Wishing you all a very festive season from GL Computing

I would like to thank all the readers of this blog and hope you have enjoyed the information I have shared during 2010 and found it useful.

I’d especially like to thank:

  • Rich Bohn of SellMoreNow who honoured me with a Willy 2010 award for being a CRM Unsung Hero: Willy10-lg
  • Tony Holowitz of GetMyACT! Together for this very nice post titled: I Like Mike

These wonderful tributes encourage me to keep assisting users and resellers of ACT!

I thought I'd let you know that I won't be taking a break over this time, so feel free to post a comment here on the blog, to the ACT! Fanatics Group or the GL Computing Facebook Page should you have any questions I can help you with.

Please also feel free to post any suggestions for the types of content you’d like to see from me in the new year - your opinions are important to me.

I'd like to wish all of you and your families a safe, wonderful and successful new year.

Kindest Regards,
Mike Lazarus
ACT! Evangelist

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ACT! 2011 - The string was not recognized as a valid datetime

Last week, I was asked to look into a problem by an ACT! Consultant in Australia. They have a client in New Zealand who is experiencing the following problem.

On starting ACT!, they get the following error:

The string was not recognized as a valid datetime. There is a unknown word starting at index 5

That’s not too bad, as after clicking OK, everything seemed ok. However when they try to schedule an activity, they got this error:

Resolution of the dependancy failed, type = "ACT.ULAvailControl" name = "Exception message is: The current build operation (build key Build Key{Act.UL.AvailControl, null}; failed. The string was not recognised as a valid Date Time. There is a unknown word starting at index 5. (Strategy type BuildPlanStratefgy, index 3)

They contacted Sage Australia tech support and were told:

Please be advised that it is a Locale, Data/Time specific issue and has been identified as a known issue with the software version for New Zealand and Mexico and is under investigation. We should get a fix for it in Service Pack 1 which may be couple of months away. In the mean time, you can follow the below step to work around the issue –

Close and open database [File > Close] without closing ACT completely.

You will be able to access the date/time related features without any problem. If you have any questions, please feel free to reply to this email or call Support

Obviously, as this problem only happens in those countries, there is a problem with those who didn’t beta test it prior to release.

I wondered who might have seen this, so I posted a message about it to the ACT! Community Forums and the LinkedIN ACT! Fanatics Group … the answer came on the LinkedIN group from José Roberto  dos Santos from Brazil. He said:

Change the Regional Settings in Windows Control Panel from "am" and "pm" to "AM" and "PM".

I am glad to report that this simple fix worked perfectly and I thought I’d post it here for others in those regions who have this error.

 

What’s New in Sage ACT! 2011 #SageACT

Normally I try to get this out during the beta period. But, for various reasons, I’ve only been able to get to this now.

Sage ACT! 2011 has added a whole swag of new functions, improvements in usability and fixes to issues. I’m going to try and cover the ones that I have found to be most useful. Unfortunately, a couple are only useful to those within North America… but such is the lack of ability of the regional offices to test the functions and respond.

For the full, public list, please refer to these ACT! Knowledgebase Articles:

Obviously, before you upgrade you should ensure your system, and any add-ons or plugins, support the new version or if they need an update as I suggested in the article: Upgrading ACT!, especially when you are using add-ons

One change worth noting first is the product name changes:

  • ACT! by Sage is now Sage ACT! Pro
  • ACT! by Sage Premium is now Sage ACT! Premium (access via Windows)
  • ACT! by Sage Premium for Web is now Sage ACT! Premium (access via web)

Other than ongoing improvements in stability and speed, the biggest new items are:

Smart Tasks

Smart Tasks allow you to schedule a series of common and connected steps. You can use the Smart Task templates that Sage ACT! provides* or create your own using the Smart Tasks Manager. Smart Tasks can be run manually or scheduled to run automatically.

Note: I think this feature is the one that should easily justify the upgrade for most users.

You should have a look at the ACT! 2011 Smart Tasks video on YouTube

Outlook Contacts and Calendar Integration

Outlook Integration allows you to synchronize your activities and contacts between Sage ACT! Premium and Outlook. You can set synchronization options to determine what information is synchronized. Synchronization can be scheduled to run automatically or manually run at any time.

Note: I strongly suggest users be careful with using these options as I’ve found some odd behaviour. While some of the bugs have now been fixed with Hotfix 1 for Sage ACT! 2011, others are still problems. For example, the fact that it doesn’t sync the country code with phone numbers makes it useless for anyone who wants to call internationally or to use the numbers when travelling – this is the same as one of the bugs I identified in ACT! Mobile Live.

Sage Business Info Services for ACT!

Sage Business Info Services for ACT!* (provided by Hoover's™) provides tools to access critical business information for your contacts and companies. With Sage Business Info Services for ACT!, you can:

Build a list of companies and people and then import these lists directly into your database. Access links from the contact and company Web Info tab. These links provide key information about your contacts' and companies' profile, financial details, company contacts, industry information, and company news. Subscribe to alerts to notify you when key changes occur for the contact or company.*Requires additional subscription.

Note: This service provides very limited benefit to those of us outside North America or United Kingdom as you can see from the Hoovers' Companies By Geography list

 

Sage E-marketing for ACT!*

  • Sage E-marketing for ACT! is replacing the name for the connected E-marketing service, formerly ACT! E-marketing. There is a new icon for the contact toolbar as well. *Requires additional subscription.
  • Sage E-marketing for ACT! is integrated “out of the box” with Sage ACT! 2011 Smart Tasks (3 Smart Task templates require a subscription to Sage E-marketing for ACT!).
  • Email templates can now be launched as landing pages (web pages hosted by Swiftpage™).
  • The service now has an Advanced Template Editor that can be used to edit imported templates.
  • The template manager has been redesigned to help users manage, edit, publish/distribute, and launch landing pages easier.
  • Swiftpage has added support for Microsoft® PowerPoint®, Microsoft Excel®, and text files as documents that can be linked from an email template.
  • Documents and images can be managed in a library format instead of uploaded individually for each template. The document library can store up to 100 documents, and the image library can store up to 500 images.

