Frequently Asked Questions
Facil is a database program designed for use in media access centers to schedule, track, and report the various activities performed by these organizations. The name is pronounced "fah-seel"; it is similar to the Spanish word for "easy".
Some of the main functions of Facil are… (Click for the complete list of Facil features)
Some other notable features of Facil include…
Facil Centro is a lower cost version of Facil for organizations that already have a solution in place for managing their program library and channel scheduling. Facil Centro has all the features and functions of Facil, except Program Library, Channel Scheduling, Tape Library, Clip Library, and the functions and reports associated with those areas. (More...)
Current Facil permanent license prices…
Just contact Becker Software - email [email protected] or call (520) 991-0909.
Email or call Becker Software at (520) 991-0909 with any questions you may have.
Order the free Facíl Demonstration video from Becker Software by email or phone. This 80 minute computer based video presents a detailed overview of Facil's key features.
Take the Facíl on-line "tour" illustrating many of the screen displays used in the program.
A single user license allows the use of Facil by only one person at a time.
A multi-user license allows the use of Facil on all the computers in your organization at the same time, working with a single shared data file on a network. Any number of users may operate Facil at the same time using the single data set on the server.
The multi-user license allows any number of users, as long as there is only one data file on one server.
Under normal use, Facil will support more users than the number of employees in even the largest access centers. The database engine used in Facil (Microsoft Jet) will support 20 or more users making simultaneous transactions, i.e. every user saving newly entered data at the exact same moment. This easily translates into an organization with 50 or more employees that use Facil.
The number of users connected to the database at one time is limited to 250. The performance of the workstations, network, and network file server all impact on the speed of the system.
Facil will hold all the data generated by the largest access center for decades. At Access Tucson, Facil contains data for more than 19,000 persons, 2,700 pieces of equipment, 140,000 reservations, 310,000 reserved items, 4,700 projects, 37,000 programs, and 280,000 program schedule events.
Facil was developed for use at Access Tucson and is licensed to other media centers. The Facil system was designed and programmed by Becker Software, a custom software developer in Tucson, in an ongoing partnership with Access Tucson.
Facil was originally created around 1990 for use at Access Tucson, then known as Tucson Community Cable Corp. The original program was created using the Paradox database system for DOS and included membership and equipment information. After the program had been in use for about 2 years, it was offered for sale to other access centers. The programming and cablecast capabilities were added about a year later. Development of the Windows version of Facil using Microsoft Access was begun in late 1998 with the goals of adapting the system to the Windows platform, improving ease of use, and adding many new capabilities. The first Windows version of Facil, version 4.0, shipped in November, 1999. As of January, 2011 more than 235 organizations have licensed Facil. Click here for a detailed history of updates to the program.
Updates and enhancements to Facil are distributed free of charge to current Tech Support subscribers as part of the support services.
Technical support for 120 days from the date of purchase is provided without charge. Continued technical support, including all software updates, is available at a cost of $250 per year for Multi User and Source Code licensees, or $150 per year for Single User licensees.
Updates are issued as new features and capabilities are added to the system. The original release of Facil 4.0 was in November 1999. Updates were issued in December 1999, January 2000, February 2000, April 2000, and May 2000. Version 4.1 was issued in September 2000, and updated in April 2001. Version 4.2 was released in December 2001, and updated in March 2002. Version 4.3 was released in December 2002. Version 4.4 shipped in December of 2003 and was updated in August 2004. Version 4.5 was released in July of 2007. Version 5.0 was released in September of 2009 and updated in February, 2010 and again in July, 2011. Version 5.1 was released in November of 2013. Click to view the detailed history of changes to the program. Only subscribers to Facil technical support services are eligible to receive program updates; all updates are free of charge to those subscribers.
Contact Becker Software for Facil technical support by phone at (520) 991-0909 or via email.
Facil has extensive context sensitive help. The Help file can be printed in its entirety from the Report menu. Users can also add their own help topics directly to the Facil help system to explain their own policies, practices, etc. A training video, 5 hours in length, and demonstrating all aspects of using Facil, is included with the initial licensing of the software at no additional charge. Facil licensees who have an older version of the training videos may purchase the current videos on a set of 5 DVDs from Becker Software at a cost of $40 for duplication and shipping.
Training at your facility by representatives from Becker Software can be arranged with costs depending on the length and location of the training. Typical training plans are two or three days to cover all functions of Facil in detail for your entire staff in a group training format. Becker Software has conducted on-site training at more than 15 organizations. A combined training session for multiple organizations in a geographic region can be organized to reduce per person costs, making personal training affordable to smaller organizations. Contact Becker Software for further information.
There is an email discussion group for Facil on Google Groups at www.groups.google.com/group/facil. Anyone can read the discussion topics, but you must either subscribe to or join the group to post messages or reply.
To subscribe, use the link at the bottom of the Facil web site home page. Just enter your email address and click the "subscribe" button. You'll see a confirmation page and then you'll receive a confirmation email. Click the confirm link in the confirmation email to complete the subscription process. You will receive emails of postings to the group and your replies to that email will posted to the group. As a subscriber, you can start a new topic by sending an email to [email protected] from your subscribed address.
