Act 2006 is a minor upgrade of the esteemed contact-management application from Sage Software (formerly Best Software). Whereasunderwent a dramatic life change by adding a new underlying database to boost performance, this year's model is a mishmash of small tweaks that feature improved linking between contacts and companies, tepid support for Lotus Notes as an e-mail client, and automated scheduling for data backups and synchronizations. Act's setup routine isn't flawless--it conflicted with Microsoft Office Small Business Management 2006 in our tests--and its tech staff couldn't pinpoint the problem. Act also requires a steep 512MB of RAM, though we recommend 1GB for better performance. Overall, Act 2006 isn't an essential upgrade for longtime users, though it's a solid buy for small businesses that need a powerful contact-management program for tracking clients and sales leads.
Installing Act 2006 was no picnic. While the setup CD ran without a hitch, trouble started when we tried to create a new database by loading the demo contacts file that comes with the program. Rather than comply, Act 2006 posted cryptic error messages, including "Master was not found." Sage Software's proposed fix--disabling our firewall and uninstalling and reinstalling Act--didn't work. However, we did find the workaround on the Act support Web site. We had to uninstall Microsoft Office Small Business Management Edition 2006 from our PC and reinstall Act 2006--a major hassle. The good news: Act 2006's setup went smoothly on a second PC that wasn't running the conflicting Microsoft app.
Setting up the contacts database went more smoothly, though we experienced a few hiccups. Act's Import Wizard transfers data from various formats, including Microsoft Outlook, Act Database (7.0.1 to 8.x), dBase, GoldMine, and text delimited. We successfully imported our Outlook contacts list, although Act crashed with another cryptic error message after our first try. If you're upgrading from an older version of Act (3.x to 6.x), you'll need to run a separate database-conversion utility that requires a lot of hand-holding. For instance, you'll need to convert layouts, labels, report templates, and other items individually.
Luckily, Act 2006's tidy interface has survived mostly unchanged from its last incarnation. A left column provides one-click access to major features, including Contacts, Companies, Calendar, and Task List. One helpful change is the new Tree view, which makes it easier to locate business and employee names in the Companies and Groups modules. Perhaps more importantly, the Tree helps you see complex hierarchies of contact groups and subgroups in lengthy lists.