What’s the best CRM?

I often get asked or see on-line posts asking this question and people seem surprised when I, as an ACT! Evangelist, tell then that it can’t be answered without more detailed information. This is especially important in the SME market where there is a greater range of options available than in the Enterprise space.

Any recommendations without this info would be like asking for the best car or religion, and any suggestions would be akin to the adage "If the only tool you have is a hammer, all problems look like nails"

You need to identify your needs:

  • How many users are you expecting to have? Now and over the next 12-18 months.
  • How many records (contacts and/or companies)? Also now and over next 12-18 months
  • Where is your data sourced from (initial setup and on-going leads)?
    For example: your web site, external companies, social media, Excel, paper entry
  • What do you want to do with the data? Reports, email merges, news letters, etc
    You need to involve internal users at different levels (sales, marketing, management)
  • Do you want to integrate with legacy systems – accounting, ERP or other software?
  • Do you want to integrate with new technologies – social media, Twitter, LinkedIN, etc?
  • Do you want remote access – remote offices, laptop users, smart phones?
    If so, do you have reliable internet connectivity?
  • What sort of security is important to you? Eg should all users be able to see/edit all records?
  • What sort of infrastructure do you have – operating systems, hardware, network.
    Would you be prepared to invest in improving this?
  • Do you have your own IT? If so, will they need training to administer the new system?
  • What sort of support do you think you’ll need?
  • What sort of budget do you have?

One common issue is looking at management needs (administration and reporting) over usability... if the users find it to complex to use or un-helpful to them, they won't enter good data. Then any reports will be meaningless.

Remember that your customer database can be one of your most valuable assets and equipping your business with the right tools to mine that asset can produce valuable returns – especially when financial times are perceived to be tough.

Often the best way to to it right is to speak to a consultant in the field to provide some advice. Here is an article that I did on picking a CRM consultant: How to pick the right CRM Consultant

When speaking to vendors, and even many consultants, remember their competitive info isn't always accurate. You need to do your own research if you are comparing products.

You really want to know “What’s the best CRM solution for YOU?” Anyone who makes a recommendation without knowing or asking these questions can’t possibly be answering that.

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Should ACT! by Sage move into the “Cloud”?

There has been a lot of discussion about "cloud computing" or SaaS (Software as a Service) – even some by Sage management on the ACT! Community Leadership Blog. So I thought it would be a good topic to discuss

With most ACT! users who have modern Smartphones/PDAs now wanting wireless updates. The options for that either require the user to have web infrastructure or use an externally hosted sync server. As most ACT! users (other than Prem for Web) not having the systems and/or skills, those PDA links doing this are using the cloud and charging for the service.

Handheld Contact only offers subscription based, CompanionLink offers it as an option and Sage are looking at their own solution (ACT! Mobile Live)

In a recent discussion in the ACT! Fanatics Group, Sharon Randall of SJR said she, and many of her users, prefer CompanionLink because it's a one-off purchase. Ignoring other feature differences to HHC, this also means it is only a connected cable sync - no updates on the road. It's also the primary reason I've seen when users pick CL over HHC.

This is also one reason a user might choose ACT! over SalesForce. There are many others, but this is a core difference.

But, at the same time, there are users starting to ask for more cloud options from ACT! – and there certainly has been movement in that direction, at least with a deal Sage Australia did with a local host.
See comments below http://blog.glcomputing.com.au/2009/11/supporting-remote-users-with-act-by.html

The ability to share remotely means cloud is nearly always the better option for users with PDAs - except for the single user who isn't sharing their data. But what about other functions? Or even ACT! itself?

I also have a personal interest in your opinions on this... our soon to be released Accounts Master! (to integrate with accounting software like QuickBooks) will also use a subscription model. We did this because:

  • It will work for users where the accounts staff don't use ACT! and ACT! users don't have access to accounts – It will even work with Web versions, Sync users, Term Services and hosted.
  • It means we don't have to explain to users who upgrade ACT! and then get upset that they have to also pay for their add-ons to be upgraded - it does take work to accommodate changes with each new version of ACT!
  • We can roll out enhancements when they are ready, rather than having to wait till we have enough to justify an upgrade fee or having to really a build with bugs to meet a marketing timeframe - this is something I really like about Handheld Contact 

So... after all this: What do you think about cloud/subscription Vs purchase/upgrade?

  • With some users wanting Cloud and others resisting, which camp are most ACT! users in now?
  • Will this change over then next year or two?
  • Should Sage wait for the ACT! user-base to demand this as they mature (if this is the future) or should they lead?
  • If Sage moves to early, it may upset some users... but will it upset enough that it's a worry?
  • Might this be an issue in some areas in the world where internet access, reliability and speeds are not as good?

Alternatively, without the cloud, how would users feel to a subscription model for ACT! in their own office - an annual license key and has to be renewed, but includes upgrades? I guess this is like Upgrade Insurance

For ACT! resellers, I've asked a follow-up in the ACT! Resellers Group on LinkedIN

I’d appreciate any thoughts or comments you might have. Thanks.


For those looking at a SaaS offering for ACT! by Sage now, see http://glcomputing.actondemand.com/


Supporting Remote Users with ACT! by Sage

With users like the Professional Sales Road Warriors that made up much of ACT!'s early user base to field service technicians, trades-people, telecommuters who work from home, remote offices and others who need access to their data while out of the office, ACT! has needed to make use of every changing technology so that the data can be provided to the users as they need it.
From it's creation in 1987, ACT! has been at the forefront of remote and mobile users. From the ability to merge
databases with ACT! for DOS 2.0 in 1990 (where users would need to bring their databases into the office to sync) then through the HP95LX PDA version in 1992 and ACT! Mobile Link for laptop users in 1995, ACT! users have been able to access ACT! while remote from their office.
Over time advances in internet speeds, more scalable databases, browser technologies and other technological improvements have made it easier for organisations to implement and administer remote access solutions for their staff.
Currently, there are a range of options available to provide this remote access but users are often not sure how to determine the solution most suitable for them. So I thought I'd provide a selection of the most common options available... but remember, that for many sites, a combination of these should be implemented.
For some users, it may be better to have the database hosted externally, then using one or more of the options to provide access. One host providing this at very good rates is Conetix