Security, Administration and Other Improvements

  • Increased Security for Attachments and Notes/History Editing Within Your Database
  • Company Security
  • Import Data Changes: New Express Method, Ability to Create New Fields On-the-Fly During Import, and Synonym Mapping
  • Installation and upgrading seems much more reliable
  • Installation without MS SQL on workstations
  • Now uses MS SQL 2008 Express by default
  • Full support for MS Office 2010 - in 32bit mode only as per Office 2010 support with ACT! by Sage
  • Parallels (for Mac users) now officially supported as well as VMWare, Sun Virtual Box and Citrix
  • Web version now supports native Firefox 3.5 and 3.6 … I’ve also found it seems to run ok in a brief test with Firefox 4.0b6 and Google Chrome, but these aren’t “officially” supported

 

Office 2010 support with ACT! by Sage #SageACT

For some months, people have been asking about support for Office 2010 in ACT! by Sage with no information or direction from Sage itself.

Up until this point I had assumed that, like with many earlier versions, Sage would provide a patch for the currently available version of ACT!, but that it would be significantly improved with the next major release. Well, this was not the case.

Sage management had left everyone guessing till finally an announcement from Larry Ritter. In brief:

  • There won’t be a patch to provide full Office 2010 support in ACT! by Sage 2010
  • There is a workaround to provide limited support for Outlook 2010 by downloading a preference file from ACT!’s knowledgebase article 26713 - ACT! by Sage Compatibility with Microsoft® Office 2010
  • Sage ACT! 2011 will support Office 2010, but only if installed in 32bit mode

Let me address each of these points in turn:

No patch for ACT! 2010 for full support

There are two possible reasons for Sage’s decision not to provide a patch for users of ACT! 2010.

Either there were significant changes in the new Office version that produced major challenges to incorporate in the current code base, or Sage completely underestimated the faster uptake to Office 2010 compared with Office 2007 and didn’t foresee it would be an issue for enough of its user base.

Whatever the reason, Sage decided it was better value for their R&D dollars to concentrate on ACT! 2011

But why has it taken so long to provide this necessary information?

Limited support via a replacement preferences206.xml file

While I do applaud Sage for at least providing this bandaid fix, there are a few issues I have:

  • It’s important to read the knowledge base article linked above to see that, while it provides limited support for Outlook, it provides no support for Word or Excel integration.
  • Back in June, a user posted to this Sage’s Community site article that he had received XML files for this fix. I contacted several people within Sage to see if I could get some information on the custom XML files, but did not receive a single reply. Seeing as they knew about this fix in June, why did it take so long to post it to a knowledge base article or even make it available to other users in need?
  • When Sage did post the knowledge base article, it only included a fix for the US version of ACT! 2010. Within a couple of hours of being informed how the XML was made, I had provided an AU version to Greig Hollister to update the knowledge base. I see that a Sage Australia Tech Support staff member also took the effort to provide one – their name has removed from this blog at their request not to be associated with any form of communications … but you can see who on Larry’s blog. I found the request to remove their name particularly telling as the problem here is the lack of public communication from Sage as this is what they objected to.
    But so far those are still the only versions posted. Sage needs to realise that this product is used world-wide and either produce the localised versions from their North American office or request each of the regions to provide them in a timely manner. I have also been told that the US version will work for Canadians as long as you rename it to CApreferences206.xml
  • For any users or resellers in the other regions who want to create their own:
    • On a clean OS, install Office 2007 and then ACT! 2010 12.1
    • Open ACT! and set up the Office integration
    • Go to the folder appropriate to your operating system:
      • Windows® XP: C:\Documents and Settings\{User_Name}\Application Data\ACT\ACT for Windows 12)\Preferences
      • Windows Vista® & Windows® 7: C:\Users\{User_Name}\AppData\Roaming\ACT\ACT for Windows 12\Preferences
    • Copy the file XXpreferences206.xml (where XX refers to your country version)
    • This file can then be used as per the knowledge base article linked above with Office 2010

 

Support for Office 2010 in Sage ACT! 2011

On a 64bit operating system, Office 2010 can be installed in either 32bit or 64bit, but ACT! 2011 will only support Office 2010 in 32bit mode.

I’m not sure of the reasons for this, but it is important to note that many products from Microsoft, Google and others are also limited in their Office 2010 support to 32bit.

I don’t see this as too much of a problem because the only real advantage of operating Office as a 64bit application is if you need to operate on huge (multi-gb) Excel or Word documents.

However, it is something that will be important for Sage and resellers to make users aware of, especially as I would think most pre-installed versions of Office on new systems would have been pre-installed as 64bit.

In Conclusion

While it would have been nice for Sage to have patched ACT! 2010 for full support, there are obviously technical and/or business reasons for their decision not to do this. Certainly it gives justification for users to purchase the maintenance package each year.

What I fail to understand is why it took so long for Sage to inform the user-base of their decision and, more so, to provide the work-around to users caught out by this when they knew about it so long ago.

ACT! is a business tool and its users need timely communication from Sage in order to plan their own business projects. It seems that, since the days under David van Toor and Sam Hunter, ACT!’s management have been communicating in absentia.

What do you think?

ACT! by Sage Whitepapers

A collection of ACT! by Sage Whitepapers from ACT! Knowledgebase article 25908



ACT! 2010 and Microsoft Office Integration
This Whitepaper details ACT! integration with core Microsoft Office applications, including Microsoft Word, Microsoft Excel®, Microsoft Outlook®, as well as Internet Explorer®. It explores how ACT! users can leverage the power of both ACT! and Microsoft Office when integrated together. The integration capabilities addressed in this Whitepaper pertain to the 2010 versions of ACT! by Sage, ACT! by Sage Premium, and ACT! by Sage Premium for Web.


ACT! by Sage and Social CRM - Part 1
This whitepaper is Part 2 of our ACT! and Social Media series and will explore the benefits of using social media to engage with your customers, and demonstrate how ACT! 2010 can make it easier to find new prospects, learn about their needs, and grow those relationships. For more information about getting started with social media, please refer to Part 1 of our whitepaper series, Connecting with Your Customers: A Guide to Social Media, which provides a general overview and description of social media and step by step guidelines for how to get started.


ACT! by Sage and Social CRM - Part 2
This whitepaper is Part 2 of our ACT! and Social Media series and will explore the benefits of using social media to engage with your customers, and demonstrate how ACT! 2010 can make it easier to find new prospects, learn about their needs, and grow those relationships. For more information about getting started with social media, please refer to Part 1 of our whitepaper series, Connecting with Your Customers: A Guide to Social Media, which provides a general overview and description of social media and step by step guidelines for how to get started.


