A blast of our past

Our Roots

It's hard to tell by looking at it now, but the origins of FrameReady can be traced back to a Microsoft Excel Spreadsheet. Bert de Roo started framing in the 1980s after taking an introductory evening course at a community college.

He started looking for a consistent formula for pricing mats and frames. Everyone seemed to have their own pricing matrix. "There's got to be a better way to do this!" After developing tables of united inches and price codes and assigning them to moulding, mats and glass, he soon realized that the spreadsheet was too limited and couldn't accommodate other needs, i.e., the customer database.

Wanting some way to track customer information and work orders, his ideas were transferred to a relational database called FileMaker Pro.

An article by Vivian Kistler, CPF, GCF, CMG, on "What's a fair price?" put forth a formula of "required footage x cost x a mark up + a labor charge" as fair and equitable to the framer and the customer.

The same formula was applied to mats and glass using a square inch measurement only.

At this point the FileMaker Pro program which he named "FrameReady" was only being used by his wife Evelyn in her frame shop. That year Bert attended the PPFA show in Toronto and was surprised to find only one industry specific program available and at a cost of $1800. Bert realized, "Hey, FrameReady is better than this! If it's working well for me, it could work for others too.

Bert joined the Claris Solutions Alliance and started to distribute FrameReady as a FileMaker Pro stand alone application capable of networking up to 25 computers. Thus FrameReady 1.0 was first launched in August of 1995. The first program Bert sold, Ev bought a cake to celebrate!

Wonder Years

As his client base grew, Bert listened to their needs and continued to make improvements and additions to the program. These constant revisions tested the patience of Evelyn as she field tested every new feature in her shop. Ev, a creative framer, and Bert, a creative developer, found that they approached things from very different angles. Working together, they were able to find a solution for most of the challenging needs that confront framers when taking framing orders and the day-to-day operation of a retail framing establishment.

Due to the limitations of FileMaker Pro 2.1, FrameReady had reached it's developmental limit. It was lacking features that clients would come to expect in a professional program.

Claris released FileMaker Pro 3.0 and this gave Bert the features needed to make the program relational with things such as pop-up menus, user interface, custom message boxes, status fields, and global fields. This offered a feature set which allowed Bert to take FrameReady to a more professional level and saw the launching of FrameReady 2.0 at Spectrum 96, Toronto, Canada.

In 1997 Bert hired Carol Graham part-time to do data entry.

Carol's out-going and vivacious personality was a great asset and as sales increased Carol came on full time as manager and joined Bert in trade show travel.

She is now our Director of Customer Relations and serves on the Professional Picture Framer's Association (PPFA) International Board of Directors (2015).

Age of Mastery

Continuing to listen to his customer's needs Bert made minor improvements such as including the capacity to price stacked moulding. This was done at the request of a customer who told Bert that he would never use less than three frames in any of his sales.

In September of 1998 FrameReady 3.0 debuted at the Atlanta Art Buyers Caravan showSeveral of the features in art gallery operations can be attributed to suggestions from Paul Poli of Kenneth Paul Gallery in Des Moines, Iowa. Such features as: multiple limited edition print numbering and automatic updating of the product file when bringing a print into the work order.

1998 saw even more changes for SoftTouch Solutions. Having outgrown the home office in which he started, Bert moved the company to a new location across from the historic town hall.

The company was incorporated and a modification was made to the spelling of our name: SoftTouch Solutions, Inc.

In September of 1998 FrameReady 3.0 debuted at the Atlanta Art Buyers Caravan show. This version contained 50 enhancements and new features. The two most significant were bar coding and the message center.

In 1999 we moved to our current premises on the upper level of the The Bratanek Building on the historic main street of Petrolia, Canada's Victorian oil capital.

Digital Age

FrameReady joined the information highway in 1998. Webmaster Neil Fraleigh of Virtual Flair, designed our first website with Windows and Macintosh demos of FrameReady as direct downloads. A members-only access page allowed for vendor pricing updates. Development continued and by May 1999, FrameReady 3.0v5 included compatibility with a computerized Mat Cutter and over 25 new enhancements. Bert also developed 5-digit random number bar codes to help clients increase their data entry speed.

Mark Whiting joined the staff for a year in October 1999. He designed new FrameReady icons and worked diligently to keep vendor pricing up-to-date for website downloads.

At the turn of the millennium there was a huge scare that worldwide computer systems would crash because the date range field had been exceeded in software. We made sure our program was compatible and advertised the FrameReady was Y2K ready!