Direct Access of the database via VPN

  • Infrastructure
    • Requires the technical skills to setup and maintain VPN server
    • Needs higher than normal internet bandwidth as the VPN protocols use up a significant amount
    • Users lose access to the data if their internet connection goes down
  • Installation
    • Sharing a database over a VPN is no different than sharing the database over a LAN. Each remote user must obtain a copy of the .PAD file for the shared database and have read/write access to the database folder and the Supplemental Files folders.
    • See - http://blog.glcomputing.com.au/2009/02/sharing-act-network-or-sync.html
    • Firewall exceptions on server should be same as for LAN
  • Administration
    • Administration and Maintenance of the VPN needs to be done well. Many VPNs tend to drop out WINs and then ACT! won't be able to find the server
    • It is usually more reliable to use the IP address of the server in the PAD file rather than the machine name. But for most VPN implementations, using Sync is the best solution.
    • All users need to be using the same version and build of ACT! - so upgrades and patches need to be carefully planned
  • Speed
    • Speed is dependant on both the bandwidth of the main server and the bandwidth that the users connect to the internet
    • Remember that most consumer internet connections don't have as fast an upload speed as they do download - if the server is also on a consumer grade connection, the actual speed will be the slower of both the user and server.
    • Due to the overhead of the VPN protocol most internet connections won't be adequate and users may be better using sync
  • Security
    • If the VPN is set up correctly, this type of access is very secure.
    • User access to records can be determined by Limited Access in the Premium editions
    • Other security may need to be implemented if you wish to prevent users from exporting or reporting data that they have access to locally

ACT! Synchronisation Services

  • Infrastructure
    • Remote users only need direct connection to the master database when they need to sync
    • ACT! by Sage does require ACT! to be open and logged into the Publisher database to sync but Premium editions can use Network or Internet sync servers to allow sync as a Windows service
    • Sync for remote users doesn't require Internet Sync server (which uses IIS). It can also be done with Network Sync server and port forwarding or VPN using a VPN server or Hamachi
  • Installation
  • Administration
    • All users need to be using the same version and build of ACT! - so upgrades and patches need to be carefully planned. If using sync server, these should also be updated when patching ACT!
    • Note: If you update the local users, the remote users still access their local data and can sync when you update them.
    • If syncing a database larger than 4GB and wanting all data to sync, needs SQL standard at each point the database will be located
    • Sync can be automated with ACT! Scheduler - better if using Premium
    • The Administrative Dashboard can be used to determined when users sync
    • If using sync via VPN, administration and maintenance of the VPN needs to be done well. Many VPNs tend to drop out WINs and then ACT! won't be able to find the server
  • Speed
    • Speed for each user is dependant on their local hardware (RAM and HDD speed)
    • Speed for the sync is dependant on the bandwidth between the user and server. If using VPN, speed is reduced due to the protocol overhead.
    • Sync speed depends on volume of changes and bandwidth of connection - especially if syncing a large number of attachments
    • As only the delta (changes) are sent, this uses less bandwidth than a direct connection
  • Security
    • Users only have access to the records in their defined sync set and, if using the Premium editions, that they have access to
    • The sync process itself is reasonably secure as data is encrypted during the sync process (I have not heard of a breach)
    • Additional layers or security can be achieved by:
      • Using a different port for the sync process
      • Sync via VPN - this is a very secure protocol and removes the need for port forwarding from the internet to the database server
      • If using Premium Editions, putting the Sync server in a DMZ

ACT! Premium for Web

  • Infrastructure
    • Requires a Windows server running Internet Information Services (IIS) - can be hosted by a third-party if the user lacks infrastructure or skills. If hosted, it is better to select a host who specialises in ACT! for Web hosting and knows how to maintain it
    • Remote users only need a supported web browser and internet connection
    • ACT! for Web is also the only solution for allowing access to MAC users (internal or remote) via the Safari browser support (currently Safari 3.0)
  • Installation
    • Installed once on IIS server. Easiest and fastest install for IT with suitable skills
    • IIS must be set to 32bit if on a 64bit OS – can cause issues with other apps
  • Administration
    • Easy to administer and maintain as everything can be on a single server. It's a bit more complex if using multiple servers
    • IT doesn't need to worry about remote users OS or hardware
    • Sharing of user preferences makes admin and backup a bit easier. while not the default, is done as per this ACT! Knowledge Base article
  • Speed
    • Speed is dependant on the server speed, configuration and bandwidth
    • For large volumes of users, implementing one or more web servers separate from the database server allows better allocation of resources
  • Security
    • As this is a Premium edition, users only have access to records according to ACT!'s Limited Access and Teams
    • Additional layers or security can be achieved by:
      • Using a different port for the web server
      • Putting the IIS server in a DMZ
      • Using HTTPS/SSL
      • Requiring Windows Authentication to the Virtual Folder before getting access to the ACT! for Web interface
      • Access Web via VPN
    • It is important to add additional security (preferably VPN) is users might connect via any public WiFi connection

Remote Desktop (Terminal Services, Citrix)

  • Infrastructure
    • Requires Windows Terminal Server, Remote Desktop Services in Windows 2008 or Citrix - can be hosted if user lacks infrastructure or skills
    • Remote users only RDP client and internet connection
  • Installation
  • Administration
    • Relatively easy to administer and maintain as everything on a single server
  • Speed
    • Speed is dependant on the server speed, configuration and bandwidth
    • For large volumes of users, implementing one or more client servers separate from the database server allows better allocation of resources
  • Security
    • If using a Premium edition, users only have access to records according to ACT!'s Limited Access and Teams
    • RDP on TS and Citrix provide a range an additional security options

Included ACT!Link for PDA/Smartphones – no-longer available

  • Infrastructure
    • Currently supports Palm OS and Windows Mobile devices (no Palm OS support for Windows 7, so no ACT! Link support)
    • Uses direct USB connection to full ACT! client - no support for Web or Remote Desktop (Terminal Services/Citrix)
    • Only supports fields and functions in PDA PIMs
  • Installation
    • Installed on each user PC
    • Care needs to be taken for supported Phone OS and driver versions, depending on version of ACT!
  • Administration
    • Can be complex to maintain with issues if user updates their phone OS or driver
    • Admin can only set if the users can sync via Manage Users
    • Administrator has no control over what is sync'd and connection issues are known to cause duplication in the ACT! database
    • No access to Custom Activity types
    • No support for Activities, Notes, Histories that link to multiple contacts
    • Calls, SMS, Emails sent from phone not recorded in ACT!
  • Speed
    • Speed is dependant on the phone type and amount of data sent
  • Security
    • If using a Premium edition, users only have access to records according to ACT!'s Limited Access and Teams
    • User can select to sync any records they have access to
    • Data on lost phones can't be wiped