ACT! by Sage 2010: Delivering on Usability and Productivity
This whitepaper discusses how in the past year, Sage Global CRM Solutions has increased efforts related to usability, and therefore, implemented a progressive program of customer research involving hundreds of customers and partners. To determine the quality of the ACT! 2010 design compared to the competition, Sage conducted a Keystroke Level Modelling (KLM) study of ACT! and five competitors. The results of the KLM study presented in this paper show that ACT! was rated number one in user productivity, while Microsoft® and Salesforce.com finished 5th and 6th respectively. Overall, ACT! was rated as most efficient with on average 17% higher productivity than competitors. Notably, the same tasks take 25% longer to complete in Microsoft Dynamics® CRM and 37% longer using Salesforce.com.


ACT! Reporting and Data Access Methods
This whitepaper discusses the technical aspects of the ACT! reporting and data access methods. For example, the ACT! architecture provides four additional data access methods that can be used for querying, reporting and data extraction: ACT! OLE DB Reporting Provider, ACT! Reader Utility and account (ACT! Premium only), ACT! Password Utility (ACT! Premium only), ACT! SDK (Software Developers Kit).


Using ACT! Premium in Microsoft® Terminal Server or Citrix Presentation Server Environments™
The whitepaper explores the benefits of deploying ACT! Premium through Terminal Services, outlines deployment requirements and recommendations, and provides installation and performance tips. It is intended for IT Administrators who are considering deployment of ACT! using Microsoft Terminal Services, with or without Citrix.


Factors That Affect ACT! Performance for Individual Users
This whitepaper examines the factors that affect ACT! application performance for the individual user. It includes results of testing performed by an independent benchmark testing company using ACT! by Sage 2006 (8.0), as well as testing performed by Sage on subsequent ACT! versions.


Scalability Results for ACT! Premium Solutions
This whitepaper provides performance and scalability test results and hardware recommendations to deliver a cost effective and positive end-user experience.


ACT! Architecture, Customization, and Integration
This whitepaper discusses the ACT! product family architecture, deployment methods, customization, and integration capabilities with other products and is intended for IT managers or system administrators who want to better understand the underlying platform and capabilities.


Keys to a Successful ACT! by Sage Deployment
This whitepaper explores various deployment scenarios possible with ACT! solutions, based on the organization’s needs, whether users require online access, offline access, handheld mobile access, or a combination of access types.


ACT! Security Model
This white paper discusses the ACT! security model, which was developed to support stand-alone and workgroup implementations and provide consistency and flexibility to managers and IT personnel charged with protecting contact information.


ACT! Synchronization Architecture
This whitepaper provides an overview of the ACT! sync model, including a description of the key features, abilities, and concepts. It is directed at current users and potential customers seeking to perform a functional and technical evaluation of the product. Diagrams and examples are provided where appropriate, as well as greater detail on Internet synchronization, focusing on setup and configuration.


Managing Customer Relationships: The Choice Between What's Cheap and What Works
Authored by Aberdeen, this research document will examine the benefits of free and paid CM solutions for small-to-medium sized businesses. Organizations in need of a sales automation solution to manage account, contact, and company information will be advised on how to select a CM tool that can satisfy short-term needs and meet long-term goal.


CRM: A Business Imperative for Companies During the Global Economic Downturn
This whitepaper examines how Sage is working with small and medium sized businesses today to help them protect and grow their revenues during the economic downturn through the use of Customer Relationship Management (CRM) software.


Automating Success: The Choice Between Contact Management and Customer Relationship Management
Authored by Aberdeen, this whitepaper will enable users to determine which solution best fits their business type, as well as the organizational capabilities necessary to ensure the successful adoption of a Contact Management or Customer Relationship Management solution.

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Getting ACT! on your phone

A comparison of various PDA links for ACT! by Sage

This is an excerpt of the PDF: Getting ACT! on your phone

Mobility has been one of the great driving forces behind the use of ACT!. From the ability to sync to laptops (originally supported with ACT! 2.0 for DOS) to PDAs (since the HP95LX version in 1992) and even Web versions, people have found the need to provide access to remote users and to staff on the road to be an essential aspect to their management of customer relationships and of their staff.

I previously described many of the options for remote access of ACT! by Sage in the post:
Supporting Remote Users with ACT! by Sage

With the high uptake of "smart phones", there are now a wide variety of options available depending on your needs and I thought it would be useful to take a look at these and compare them.

The contents of this document are the result of over 60 separate installs in various configurations over a two month period.

Disclosure: I have been using Handheld Contact (on both Blackberry and iPhone) since switching from CompanionLink nearly ten years ago. I also support Handheld Contact resellers and users in Asia Pacific. However, I shall endeavour to provide an accurate an un-biased analysis of all the products.

 

The products included in this evaluation:

Testing environment:

  • Windows XP Professional SP3 (with all updates) on domain
  • Office 2007 SP2 (with all updates)
  • Exchange 2003 6.5 SP2 (with all updates)
  • Blackberry Pearl 8100 with OS 4.5.0.102 via BES
  • iPhone 3GS 32GB with OS 3.1.3 via Exchange OWA
  • HTC Touch Duel with Windows Mobile 6 Professional via ActiveSync 4.5
  • All regional settings set to Australia, Sydney

Areas included in evaluation:

  • Supported ACT! versions
    • Method of sync
    • USB
    • Wireless via sync server
    • Via other software such as Outlook, Exchange, Google Apps
  • What ACT! data is supported
    • Contact fields
      • number of fields
      • data types and formatting
      • pull downs
      • field level security
    • Activities
      • linking to correct contacts (or multiple contacts)
      • clearing activities
      • viewing and scheduling for other users
      • custom activities
    • Notes / Histories
      • viewing
      • creating on the road (including from emails, phone calls and SMS)
      • linking to multiple contacts
    • Sales Opportunities - viewing and creating
    • International issues - date and phone number formats
  • Other functions
  • Administration
    • Ease of setup and implementation
    • Ability to control what each user has access to
    • Data reliability
    • Security
  • Support issues

 

Conclusions

After doing far more testing that I had planned for this document, my recommendation for the best product is Handheld Contact Professional for the following reasons:

  • It is by far the easiest and fastest product to setup and implement and it's just as easy for a single user setup on a local PC as for a 100+ user setup on a network using a computer dedicated to Handheld Contact
  • It is the easiest product to administer and maintain without technical skills
  • It provides the most "ACT!-like" experience on the phones it supports
  • It is a fully integrated application with Contacts, Activities and Notes/Histories in the one interface
  • Using its own application means that recording of emails, sms and call history can be automatically tracked and synced back to ACT!
  • It is one of only three products I couldn't cause to duplicate data in the ACT! database - the others being Handheld Contact Basic and 123 Synchronizer
  • It is one of only two products that operate using a Windows service, which I think is important for network security. The other being ACT! Mobile Live

* A useful point to note for the future: Handheld Contact is working to incorporate the full Sales Opportunity tables as well as those of Accounts Master! towards the end of this year. That will mean Handheld Contact Professional users will be able to view the sales history with their customers, but also to be able to create invoices from the road. Accounts Master! will integrate many accounting/ERP systems into ACT! and Handheld Contact.

