What’s the best elec cert software for electricians? Review of Pirform & Shine Forms

by Editor on August 3, 2015

Review of Pirform & Shine Forms

Here’s my customer review of the Pirform cert software from Shine Forms.  I’ve been using the program for my electrical certification since 2011 when I came across it on an Elecsa regs course.  ECA, NICEIC, Elecsa and the other associations have now introduced their own online electrical certs but I currently still prefer to use the Pirform desktop software.

Shine Forms now offer tablet and online versions of the Pirform elec certs, so this post could be useful if you’re an existing user or are looking at your electrical certificate and reporting options for the future.

You’ll find a Q&A with Sean from Shine Forms down the page.

Pirform Desktop currently gives you certs for:

  • Electrical Installation Condition Report
  • Electrical Installation Certificate
  • Minor Works
  • Visual Condition
  • Emergency Lighting
  • Fire Alarm

Digital Trend

Some electricians are still using hand written testing & inspection forms but the general trend is towards using software based certs for computer and tablet. The convenience of being able to fill out a digital certificate and then emailing direct to clients is an attractive proposition compared to pen & paper, printing & posting. Saving and filing digital format is also easier than paper and the end product looks more professional to the customer.

Online or Desktop?

I like the process of typing in all the info and being able to edit anything on a cert if I make a mistake. My scribbling can tend to be a bit messy and that’s why I stopped using hand written forms a long time ago. I also find it’s useful to go back making changes to digital forms if needed. There’s nothing worse than finishing a certificate only to find the postcode or a test result entry is wrong and having to tip-ex or re-do the whole thing from scratch!

Online forms give you the convenience of being able to create and save certs direct to your account from wherever you are. That’s great, but I never seem to find enough time to do the whole thing whilst on site or between jobs. Also, I’m not that keen on taking my laptop to site and leaving it in the van can be risky.

Personally, I have found the online forms that I’ve tried to be a bit clunky and of course you are dependant on a good internet connection to make the process stress free. That’s why (until now) I’ve still preferred to use the desktop version of Pirform.

Of course this could be a thing of the past with the new Shine Forms apps which make it possible to fill in forms offline and then upload them later.

Using Pirform Desktop

For me, the ideal scenario for completing an electrical certificate would be to input all the into Pirform on my laptop whilst at the job. But I’m usually pushed for time, so I’ll make notes of circuits and test results on my phone’s notepad, take photos of DBs, Obs & Recs etc., and sit down and input everything into Pirform when I get home. I then save the certs as PDFs in a file on my computer and Pirform also makes a backup of the data.
Completed certs are then emailed direct to clients as PDFs. I think this looks more professional and saves on all the bother of posting, and on my printer ink!

Features of Pirform

  • Set your own logos, digital signature, test instruments as defaults for all forms.
  • Expanding space to type in circuit descriptions
  • Auto backups to a location of your choice (your computer or cloud)
  • Certs can be saved and modified. Even finished forms can be edited. Very handy if you have made any mistakes or if things change over time- ie. address/postcode, circuit descriptions, test results.
  • All certs can be easily published as pdf to email to client and save for your files.
  • Merge/create or copy a new cert from an existing one. This saves having to type in all the installation details from scratch – ie. make a EICR or Minor Works from an existing EIC.
  • Copy and input block values to blank fields ie. circuit refs, disc times, MCB/RCD BS nos…
  • Easily add or move circuits
  • Software gives the max Zs values for each circuit and the “Intelligence Manager” will automatically create obs & recs statements. This is very useful for condition reports (although they can be conveniently suppressed by the user if they’re not needed).
  • No need to buy any cert numbers
  • All updates are free

Learning Curve

I’m not at all keen on spending valuable time learning new stuff when I need to get work done, but as with all new software there is a learning curve. That said, I’ve found getting to grips with Pirform relatively painless and the process of form filling is fairly intuitive. That’s why I’ve stuck with it for 4 years or so! I would now even consider getting a cheap tablet just for working on certs to ease the load on my laptop.

Pirform & Shine Forms Support

Pirform has now been around for several years and with the launching of the new Shine Form apps it appears that they are here to stay.  Regular updates take care of fine tuning the software and also accommodate changes to the regs. I also get the feeling that Shine Forms are very open to user’s suggestions forany  improvements.

The user manual is easy to follow (see links below), there’s a help centre Zendesk, support ticket system and a blog which tells about updates and news. I’ve needed to use the Pirform (Shine Forms) customer support on a few of occasions, mostly related to re-activating the software after problems with my own laptop. Sean has always emailed me back within a couple of hours and we resolved things quickly.

Q&A

Here I put some questions to Sean about the new software and how he sees the future of Shine Forms:

What is “Intelligent” certificate software?

The intelligence in Pirform is a feature of the software that fills in other parts of the certificate for you based on the values you have entered. For a simple example, if you have a TT system with a steel earth conductor, then the program will add an observation to the report to indicate that this is a departure from the regs. If you change the conductor back to copper, then the program will remove the observation that is previously entered. You can these links to see screenshots of form examples:

“Intelligence Manager” (1 Statement)

Steel earthing conductor in TT “Intelligence” statement

Copper earthing conductor “Intelligence” corrected (reverted)

Pirform covers the 2008 and 2011 regulations. We are currently updating the intelligence to cover the 2015 regulations and our intention is to publish the full extent of the intelligence in the software on our website so that engineers can see the areas of the regulations that we cover.

