Top 5 reasons to buy a Microsoft Surface Book (Spring 2016 Newsletter)

Described as the “ultimate laptop”, Microsoft released the new Surface Book in October and Vanguard’s own Martin Barrett (Software Developer II) was able to test out CAMAvision recently.

Here are 5 reasons why you should consider the Surface Book.

5. Great keyboard and trackpad

– Integrated and detachable keyboard

CAMAvision on the Microsoft Surface Book

4. Best camera yet on a Surface

– Perfect for PhotoVision, 8 Megapixel (back)/5 Megapixel (front)

CAMAvision on Microsoft Surface Book

3. Use either as a laptop or tablet

– 3000 x 2000 resolution

CAMAvision on Microsoft Surface Book

2. Excellent pen

– Great to use with Sketch Annotations

CAMAvision on Microsoft Surface Book

1. CAMAvision runs great!

– 6th Gen Intel® Core™ i5 or i7 processor

CAMAvision on Microsoft Surface Book

The Microsoft Surface Book starts at $1,499.

Additional specs:

* Windows 10 Pro
* 13.5” PixelSense™ display
* 3.34 pounds (including keyboard)
* Two full-size USB 3.0 ports
* Full-size SD card reader
* Up to 12 hours of video playback
* Wi-Fi wireless networking, Bluetooth 4.0

CAMAvision Year-End Processes (Spring 2016 Newsletter)

By: Danielle Powell

NOTE: Each state may have additional steps to the year-end process. Contact VCS Technical Support for further assistance, if needed: 1-800-736-8625 or

1. Verify that you have a good backup of all databases before running year-end processes.

2. Archive with Vanguard (optional)

a: Contact VCS Technical Support to schedule Archive process.

b: Verify that the data in your Certified has been archived (or sent for archive processing) before running any other year-end processes.

NOTE: Certifying values to start working file for new year could wipe out the previous year file entirely if not archived prior to certify process.

3. Maintain Certified (from Working, found in Batch menu)

a: Certifying for year-end process should always: Create New Parcels and Copy Working Pricing Tables

b: Certified Parcel Log
“Not Found” will appear as status for every parcel in database. This is normal and no need for concern.

NOTE: When “Create New Parcels” is selected for all PDFs, Map Areas, and Tax Districts, existing data is wiped from Certified first, and then data from Working is copied. Therefore, the parcels no longer exist in certified at the time the working database copies over, so it says the parcel was not found.

Unnecessary to print log; close dialog window.

4. Prior Year Maintenance (from Working, found in Batch menu)

a: Prior Year history is typically added in Working database after certifying parcels.

NOTE: Prior Year may be added before certifying parcels, however Certified parcels with a Prior Year existing for that assessment year could be confusing to taxpayers, as it is not truly a prior year yet for those reported values.

5. Exempt Charts Base Year (if using Exemption module for sliding scale exemptions)

NOTE: This step is only required for table-driven exemptions (e.g. Urban Revitalization) being tracked in Exemption module (base year should not affect 100% exemptions).

a: Tables menu | Exemption Charts
1) Click any of the exemption charts (e.g. Exempt chart 01)
2) Click the Test button (on toolbar) to view Test table
3) Click the Base year button that appears next to the Save button
* Adjust the Base year as needed
* Select individual charts or Select All
* Click OK to close

b: Copy Test to Main and Revaluation required to apply changes

6. Depreciation Base Years (optional)

NOTE: This does not need to be done every year, however you may want to review and determine what works best for your jurisdiction.

a: Tables | General | Depreciation Base Years
1) Click the Test button (on toolbar) to view Test table
2) Click the Base year button that appears next to the Save button
* Select Location and Class
* Select Structure type
* Adjust the Base year as needed
* Click Apply button
* Redo for each Structure type needing change
* Click OK to close

b: Copy Test to Main and Revaluation required to apply changes

7. Reset Reconciliation (if using Reconciliation)

a: Batch | Reconciliation
* Select all PDFs
* Reset Values button
* Starting values set to current VCS value
* Test Only mode available (check box)
* Import starting values from CSV file
* Used for values from tax system (not matching VCS)
* Contact VCS Technical Support if questions on importing

8. Full Update (website clients only)

a: Open VCS Web Transfer Client
* Select database from where values should pull
* Certified is typical in most cases
* Log in to VCS WebClient
* Select Full Update as the Operation Type
* Select PDFs to send
* Click Transfer button

Please contact support for assistance with any questions or concerns on these processes: 1-800-736-8625 or

Deep Dive into the Batch Revaluation

By: Nick Klein

The Parcel Revaluation batch process is an indispensable tool of CAMAvision. Anyone that manages pricing tables or performs program updates knows that to apply the pricing changes to parcels, all parcels need to be “reval’d.” Many users simply “click, click, click, confirm, click” through the screens, barely stopping along the way to read them. While there are a few extended settings depending on the state version, for this article I want to focus on settings for all state versions of CAMAvision.