It's only negatives are that it's limited to specific devices (Blackberry, iPhone, Windows Mobile Professional) and that the amount of data it requires means that on Blackberry there is a lower contact limit... although this limit is about to be significantly raised in an expected upgrade

My 2nd choice was, to be honest, a surprise to me. I hadn't played with 123 Synchronizer before and was surprised how solid it appeared. If you are using devices that are not supported by Handheld Contact Professional or if your business wants their ACT! data to synchronise with Outlook/Exchange, then this is the way to go.

  • It is the only product other than Handheld Contact where I didn't manage to cause to duplicate data in the ACT! database
  • While it didn't run as a service, it does have the option to be called from a command line and run without requiring a user account to be logged into Windows.

The only negatives I found are that it can be quite complex to set up in some configurations - I recommend using an ACT! Consultant - but check that they have done implementations of this product first. Also that it relies on Outlook/Exchange and possibly another product if you want wireless - while this would suit most users, you should check this before selecting it.

If you are running ACT! versions prior to Sage or using a device not supported by Handheld Contact and also not using Outlook, then Companionlink is the choice. But be careful to keep good backups in case of duplication issues. Doublelook really needs to have the option to run as a service to be really considered as an “Enterprise” product.

The free links should really be treated as a one-way option (from ACT! to the phone). The ability to cause problems in ACT! going both ways makes this a poor choice

Regarding ACT! Mobile Live, having supported ACT! since 1987, it really pains me to say I would not advise users to consider this as a realistic option under any circumstances. It has been 20 months since Sage first publically announced the beta of this product. They would be doing a favour to their users and VARs if they either started from scratch or dropped it and purchased one of the other products.

For full details, please see:

 

ACT! – Configuring Your Way to Success

Sage’s Brian Mowka recently published this useful post on editing the ACT! Configuration XML file that can improve the startup speed for some users: ACT! – Configuring Your Way to Success

I hope he will publish some more posts on tweaking the XML files in ACT! to improve it's use for various users.

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Social Media and CRM – thoughts on how they should connect

I have done a few articles in my blog on how I'd like to see Social Media integrated to CRM (especially ACT!). The two most relevant are ACT! by Sage and Social Media – Social CRM and Thoughts on ACT! 2010 beta (#ACT2010) - The good, the bad and the ugly

But, since those, I have seen the social media sites expand their capabilities and have seen many more people using them for the business connections as well as their social ones.

From a business point of view, this is introducing many issues with maintaining and managing those relationships and the methods you use to communicate with them. So I thought I would expand my view of some of the ways they should integrate. Obviously, as my focus is ACT!, some of the items might be specific to that CRM environment.

Contact importing/sending and syncing

Social Media has meant that people are making connecting with people in a wide variety of social networking sites like LinkedIN, Facebook, Plaxo, Twitter, Google Buzz and others.

But good CRM strategy means that you should be able to centralise all the points of contact. Basically, I think this should just be one way (from Social Media to CRM) – although, some social media platforms also allow you to load your contacts into them to search and see if they exist, then link them. This would be a good option for those platforms that provide this facility.

  • Import all (or a lookup) of social contacts/friends from the social media platform
    • Check to see if Contact already exists by email (all email fields) or Contact Name
    • For each Social Media site, there should be a dedicated field to fill in the key that links the CRM contact to their profile
    • As many people use different email addresses for social media sites, when adding the email, it should check if the email address exists. If not, add it to an additional email field
    • Ability to define if the imported contacts are Public (all CRM users), Limited Access (some CRM users) or Private
  • Should also import picture field (if available)
  • Ability to send a lookup of CRM contacts to the social media network and request to connect or invite the contact if not found
  • Ability to sync changes made by contacts on social site to CRM - including a picture field. This can be turned on for all or some social sites. An easy way to keep your data up-to-date

Events/Activities

Many social media platforms (like LinkedIN and Facebook) provide the ability to add “events”. These should be imported as activities in the CRM – with the option to link to a specific contact or to the user’s own record in the database.

Social Media Display

This is to display the contact's social media profile in a tab when you are working with them.

  • For each social media platform this requires two URLs and a dedicated key field
  • When looking at the contact and displaying their SCRM tab
    • If key field is empty, use first URL for search. Try email first (all email fields). Then, if that fails, try Company+Contact or just Contact
    • Allow user to select a contact (if only one contact auto select - most likely for email match) and link to the Contact in the CRM by adding the necessary data to the key field
    • When contact selected, and the direct key added to the special field and use this with 2nd URL for future views of the contact directly
    • Add a check to see if user is connected to the contact. If not, add a button to add them - this will usually display more data and can also change the link field

Blog/Micro blog

  • From the Social Media Display (above)
    • These might be URL with dedicate field from above (Twitter, Facebook, etc) or a web field separate from the web site field in ACT! (for Blog)
    • Should also have the ability to "favourite" an individual post - record it in History
    • For additional power add for Facebook/LinkedIN (Comment, Reply Privately), Twitter (Reply, Retweet, Direct) - so it's like an off-line client
    • Comments, Replies, Retweets, Directs should have option to automatically generate a history
  • Email
    • Maybe add ability to read/send emails via Facebook, LinkedIN, etc
    • If Send, also write these to History
  • Collection of data for accounts
    • Ability to combine updates on Groups/Companies like is done now for Notes, Histories, Activities, Sales Ops – this allows a Company wide view of their social media
    • Also ability to create Dynamic Groups based on Twitter or Facebook lists and LinkedIN groups

Security

  • I haven't really thought through the implications of this... but if all of the above is done, some additional security might be necessary - eg you might be a LinkedIN Contact, Facebook Friend, etc with a contact that others in your company are not and not wish them to see
  • What other items might need to be controlled?