Handheld Contact Sync to PDA/Smartphones

  • Infrastructure
    • Currently supports Blackberry OS, iOS (iPhone and iPad), Android 
    • Uses a console with wireless sync - fully supports Web and Remote Desktop (Terminal Services/Citrix)
    • Professional Edition adds support for up to 76 fields and many additional functions
    • Field formatting and pull-downs maintain data integrity
    • Can support very large numbers of mobile users from one console.
  • Installation
    • Installed on ACT! server, it's own server or on user's PC
    • Easiest PDA solution to remotely configure and install remotely for one or more devices
  • Administration
    • Very easy to roll out and maintain
    • Administrator controls what data is sync'd and how often.
    • Administrator can set contacts sync'd with each user based on Groups an Activities
    • No known issues with duplication or loss of ACT! data
    • HHC Professional supports ACT! Custom Activity types for activities and history
    • HHC Professional supports Activities, Notes, Histories and Email that link to multiple contacts
    • Calls, SMS, Emails sent from phone recorded in ACT! if instigated from HHC Professional
  • Speed
    • Speed is dependant on the phone type and amount of data sent – typically faster than other link options.
    • As HHC can send items based on Groups or Activities, users can reduce the number of records they keep on the phone
  • Security
    • Administrator has full control over what is sync’d to each user
    • Data on lost phones can be erased remotely by Admin, providing phone in radio range and turned on
    • Data is sent securely in small packets via https and encrypted

A couple of useful Outlook tools – #Xobni and #LinkedIN

I hope my regular readers won’t mind if I digress from my usual ACT! related posts and add this article on a couple of free tools I find really useful for Outlook - Xobni and LinkedIN Outlook Toolbar

Both of these tools are useful in finding contacts as well as developing and maintaining your relationships, and so are useful for the types of work that ACT! users like to do. I fact, I believe both of these would be great functions to add to ACT! itself.


Xobni is an add-in that indexes your Outlook data and then provides a number of useful functions:

  • Very fast searching across your email file. It’s pretty much instantaneous on my Outlook file, which is over 6GB!
  • Ability to link multiple email addresses to a contact if the contact has more than one address or if their address changes over time
  • Additional information on your contacts from sources like LinkedIN, FaceBook, Twitter and Hoovers.
  • Reports on the times you usually correspond with the contact via email
  • Find other contacts that might be connected from emails between you and the main contact where others have been included in emails To: CC:
  • Sort all emails between you and the contact into threaded conversations – even if the various emails are in different Outlook folders
  • File all attached files sent between you and the contact
  • Auto suggest addresses from your contacts when creating a new email

After you install Xobni, your system may run slowly for a day while it creates it’s index. Do not be concerned by this. Once it has completed the index it will speed up your day.

Note: If you’d like to see Xobni create a link to ACT! by Sage, please add a vote on this post on the Xobni Community Site

LinkedIN Outlook Toolbar

LinkedIN is a business oriented social network. Their Outlook add-in is a powerful resource for building and maintaining your network from inside your email system. Functions include:

  • Build your network selecting from people you email often
  • Create Outlook contacts by highlighting their info in an email and selecting Grab
  • See suggestions of who to invite based on email frequency
  • Invite with one click to build your network faster – using custom templates
  • Update your Outlook contacts with LinkedIn profile information
  • Receive notifications when your contacts change their LinkedIn profiles
  • See LinkedIn mini-profiles for everyone that emails you
  • Use the LinkedIn dashboard to stay up to date with your network with suggestion of emails you might need to reply to or follow-up
  • Access LinkedIn with one quick and easy click

ACT! users should also join the LinkedIN ACT! Fanatics Group

LinkedIN Outlook Toolbar

Both of these outlook add-ins are free and Outlook users should give them a try

How to Download and Apply the ACT! by Sage 2010 Hot Fix 4

NOTE: This document has now been superseded by - ACT! 2010 Service Pack 1 is available!

This documentation describes Hot Fix 4 for ACT! 2010 for the following versions:

  • ACT! by Sage 2010
  • ACT! by Sage Premium 2010
  • ACT! by Sage Premium for Web 2010
Do not apply this hot fix to any other versions or products.
Note: To determine the version of the product you are using, see the version number in the Help > About box. After the hot fix has been installed, the version number will read "12.0.409.0, Hotfix 4" depending on the version you originally had installed.
This hot fix applies to all international English locales.
Note: This hotfix (including any software and related documentation) is provided "AS IS." Sage Software disclaims all express or implied warranties of any kind with respect to the utility, including but not limited to, any implied warranties of merchantability or fitness for a particular purpose
Who Should Install This Hot Fix?

Note: Apply this hot fix 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.

ACT! hot fixes are cumulative, so hot fix 4 also resolves issues fixed in hot fixes 1, 2 and 3. If you have already installed hot fix 1, 2 or 3, you can safely install hot fix 4.

Hot Fix 4 for ACT! version 2010 may resolve your issues if:

  • You are an ACT! Premium for Web user and are unable to print from the address book.
  • You cannot replace the contents of the Record Manager using Edit > Replace.
  • You are using a Microsoft® Outlook® rule to automatically attach incoming e-mail to ACT! contacts and see Microsoft Outlook stop responding when you received e-mail.
  • Your installation has advanced queries or dynamic group/company membership that is based on contact access (contact is private) and have problems after upgrading your database from ACT! by Sage 2008 (10.0) or ACT! by Sage 2009 (11.0) to ACT! 2010.
  • You see slow performance when switching views or looking up records.
  • You are an ACT! Premium customer whose installation includes customized databases, have upgraded from ACT! by Sage Premium 2008 (10.0) or ACT! by Sage Premium 2009 (11.0), and are now seeing generic application crash errors when viewing Group, Company, or Opportunity views in ACT! by Sage 2010
  • You are an ACT! Premium customer whose installation contains fields set to “No Access” that reside in the Contact Spillover Table (spillover tables are created with customized databases). Since upgrading your database to ACT! Premium 2010, the schema update fails and corrupts the upgraded database.
  • You are an ACT! Premium customer whose installation contains fields set to “No Access” that reside in the Contact Spillover Table (spillover tables are created with customized databases). Since upgrading your database to ACT! Premium 2010, you are unable to build a remote database.
  • You are using a certified add-on application with faxing capabilities and have problems when doing a Mail Merge direct to Fax when your word processor is Microsoft Word.

