First appearing back in 1987, ACT was, and still remains, a top choice for small businesses looking for contact and customer management software. And while the company's name recently changed from Best Software to Sage, its goals have not. The company designed its latest version ACT by Sage 2006 to improve productivity, simplify administration and increase its integration with popular accounting applications.
The 2006 version maintains its calling to help you (or up to 10 people on a network) organize all the various items related to a business contact e-mail, attachments, appointments, notes, images and documents in one central place. It has also added features intended to make you more efficient and productive.
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Accounting, a natural extension to contact management, is important for small business owners, and Sage made a point of improving and expanding accounting integration in ACT 2006, said Larry Ritter, vice president of ACT product management. "Along with keeping track of contacts, customers sales opportunities and e-mail marketing campaigns, accounting integration is an important facet of running a small business," he said. "ACT has been integrated with Quickbooks, and in ACT 2006, we now provide integration with Simply Accounting and Business Works."
Ritter added that 2006 does not integrate with Microsoft's recently released Small Business Accounting application, and that customer demand will dictate when and if that happens.
What Else is New?
Some of the new features you'll find in ACT 2006 include:
- An advanced company and group tree designed to make it easy to see relationships between different contact groups and the hierarchy within subgroups and divisions
- Add contacts and make universal changes to multiple groups and companies; create hyperlinks when linking contacts to companies
- Phone numbers automatically printed on ACT calendars for all scheduled calls
- Faster attachment synchronization to improve sync time and keep documents up-to-date
- Database synchronization up to 365 days; designed to help remote employees with data security, lets you sync expired databases back to server one last time to prevent data loss
- Terminal services/Citrix(3) support that takes advantage of existing infrastructure and lets employees from different locations access the same ACT database without VPN access
- Integration with Lotus Notes
But Wait, There's More
The company also announced ACT by Sage Premium For Workgroups 2006, an application designed for sales teams and workgroups of up to 50 people. The software includes all of the enhancements found in ACT by Sage 2006, plus additional features aimed at improving deployment, administration and security.
One important feature Ritter pointed to is the automatic scheduler. "This lets you schedule automatic backups of your contacts. It also lets you automatically sync your schedule with co-workers. It helps keep everyone's data secure and everyone's schedule on track." Ritter said the feature requires initial set up to determine the backup and synchronization times, but is completely hands-off after that.
Other features include:
- Customizable opportunity fields and drop-down lists for currency, decimal or number fields, mandatory fields, field values and disabled editing
- Attachment synchronization and database memory optimization
- Group contact access granted from contact list view lets you make contacts public, private or limit to specific people or groups
- Expanded accounting integration with Sage BusinessWorks 50 Accounting, Peachtree by Sage, Simply Accounting by Sage and QuickBooks 2005 Pro/Premier
- Silent installation lets one person install ACT on the PCs of employees even those located in remote locations from a centrally located server
- Custom permissions to allow or restrict deletions and export to Excel
- Easy-view team membership lets co-workers right click on a team name to see members of that team
- Contact lookup lets you see which contacts specific individuals or teams can access, including quick access assignment for new employees and groups
- Terminal services/Citrix3 support lets employees from different remote locations access the same ACT database without VPN access
In addition to the two versions of ACT 2006, Sage also announced over 40 new add-on solutions developed by third-party companies and designed to work within or alongside the new 2006 applications.
These add-on programs cover a wide range of tasks that relate to addressing and shipping, data management, e-mail and direct mail marketing, faxing, graphics and mapping, PDAs and more. You'll find them all at www.actsolutions.com.
Pricing and Availabiltiy
You can buy ACT by Sage 2006 at software retailers such as Staples and Best Buy, e-tailers or online at the Sage Web site. It sells for $229.99 (MSRP) and the upgrade sells for $149.95 (MSRP).
If you're interested in buying ACT by Sage Premium For Workgroups 2006, contact ACT Corporate Licensing at 888-855-5222 or from an ACT Certified Consultant. It sells for $399.99 (MSRP) and the upgrade sells for $259.95 (MSRP).
Lauren Simonds is the managing editor of SmallBusinessComputing.com
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