Before You Perform a Revaluation. This screen poses a series of questions to you before starting the batch. Perhaps the most important being: Have you made a backup of your database? I have written articles before about the importance of backups. Even though we’ve made it immensely easy to cancel a reval or undo somea table change, it’s always a good idea to back up your data before performing a batch revaluation.

The Revaluation criteria, or “options” screen allows you to make select changes on how the revaluation executes. First select the pricing tables to be used: Main, Test or Report Only. The usual choice is Main, which means the parcels will be calculated using the Main tables, value changes will be logged, and the parcel will be saved. Test refers to parcels being calculated using the Test version of the tables: value changes will be logged, and parcels will not be saved.

“Report Only” is a holdover from a time when CAMAvision had fewer reports and the query wizard wasn’t as widely used. Basically this option generates a report of all parcels in the selected PDFs, showing the current total parcel value. Parcels are loaded for the sole purpose of reporting and are not calculated or saved. It’s useful in a pinch to get a simple list of parcel values and total value, but more and more people need values reported in ways never imagined a few years ago. Getting just a total is simply not enough so query wizard reports are used.

Parcel Revaluation

The Value Source selection is only applicable in Test mode or “Report Only” and dictates which parcel value is shown on the reports. “Current” (or final) parcel value is the most often choice. When running a Test reval, selecting Appraised might give you a better idea of how much the total value of each parcel could change as opposed to showing parcels that will change. Most jurisdictions have at least a small number of parcels where the current value is in a static override state. For these parcels, a batch revaluation does not technically change the final value and therefore would not be logged.

PDF selection is straightforward enough: you select which PDFs to run the process against. When Main tables are used you usually don’t have much of a choice – all PDFs must be processed. Test mode is more flexible, allowing you to see how a table change affects select classes of parcels or perhaps just a certain side of town. A common question we have following a program update is if it’s possible not to revalue certain PDFs lest historical parcels change value. Unless the parcel values have been rolled into override (or Board), the answer is usually no. Starting with CAMAvision v20 we’ve introduced a new Data Checker feature which going forward should give you a better heads up of parcels affected by a coming program update.

Assign revaluation date to all parcels (not just those that changed). This is actually a legacy setting that has been superseded by stronger reporting in the system log. It is tied to a date field stored with each parcel. If checked all selected parcels will be resaved whether or not its value changes. Uncheck this setting and the batch runs a little faster because it doesn’t need to spend extra seconds saving every parcel; only those that actually have a change will be resaved. Your mileage may vary, but you could see some reduction in processing time.

Load entire parcel during process. Under normal conditions, the revaluation only needs to load those parts of a parcel related to pricing: buildings, land, yard items, etc. Items not affected by a value change such as notes, permits, sketches, are not normally loaded. Selectively loading a parcel speeds up the regular batch process. However, sometimes a full parcel load may be requested, such as following a system update. Loading and saving the entire parcel can ensure that all parts of a parcel are initialized, even those not directly related to value. This is especially useful when non-value related sections get updated. There is no harm in always doing a full parcel load, but it is considerably slower.

Review your options. This screen summarizes all your selections and informs you of what is about to happen if you proceed. Early in the development we added the “I have reviewed the criteria” checkbox because too many people were simply not reading it. We wanted people to be absolutely sure of what they were about to do.

Processing. The processing screen shows you how many parcels have been processed, how many remain and total value change. In the example screenshot, the note in the upper right corner says “Parcels are not saved.” It looks like a link and actually is one. If you press it, it will pause the reval and show you the contents of the summary screen again.

Estimated time remaining. During the execution of the batch process there is one timer that counts down, estimating the amount of time remaining, and another that counts up the elapsed time of the process. I have been asked how the estimated time remaining is calculated. There’s no magic behind it, and is very similar to how file downloads are estimated. It looks at how much time has passed from the beginning of the batch to the current parcel, and estimates how many seconds per parcel it has taken to process. By knowing how many parcels still need to be processed, it extrapolates and estimated time remaining. The time estimate can vary greatly depending on what types of parcels it is calculating at any given point in time. This is because parcels with lots of pieces tend to take longer than parcels that do not. It has to load more out of the database, calculate it, and then turn around and save it back to the database. The calculation cannot take parcel “size” account which is why the time fluctuates. Other unknowns that can influence the estimate is network traffic and server load.