The following tables list the area affected by the hot fix, the description, and the effect of the hot fix for each known issue.

 New in Hot Fix 4

Area Description What the Fix Does
Address Books ACT! Premium for Web users are unable to print from an address book. Enables the user to print from the address book.

Fixed in Hot Fix 3

ACT! hot fixes are cumulative, so hot fix 4 also contains the following fixes distributed in hot fix 3.
Area Description What the Fix Does
Contacts Record Manager is unavailable as an option in the Edit > Replace field function. Enables the Edit >Replace field function for Record Manager.
Outlook Integration Users see slow response time when opening a database or performing a lookup on a database that contains a large number of fields. Repairs memory issue so performance does not suffer during this operation.
Database Upgrade Customers who have sync sets built on Opportunity and who upgrade to ACT! 2010 see ProductException error messages. Updates the SQL statement to correct the syntax which can cause the update not complete successfully.
Database Upgrade Upgrade users who have queries or dynamic membership based on contact access receive error message when attempting to access Contacts, Groups, or Companies. Modifies the schema to find and correct any syncset, group, or company queries where Contact Access is part of the criteria.

New in Hot Fix 2
Area Description What the Fix Does
Performance Users see slow response time when opening a database or performing a lookup on a database that contains a large number of fields. Enables layouts to refresh more quickly.
Fixed in Hot Fix 1

ACT! hot fixes are cumulative, so hot fix 2 also contains the following fixes distributed in hot fix 1.

Area Description What the Fix Does
Groups/Company/Opportunities This issue impacts ACT! Premium 2008 or ACT! Premium 2009 installations where fields residing in the Contact Spillover Table (spillover tables are created with customized databases) are set to “No Access”. Upon upgrading the database to ACT! Premium 2010, the schema update fails and corrupts the upgraded database. The user experiences generic application crash errors when viewing Group, Company, Opportunity views in ACT! Premium 2010.

ACT! Premium 2010 users who have spillover tables and set fields to “No Access” will not be able to create and restore remote databases.
Enables metadata to be created for the upgrade scripts.
Faxing Users will not be able to mail merge directly to fax. Enables the SDK method call to trigger a response from ACT!
Applying Hot Fix 2 for ACT! 2010
This hot fix is for version 2010. Do not apply this hot fix to any other version of ACT! To determine the version of the product you are using, see the version number in the Help About box. After the hot fix has been installed, the version number will read "12.0.409.0, Hotfix 2".
Apply this hot fix 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.
Applying the Hot Fix
  1. Log onto to your computer as an Administrator.
  2. Stop the Network Sync Service.
  3. Please click on the link below to download Hot Fix 2, depending on the version of ACT! 2010 you have installed and your locale.
    ACT! by Sage 2010 Standard Tier (All Locales)
    ACT! by Sage Premium 2010 Tier (Locale Specific)
  4. Close ACT!.
  5. When the download dialog box comes up, choose Save and save to your Desktop.
  6. After the download completes, close ACT!, Internet Explorer® and all Microsoft Office applications.
  7. Locate the ACT12HotFix.exe that you downloaded to your desktop and double-click it to begin the installation.
  8. The Unpacking ACT! progress indicator briefly appears followed by the Disclaimer dialog box.
  9. Review the disclaimer, and then click Apply.
  10. The installer verifies your Windows® rights and ensures that no open programs will conflict with the hot fix installation. If any of these conditions exist, the appropriate message will appear. Please follow the on screen instructions.
  11. The ACT! - Applying Updates window appears while the hot fix is being installed.
  12. When finished the ACT! dialog box appears.
  13. Click Ok to complete the installation.
  14. For all Windows Vista® users with UAC enabled, you will see a Program Compatibility Assistant dialog box. Click This program installed correctly to complete the installation.
  15. Restart the Network Sync Service.
  16. If you are using the Internet Sync Service, you must reset IIS:
    1. Click Start.
    2. In the Run box, type IISReset.
    3. Click OK.
  17. Start ACT!
  18. From the Help menu, select About. The version number will "12.0.409.0, Hotfix 2".
Changes To Your Installation
Installing the hot fix applies the following files:
  • ActFramework.MailMerge.dll
  • Act.UI.Wordprocessor.dll
  • Act.DataCreation.dll
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Automating backups for ACT! by Sage

One of the problems we notice is that users are not sure of the different options available to create and maintain proper backups of their ACT! data, so I thought it would provide value to list them here.

As ACT! by Sage database uses a SQL engine, it can't be backed up by simply copying the files or by using a normal backup product. The SQL service keeps a lock on the database as soon as Windows starts, even if no-one is logged into ACT!

Manual Backup

The standard function to backup a database from ACT! is: File | Backup. See:
How to back up and restore an Act! database

ACT! Scheduler Backup

Users should automate these to make sure data isn’t lost if it becomes damaged through a PC failure, virus or other problem.

In ACT! 2005 (7.0) to ACT! 2007 (9.0), only the Premium version can automate this with the ACT! Scheduler
In ACT! 2008 and later, automated maintenance and backups are also available with non-Premium builds    
You can do the attached files separately if you need to for performance or space reasons

If running Premium 2005-2007 or ACT! 2008 or later, have a look at this article to automate backups:
How to use the Act! Scheduler to automatically back up your Act! database

If backing up with the Scheduler on another PC from the database or backing up to another PC, see:
Automatic Backup Scheduled in the Sage ACT! Scheduler and Set To Save To a Network Location Hosted on Another Machine Fails

It's always good to do regular test restores to ensure the backup is working.
You can do this with use File | Restore
Then select Restore_As to restore the backup to a different name, location or onto a different machine

It's also useful to occasionally check that the "Backup" folder under the database supplemental files folder is empty. This is where ACT! places temp files during the backup process. If the backup fails, they remain there and will be included in any subsequent backups. You can delete any files in this folder unless a backup is currently in operation.

