Studio Manager 9 FAQ
What types of businesses can use Studio Manager?
Studio Manager was created as a management tool specifically for designers and other creative professionals. Firms or work groups using Studio Manager range in size from one to 100 people. It is appropriate for both independent design studios and design departments in corporate or education environments. Any creative professional who does estimating and invoicing, and/or who wants to track time and expenses by job will find Studio Manager useful. Related businesses that use Studio Manager are: broadcast design, web design, multimedia design, advertising, desktop publishing, photographers and illustrators.
Studio Manager can be used in any small business that does time and expense billing by the job. Because it is fully customizable, it can be modified to work for a wide range of businesses.
What are the main features of Studio Manager?
Without getting into all the details: Job tracking, job cost tracking and reporting, estimating, invoicing, timesheets, scheduling, purchase orders, and contact management. There is also a payables module and the invoicing system does accounts receivable. Our Home page gives little overviews of each major component of Studio Manager with links to pages for each component. You can get a pretty good idea of what Studio Manager can do from these screen shots and descriptions. If your interest is peaked, download the free demo and demo user manual.
What distinguishes Studio Manager from other time/expense and job costing programs?
We have 22 years of experience in building custom solutions for hundreds of creative services firms. The basis for the features found in Studio Manager comes from our direct contact with our customers.
The Studio Manager interface is designed with the critical eye of an artist and designer. Screen layouts are clean, well-organized and intuitive.
Because it is based on the highly-acclaimed FileMaker Pro database application and because we don't lock it up, Studio Manager is fully customizable.
Is it for Macintosh only? Can I use it on my Windows PCs?
Studio Manager was originally designed for the Macintosh. Although we continue to do all our development work on Macs, the files can be used on either a Mac or on a Windows PC.
Some years ago we decided to add the 3-digit extension (required by PCs) to our file names because Mac OS X likes them too. You can serve the files from either Mac or Windows. Clients can be on Macs or PCs regardless of the server platform.
FileMaker Pro and FileMaker Server system requirements vary according to the version of FileMaker that you are using and also the version of your operating system. Not all combinations are supported. In general, if you want to use the latest version of FileMaker then you also need a current version of your preferred OS. Conversely, if you are committed to a particular version of operating system, then it must be fairly current if you want to run FileMaker Pro 10; not as current for FMP 9. To be sure of compatibility, refer to the FileMaker website. Choose the Product that interests you and then click on Tech Specs.
FileMaker Pro Questions
Does FileMaker Pro come with Studio Manager?
Although Studio Manager requires FileMaker Pro, this application is not included and we do not sell copies of FileMaker Pro. You need a separate copy of FileMaker Pro on each computer from which you wish to access Studio Manager files via a network (or remotely via the internet). Depending on the number of concurrent users, you may also need a copy of FileMaker Server. Minimally, you need one copy of FileMaker Pro 9 or 10 to run Studio Manager 9.
We have a couple of mini-articles on the Studio Manager home page that you might find useful. The Requirements article is in the left-hand column and the FileMaker Deals article is in the right-hand column.
Can I use it with FileMaker Pro 7? What about FMP 8? Can I use FMP 8.5?
You still have FileMaker Pro 7, 8, or 8.5? Time to upgrade. You must be running FileMaker 9 or 10 to use Studio Manager 9.
If you buy Studio Manager 9, you'll have the best FileMaker-based creative services business software running on the best PC database using the best of current technology. That's a good place to begin.
If you are going to be doing any customization, then it is worth it to use FileMaker Advanced because of the new features. If you are considering upgrading, you may want to see Janet's full discussion of the FileMaker Upgrade Decision on our FileMaker Kingdom page.
Do I have to buy a separate copy of FileMaker Pro for each person in my office? Even if the only thing they will do is to enter timesheets?
Yes. FileMaker Pro is network copy protected. You are required to enter an installation code when you install FileMaker Pro. If you try to open more than one copy with the same code on your LAN or WAN at the same time, you will see a message and FileMaker Pro will quit on the computer with the duplicate code.
Can I access Studio Manager with a web browser?