As you can see, my view is that CRM (specifically ACT!) should be the centre of all knowledge and communication and this level of integration and functionality makes that a reality for social media

I'd be more than happy to hear any thoughts/comments any of you might have on this

ACT! Fanatics LinkedIN Group 1000th member prize

act_fanatics_hdrThe LinkedIN ACT! Fanatics Group was created as a place where ACT! users, resellers, add-on vendors and Sage staff from around the world could communicate and share their knowledge of using ACT! by Sage

The success of this is proven by the huge volume of valuable information that has been shared and now we are rapidly approaching 1000 members.

As a special present, some of the add-on vendors who are members of this group have offered to put together two packs of ACT! add-ons:

  • One for the 1000th member to the group
  • One for a random member of the group at the end of the week that the 1000th member joins
    To be eligible for this prize, you must post a reply to the News article referring to this offer in the LinkedIN group stating why you would like to use any of the add-on products in this promotion.
    The decision on the winner will be made by me in conjunction with the add-on vendors taking part

Both packs can be used by the winners or, if won by a reseller, Sage staff member or a user unable to use them, they can be sold at their retail values.*

The following products are included in both packs:

Handheld Contact – Professional Edition (1 yr)


handheld_contact_logo_2

Handheld Contact wirelessly syncs and manages your ACT! Contacts, Activities and Notes/Histories from your BlackBerry, Pocket PC, or Treo Smartphone - it's like having ACT! with you anywhere, anytime!
*iPhone version now in beta and due soon
itDial – Advanced

dialit

Enhanced calling interface from ACT! via TAPI phone systems and/or Skype VoIP.

itDial for ACT! makes keeping track of telephone calls easier than ever. Using  itDial, ACT! users can dial and answer calls, update contact information, add new contacts, create history, and schedule activities for incoming and outgoing calls with just the click of a mouse.
Company Wizard

company_boxshot2

Mass update and build company records based on a Lookup of Contact and create the contact links
Duplicate Contact Wizard - Expert

duplicate_boxshot2

Powerful De-duplicating Contacts and Companies in your ACT! database while retaining the extended data (Notes, Histories, Activities, Attachments, etc).
ACT! E-marketing (6 months)

swiftpage-logo-smaller

ACT! E-marketing helps you reach out to your contacts, grow your database, qualify new leads and automate your business processes. The offer will be 6 months of:

  • Pro service level
  • Silver Drip Marketing
  • 1 user on the account
  • 1,000 email per day send limit
Stonefield Query (6 months)
SFQ_Query_175X88
Stonefield Query for ACT!® is a user-friendly database report writing, query, and data mining tool designed specifically for ACT! putting Business Intelligence reporting in the hands of the end-user where it belongs. Stonefield Query has been customized specifically for ACT! giving you an intuitive, easy-to-use BI reporting solution that you will love!

* Option to resell does not apply to ACT! E-marketing or Stonefield Query

ACT! 2010 Service Pack 1 is available!

For ACT! 2010 users, Sage has just released Service Pack 1.

It adds a number of fixes and enhancements and I recommend it for all users.


Note: Apply this update to all machines that are involved in database synchronization to avoid issues surrounding renaming layouts, queries, and reports. This includes all machines that contain the Main Synchronization Database, Main Remote Database, and machines that have the ACT! Network or ACT! Internet Sync Services applied.

You might find the following knowledge base articles helpful:

 

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What I learned from my last blog post… and what would you like me to blog about?

Let me start by saying that, while I do like speaking, I don’t consider myself to be a good writer. This is the reason that my posts are largely bullet points or PowerPoint posts and tend to be mostly of a technical nature. Fortunately, blogs in the technical arena gain readerships according to the market they target.

As my blogs are targeted in a small niche of ACT! users who want to improve their technical understanding of the product, I don’t chase the volume hits of more professional bloggers. To put this in perspective, I have been typically achieving about 2000 hits per month on this blog (about the same as I get on the main GL Computing web site.

I try to post at least a couple of times a month and my posts do have a fair degree of text contact, which the search engines love to index.

I do promote my posts via Social Media:

  • Twitterfeed automatically sends a Tweet on Twitter very soon after an update
  • New posts are automatically added to the News section in the LinkedIN ACT! Fanatics Group 
  • Networkblogs automatically posts them to the GL Computing Facebook page and to the streams of those who follow either the blog page or are fans of the GL page.
  • I also find other similar blog posts and, where applicable, add a comment referencing my post
  • Additionally, I use links to the posts when answering forum questions where I have covered the topic in a post.

Currently, about 50% of hits to the blog are from referring sites (mainly forums I post to and the social media links) and only 35% from search engines.

However, last week, I posted about Why I prefer Blackberry over iPhone for Businesses. This was picked up by a couple of journalists and professional bloggers like Neerav Bhatt on his blog: Introduction to RIM Blackberry Mobile Phones: Pros and Cons

Not only did this article receive a lot of nice comments, but it was highly re-tweeted and has so far received about 1000 hits in less than 2 weeks (500 in the first day).

This raises some questions that I’d like to pose to you:

  1. What would you like to see me blog about?
    While I intend to keep targeting the ACT! user base, should I keep the focus on product technical posts? Or would you like to see more posts on other topics that might be of interest, such as: mobile computing, social media, general CRM, general sales/marketing or general IT?
  2. Would it detract from the site if I added some Google Ads or sponsorships?
    As I provide the content of this blog for free, do you think it would be a problem to go down this path? Previously, I had not considered the hit rate to be high enough to make this worth-while and also reasoned that the technical people who read the site wouldn’t be interested in this.

To add one more thing – While I don’t sell to end-users, if anyone wishes to utilise my services for any work related to ACT! or IT, you just need to have your reseller contact me to book some time. I can be available remotely for work at any time of the day as we support (via our resellers) in all time-zones.

Please let me know via a comment to this article, a comment in the ACT! Fanatics Group or privately via our Web Site Contact Page if you have any thoughts on what you’d like to see articles on or if there’s anything I can assist you with.

Updated: Why I prefer Blackberry over iPhone for business

Now updated for iOS4, iOS4.2 and iPhone4 … would like to add Blackberry 6.0 if I can get a Torch

After many years using Blackberry phones (several 7xxx models and, until recently, an 8100 Pearl) I have reluctantly had to switch to an iPhone (3GS 32GB) in order to test some software.