You can also join the group if you have a (free) Google account. The difference between subscribing and joining is that by joining you can post new topics or reply to existing ones directly while viewing the group on the web - without sending email.
Any version of Windows currently supported by Microsoft will support Facil. Facil is fully compatible with Windows Vista, Windows 7, Windows 8/8.1, and Windows 10. Facil can also be run, in Windows, on a Macintosh computer - see details below. Facil will not run on Linux or Unix derived operating systems, however a Linux system can be used for hosting the shared data file in a multi-user Facil installation.
Facil runs on the Microsoft Access database system, but a copy of Access is NOT required to use Facil. Facil comes with its own run-time version of Access that supports Facil regardless of whether there is or is not a separate copy of Access on the workstation.
A top quality computer, with much more power than needed to run Facil, can be purchased for under $400 - including a 20" or larger LCD display - from any number of vendors.
The factors that most influence Facil performance are…
A 100 megabit per second Ethernet network with a dedicated file server is recommended. A server running a full scale network operating system such as Microsoft Windows Server (or Windows Small Business Server) will support Facil data file sharing and provide security and other network services.
Facil will also run on a peer-to-peer network without a dedicated server, but you should consider the following in making any decision about networking:
A peer-to-peer network is a group of computers that can communicate and share files from any computer to any other computer. All Windows networks have this capability, whether there is a server in the network or not. If there is no dedicated file server, that is if you have ONLY peer-to-peer networking, then you will be placing the shared data file on one of your Windows workstations and it will be read from there by all the users. In this situation the workstation holding the shared file is not dedicated to the task of being the "server". If, for any reason, there is a delay in responding to a request for data - which would typically be due to someone using the "server" workstation for some other purpose - this can cause an error to the "client" workstation which is asking for the shared data. If the workstation holding the data file crashes while Facil is in use, this will obviously cause problems and will require restarting all Facil clients and might possibly require repairing the data file.
This is not an issue that is specific to Facil or to Microsoft Access. Any multi-user database would have the same considerations in the same situation.
On the other hand, placing your shared data on a dedicated file server running a network operating system insures immediate response to any request for data from a user’s workstation, improving both performance and reliability. The server and the server software (the network "operating system") are designed specifically for this kind of use. The larger your organization and the greater the number of computers networked, the greater the need for a dedicated file server.
If you want to try using Facil without a dedicated server, here are some suggestions...
Facil is written using the Microsoft Access design system and the Visual Basic for Applications (VBA) programming language. Facil 4.5 and older used Microsoft Access 97, Facil 5.0 and newer are based on Microsoft Access 2003.
No - you do not need to own ANY version of Access to use Facil. Facil comes with its own run-time version of Access that supports Facil regardless of whether there is or is not a separate copy of Access on the workstation.
That's not a problem. Facil installs its own independent run-time version of Access, so even if you already have Access installed - in any version - you will still be able to use Facil.
You can use any version of Access to create custom reports from the Facil data file by making a COPY of the Facil data and then connecting to the data tables in that copy. Working with a copy of the data is very strongly recommended in all cases to avoid damage to the production data file. See our Technical Document "Creating Custom Reports" for more details.
Yes, you can. Facil runs in Windows; not in the Mac operating system - but there are a couple of ways to run Facil on a Mac computer.
You can use the free Apple Boot Camp software, which lets you install Windows on your Mac, while still retaining the original Mac OS installation. Then you can choose Mac OS or Windows each time you start the computer. This solution has the advantage of being free and giving maximum performance in both Windows and Mac OS. The disadvantage is that you have to wait for the computer to reboot every time you switch, Learn about Boot Camp on the Apple web site.
A more efficient solution is "virtual machine" software. This software lets you run both OSX and Windows software at the same time and on the same screen, each program in it's own window, seamless and transparent. These solutions are only available for Intel powered Macs.
One such virtual machine product is Parallels Desktop for Mac. See the Parallels website for details.
Another virtual machine product is VMWare Fusion. From their website - "Seamlessly run Windows applications alongside Mac applications with the Unity features in VMware Fusion." See their website for details.
For any of these solutions, you will need a licensed copy of Windows for each computer.
If you are going to be buying virtual machine software and also Windows licenses, it might make more sense to just purchase one or more Windows PCs to run Facil. A new high quality PC which will run Facil very well can be purchased for as little as $400 including Windows and a 20 inch LCD monitor. See the topic "recommended hardware requirements" above.
The Facil program schedule contains much of the data required for playback control. Becker Software has worked with the manufacturers of the following playback control systems to develop interfaces that transfer the Facil program library and/or schedule data, eliminating the duplicate effort of entering data into both Facil and the playback system.
See the Facil Feature List section on Playback Control for more details and links to more information on these playback systems. Becker Software is pleased to provide technical information and cooperation to all playback control vendors who wish to import the Facil program schedule or other Facil data.