In 2001, Bert's wife and FrameReady "Number One", Evelyn Ward de Roo, joined the staff full-time. She took on the roll of Marketing Director. Since day one Ev has been the silent partner in SoftTouch Solutions, Inc. and over the years has helped to staff the FrameReady booth at industry shows and now holds the position of Knowledgebase writer and Social Media Director.

FrameReady 4.0 was released in the Spring of 2001. New features were included with input from our clients: a purchase order component, non-taxable labor field, and multiple fillet placement.

In 2001 we began offering training opportunities at industry trade shows. Carol is an engaging presenter and her classes are always a draw.

Vendor pricing support is one of the key components to the service we provide. Kelly Hext joined us in August 2003 to focus on the important function of vendor data management. He now holds the position of Operations Manager as well as answering tech calls, producing training videos and being Bert's right arm.

FrameReady 5.0 was released November 2003. Hundreds of changes were made, including an enhanced Main Menu, Eclispe CMC interface, advanced pricing techniques, advanced fabric pricing, substitute fields, payments for multiple invoices, matboard reveal defaults, enhanced owner security, oversize surcharges.

FrameReady 5.6 was released in November 2005. This version was bundled with FileMaker Pro 8. It featured auto-complete of moulding and matboard numbers, calendars, priority ranking for customers, also automatic email messaging to customers upon completed orders.

FrameReady 6.0 was launched in September 2006. It interfaced with Wizard's Mat Designer (TM) and Integrated Framer (TM) visualization software. A new Consignment component allowed for tracking of artwork inventory out on consignment to designers or other venues. The Price Codes file worked with an easier formula pricing structure. The Contacts file tracked more information in easy-to-use tabs.

Released in March 2007, FrameReady Multi Site, allowed owners of multiple stores, with a hub and spoke operation, to remotely access files centralized in one location.

In the Fall 2008 we released our FrameVue Interface. LifeSaver Software Inc. and SoftTouch Solutions Inc. combined their technological expertise to offer more options for the wall decor industry. Frame designs are created in FrameVue visualization software and the data is transferred into the FrameReady with a click of the 'Back to POS' button.

Rounding out the family of products available from SoftTouch Solutions Inc, FrameReady Lite (originally called ReadyFrame), a basic frame pricing program was launched in April 2007. It was designed to accurately, quickly and efficiently price a custom frame job. FrameReady Lite produces the appropriate documents for customers and orders moulding and matboard supplies. It keeps the framing operation organized and efficient. This version was designed for shops that already have a POS system /cash register. This program meets the needs of photo/camera shops, portrait studios, photography businesses, frame departments, art galleries, new businesses, mobile and home-based framers.

FrameReady 7.0v1 was released in Jan 2009 on FileMaker Pro 10. A Time Card file was developed to efficiently track employee hours for payroll. Multiple quantity entries were added to many of the work order frame components. A new detailed Customer Summary document and Price Checker button was been added. This feature was the suggestion of longtime FrameReady user, Rolf Gruller, Framer's Workshop in Scottsdale, AZ.

FrameReady 8 was released in 2011 on FileMaker Pro 11 featuring Scenarios, which enabled the framer to design multiple work orders for the same piece of art and for the client to be able to compare the pricing. Gift Cards were added to this version as well.

Industry Recognition

In 1999 SoftTouch Solutions Inc. joined the PPFA and has ever since remained a huge supporter by sponsoring awards for this educational association.

Bert de Roo was the co-recipient of the 2012 PPFA Vivian Kistler Innovation Award.

The award honors those responsible for a concept or product that became a significant factor in the picture framing industry; who has made a monumentous impact on the industry through innovative development or pioneering efforts; and who has significantly contributed to the advancement of the framing industry.

Bert is listed in the PPFA Hall of "Frame" and has been featured in industry journals and newspaper articles.

Mobile Age

We retired the printed FrameReady manual and in its place launched an internal Help menu and online Knowledgebase.

With the start of the mobile age we started a Facebook business page for FrameReady early on and use it to communicate regularly with our followers.

FrameReady 9 was released in May 2013 on FileMaker Pro 12.

Significant among the improvements was the optimization of screens for use on iPad, iPad Mini and iPad Retina.

The Other field on the Work Order was immensely improved to facilitate pricing of plexi boxes, 3D boxes and things such as pricing fillets in multi-opening mats.

Other additions: vendor pricing update red notification button, print packing list, create vendor specific surcharges, increase prices by percentage, Package Specials, SMTP email, consolidation of duplicate customers, rounding up/down change. FrameReady Multi-Site version was incorporated into FrameReady full version, with a Art Resource file added.

In April 2015 Carl Jagt joined the team to be our vendor relations point person. Carl is also writing the program Help menu and helping clients.

FrameReady 10 was released in 2015.