I thought I would give it some time before posting this blog as I wanted to make sure my issues weren’t just a question of not having found how to perform the functions I was used to.

Having now spent 3 months on the iPhone, I am at a loss as to how anyone would choose this device for business use or if email is really important to them. There are so many functions that I relied on that are just not available on the iPhone. I acknowledge that some of these might be specific to my carrier and some might be due to the actual way I prefer to operate. I have come to use, and rely on, my Blackberry as a virtual office and communications centre that allows me to be fully in touch when on the road.

So I thought I would put together a list and see if any of the iPhone experts can tell me if I'm doing it wrong or if this device is really so flawed and I’m immune to the cool-aid.

Note: For users of Sage ACT! who want to put their ACT! data on their phone, see this: Comparison of various smart phone links for Sage ACT! (4.0 and later)

Hardware
  • The device certainly seems well-built and solid… like most of the Blackberry phones (except the Flip). But dropping the iPhone on it’s face (without a protective case) will likely need a replacement
    * iPhone4 has a much harder screen and I haven’t heard of any screen cracks from an accidental drop
  • Having to use a pin to insert/replace the sim card just seems odd. Not having this “Ikea special tool” I had to wait a day to get a pin before I could use the device
  • As does having no way to replace the battery. This became a real issue when I found how limited the battery life is compares to the Blackberry - about 7 hours in the iPhone compared to several days on the Blackberry. When travelling with the Blackberry, I’d take one extra charge battery and have over a week using it is my sole means of communications
    * iPhone4 improves battery by about 20%, but still poor compared to Blackberry
  • Argh! A non-standard USB cable… and they don’t include a separate one for the power supply – so moving the phone from the PC to a wall power means buying another cable or carrying the supplied one with me. I can only see this an an artificial way for Apple to make some extra on the cable.
    * I’ve actually had two break on me
  • No slot to use for an additional memory stick seems wrong for a supposedly powerful device. It makes sharing data with other systems and platforms much more limited
  • Even with carrying the cable and without ability to use external memory, it has 32GB – but still can’t be used as a memory stick or external drive via USB (except for photos). What a waste! I should have purchased the one with 8GB
    * There are apps that allow it as a drive, but you need to have the cable and it installs drivers that might not be wanted on the other machines
    * The photos are completely unsecured… plug into any PC and connect as a drive.
  • Shouldn’t all phone cameras now have a flash and zoom?
    * Flash rectified … zoom also, but very poor – best not to use and zoom on PC later
Setup
  • I found the setup to be very easy. Although I am disappointed in having to use iTunes for everything
  • There doesn’t seem to be a way to setup multiple devices for a business over the air
    * This can be done now, but not as functional or as integrated as Blackberry BES
  • Connecting to my Wi-Fi was pretty easy once I’d changed the settings. My Wi-Fi supports IPSec security which the iPhone doesn’t
  • Adding email accounts (Exchange and POP3) was remarkably easy – it was fortunate I have OWA
  • No way to roll-out, administer, secure or wipe the device remotely
    * Wiping can be done with MobileMe subscription
Data
  • Unlike the US, the iPhone is available here in Australia through all the major carriers. But, unlike with the Blackberry, none of them offer unlimited data. I guess this means more searching for Wi-Fi spots
    * Data limits have improved, but still not unlimited
  • But don’t worry US… the call drop-outs and disconnects that people in the US seem to think are related to the AT&T network – they happen here with the iPhone on all networks.
  • I’ve found that downloading the same amount of data (email, web pages, etc), the iPhone uses between 5 and 20 times the bandwidth. This might explain why carriers are reluctant to give unlimited data. It also explains why the iPhone is so much slower at performing similar tasks.
Security
  • When it comes to security, there is no contest. See the Blackberry Official Statement
  • On the other hand, the iPhone has been found to have some major security issues:
  • Additionally, the iPhone requires MobileME (additional subscription) in order to remotely wipe a lost phone. For remote-wiping on a BlackBerry, you can do this through BES, BIS or customers can opt for an emergency feature where their phone automatically erases all of its data if it’s been off the network for a set amount of time. This is powerful as it helps protect against someone who steals the phone and pops the sim card before trying to access the data.
Operation and Interface
  • No multi-tasking. That means no back-ground sync for databases or the ability to have an application run a task in the background which doing something else in the foreground
    * iOS4 does allow specific tasks to be run in the background (not entire apps like Blackberry)
  • This also means you can’t really use it for Instant Messaging with products like Skype, Live Messenger, etc as you can only receive messages when that application is the open one.
    * iOS4 allows this if app re-written for it… but a significant battery drain
  • Not even task-switching. Applications close and have to re-open (then wait till they get up-to-date data). I have lost work when checking a received email or answering the phone.
    * iOS4 completely addresses this.
  • Why can’t all Settings be accessed from within the applications. Having to check both the iPhone settings application and any option in an application itself just doesn’t make sense.
  • The Blackberry menu makes accessing more common tasks faster.
  • The scrolling, while pretty, actually makes it slower to get to the actual point you want
    * Still can’t go to a specific page or to the bottom of a large list/doc without a lot of scrolling
  • The scroll wheels to set the time or alarm, while a pretty novelty the first few times take more time to set than just typing the digits.
  • Maybe my thumbs are a bit big, but even after several months I keep pressing Shift or Del accidently (depending on the side of the screen) - even in Landscape. Worse, even though used to a much more narrow device, I still can’t get the right keys as fast in Portrait mode… but in same apps, Landscape isn’t an option – this slows data entry.
    * After all this time, still have this issue
  • In these days of internet shouldn’t the period and @ be on the main layout? Sure it has the same double-space for period at the end of sentence, but this isn’t great for a URL or email address
  • The spell check only gives one option… what about other words that are similar?
    * The iPhone spell-check errors have become legendary … hate to make some I’ve seen to a business contact
  • The spell check on the Blackberry can also include all the data from the address book – your contacts names and companies. Makes typing much easier.
  • Blackberry spell check allows manual adding and customisation of the words. iPhone rarely remembers common words.
Phone
  • When you start entering the data in the Blackberry phone, it auto searches the address book (first, last and company name) and as you scroll, shows each contact’s numbers to click and call. With the iPhone, you have to go through additional steps with this
  • The “End Call” button is large and seems to be right where my check touches the phone if not using hands free or via headset. This has caused me to accidently mute of hang up prematurely on a few calls
    * Still an issue with iPhone4. If I move my head and some light hits the sensor, the screen turns on and my cheek hits the mute, Facetime or end buttons
Contacts
  • It is neat that you can add additional phone/address fields, but unfortunately these don’t sync back to Exchange.
  • You can’t sort by Company or even view that field in the Contacts application. While you can search by that field it's a bit harder to find the right contact