It is possible to create a customized version that will allow time to be entered via browser software, but it's quite a bit of work (that's why we haven't done it). The browser solution would only make sense where you really only want users to enter timesheets and you have quite a few of those.
For multiple users, do I need FileMaker Server?
If you ever need more than 9 concurrent users, then you need FileMaker Server. The server has a wonderful little backup facility and other system monitoring and messaging capabilities that also make it attractive even if you have fewer users. You might wince at the $999 list price if you are small firm, but it's nice to have a really good server at the helm of your valuable business data. For more information about FileMaker Pro and FileMaker Server, see the FileMaker, Inc. website: www.filemaker.com.
How long will it take to get up and running?
It depends. Here are some of the variables that affect how long it takes:
Are you willing to start small?
Most creative services firms, work groups and even individuals in the market for a product like Studio Manager are busy. You can introduce Studio Manager into your workflow gradually. Start by entering active Contacts, which can usually be accomplished by importing the data. Next comes Jobs. Enter just the ones that are current and new. In a very short time you have enough data to produce a Job List. Continue to expand into other features like Timesheets, Job Costs and Estimates. You will be up and running in no time.
Do you have FileMaker experience?
If you have used FileMaker before (even if it's not the current version), you are already way ahead of the pack. You could be up and running in a week—creating estimates, entering timesheets and generating invoices.
How large is your staff?
It takes longer to get a large number of users going in any particular direction - it may feel like herding cats. If you are the only user, you work your way through the start-up section of the user manual in a few hours and go. We recommend a phased implementation where you start with the person who is will be most involved with the system - often times this is a production manager, coordinator or office manager. Involve the owner if at all possible in decisions about billing codes and rates. Then, once one person is comfortable, get a good employee or two doing timesheets. Once they are on board, pick up the stragglers.
Do you require customization?
If cost is a concern, we recommend that you use Studio Manager as provided - at least at first. Try it as is to learn whether or not it meets your needs. You might even discover that something you thought you would need to add is unnecessary because Studio Manager accomplishes the same task more easily in different way.
Are you already maxxed out?
You'll need to go more slowly if you are understaffed and stretched to the limit with billable work already. If you are stretched, don't just keep Studio Manager in the box or wait to buy it for the time someday when things will slow down. Instead, put in your clients and jobs and start using it to track your jobs. Job tracking pays off immediately and gives you some good initial experience with the conventions of Studio Manager. Add pieces as time permits.
FileMaker Requirements including FileMaker Server
Does Studio Manager 9 run on FileMaker 8, 8.5?
Nope. Studio Manager 9 runs only with FileMaker Pro 9 or 10.
Do I Need FileMaker Server? If so, which version?
If you have more than 9 concurrent users, then you also need to run FileMaker Server 9 or 10.
Check the FileMaker Inc. website for information on upgrades and new purchases. Their FileMaker Product Comparison may be particularly helpful if you are not sure whether you require FileMaker Server or not.
How is Studio Manager 9 different from versions 7 and 8?
We totally overhauled Studio Manager's user interface in version 8 to add FileMaker 8.5's tab controls and associated scripting advances. Studio Manager 9 makes extensive use of a FileMaker Pro 9 feature: Conditional Formatting. Because Studio Manager 9 was developed with FileMaker Pro 9 Advanced, it requires FileMaker Pro 9 or higher. With the advent of FileMaker Pro 10, more new features and a new form factor were introduced. We've updated Studio Manager 9 to version 9.2 to take advantage of FileMaker 10, although it also still works with FileMaker 9. We plan to continue improving Studio Manager to take advantage of whatever new features FileMaker throws our way. It is our intention to keep Studio Manager at the top of the list of comparable programs that are state of the art.
A little history - rebuilding SM 7.0 from scratch and beyond
In 2004 and early 2005, we rewrote Studio Manager to take advantage of the groundbreaking infrastructure in FileMaker Pro 7. The result was Studio Manager 7. The FileMaker 7 architecture meant that we could not continue to simply convert files to new versions of FileMaker. We hesitated for a while because it would have been much less work to just convert the files and adjust them enough to make them run reliably on FileMaker 7. The most appealing feature in FileMaker 7 was the ability to have multiple tables in one file. That meant that Studio Manager could be cleaner, simpler and easier to work with. So we rewrote all of the scripts and fields and re-designed the layouts. It was a monumental piece of work that has really paid off.
