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ACT! 6.0

ACT! 6.0 doesn't look much different from ACT! 2000, but underneath you'll find lots of new customer relationship management (CRM) features. Its increased Outlook integration and Outlook-like email client eliminate double entries or repetitive cutting and pasting for Outlook users. ACT! 6.0's beefed-up scheduling skills also make tracking tasks simpler than ever. Unfortunately, it still lacks the more sophisticated sales tools and e-commerce connections offered by competitors like GoldMine and Maximizer. But if your contact management tasks have outgrown Outlook and you want to ease into CRM, we recommend ACT! 6.0.
Written by Gregg Keizer, Contributor
act6-lead.jpg

ACT! 6.0

7.2 / 5
Excellent

pros and cons

Pros
  • Increased integration with Outlook embedded browser more scheduling tools and features.
Cons
  • Lacks the sophisticated sales tools found in competitors like GoldMine and Maximizer.

ACT! 6.0 doesn't look much different from ACT! 2000, but underneath you'll find lots of new customer relationship management (CRM) features. Its increased Outlook integration and Outlook-like email client eliminate double entries or repetitive cutting and pasting for Outlook users. ACT! 6.0's beefed-up scheduling skills also make tracking tasks simpler than ever. Unfortunately, it still lacks the more sophisticated sales tools and e-commerce connections offered by competitors like GoldMine and Maximizer. But if your contact management tasks have outgrown Outlook and you want to ease into CRM, we recommend ACT! 6.0.

You can get ACT! configured in no time. The program’s import wizard grabs data from several file types, including Outlook 97 through 2002, dBase III through V, and text-delimited files. Naturally, you can set ACT! to automatically drop, say, telephone numbers into phone number contact fields. We imported our contacts from Outlook and were ready to track customers and clients in less than five minutes.

Just as importantly, ACT! integrates with several applications for writing documents and for communication. For example, when you start to type letters or memos into Word, ACT! automatically records the activity in the contact’s history log. Also, the email setup wizard lets you integrate ACT! with your existing email client, such as Outlook, Outlook Express or Lotus Notes.

ACT!'s interface hasn't changed markedly since ACT! 2000 -- after all, if it isn’t broken, don't fix it. A navigational bar on the left-hand side still offers access to tools such as the contact list, task list and email client. Tabs at the bottom still take you to the contact history, attached documents and sales leads. The program also retains its excellent contact-management skills, which help you keep track of appointments, manage the sales process (from initial contact to closing the deal) and analyse your progress with, for example, sales statistics.

But ACT! offers some new features as well. Essentially, you can now work in either Outlook or ACT! without duplicating efforts in either one. For instance, you can access ACT!'s own database as you work in Outlook, and add the complete text of an email message to an ACT! Contact History list. Also, ACT!'s revamped email interface makes it look like Outlook and lets you view your Outlook, Outlook Express or Notes messages within ACT! itself. Unfortunately, the program spawns a separate window to show you this mail -- we'd like to see it embedded within the ACT! window to reduce clutter.

On the bright side, you can view several document types (Word, Excel, PowerPoint and Acrobat, as well as JPEG and BMP images) within a preview pane -- no more launching separate applications. And to stay up to date with your contacts, you can use the cool new Contact Activity Lookup to search for recent activity (say, all customers with changed sales leads) so that you can make calls or send email.

If you need to work in ACT! and use the Web simultaneously, ACT! 6.0 embeds a browser (a modified version of Internet Explorer) in its own main window. What's more, you can attach whole Web pages -- for example, a company’s sales site -- to a contact. This will come in handy when you make your pitch to a lead.

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Regrettably, ACT! still lags behind GoldMine and Maximizer in terms of sales and e-commerce integration. Unlike GoldMine, ACT! doesn't do advanced sales functions, such as assigning quotas, and its sales forecasting tool is elementary at best. If you're looking for a serious sales arsenal, use GoldMine instead.

As far as online support is concerned, Interact Commerce’s document database is searchable and extensive, while the free discussion forums may be able to point you to a solution.

With this edition, ACT! really has got its act together in many ways. But ACT!'s sales tools don't quite match those of GoldMine, which is a real CRM powerhouse. If you rely on Outlook religiously and want CRM capabilities, ACT! is your action item. Others who want more sophistication for about the same price should check out GoldMine instead.