  • Searching for a Contact means you have to scroll all the way back to the top. With the Blackberry, you just start typing and it will show the contacts that have a matching First, Last or Company Name – no matter where you are in the list. The Blackberry search is also MUCH faster
  • When my Exchange server was down, I couldn’t access any contact and they had to be fully downloaded when it was up again… shouldn’t these be stored locally? I haven’t tried to see if I lose all this data if I’m out of radio range.
Email (Exchange 2003 is my Primary server)
  • An email received by Exchange, sent via BES to the Blackberry is nearly instantaneous. It can take considerable time to appear on the iPhone unless I open the folder.
    * BES Push much better than ActiveSync
  • There is no Home screen notification of having received emails, requiring you to manually scroll through the email folders after having left the device alone or while in a meeting.
    * With 180+ folders and email auto moved to them, this still annoys me – iPhone only notifies of emails in Inbox. The BB has a home notification (irrespective of folder) and an Unread Mail folder (like Outlook)
  • When viewing some wide HTML emails, you have the options of the text being way to small to read or zooming it and having to scroll back and forwards each line. The Blackberry method of the user being able to select the font for all emails might make the rendering less accurate, but makes the emails much easier to read and respond faster.
  • I have about 180 folders in Exchange with rules that file incoming emails automatically. I had to manually select each folder for Push… and, when my Exchange server went down, other than having no local data. I also had to re-select all the folders for Push, manually! Why doesn’t this get stored?
    * Seems a bit better with iOS4
  • The Blackberry Message List allows me to see all emails received (and include SMS in the list if you want), no-matter which folder - like Unread Mail in MS Outlook. But on the iPhone, I have to scroll through the folder list (the 180 I mentioned above) and know the unread figures of each folder to check for any new items. Nothing notifies you which account or folder has the new email.
  • File to Email Folders - to file a message to a folder on the BB, I just have to type the first few characters of the folder. The next time I file a similar email, it remembers the folder I users for that user/subject from last time. With the iPhone I have to manually scroll down the list every time
  • Blackberry has option to set detailed filters for which email you want (by sender, size, times, etc) so only important messages after hours. iPhone is all or nothing
  • No option to set/change Exchange “Out of Office” auto reply
  • From the email list on the Blackberry, I can also click and select to call the contact (if they exist in my address book) or to forward via another system (SMS, Facebook, etc). On the iPhone you have to open the email, then go to the Contact to call/SMS and can only Forward via email.
Browser
  • While the iPhone does render many pages more accurately, this ironically makes many harder to read … especially pages formatted wide. To get the text large enough to read means scrolling back and forth every line
  • When viewing wide pages, you have the options of the text being way to small to read or zooming it and having to scroll back and forwards each line. The Blackberry column view might not display a page as the publisher intended, but makes them considerably easier to read.
  • Apple don’t seem interested in Adobe Flash whereas RIM and Adobe have announce a partnership to improve the support for rich content through these technologies - RIM and Adobe to Simplify Delivery of Rich Content and Applications for BlackBerry Smartphones
  • The Blackberry menu makes it MUCH easier to copy a URL or even to send that URL via another app – Email, SMS or even non-core apps like Facebook, Twitter, other social media or Instant Messaging. With iPhone, you need to copy the URL, close the browser, open the other app and paste
Notifications and Ringtones
  • The Blackberry LED displays in different colours to let you know of an event without even touching the device
  • For more detail, clicking once on the keypad will show you how many items you’ve received – separated by emails, SMS, missed calls, Facebook Messages, Windows Messenger IMs or Skype chats. The iPhone will only show SMSs and missed calls until you open each app to check.
  • Why do I have to stuff around changing the media formats in iTunes? The Blackberry can use any media file for a ringtone
  • The Blackberry also allows different ringtones for each event type. The iPhone doesn’t allow different settings (ringtone, volume, number of repeats, etc) for each event
    * iOS4.2 now allows SMS ringtone, but you can’t change email, Facebook, Twitter, etc
  • On the Blackberry you can create different Profiles to set all the notifications to the ringtone, volume, LED use, number of vibrations and how often to repeat. The iPhone doesn’t provide the flexibility of choices let alone the ability to change all the settings in a couple of clicks (eg when you go into a meeting)
  • The Blackberry even allows exceptions for specific users … eg having the device in Silent mode except for certain important contacts
Multi-media
  • This is an area where, with it’s heritage in the iPod, I would expect it to excel… but even here, there are items better done on the Blackberry. For example, the Blackberry allows you to jump to the previous track, beginning of the current track or next track by holding the volume controls on either phone or headset. Much easier than having to get the device from your pocket and turn it on to make those changes
  • While they both play video, the wider screen of the iPhone is an area that it wins. Although I don’t watch enough videos or TV on the device to make this much of an advantage
  • It’s annoying to have to go via iTunes to add/remove media. On the Blackberry, you can view it as a USB drive and copy the files into folders of your choosing
Social Media and Instant Messaging
  • The lack of background tasks seriously reduces the option for Instant Messaging, which I prefer to SMS in many ways.
    * iOS4 improves this
  • It also means when starting up a social media app you have to wait till it updates the information as the applications can’t sync in the background
    * iOS4 improves this
  • While apps like Facebook, LinkedIN and some of the Twitter apps I have tested are comparable in the functions, the do miss some areas that reduces their effectiveness:
    • Notifications are only available from some apps… and even then are not reliable (as above)
    • Facebook only shows last Notification on Home screen. To see if you have more, you must go to the app
    • both Facebook and LinkedIN have the ability to import their contacts to the phone… but LinkedIN only as new contacts (I already have most in my address book) and neither can link to a Contact that I might have with a different name from their social media account.
    • The both take some time to sync, but at least on the Blackberry, this happens in the background
      * iOS4 improves this – doesn’t sync in background, but if app already loaded, starts faster
    • The FaceBook app won’t bring in the email address on phone (saying it’s a privacy issue), but this is done on the Blackberry
    • If using Social Media to schedule events, the iPhone can’t sync these with the calendar (the Blackberry does this and in the background)
    • The Blackberry API has permitted some applications to create dedicated fields in the address book to link the contacts to their social media profiles
Software Development
  • The requirement for all apps to only install via their AppStore means that developers can’t get selected groups of users to test code before release. While this can be done by “Jailbreaking” the phone this is not something you want to tell users to do.
    Update: I’ve just been informed that it is possible to beta test software, although with an unnecessarily complicated procedure to create an Ad Hoc iPhone Apps Distribution
  • The AppStore delivery requirement reduces the possibility for more complex licensing models
  • Apple’s certification process seems to be easy for trivial apps (like iFart), but more stringent on more complex products. They also don’t seem to want to tell a developer if a particular function will pass till the product is complete and the money spent.