Batch File Backup

If not running Premium and not upgrading, you can do it this way.
Create an ACTBackup.bat file with Notepad as follows:

REM - Change these SET Parameters as appropriate for your system 
SET ACTSourceFolder="C:\Act\Database" 
SET ACTDestinationFolder="D:\Backups\Act\Database" 
SET XcopyOptions=/M /E /C /H /O /Y /I 
REM - Stop ACT SQL Service 
REM - Perform copy 
XCOPY %ACTSourceFolder% %ACTDestinationFolder% %XcopyOptions% 
REM - Restart ACT SQL Service 

With the SQL engine stopped, you can use anything to copy/backup the database and supplemental files. You could replace the XCOPY with a command line ZIP or other back-up utility.
Then run the BAT file from the Windows scheduler

While you can't restore to a different name to test it with this method, you can restore to another machine, delete the PAD file and open the ADF so it resets the machine name.

ACT! Email Backup

If using the ACT! Email client, you should also back up it's database as per:
How to Back Up and Restore Your ACT! E-mail Database

Corporate and third-party Backup

Finally, if wanting to use a proper corporate backup product that understands SQL and you have a Premium version of ACT!, you can get the SA Pass utility. This is free in Europe, but does cost in other regions - contact your local Sage office for the pricing and process.

There is a third-party product with more advanced backup and maintenance options: AutoAdmin

Which MS SQL versions should you use with ACT! 2010 (#ACT2010)

There have been some changes to the supported SQL versions with ACT! 2010 and some users may need to look at which version to use in order to maximise the performance or scalability of ACT!

The standard ACT! by Sage 2010 only supports SQL 2005 Express as per: ACT! 2010 System Requirements

The Premium and Corporate versions support SQL 2005 Standard and now even MS SQL 2008. For a full list of supported versions, see:

While ACT! is only shipped with MS SQL 2005 Express, you can set the Premium version up with SQL 2008 Express (x32 or x64)’ and the Corporate versions with those and also SQL 2005/2008 Standard (x32 or x64)

Note: You must purchase SQL CALs for Standard separately from Microsoft

But, should you change the version of SQL and, if you chose to, how do you do it? To make this decision, you should have a look at these:

From these, you will note that the advantages of Standard over Express are:

  • Express is limited to a 4GB database size – There are very few users that will reach this limit. It’s only the ACT! ADF that’s limited, it doesn’t include attachments
  • Express is limited to 1 CPU and 1GB RAM – If your server machine doesn’t have multiple processors and 3GB (or more) RAM, you will not see a benefit to ACT! in using the Standard version. But, on a machine suitably configured, there will be a performance advantage in using Standard.
  • Changing to Standard on a suitable server should definitely be considered for 25 or more users.

Here are some useful ACT! Knowledge Base articles on installing ACT! with different editions of SQL:

There are a couple of additional points to note:

  • While having Standard (2005 or 2008) on the server and Express on the workstations is ok. If you upgrade to SQL 2008, you must also upgrade all systems sharing the database via Sync to 2008
  • You can upgrade the SQL 2005 instance of ACT7 to SQL 2008, you can’t upgrade to the x64 versions. You would need to uninstall the ACT7 instance and manually create one using the x64 edition of SQL.
  • While I have not tested these personally, I have been told by Sage that there is no noticeable advantage to ACT! in using SQL 2008 or the x64 versions. So the only reason to implement these would be to comply with a current infrastructure where these are already implemented.
  • While the Enterprise editions are not officially QA tested or supported, I have heard from a number of users that these work with the Premium and Corporate versions of ACT! as per the SQL Standard editions with the additional performance levels they provide. The same applies to using SQL 2008 Express with the standard version of ACT! by Sage – not supported, but should work if required.

Upgrading ACT!, especially when you are using add-ons

It is important to note that many add-on products will require updated versions in order to work with different versions of ACT!. If you are using any specific add-on(s), you should check with the add-on vendors to see if they support the new version and the procedures to get an updated build, if required.

For ACT! 2010 some add-ons (like Handheld Contact) just require a new download while others may charge an upgrade fee for the new version.

When upgrading ACT!, it is usually a good idea to uninstall any add-ons first. Then perform the ACT! upgrade and then install the latest versions of the add-ons after checking they support the new version.

This also applies if you want to upgrade your MS-Office version or your operating system – you should confirm that your version of ACT! supports this or if you need an upgrade.

Checking these things first reduces potential disappointment if you later find out you need other upgrades that might not yet be available or that you hadn’t budgeted for.

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What's New in ACT! by Sage 2010

The ACT! 2010 release is focused on a number of major improvements in ACT! and includes customizable opportunities, a redesigned navigation, a new welcome page, e-Marketing* and much, much more. All this enables you to work more effectively, become more productive, and better serve your contacts. You can select one of the following links to go to the specified section in this document.
*Requires additional subscription

New Features and Functionality
This release addresses functionality that users have requested in ACT! and introduces some new features. The following lists highlights a number of the most significant: A new navigation system, Customizable Opportunities, ACT! E-marketing* , a new Report View, new reporting and dashboard components, iCalendar support, and multiple remote database creation.
*Requires additional subscription

  1. Globalization
    • Ability to specify database currency.
      • At the time of database creation, users can specify the currency that will default for all currency values in the database.
    • Allow users from different ACT! languages share a database.
      • Allow users from different ACT! languages to access the same database. Example: A user has French ACT! and creates a database. A user with German ACT! should be able to access the same database.
  2. Opportunities
    • Modify Opportunities in ACT! so that they are completely customizable (like Companies, Groups and Contacts) and users can attach notes, histories, activities and documents to them.
    • Add the ability to associate custom tables to Opportunities
    • Modify the security model of Opportunities to allow users to limit access by teams like they can for Companies, Groups and Contacts.
    • Allow users to create an Opportunity that does not REQUIRE a contact to be associated to it.
    • Allow users to customize the product/services grid in the Opportunities detail view.
  3. Navigation
    • Modify the navigation in ACT! to reflect the accordion style navigation in the left navigation pane as well as adding in “Big Easy” buttons along the top row.
    • After extensive user testing, it was determined that the “Look For” box in the list views was confusing to new and existing users. The “Look For” box has been hidden by default in the list views. If users wish to re-surface the box, they can use the “options” button in the list view and choose “show Look For”.
    • Display the Contact List any time the user looks up all contacts. This is in response to usability test feedback in which users were surprised that looking up all contacts did not produce a list.
    • When a menu has sub-menu items that are never accessible in that view, they can be removed (instead of just disabling them).
    • Dynamic lookup menus so that when the menu is opened in a specific view, the menu options are specific to the view that the user is currently in.
  4. Welcome Page
    • A new view has been added into ACT! to help new users get up and running in ACT!. This new view has links to common start-up tasks in ACT! as well as many Help resources. The tasks in this new view are specific to user types in ACT!, so that non-Admins will not be shown admin-only tasks.
    • The new default view for all ACT! 2010 users is the Welcome Page. However, after closing ACT! 2010 for the first time, users will be prompted to change their default view.
  5. ACT! E-marketing*
    • Added e-Marketing capability in ACT! so that users can access the functionally supplied by Swiftpage™ for marketing purposes and track the results in ACT!.