Later we rebuilt Studio Manager again, this time with FileMaker 8.5, which gave us a significant competitive edge over non-rebuilt FileMaker-based offerings (our competition) that are marketed in the creative services business space. We aren't going to name any names...
Do you offer on-site training?
Yes. Although we have not done it very much. In the past we have scheduled appointments with customers to come in and assist with installation and on-site training several times. Almost every time, they have called back to cancel after reading the user manual.
Do I really need this training?
Not at all! After reading the Studio Manager manuals most of our customers realize that these documents answer all of their questions and concerns. Currently we have a Setup and Installation Guide and a User Manual. These files, included with the purchase of Studio Manager, are PDFs.
Since not everyone can afford the luxury of flying Janet in for a couple days of training, our goal has been to make the user manual so straightforward and thorough that you don't need us to be there to get off to a good start. The vast majority of Studio Manager customers manage just fine without our handholding. They do well with our remote support by phone and email - we answer questions and can even assist with small or large customization projects.
You can contact Janet directly by calling (415) 789-5219 or even better by sending her an email to firstname.lastname@example.org.
Can I use the demo as a training tool?
Before going live with your own data, you can use the Demo with the Demo Manual to learn how Studio Manager works. Because the data is fake, you and key staff can learn, make mistakes and learn some more before you install the real deal.
Do you have manuals in ScreenSteps?
We have begun to upload lessons onto ScreenSteps Live. These online manuals are designed to walk you through various aspects of Studio Manager. Each step is illustrated with a graphic, most often a screenshot. Currently only part of the manual has been converted. We will continue to add to this library of online learning tools during the next few years. Contact Janet by email to get a password and the URL. Check out how it works by going through the Studio Manager 9 Demo Getting Started manual that does not require a password.
What if I really want on-site training?
All you need to do is to pay our travel costs and consulting rates. As the chief developer and architect of Studio Manager, as well as being a skilled trainer, Janet's consulting/training fee is $180 per hour. Her travel rate is $60/hour. If you think this seems high, you haven't worked with Janet before. At this time (May 2009) Janet is the only person available from Tokerud Consulting Group who is able to offer this service.
If you happen to be near us or within short flying distance, we think you would be foolish *not* to take advantage of our proximity. We know of no FileMaker experts with our depth of experience with the creative services industry. And, clearly, no one knows Studio Manager quite like we do.
Do you offer training outside of the United States?
If you do become a Studio Manager customer and you are in some faraway land (we have customers in such unlikely places as Bahrain, Italy, Iceland, Malaysia, Jordon, Turkey, Japan, Singapore, Indonesia and South Africa as well as in all the English-speaking countries) let us know if you would like to be informed if we are going to be in your area - so we can offer you a special deal. Janet would love to visit some of our favorite customer locations such as England, Scotland, Canada, Australia and New Zealand (hint, hint).
Can I use Studio Manager instead of my accounting program?
Studio Manager is a business management tool, not an accounting application. The way you manage your shop is as unique as you are. A customizable tool like Studio Manager is ideal for managing jobs, tracking time and expenses and estimating. Accounting is the same everywhere you go. Because accounting requires strict adherence to the rules of double-entry bookkeeping, it doesnt work to make accounting software customizable. You could customize Studio Manager to include a FileMaker Pro accounting solution, but we do not think it is worth the time, effort or expense. We believe that the two functions are different enough to warrant the small amount of duplication of data entry that may be required.
Does Studio Manager link to QuickBooks?
We get this question often. Probably half of our customers use QuickBooks. Check out the
If you are up to running the PC version of QuickBooks and want this integration now, you or your hired helpers or our consultants can implement this feature custom for you. The FM Books Connector program costs about $180. The main cost is just dovetailing the generic scripting and templates (that come with the connector program) with Studio Manager. If you regard this integration as mission critical, the customization cost of something like $2,000 - $3,000 is going to be worth your while.
