Actinic Business v7

  • Editors' rating
    8.6 Outstanding

Pros

  • UK-based
  • powerful
  • improved interface
  • scalable
  • includes 30-day trial hosting

Cons

  • No Undo action
  • no search engine optimisation or direct mail tools
  • need to budget for long-term hosting and payment processes

The latest version of Actinic's software sports a new user interface and adds a range of new features. These include: basic content management and task scheduling; extended back office integration through support for ODBC databases; improved discounting functions; and a digital download module that enables delivery of electronic products such as digital images, MP3 tracks and other software via download. For added value, the software now comes as standard with two modules that were previously sold for a further £500: Sage Line 50 and QuickBooks accounting plug-ins.

That’s not all though. This UK-based e-commerce solution boasts extended reporting and customer accounting features, together with all the features new to Actinic Catalog v7, such as improved navigation, better catalogue management and overall design enhancements. Larger companies will appreciate better order processing and reporting tools, while email and template upgrades will find favour with smaller firms. The software now also supports shared SSL encryption.

Actinic Business v7 is part of Actinic Software’s new range, which consists of three products all designed for smaller companies seeking to build a complete Web site for selling products online. Actinic Business v7 is the mid-range offering and is essentially the same as the entry-level Actinic Catalog (£379 ex. VAT), but supports more products (up to 10,000), allows you to offer a range of discounts and surcharges to any group of products and/or customers (two for the price of one, for example) and offer discounts triggered by entering a coupon code or clicking a hyperlink. Actinic Business v7 also offers built-in support for the download of electronic goods, allows you to create customer accounts with usernames and passwords, and links dynamically with third-party databases. Actinic Developer (£1,500 ex. VAT, with a one-year Developer Subscription) further offers multi-site licensing and Dreamweaver integration.

The fact that you can set up shop in a matter of days (or even hours if you’re a smaller trader) rather than weeks is a great incentive to start trading online, and the way Actinic Business takes care of the back-end processes that manage stock levels makes life a whole lot easier. It’s also worth noting that there are no monthly rental charges for the software, so smaller companies needn’t worry about hidden catches. You will, of course, have to make an additional outlay on Web hosting, as well as stump up a little extra for the services of third-party payment processors, such as WorldPay, and any marketing you wish to undertake.

When it comes to creating an online shop, the software’s updated interface is much easier to use. For instance, the opening screen now includes a preview panel showing changes to your store pages as they are made, and there’s a panel that displays the properties of the currently selected object. From the main menu bar you can now also customise toolbars and other features that were previously hidden in custom variables.

The 'Content Tree' window is used to navigate the structure of your store, as well as to organise products into sections and subsections. From here you can also view the details of a product, as well as duplicate a product in more than one section, should you want to promote the same product in different areas of your store. You can also include links to other products, sections or URLs as part of the product’s full description for cross-selling and promotion, as well as view your store in a Web browser to see how things are progressing.

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Other key features allow you to import large quantities of product information in either a comma-delimited or tab-delimited text file, export the current hierarchy of sections and products, link directly to a spreadsheet or an external database via ODBC (for managing a catalogue of products in another application), and set minimum order levels at a store. You can also make it mandatory for customers to agree to your terms and conditions before they proceed with their order.

Finally, orders can be colour coded for improved order management, discounts can be made to expire after a certain time period, and you can create surcharges that are restricted to certain payment methods, should you want compensation for any extra charges applied by third-party card-processing companies.

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