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  • 1.  specification software

    Posted 09-01-2020 02:43 PM
    Does anyone have a recommendation on software for spec writing?  Masterspec Small Project now costs $2100 for a year subscription and I'm looking for an alternative; seems a little excessive.

    James Dresslar AIA
    James T. Dresslar Architect, LLC
    Moab UT

  • 2.  RE: specification software

    Posted 09-02-2020 05:26 PM
    I believe SpecLink by BSD is a bit under $1700/yr.  Pretty automated system.  You should try the "free" trial.

    R. Coco AIA
    Parkhill, Smith & Cooper, Inc
    Midland TX

  • 3.  RE: specification software

    Posted 09-04-2020 05:17 AM
    Until a few years ago there was "SpexPlus" which was sort of like a lite version of the old short-language MasterSpec.  I believe that Arcom bought them out, but you might be able to find the material on-line in some public archive.  It is an edit-by-subtraction based master.

    best regards,
    Joel Niemi
    - Architect

  • 4.  RE: specification software

    Posted 09-02-2020 05:37 PM
    Hi James,

    Our Firm purchased MS Architecture and found it as a good value at almost $3k
    If I was going to write specification again it would be well worth the cost  since the first specification book  would pay that cost.
    The biggest issue with masterspec is that its no longer  is owned by the AIA .  And the firm that owns it has clamped down  on  the issue of non licensed users.  You can get in big trouble.
    I found it tough to use on a IMAC  but they say now that is cloud based  platform issues are done with.
    With MS Architecture you can pretty much do any building type you want.

    Good Luck


    David DeFilippo AIA
    Tsoi Kobus Designs
    Boston MA

  • 5.  RE: specification software

    Posted 09-02-2020 09:08 PM
    My office uses Speclink cloud. I have no idea what it costs, but probably more than $2,100 a year per license. There are pros and cons, but I use it to write specs for $1M to $30M projects. For small projects, why not just use your own word docs and update as needed. If it’s truly a small project, are you really going to get submittals anyway? If the contractor can’t write a complete sentence, then they won’t be able to read the specs. Perhaps a design narrative is all you need, which would outline systems, finishes and procedures.


  • 6.  RE: specification software

    Posted 09-03-2020 06:25 PM

    I know a little bit about specifications and since the Contractor selects the actual product from your description of the products, proprietary list of products or reference standard of product properties; the Contractor is responsible to coordinate product selection to ensure comparability; and the fact that building codes have codified manufacturer's installation instructions, I sure hope you are specifying submittals, demanding you get them, carefully review them, and taking the appropriate action to reject nonconforming submittals!

    If you nothing else, make sure your documents convey your design intent, get submittals to verify the Contractor understands your design intent, and inspect (by you or other entity) the work to verify the work perform when completed as you and your client intent.

    Dennis J. Hall, FAIA, FCSI
    Charlotte, NC

  • 7.  RE: specification software

    Posted 09-03-2020 04:50 PM
    You do not say what project types you are involved with, or what delivery method is used (contract type) so it is hard to make a recommendation. And there's a difference between writing a spec or two a year, and actually learning a software system and becoming proficient and producing several project specs a month.

    Assuming you have been getting by with only notes on drawings up to now, I will guess you are working in residential type construction with developers or with negotiated contracts with known contractors.

    Masterspec (even Small Project) and BSD SpecLink make considerable use of national industry reference standards for identifying materials and products. This specifying approach will be lost on most residential contractors. If you are moving toward larger projects with commercial or institutional owners, or public projects, you will need one of the big boys. Pay the price. The backup reference material alone is worth the price. BTW contrary to comment on this page, the AIA still owns MasterSpec, and licenses its publishing to Deltek.

    If you are a good MSWord user, MasterSpec will not require you to learn a new software - but their Masterworks add-in is a handy tool. Many users writing repeat type projects, however, like BSD's database editor. I'm not enamored of any of the cloud based software offerings, as much as these companies want to sell them - but others are. MasterSpec and BSD both have cloud based systems available.

    On the least expensive side of things: Look at what is downloadable from ARCAT for free for your most important products (I would say roofing and waterproofing, doors, and windows, and cladding). Develop a brief Division 01 General Requirements addressing submittals, testing, compliance with manufacturer installation instructions, and payments.

    If a good specification system can save you one construction dispute, it will pay for itself for years. $1,700.00 or $2,200.00 is cheap. If you have a decent design project backlog and your time is valuable, hire an independent specifier to take care of your specification needs - see the Specifications Consultants in Independent Practice directory at These consultants (like myself) specialize in this arcane corner of architectural practice and can help keep you out of trouble.

    Philip Kabza AIA
    SpecGuy Specifications Consultants
    Mount Dora FL