What are the main advantages of using Pirform online compared to desktop version? + Are the new tablet and online version of Pirform now up and running and will they cover all certs?

Pirform will be replaced by the new Shine Forms apps. You will be able to use Shine Forms on your tablet, desktop and online. The first phase is the online forms, which are currently available in beta.

All forms will be available across the new tablet, desktop and online software. The advantage that this brings is that engineers can chose which how they want to use the forms based on personal preference and on which device is available to them at the time.

There are other advantages of the online Shine Forms-

  • Such as being able to drop into Tescos, buy a Hudl tablet for around £100, install the Shine Forms tablet app and keep on working if your laptop has broken down.
  • Being able to make an adjustment to a form for an important customer using the online forms whilst at a friend’s house at the weekend using their computer.

I’m currently using the desktop version. How would I change over to tablet or online forms?

As part of the current beta we have provided a mechanism to upload a certificate from Pirform to Shine Forms. Areas from the new amendment that are not available in Pirform can be adjusted online and the PDF in the new format can be downloaded and sent to the customer when complete.

When the new tablet and desktop apps are available, these will be able to download forms from your Shine Forms online account to be edited in the apps. They can then be uploaded so as to produce the PDFs and to be stored safely. You can read the documentation for that here:

https://pirform.zendesk.com/entries/35567641-Uploading-certificates-from-Pirform

I pay for a yearly licence for Pirform desktop. Would it be the same for online?

Yes, the licensing will be similar to what it is for Pirform currently.

What’s the cost?

Pirform Premium desktop for a single computer is £199 plus VAT for 1 year.

I’ve tried the demo online cert which worked well, very similar to Pirform desktop. How can I access my online certs and save them as pdf on my computer? How would I go about sending certs direct to my clients?

When you upload a form to Shine Forms, or save a form using the online forms then the PDF is produced and made available online. You can then download it to your computer to view as a PDF file and either print it or email it to the customer when you are ready to issue it. You can read more in the documentation here:

https://pirform.zendesk.com/entries/35561012-Working-with-forms

Can my online certs be edited or changed after they are completed?

Yes, you can edit the forms online. Just click on the certificate number to open the form for editing, make your changes and save as you go along. That is covered in the forms area of the documentation:

https://pirform.zendesk.com/entries/35561012-Working-with-forms

Is there a trial period for Pirform?

Yes, just download and install Pirform to start a 30 day trial. The program is fully functional during the trial, but the PDFs are marked as not for issue. Once you purchase a licence that marking is removed and you will not need to re-enter any of the values you entered during the trial.

You say that you intend to grow your website to offer more features. What are these likely to be and what are your plans for the future of Pirform?

Pirform focused on the certificate. Shine Forms will of course still focus on making producing accurate and comprehensive certificates, and will build on this to offer features that help companies manage their installation and to assist with the workflows around creating and issuing certificates. You can view our current roadmap here:

https://www.shineforms.co.uk/roadmap

What would you consider to be the “Key Feature” of your forms

I’d really only like say that the key feature of Pirform and Shine Forms is the inbuilt intelligence. This has two main purposes: firstly to assist the engineer when creating the electrical certificate or report; secondly to assist the company to apply a quality baseline across all their certification no matter which engineer produces the report. We strongly believe that publishing the regulations covered by the software for scrutiny by customers will bring higher value to the engineers and companies who use Shine Forms.

My current version of Pirform 2015.1.965 still has certs using the green book amd1. Is there a yellow book amd3 upgrade that I can download?

The amendment 3 areas are only covered by online Shine Forms beta. The new tablet and desktop apps will cover the yellow book and be released in the very near future. The intention is to release them in August, but we are running a two or three weeks behind where we thought we would be at present.

Is “Shine Forms” the online version and “Pirform” the desktop version?

No, Pirform is the old software that we have produced since 2010 (you can read the release history on our blog (www.shineforms.co.uk/blog)). Shine Forms is the new name that will cover the new online, tablet and desktop versions. Customers will be able to keep using Pirform for as long as they need and will be able to transfer their existing certificates from Pirform into Shine Forms.

Lastly, the following “stock response” about our amendment 3 beta may be of use:

About Amendment 3 Forms- Beta

You can use the Shine Forms Amendment 3 online beta today to create amendment 3 forms your tablet browser or your computer. Being a beta means we’re not yet finished and there may be some things that are not there yet or are not working as they should yet. See below for how you can send feedback, ideas and stay in touch with progress.

Pirform is not going to be updated to amendment 3, but you can upload your certs from Pirform to Shine Forms where they will be converted to the amendment 3 format. Once you’ve uploaded a cert from Pirform, you can adjust it in Shine Forms as required.

This means that you can just continue to use the current Pirform desktop software to enter values until our new desktop and tablet are available (which we hope will be in August).

Read on for information about how to get started.

Getting started

Read the following article to get started:

Getting started with the Shine Forms Amendment 3 Beta

Read more

Conclusion

Would I recommend Pirform and Shine Forms? Yes I would. The Pirform software does everything I’d expect it to and more. I like the control that the desktop version gives me over my certs and reports but the online option is definately the way to go for the future.

Although there are several other options for certification desktop software and online, I would recommend Shine Forms to any self employed electrician carrying out domestic and commercial installation work. I’m intrigued by the new online format and will definately be uploading the certs from my laptop to upgrade to the latest amendment and keep them secure and accessible.

Give it a go here-  30 Day Trial

Which electrical cert and reporting forms do you use?

Please let me know your own comments about this review below.


ElectriciansBlog.co.uk

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