Parcel Revaluation

Revaluation log. This screen presents a grid showing all parcels that either changed, or could change (when Test mode is used). The grid shows a parcel’s old value, the new value and how much it changed in each of the main areas of land, dwelling and improvements. The log has buttons for four of the most popular report groupings: 1) by parcel, 2) changes by map, 3) changes by PDF, and 4) changes by class.

As mentioned, if you performed a Test reval, the grid is showing what the parcel could look like. This can be handy to compare against the parcel with the Quick Summary. If you right-click a parcel in the grid you will get a menu that allows you to invoke the Quick Summary. The Quick Summary loads the parcel from the database so it is showing you the parcel values as they are actually stored. Use the Quick Summary in conjunction with the log to compare how a parcel could change.

Parcel Revaluation

Now, have you ever been a little too quick to press the close button after finishing the reval and then instantly wished you would’ve paid closer attention to the logs? Our tech support has fielded many such calls to recover the logs. Previous versions of CAMAvision would store this information only in the system log.

This may be fine for individual parcels, but none of the other logs such as value changes by class or PDF would be stored. With v20, all revaluation logs are automatically saved into a zip file located in the CAMAvision Shared folder. Only the most recent revaluation logs are kept; hopefully long enough for you copy them someplace else if you really want to hold on to them.

Parcel Revaluation

Conclusion. I hope you enjoyed this dive into Batch Revaluation and the explanations of its screens. I also hope that my explanation and history of some of the features helps you better understand the careful thinking we try to put into this and all parts of the program.

Did You Know: CAMAvision (Spring 2016 Newsletter)

By: Terri Scheuermann

Did you know CAMAvision now has a Document Management and Storage capability? With the ProVersion and PhotoVision modules this ability is at your fingertips. DMS extends the file types that can be stored within a parcel essentially turning it into a document and file storage repository for all your parcel data.

Almost any file type can be added into DMS including Word documents, Excel spreadsheets, PDF documents or any other document type that’s not an image. Always be mindful that space is limited and an increase in database size into the tens of GB range will result in backups taking longer to execute.

Another consideration is that the DMS is simply a storage facility of attached docs and it cannot open or edit the documents. Whatever type of file attached, the appropriate program to view or edit that document must also be installed. So if a Word document is stored/linked then Word must be installed and an Excel spreadsheet is stored/linked the Excel must be installed. There is an ability to add a document and set it to private if need be.

Documents/links may be viewed from the parcel PhotoVision tab and also from the DMS tab on the parcel search screen.

For more information and/or a demo on this recently added feature please contact your friendly Vanguard field representative.

May I Take Your Reorder? (Spring 2016 Newsletter)

By: Patrick Alexander

When is a building not a building? Why, when it is an addition of course. But sometimes buildings and additions become confused and attempt to impersonate each other. They are quite the quirky entities like that. Running across one of these poor entities in the past meant no small amount of work for you in order to straighten out your arrant data. First the existing structure (be it a building or an addition) would have to be removed. Next it would have to be recreated as a building or an addition under an existing structure. Talk about tedious.

Well this tedium is a thing of the past thanks to a reworked Commercial building Reorder dialog. Introduced in version 19, the re-imagined Reorder dialog now allows commercial buildings to be demoted to additions under existing commercial structures as well as the promoting of existing additions into fullfledged commercial buildings. This functionality is in addition to the ever present ability to reorder all of the commercial buildings on a parcel.

Reorder Dialog

You can launch the Commercial building Reorder dialog from the Commercial tab of parcel maintenance (as shown to the right). Clicking on this button will launch the following Reorder dialog. In this case we have five commercial buildings. At the moment they are listed as five individual buildings, but after reviewing the property we have decided to make the lumber storage shed an addition under the retail store.

Reorder Dialog

In order to accomplish this task we will first select the lumber storage shed. Next we will either drag the item below the store – retail small line OR click on the down arrow. Notice the lumber storage shed has now moved below the retail store. Also, a couple of additional buttons have become enabled. The up arrow would move the lumber storage shed back to the top of the list, while the right button will make it an addition under the retail store. Since this is what we want, we’ll click on the right button.

Reorder Dialog

Once we do this, the lumber storage shed becomes an addition under the retail store building. And this was done without having to re-enter any building data. If we later decided to move the lumber storage shed back to being its own building, all we have to do is highlight it and click on the left button to promote it from an addition to a building.

Reorder Dialog

Reorder Dialog

No longer will the question of is it a building or an addition trouble the insomnia tic assessor into the dark reaches of the night. For there is now a light in the darkness to guide the wayward entities back into the place they belong.