Can I link it to another accounting program?
Depending on your accounting program, this can be done by exporting summary records from Studio Manager to tab-delimited text files. Then you can import this data into the accounting program. It would only be a semi-automated solution unless you really get fancy and write an Applescript to complete the automation - we haven't tried this and are leery because of unforeseen data matching errors that could cause problems - such automation would only make sense if you have a very large number of monthly transactions - say 300 or more. The difficulty of the customization may vary depending on the accounting package. Keeping financial accounting and management accounting separate gives you more flexibility. Studio Manager covers the mission critical functions of a creative services business. Accounting programs keep score, a conveniently reconcile accounts, print checks and help with end-of-year tax preparation.
Can I customize Studio Manager to use my graphics and fonts?
Absolutely yes. You can use whatever fonts you want, add your logo or other graphics, change layouts, add new layouts, make it look how you want it to look.
If I need customization, do I have to hire you?
Nope. Frequently we are asked to customize Studio Manager. We like to do this - we get to learn more that way. However, we also (1) often refer our customers to authorized studio Manager consultants (see below) when there is one close by to a customer location and (2) consult with our customers who want to do their own customizing.
We almost always have at least one active customization project in our shop. The advantage of working directly with us is that we are the developers, so we know Studio Manager better than anyone. The disadvantage is that we are a small shop, so we may not be able to start your project immediately. Also, there are a small number of areas of FileMaker Pro development that are not our particular expertise. If you have customization needs that we cannot address directly, we will let you know and make a referral to another qualified consultant.
Do you have consultants you can refer me to?
We have an authorized consultants program and make referrals to qualified independent contractors in the US, New Zealand, Japan and Canada who are familiar with Studio Manager and/or whose integrity and skill we trust and respect. We are more than happy to refer you to these consultants if you want help modifying Studio Manager. Any agreement you make with a consultant outside of Tokerud Consulting Group is strictly between you and that contractor. [For more information, see the Consultants page.]
Upgrades and Updates
We now have a separate page for information about Upgrades.
Our upgrades page has upgrade pricing and right below that is all the scroop about how you do an upgrade, how long it takes and all that kind of thing.
How do you deliver Studio Manager and upgrades? Do you email or is it just posted on the web?
Right now we provide you with a download URL via email. We are investigating options that will allow customers to purchase and download without ever dropping us a line. That may make it more convenient, but it removes us one step from the process. If you are in a hurry to get your product, we suggest you call and email to attack on two different fronts. We do check email often, but sometimes spam filters have their way with new inquiries so the extra phone call makes sure the deal gets done with speed.
Do you have references I can contact?
Yes. We do request that you be at the point of purchase with a need to check references as your final step before we release references just so that we don't inconvenience our enthusiastic customers unnecessarily.
Is it web-enabled? Can I access Studio Manager via a web browser?
Some of our clients tell us that they have put Studio Manager on an internet server and are currently accessing certain features via a web browser. You could simply create a special layout in the Contacts or Jobs modules, for example, that you serve to the web. As far as the possibility of web-enabling the Studio Manager product itself goes, we have so far had our hands full perfecting and supporting the FileMaker-based LAN version of Studio Manager. Because accessing Studio Manager via FileMaker Pro is so much more robust, we think most design firms will prefer this option.
If you have a lot of remote freelancers or a really big important client who you want to provide limited access to, you could add some limited access via the web for those specific situations. We've recently modified our startup script and added a few dedicated web layouts but they are just the groundwork you need to then build on to get the web functionality you desire.
Do you have a version for the Treo, Windows Mobile, Blackberry or iPhone?
No. So far we haven't seen enough demand for this to warrant our adding this capability to the product. Also, FileMaker Inc. has recently discontinued their FileMaker Mobile product. All hope is not lost on this front though. We've already seen web-based Filemaker demonstrations with special iPhone stylesheets. We will most definitely target iPhone as our first supported mobile device. That said, we are waiting for FileMaker Inc. to give us a little help with some basic tools before we try to make the link from scratch ourselves.