What’s coming in Act! v19 – Good, bad or very ugly? #ActCRM

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As Swiftpage is expected to release Version 19 of Act! this week, I thought I’d post a summary of what to expect with this release.

Update 13th January 2016 with first look opinion on the Act! Companion.

64-bit MS-Office Compatibility

Microsoft OfficeAct! will now work with 64-bit versions of some Microsoft Office applications: 
Outlook, Word and Excel. While their marketing is making claims about Act! being “64-bit compatible”, it’s just the MS-Office integration that has changed.

It has taken a long time for Swiftpage to do this. However, I have found several disappointing bugs with the new version, with both 64-bit and 32-bit versions of Office 2016.

These include incorrect handling of international data and some functions just crash and kick you out of Act!

Swiftpage have decided they don’t want to hear about bugs I uncover, so I’m not aware if they even know about these, yet. I will provide more details in a future post.

At this time, I would avoid upgrading to version 19 if Office integration is important to you.

Act! Companion mobile app*

Act! Companion mobile app

I haven’t had access to this product to test, so I don’t know how reliable it is.
Certainly the functionality of it doesn’t come close to Handheld Contact.

Here’s a screen shot and summary from their marketing guff:

Act! Companion mobile app - screen shotStay connected to key Act! Premium details when on the move with Act! Companion — a native mobile app designed for your iPhone® or Android™

  • Contact, activities and history are available. Users get alerted when new contacts, activities or history items are created.
  • Capture notes during meetings
  • Email or call your Act! Premium contacts from the app
  • Do work in a social way with @mentions and simple text updates
  • Intelligent notifications sent directly to the home screen of your phone keep you on task and on time

They say it will support iOS versions 9.x and up, and Android Lollipop, KitKat, and Marshmallow

Their marketing acknowledges that this doesn’t have the functionality to replace their Act! Premium Mobile product.

Update after some testing:

  • When the Login fails, it gives no indication of why
  • The fields are not named the same as they are in Act!, causing confusion.
  • The buttons are very small and not easy to select
  • Search doesn’t seem to work
  • Most of my activities aren’t showing
  • Notifications don’t show enough detail to let you know what the activity actually is
  • The adding of History, add a To-Do with a Blank Regarding

I honestly can’t believe that anyone who uses Act! actually tested this in beta. It’s not release quality.

Additionally, It requires the v19 WebAPI, which has some serious security implications that I’ll be blogging on in the future. I don’t recommend installing or using the WebAPI at this time.

Note: This feature will only be available to Premium subscribers. Users of Pro won’t have it.

Act! Premium Contact Link*

I’m not sure why Swiftpage list this as a new feature.
This is NOT something new for v19 as it has already been available in v18 Premium

Act! Premium Contact in Outlook Act! Premium Contact in Outlook

The functions included are:

  • Create new Act! Premium contacts or edit existing ones. But it doesn’t correctly handle international data and only lets you add/edit a very small range of fields
  • You can schedule new activities with the contacts – But only if you are scheduling To-dos.
  • You can view some of the history of the contacts
  • Attach the text of an Outlook email to contacts – With less functionality than the normal Outlook integration.

While it does look pretty, it is at best a proof concept idea and not ready for prime time
It’s slow, clumsy and lacks functionality available in the standard Outlook integration for Act!.
I’d guess that no-one that really uses Act! had a hand in it’s design.
Which sadly seems common for functions that Swiftpage have been adding.

It requires the v18 or v19 WebAPI, which has some serious security implications that I’ll be blogging on in the future. I don’t recommend installing or using the WebAPI at this time.

Note: This feature is only be available to Premium subscribers. Users of Pro won’t have it.

Act! emarketing improvements

Swiftpage have made the following improvements to their Act! emarketing

  • Send Act! emarketing campaigns up to 5 times faster
  • Campaign management improvements:
    • Get instant feedback on your current Act! emarketing service level before sending email campaigns
    • Quickly and easily see email campaign history for a given contact
    • Don’t worry about accidental sends! A send confirmation dialog will now check to make sure you’re ready to send an email campaign
  • Enhanced send email campaign dialog - See live details about your contact limit, usage this month, and new recipients
  • Campaign history overwrite creates and updates one history entry

The Act! emarketing product still has a very long way to go in order to match competitive products like MailChimp (which can be integrated with Act!), or even their own (seemingly forgotten) Swiftpage emarketing for Act!.

The only reason to not consider a better emarketing system is if you’re only using Act! Premium Web.
The Act! emarketing product is the only one that currently works with the web version.

Customer-­driven feature enhancements

Swiftpage’s marketing lists a section called “Customer-­driven feature enhancements”. It’s a shame that they don’t listen to customers with their other features.

  • Refreshed standard reports with some minor improvements. There is hope that they’ll be adding integration with Microsoft’s Power BI sometime in the future to add the type of reporting functionality that users really need.
  • Added more functions to the Web and Cloud versions, that were previously only in the Windows desktop product:
    • Scan for duplicates
    • Formatting toolbar in the Layout Designer
  • Defects fixed. You can see an extensive list of fixes listed in this Act! Knowledgebase Article: What's new in Act! v19

Final Comment

All in all, it’s a pretty poor effort of an upgrade. More like an 18.5 than a v19. While there is an extensive list of bug-fixes, it seems the new functions have added plenty of bugs of their own.

I’d strongly advise holding off any upgrades unless you require integration with 64-bit Office. Sadly, those using Swiftpage’s Cloud product won’t have an option as their Cloud is likely to be updated on the first weekend after release.

Also, as I stated above, I’d avoid installing WebAPI, at least until Swiftpage chooses to address the security issues in it. They also really need to improve it’s functionality to be close to what’s been available for a long time with the Act! SDK such as UI modifications and the creation/using of custom tables.

I find it very saddening to see, after 30 years I have supported the product, that what is essentially a set of bug fixes is masquerading as a “new” version.


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