for calculation error (hitting the wrong button on you calculator, putting a parenthesis in the wrong place, etc.) If all I had was Excel, I think I could probably do everything I do with fancier software, such as RAM structural system and STAAD, just not as fast and maybe with about a 20% margin of error.

    ------------------------------
    Gregory Latreille P.E., M.ASCE
    Engineer
    Anchorage AK
    ------------------------------



  • 15.  RE: What's the one tool you can't live without when doing your day-to-day job?

    Posted 12-12-2021 09:41 AM
    Hi Luis. I used to run a lot of Matlab scripts for optimization too. I couldn't afford Matlab so I used Octave (free) which was just as good as Matlab for what I tried to accomplish.
    As far as QAQC goes, we usually have another team members doing the same process in Excel to make sure that the results are similar between manual and automatic calculations.

    ------------------------------
    Tung Nguyen, PhD, Water Resources Modeler
    Jacobs
    Sacramento, CA
    ------------------------------



  • 16.  RE: What's the one tool you can't live without when doing your day-to-day job?

    Posted 12-13-2021 07:59 AM
    I use SMath, which is a freeware version of MathCAD. I use it for a lot of my calculations that I normally would do on paper because it allows you to see the formulas, and you can structure the sheets the same way. Also, it does standard programming stuff like if...then statements and Boolean logic. It looks like I should explore Python a bit more. How do you guys use Python? I studied it for a bit, but didn't really get into it, it didn't seem like it would lessen my workload. I obviously missed something.

    George Runkle, MS, PE, SE
    Runkle Consulting, Inc.

    ------------------------------
    George Runkle P.E., M.ASCE
    President
    Lawrenceville GA
    ------------------------------



  • 17.  RE: What's the one tool you can't live without when doing your day-to-day job?

    Posted 12-20-2021 09:17 AM
    Block Pad isn't free, but it's like SMath.

    ------------------------------
    Refugio Rochin P.E., M.ASCE
    Civil Engineer V
    NAXUTL Is Rochin Structure Design
    Middleburg FL
    ------------------------------



  • 18.  RE: What's the one tool you can't live without when doing your day-to-day job?

    Posted 12-23-2021 12:42 PM
    For me, it's Roam Research
    A tool for managing and linking large amounts of information, implementing the slip box method
    Dermod Wood, Ph.D.
    Life Member ASCE


    ------------------------------
    James Wood M.ASCE
    Dermod Wood Assoc. LLC
    Pittstown NJ
    ------------------------------



  • 19.  RE: What's the one tool you can't live without when doing your day-to-day job?

    Posted 10-25-2022 07:18 PM
    Q. "What is the one tool that you desperately need to do your job?"

    A. University Library, including "Google Scholar."

    Cheers,
    Bill

    My mom told me many decades ago that "When you read a book, your eyes take you to places you feet may never go."


    ------------------------------
    William M. Hayden Jr., Ph.D., P.E., CMQ/OE, F.ASCE
    Buffalo, N.Y.

    "It is never too late to be what you might have been." -- George Eliot 1819 - 1880
    ------------------------------



  • 20.  RE: What's the one tool you can't live without when doing your day-to-day job?

    Posted 10-26-2022 07:54 AM
    Filemaker Pro Data base which is a combination of Excel and WORD.
    I use this to track my projects

    Richard LaPrairie,PE
    LMI Engineering L.L.C.
    1595 Ashbury Lane
    Reno NV 89523
    Phone (775)746-1980
    richardlaprairie@...






  • 21.  RE: What's the one tool you can't live without when doing your day-to-day job?

    Posted 10-26-2022 10:08 AM
    Roam Research I use it to plan and keep track of everything in my life.
    Best
    Dermod Wood


    ------------------------------
    Dermod Wood, Ph.D, M.ASCE
    Dermod Wood Assoc. LLC
    Pittstown NJ
    ------------------------------



  • 22.  RE: What's the one tool you can't live without when doing your day-to-day job?

    Posted 10-27-2022 09:43 AM
    My indispensable tool is a Moleskine Notebook with a square pattern and my Faber Castle mechanical pencil. I have to write and draw to understand the problem. Then I write a list of small tasks to achieve the primary goal.

    ------------------------------
    Luis Vasquez-Varela Aff.M.ASCE
    Associate Professor. Universidad Nacional de Colombia
    Civil Engineer
    Manizales
    ------------------------------



  • 23.  RE: What's the one tool you can't live without when doing your day-to-day job?

    Posted 10-28-2022 04:12 AM

    I would say my phone/ipad.

    I have access to the following:
    •I can draw, review drawings, take notes, take pictures and associate them to my notes which renders my report writing easier.

    •I can research/ read; have access to information needed
    •I have access to different tools/apps:record coordinates, calculations, conversions, etc
    •I have access to entertainment: music, podcasts; to take breaks when need or just learn while relaxing in between tasks
     



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    [Lydie] [Uwantege] [CEng, P.E., M.ASCE]
    Civil Engineer
    ------------------------------