    *Requires additional subscription
  6. Colour Schemes
      Allow users to choose their colour scheme for ACT! 2010 – either Sage Green or Sage Silver.
  7. Web Info Tab
    • New tab in ACT! that allows users to see context-aware information from the internet in both their Contact and Company views. This tab will come with several ‘canned’ links as well as the ability for users to add links that are specific to their needs.
  8. Remote Database Creation
    • The remote database creation panel has been modified to allow users to create up to 50 remote databases at one time.
  9. Report View
    • New view in ACT! that displays all the reports saved to a Users’ database. In this view, users can specify “favourite” reports, run reports, edit reports and modify the descriptions of reports
  10. New Reports
    • In ACT! 2010, there are 13 new default Opportunity reports included for all users.
      • Opportunities by Record Manager and Process
      • Opportunity Summary by Record Manager and Process
      • Opportunities by Process and Status
      • Opportunities by Estimated Closing Month
      • Won Opportunities and Days Open
      • Won Opportunity Summary by Sales Process
      • Won Opportunities by Sales Process and Competitor
      • Won Opportunities by Sales Process and Reason
      • Won Opportunities by Sales Process and Record Manager
      • Won Opportunities by Sales Process
      • Won Opportunities by Actual Closing Month
      • Pipeline Report by Sales Process and Stage
      • Pipeline Report and Products by Sales Process and Stage
  11. New Dashboard Charts Components and Views
    • 12 new dashboard chart components and two standard new dashboard views have been added to ACT! 2010. The new default dashboard views are the ACT! Administrative Dashboard and the ACT! Contacts Dashboard.
      • Recently Created Contacts
      • Recently Edited Contact
      • Contact History Count by History Type
      • Contacts by Country
      • Contacts by Department
      • Opportunities Open by Product
      • Opportunities with Contact Info
      • Opportunities by Products
      • Opportunity Weighted Total by Stage
      • Remote Database Information by User
      • Remote Database Sync Status by User
      • User Status
    • The 12 new dashboard chart components all pull data from the ACT! database using the new OleDb 2.0 provider.
  12. New OleDb Provider
    • A new OleDb provider (OleDb 2.0) has been provided in ACT! 2010 that gives users access to Group/Company memberships as well as Activity information
  13. iCalendar Support
    • Users can send activity notifications via iCalendar format. If users have scheduled meetings with contacts who have an email address, they can select the item from the schedule activity dialog to “send invitation email” which will send an iCalendar object to the attendees.
    • With this feature, ACT! users who use both Outlook® and ACT! can also choose to create ACT! activities from Outlook meeting requests if they have ACT! and Outlook integration setup completed.
  14. vCard export
    • User types “Admin” or “Manager” can export contact info in the form of vCard either by right clicking in the contact list view or using the “Send vCard” item from the Contacts menu.
  15. Relationship dialog
    • Users now have the ability to resize the relationship dialog
  16. Help
    • Help screen has been modified to use the same design as ACT! by Sage Premium for Web help screen.
  17. Registration/Installation
    • Reduce the number of registration questions that users must complete when they register ACT! 2010.
    • Provide an automated answer file to assist in the silent install* process
      *Delivered as an MSI package. Software to distribute an MSI package is not included. Silent Activation on machines requires Internet access. Users must be machine administrators in order to activate.

Fixed Issues

  • In previous releases, activities with multiple resources appear as separate activities on Task List. In ACT! 2010, they are listed as one activity.
  • The right click menu or Activities Tab and Task List reads - Reschedule Activity3 instead of “Reschedule Activity”. This has been modified to read: “Reschedule Activity”
  • 'Show Cleared' calendar preference is not sticking when selecting via right click/filter calendar. This preference is not sticking. This issue has been resolved.
  • When using the “Copy Calendar” feature, bi-weekly reoccurring activities copy incorrectly to Outlook Calendar. This issue has been resolved.
  • Using the 'Go to Contact' functionality brings up contact scheduled with another user's private activity. This issue has been resolved and private activities are no longer returned to users who do not have access to them.
  • In the mini-calendar on the schedule activity dialog, the 'start time’ calendar un-readable when scheduling activities. This calendar has been modified so that users can see the actual start time on the calendar
  • Activity details were deleted when the date for the Activity was changed. The details are no longer deleted.
  • Activity detail tab color palette duplicates when choosing the color for the detail tab multiple times. The palette no longer duplicates.
  • Removing attachment from activity causes object reference error and red X in task list. This issue has been resolved in ACT! 2010.


  • When sorting relationships by access level, record creator or record manager fields cause list to disappear. This issue has been resolved.
  • In the Contact view on the activity tab, when using the filter drop downs, the drop down menus were truncated and the scroll bars were missing which would not allow users to scroll to all the items in the drop down menu. Scroll bars have been added to these drop down fields to allow for complete scrolling.
  • When sorting the Contact list by certain secondary fields, ACT! freezes.


  • Cleared ACT 3.x, 4.x 5.x (2000) or 6.x (2004) activities were not being marked as cleared during conversion. In ACT! 2010, they are not being cleared during conversion.
  • The Update Database prompt gave no option to cancel. An option to cancel has been added.
  • Converting a 6.x (2004) database changes the create date for records to today. When users convert in ACT! 2010, the create date is preserved from the 6.x (2004) database.
  • Error "Define Fields encountered an unexpected error and has logged the issue" after editing a field if the dashboard is viewed first. This error no longer exists.


  • When “display country code” preferences was enabled in the contact detail view, phone numbers disappear. The default layout fields have been expanded to accommodate the extra data.