 

GL Computing awarded Experts-Exchange Titan award – 2nd year in a row

The epic performance of GL computing in 2009 has earned a spot as a Top Expert in the 6th Annual Expert Awards.

From a competitive field of over 30,000 qualified experts worldwide, GL Computing has been awarded the:

Titan Award - 2009

From Experts-Exchange: “Thank you for sharing your unparalleled, inconceivable, and brilliant knowledge with the members of Experts Exchange, without you Experts Exchange would not be the #1 IT resource in the web.”

GL Computing also won the Titan Award – 2008 and is the only Experts-Exchange Certified ACT! Sage

Tips for converting ACT! 6.0 (or earlier) databases to ACT! by Sage

The most common problem with converting the older versions of ACT! to ACT! by Sage is if there is some damage in the database. Unfortunately, the older versions could become corrupt but not be noticed if you didn’t access that part of the data. As everything needs to be read for a conversion or sync, these functions can show up issues that might have been there for some time.

First, no-matter which version you have, make sure you have a backup of the data before you start.

You should also make sure you have the User Name and Password for someone with Administrator access to the database.

Because the repair tools were improved could fix more types of damage as the versions progressed, I recommend always upgrading earlier databases to ACT! 6.0 and cleaning them there before converting to ACT! by Sage.

If you don’t have ACT! 6.0, you can download the ACT! 6.0 30-day Trial – this will give you the time to convert, clean and repair your database to ready it for converting to the later versions.

Convert Earlier Versions to ACT! 6.0

Always perform a database compress and reindex in the version you have before going to ACT! 6.0. The steps for that conversion depends on how old your version is:

Repair and Clean the ACT! 6.0 Database

Next you should do a repair with ACTDIAG as per:
How To Use The ACT! Data Diagnostic Tool (ACTDIAG) to Scan and Repair a Database

If you already have a later version installed, you’ll need to start ACTDIAG as per:
How to Use the ACT! 6.0 Diagnostic Tool When a Later Edition of ACT! is also Installed

Please note: If you got any red check marks, keep running it till they show all green
But if you’re still getting red checks after 3-4 runs, you’ll need to use additional tools to repair it
or have it professionally repaired

If getting an ACT! Consultant to help you with the conversion (recommended)
I also recommend that they run ABC_Scan on the database

If you are having problems are want to be really sure about your data, I recommend:
Red Flags from Cornerstone Solutions

If it still won’t clean or the conversion below still fails, please contact GL Computing

Centralising Attached Files

If you have attached files, especially if they are stored in different locations or on local workstations on a LAN, you should move these to one folder. You will then need to adjust the links in the database to show the new location. There are a number of tools to do this, I personally use Oak!Check! – Validate Attachments. You can also use it to do any other data cleaning you might need.

Converting to ACT! 2010

You are now ready to install ACT! 2010 as per: Sharing ACT! – Network or Sync (Part 1)

Which ever version of ACT! you are converting to, make sure you have the latest build and Hotfix. At the time of this article, for ACT! 2010, this is 12.0 Hotfix 4. It has some fixes for converting some databases. See: How to Download and Apply the ACT! by Sage 2010 Hot Fix 4

Then you should just be able to open the database from ACT! 2010 and it will convert. See:
How to Convert an ACT! 3.x, 4.x, 5.x (2000) or 6.x (2004) Database to ACT! by Sage 2010

If you have any questions, please post a comment here or in the LinkedIN ACT! Fanatics Group 

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Quick tip to improve speed on ACT! Premium for Web

A user recently pointed out to me that the favicon.ico file used by ACT! Premium for Web is about 300KB.

For those who don’t know, the favicon.ico is an optional file that can be included on a web site and shows as a logo in web browsers next to the URL, the Browser tab and in bookmarks.

For more information, see: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Favicon

This file loads with every page, increasing the bandwidth. Consequently, these should be kept as small as possible.

The file on an APFW server is /APFW/images/favicon.ico

If you are using ACT! Premium for Web, you might find an improvement by using an ICO editor to reduce the file size… this is especially important if supporting clients on slower connections or if you have a lot of users.

If you don’t have an ICO editor, feel free to download a small ACT! favicon I created:

www.glcomputing.com.au/ACT-favicon.zip

Extract the favicon.ico to the folder I mentioned above on your server. It’s not too pretty, but as it’s under 4KB will save nearly 300KB per page

It’s not a huge improvement, but every bit helps, right?

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Handheld Contact Professional Edition for Windows Mobile update

Version 1.4.0.0 of the Windows Mobile application for Handheld Contact Professional Edition is now available.

To upgrade, sync Handheld Contact from the device first to ensure the latest changes are updated in ACT! and then visit www.handheldcontact.com/ota on your Windows Mobile phone.

This release of the Handheld Contact Professional Edition phone application includes improvements that include:

  • Integrated Google Maps with Contacts. Clicking an address will load it in the Google Maps application for Windows Mobile.
  • Handheld Contact application now supports mapping as many yes/no fields and date fields as desired up to the field mapping limit. Previously these fields were limited to 10 mappings.
  • Read only contacts fields in ACT! are now also read only on the phone.
  • Task list is now easier to read and use with updated interface.
  • Contact list is now easier to read and use with updated interface.
  • Calendar-Agenda view is now easier to read and use with updated interface.
  • Increased the activities custom type description to 60 characters.
  • Corrected an issue that could potentially stop the Handheld Contact application when placing a call.

For more information of putting ACT! on your smart phone, see Handheld Contact