If you are using a playback system other than those listed, you may still be able to interface it to the Facil data. Facil includes a generic export of the Program Library and Program Schedule data into several common data file formats; this allows developing interfaces to most devices. The exact requirements for data format and method for data transfer is different for each kind of control system. Please contact Becker Software if you have specific needs or questions about interfaces.
Specific exports are provided for Program Guide and Class Schedule information to be used with bulletin board systems from Scala and Capital Networks Audience.tv.
Because Facil uses Microsoft Access data files, it is possible to work with that data outside of Facil. Access, or any other programming tool that supports ODBC database connectivity, can directly read the Access files. Becker Software can provide an Access “framework” file (“MyFacíl”) that provides the ability to easily link your reports and queries to a current copy of the Facil data. This will allow you to develop your own Access queries or reports, save them within this framework, and reuse them without interfering with Facil, without owning the source code, without exposing the actual shared data files to risk, and without causing problems when Facil is updated.
Whatever external system you want to interface to, be it an event controller, a bulletin board, or an accounting system, the concept is the same. You must know what format the data needs to be in for the external system. For example, a system may accept specifically arranged text files or it may accept data files in Access format.
You need to determine which Facil data tables and fields contain the information required by the external system. You then create a report in Access or a spreadsheet in Excel that links to the Facil data tables and extracts the data.
This does require very specific knowledge of the system you are transferring data to and the skills with Access or another programming tool to set up the reports. You may have those computer skills in house, or you may need to hire a consultant to create the interface. While this may be a significant effort/cost, it can save a lot of tedious labor and prevent mistakes in reentering data.
We support the exchange of this kind of development among Facil users. It may be practical for several organizations that use the same playback controller or bulletin board system to jointly fund the development of an interface.
Yes. You can use the Facil data to create additional reports, queries, or interfaces to other systems, using Microsoft Access or other programming tools that support ODBC database connectivity. You do NOT need the source code for Facil to develop your own reports, etc. See our Technical Document "Creating Custom Reports" for more details.
Yes. There is a list of users, maintained by the "administrator", with a password protected user login. Each user can be given a specific level of permission to each area of the program - either full permission, read-only permission, or no permission (can't open that area of the program).
Because the Facil data files can be manipulated with Microsoft Access, you can import data from many sources. The issues for importing or converting data are not so much technical as they are organizational. The data entered into Facil must naturally match the defined Facil data structures. Some basic data will almost certainly match well – person first/middle/last name, city/state/zip, equipment serial number, etc. The field names must be matched before the data can be imported. Because Facil has internal control over data validity, it will only allow the import of data that is correctly related, i.e. Person ID numbers used in Reservations must first exist on the Person list, Equipment Types listed as Reserved Items must first exist on the Equipment Type list, etc. Becker Software can provide assistance with data import on a consulting basis.
For detailed information on data import, see the Tech Support document “Importing Data into Facil”
Yes. A bar code reader that is connected to your computer generally works by sending keystrokes to the computer just as if they came from the keyboard. In this way, a bar code reader can be used anywhere in Facil where you would type in an equipment tag number, person ID number, tape number, etc. Click to view a video demo of Facil bar codes in action.
For example, Facil tracks equipment check in/out by the user entering the equipment tag numbers. If you have these numbers in bar code form on your equipment, you can read them directly into Facil to record the check in/out.
The equipment tag number bar code can also be used to locate the records for that piece of equipment in the Equipment form.
Person ID numbers could be scanned from an ID card to locate the Person in the Person form, or to locate the person’s reservations using the Facil Reservation Viewer.
A bar code may also be used to identify tapes by their ID number and to locate the records for programs on that tape using the Tape form.
A quality bar code reader system including label printing software may be purchased for $300 or less. The only requirement for Facil is that the bar code reader provide data as though it were coming from the keyboard. This is the most common type of bar code scanner sold, known as a "wedge scanner" and/or "keyboard decoded". Either a CCD (charge coupled device) or laser scanner is recommended; the "pen" style scanner is the cheapest but is difficult to use and unreliable. A CCD scanner must be placed close to or in contact with the bar code label; a laser scanner will read the label at a distance of a couple of feet but laser scanners are a bit more expensive. Several Facil users have reported good results with devices manufactured by the Wasp company, a popular manufacturer of moderately priced bar code systems. Details on the Wasp product line are available at www.waspbarcode.com/barcode-scanners. After deciding which type of scanner you prefer, shop the web for price - they are very widely distributed and discounted.
Equipment labels with bar codes can be printed directly from Facil onto standard mailing labels. Almost any printer can print bar codes by selecting a bar code font in your word processor or other program. Preprinted bar code labels in plastic, metal, and otherr forms are widely available. For durable self-laminating labels that can be used on any equipment including cables or other small items, consider the Brady BMP21 label printer. This handheld label printer can print text and bar codes on self-laminating vinyl, wire marker sleeves, nylon cloth, polyester and indoor/outdoor vinyl label materials.
Only the single Facil data file has to be backed up. The location and name of the data file in use is shown at the bottom of the Facil main menu. Read the Tech Doc "Data Backup" for full details and suggested backup strategies.