  • Weekly calendar print view in Letter Full Page showed the start day in the upper left hand corner is the same as the end day for the week. It now shows the first and last day as range in header like all other weekly prints.
  • Avery ® label 5164 was missing. This label type has been added back in.


  • User specific filters defined in a report template are not respected. This issue has been resolved.
  • Group reports are blank when the user selects the option to include all sub-groups for selected groups. This issues has been resolved. This issue has been resolved.

Handheld Contact computer application release for ACT! 2009, 2008, and 2007

Handheld Contact is pleased to announce an update to the computer console for Handheld Contact for ACT!.

This update of the Handheld Contact computer console is optimized for even better performance when the Handheld Contact computer console has more than 150 users sync ACT! to their phones. "We wanted to improve the performance of Handheld Contact for larger customer installations and enterprise users," says J2X Technologies President and Handheld Contact General Manager Wes Worsfold. "This release v2.1.16.0 increases the number of connections to ACT! allowing larger customer installations to sync more users, more quickly. We recommend customers with more than 100 users to implement this upgrade."

Note for upgrading: Please visit the HHC Downloads Page, select your version of ACT!, and download and run the 'Handheld Contact ACT! Computer Application' to upgrade to the latest version of Handheld Contact.

Handheld Contact is the leading product to sync data from ACT! by Sage to Blackberry and Windows Mobile Phones

Sage eSummit 2.0 – ACT! by Sage Agenda

Sage Business Solutions Australia is presenting their 2nd ACT! eSummit

Wednesday 12th August 2009

To see the recording of the webinar, click here





Sage Marketplace Mike Lorge, MD, Sage Business Solutions As the leading provider of business software for small to medium businesses, Sage has a range of solutions that can automate all areas of your business, including finance, warehousing, ecommerce, distribution etc. This short session will provide a brief overview of the complete range of solution offerings provided by Sage. 10.00 am - 10.15 am
Driving Revenue & Reducing Costs with Email Marketing Bob Ogdon, Swiftpage This session highlights a range of effective tips to make your email marketing campaigns easy, powerful, and cost effective.  Learn how Swiftpage, an integrated email marketing and Sales Force Automation solution for ACT! by Sage, allows you to deliver marketing messages to the right contacts at the right time directly from your ACT! database. 10.20 am - 10.35 am
Personalising ACT! Allen Duet, Global CRM Check out some of the awesome ACT! plug ins available to you on Devnet. This session will showcase how you can customise ACT! with some of these free plugins that work with the latest version. If you've always wanted to pimp your ACT!, this is a session you can't miss. 10.40 am - 10.55 am
Anywhere and Everywhere with ACT! Mike Lazarus, GL Computing Handheld Contact for ACT! allows you to take your ACT! database anywhere and access it from a mobile device such as a Blackberry,  Pocket PC, or Treo Smartphone . Learn how this ACT! mobility solution can increase the productivity of your mobile sales force and field force agents, while keeping them connected and up to date with company and customer records.  By providing simple, easy access to information through wireless devices you can greatly improve the level of service you deliver to your customers. 11.00 am - 11.15 am
Reduce Costs through Accounting Integration with MYOB Josh Noonan, Red Onion Software This session will highlight the benefits of integrating ACT! with your accounting system;, including:• Increased efficiency by streamlining workflows between accounts and front office staff• Increased sales opportunities by Integrating essential client information between ACT! and your accounting systems• Allow sales staff to monitor and manage customer credit• Eliminate dual entry of customer information • The complete solution for optimising workflow and increasing operating efficiency 11.20 am - 11.35 am
SMS Marketing with ACT! Michael Bryant, ACT! Certified Consultant SMS4ACT allows you to make sure your appointments are confirmed by sending SMS to your customers or contacts straight out of ACT!, this way you can ensure that your communication gets to the person and not caught up in the junk mail.  You can also conduct SMS Marketing to your database and letting them about an upcoming specials or events.  Improve the effectiveness of your communication through SMS, all the while tracking these communications against the contacts in ACT! 11.40 am - 11.55 am

Thoughts on ACT! 2010 beta (#ACT2010) - The good, the bad and the ugly

There have been a number of posts from people on ACT! 2010 (due soon) and as we at GL Computing have been running our production data on the new version for a while, I thought I would posts my thoughts on it so far. Here is a list of what’s new in the up-coming build.

Here is the ACT! by Sage Version Comparison Chart - Compare your version to ACT! by Sage 2010

Note: The following are my personal views on the beta and features may change in the release.

  • Welcome Screen – A start-up screen displaying useful help links. This will be nice for new and upgrading users to learn the new functions quickly
  • New Look and Navigation
    • While the left-hand Nav bar has some nice functions (Quick Lookup and a context-sensitive list of Related Tasks), it’s less customisable than previous versions and doesn’t allow adding of direct links to the List views or the different calendars.
    • The Top icon ribbon is too large and takes up valuable screen real-estate for little value.

ACT2010 - Welcome and Navigation

  • Customisable Opportunities – these have been given a major overhaul including:
    • The ability to add custom fields to both the opportunity and to the products and services table
    • Personalise the layout of the opportunity like the Contacts, Groups, Companies layouts
    • Track activities, history, notes, documents and other items tied to the opportunity
    • New reports and more security options

ACT2010 Opportunity

  • Web 2.0 Technologies – this is a nicer version of the free Contact Web Context Browser
    • See your contacts’ information on a variety of Social Media and other sites, such as: LinkedIN, Facebook, Plaxo, MySpace, their web site, Google, Google Maps, Google News, Yahoo and others. It also allows you to create your own links.
    • Noticeably missing from the default list is Twitter, although it’s very easy to add.
    • For the Social Media sites, the links are just a search based on standard fields. To really work, this function needs to be able to enter a direct link for the contact (once found) to a “system field” and then use this link. If nothing in the field, then revert to the search. In a similar way to how Xobni does for Outlook
    • Additionally, there is no way to store specific “status updates” to these sites to a history or to view a combined feed for a company or group.
    • There is no way to update ACT! contact information from these sites (or at least highlight when they are different), which would be a nice option, especially from sites like LinkedIN.
    • Finally, there should be an ability to post updates from ACT! to the Social Media sites and store the posts in ACT! – this would allow a company to report on and review posts made by staff across multiple sites
    • I had previously posted some of these ideas in this blog post:

ACT2010 Web Info

  • E-MarketingSwiftpage has been incorporated out-of-the box to provide:
    • Better mass/merged emails
    • Survey and web forms
    • Drip marketing
  • Reports and Dashboard Components
    • There have been many new reports and nice report selector with option to select favourites – it would be nice if the Favourite Reports were added to the Reports menu, even to a sub-menu.
    • The Dashboard has some new components, including a Data chart (like the previously available Data Chart control) and a Facebook Friends List.
  • More Integration
    • The ability to email activity invitations in iCal format (a function missing since ACT! 6.0 had vCal) to users of Outlook, Gmail, Apple iCal, Windows Live, Facebook, GroupWise or Lotus Notes
    • Create an ACT! activity when you accept an iCal meeting request in Outlook
    • Share contacts with the vCard format. Also a nice addition missing since ACT! 6.0
  • Administration
    • Create up to 50 remote database simultaneously for easy roll-out of larger sync implementations
    • Support global environments by being able to set the currency when creating the database and allowing different international versions to share the database
    • New Admin Dashboard to see user information, logon and sync status and more.
  • Platform support – including SQL 2005 64 bit and SQL 2008 with Premium and Corporate.

Sage have obviously been very busy over the past year and there are also, as one would expect, many more enhancements and improvements that will improve your ability to use ACT! to assist your business.

Overall, this is been a good beta. The product has been very stable and there is much to entice current users to upgrade, especially the opportunities area. However, I think some of the new functions could have been implemented to provide a better use of the product (the navigation) or more power (Web 2.0 Tab) 

Connecting to ACT! by Sage data

A PowerPoint covering the different options to export and import data from ACT! by Sage or later versions

ACT! 2009 11.1 Hot Fix 2 Released.

Who Should Install This Hot Fix
Hot Fix 2 for ACT! version 11.1 may resolve your issues if:

  • You are using the ACT! for Web Client and see an error message when attempting to open an attachment that has a Microsoft® Office extension (such as .doc, .xls, and so forth.)
  • You are an ACT! for Web user who has installed 11.1 Hot Fix 1 and sees a deterioration in the speed ACT! List View information is updated.
  • You are experiencing compatibility issues with eGrabber or other 3rd party products.
  • You are seeing date/time on template names after a database synchronization when there isn’t any file conflict.
  • You are an ACT! for Windows® or ACT! for Web user seeing a "No records found" message after sorting on a custom field in the Contact, Group, or Company List view.
  • You are upgrading from any of the following versions of ACT!: 3.x, 4.x, 5.x (2000) or 6.x (2004) to an International English version of 11.1, and have not yet converted your database.
  • You are an ACT! Premium for Web user and all of your activities do not appear in the task list.
  • You are an ACT! Premium for Web user and have problems loading list views.

The following table list the areas affected by the hot fix, description, and the effect of the hot fix for each known issue.

New in Hot Fix 2
Area Description What the Fix Does
Attachments ACT! for Web users operating in an environment that uses SSL (Secure Sockets Layer) are unable to open an attachment if it has a Microsoft Office extension such as .doc or .xls. Enables users to open Microsoft Office documents in a SSL environment.
Performance ACT! for Web users find that List View information updates slowly after 11.1 Hot Fix 1 has been installed. Removes the performance degradation.

Fixed in Hot Fix 1
Area Description What the Fix Does
Contact Records In databases upgraded from version 3.x, 4.x, 5.x (2000) or 6.x (2004), the create date on Contact records changes to the current date instead of retaining the original create date. Prevents the create date from being changed if the hot fix is applied before the database is converted.
Column and spillover tables Error Message "No records found" displays when the user sorts on a field. When the user sorts on a field, the sort displays the correct data.
Synchronization File synchronization is adding a date/time stamp to file names, even when there is no conflict. Layouts, queries, and reports will not be renamed after synchronizing.
ACT! for Web list views If the user has more than 10 activities, all may not appear in the task list. Also, the loading icon remains on the screen. Allows the correct number of records to be shown in the list views.
SDK SDK 11.1exceptions resulted in third party programs encountering errors. Ensures compatibility with eGrabber and other 3rd party products.

For more information, refer to the ACT! KB25056

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New Subgroups for ACT! Fanatics on LinkedIN

New sub-groups have been created under the LinkedIn ACT! Fanatics Group:

  • Sales and Marketing for ACT! users
    A group to discuss general sales and marketing strategies and processes, especially as they apply to users of ACT! by Sage

  • ACT! and Social Media
    A group to discuss ACT! and Social Media (Social CRM) - LinkedIN, Twitter, Facebook, Plaxo and any others

  • ACT! Add-ons
    Group for ACT! users to ask questions of add-on vendors and for add-on vendors to ask users what they would like or to ask each other questions related to the SDK

  • ACT! Resellers
    A group for ACT! Certified Consultants and other resellers to discuss best practices for selling, implementing and supporting ACT! by Sage

  • ACT! International Advisory Council
    Council of ACT! Fanatics to discuss and evaluate technical issues within ACT! by Sage that effect international users

See the full list in the ACT! Fanatics Sub-groups

Please let me know if you have any ideas for other groups that would be useful to add

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Handheld Contact Announces New Editions including a free sync service

The guys over at Handheld Contact have been busy working on new wireless syncing solutions for ACT! and they have just announced Entry and Basic Editions for Windows Mobile smart phones and Pocket PC.

Handheld Contact is known as the best solution for wirelessly syncing information between ACT! by Sage and Blackberry or Windows Mobile smart phones. It's easy, convenient, secure, and makes any ACT! user more productive.

Unlike the current version of Handheld Contact (now renamed Handheld Contact Professional), these new versions sync ACT! Contacts and Calendar (Basic Edition only) to the contact list and calendar on the phone – all wirelessly, no cables. Here are a few details:

Handheld Contact Entry Edition:
This version is free!
It limits syncing to once per day, syncs ACT! Contacts only and operates on a ‘pay-as-you-go’ support plan.

Handheld Contact Basic Edition:
This version syncs ACT! Contacts and Calendar, includes unlimited syncs and is fully supported.

Both products are certified by Microsoft’s Mobile2Market program and independently tested by NSTL and guaranteed not to create duplicate contacts or calendar entries in ACT!

Discover which edition of Handheld Contact is perfect for you.

Versions that support BlackBerry smart phones are expected later this year.