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Interact Act 6.0 review:

Interact Act 6.0

  • 1
MSRP: $199.99
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The Good Increased integration with Outlook allows easy data sharing; embedded browser means no more switching apps as you surf; new version adds several scheduling tools and features; easy to learn and use.

The Bad Lacks sophisticated sales tools such as the ones in GoldMine or Maximizer; support is available only on weekdays, unless you pay $200 for a support plan.

The Bottom Line Act 6.0 adds a bevy of new features, including integration with Outlook. For first-time customer relationship management users, it's a solid, easy-to-use pick, but GoldMine remains the more powerful choice.

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CNET Editors' Rating

7.0 Overall

Act 6.0 doesn't look much different from Act 2000. But underneath, you'll find lots of new customer relationship management (CRM) features. Its increased Outlook integration and Outlook-like e-mail client eliminate double entries or repetitive cutting and pasting for Outlook owners. Act's beefed-up scheduling skills make tracking tasks simpler than ever. Unfortunately, it still lacks the more sophisticated sales tools and e-commerce connections that GoldMine and Maximizer offer. But if your contact-management tasks have outgrown Outlook and you want to ease into CRM, we recommend Act 6.0. Act 6.0 doesn't look much different from Act 2000. But underneath, you'll find lots of new customer relationship management (CRM) features. Its increased Outlook integration and Outlook-like e-mail client eliminate double entries or repetitive cutting and pasting for Outlook owners. Act's beefed-up scheduling skills make tracking tasks simpler than ever. Unfortunately, it still lacks the more sophisticated sales tools and e-commerce connections that GoldMine and Maximizer offer. But if your contact-management tasks have outgrown Outlook and you want to ease into CRM, we recommend Act 6.0.

Fast start
You can get Act ready to roll in no time. Act's import wizard grabs data from several file types, including Outlook 97 through 2002, dBase III through V, and text-delimited files. Naturally, you can set Act to automatically drop, say, phone numbers into phone number contact fields. We imported our contacts from Outlook and were ready to track customers and clients in less than five minutes.

Just as importantly, Act integrates with several applications for writing documents and for communication. For example, when you start to type letters or memos into Word, Act automatically records the activity in the contact's History log. Also, the e-mail setup wizard lets you integrate Act with your existing e-mail app, such as Outlook, Outlook Express, or Lotus Notes.

Cooperates with Outlook
Act's interface hasn't changed markedly since Act 2000. After all, if it ain't broke, don't fix it. A navigational bar at the left still offers access to tools such as the contact list, task list, and e-mail client. Tabs at the bottom still take you to the contact history, attached documents, and sales leads. The program also retains its excellent contact-management skills, which help you keep track of appointments, manage the sales process (from initial contact to closing the deal), and analyze your progress with, for example, sales statistics.

But Act offers some new features as well. Essentially, you can now work in either Outlook or Act without duplicating efforts in either one. For instance, you can access Act's own database as you work in Outlook and add the complete text of an e-mail message to an Act contact's History list. Also, Act's revamped e-mail interface makes it look like Outlook and lets you view your Outlook, Outlook Express, or Notes messages within Act itself. Unfortunately, Act spawns a separate window to show you this mail; we'd like to see it embedded within the Act window to reduce clutter.

See the sites
On the bright side, you can view several document types (Word, Excel, PowerPoint, Acrobat, and JPEG and BMP images) within a preview pane--no more launching separate applications. And to stay on top of contacts, use the cool new Contact Activity Lookup to search for recent activity--say, all customers with changed sales leads--so that you can follow up on or schedule calls or e-mail.

If you must work both in Act and the Web simultaneously, Act 6.0 embeds a browser (a modified version of Internet Explorer) in its own main window. What's more, you can attach whole Web pages, for example, the sales site of a company, to contacts. This'll come in handy when you make your pitch to a lead.

Suffering sales tools
Regrettably, Act still lags behind GoldMine and Maximizer in sales and e-commerce integration. Unlike GoldMine, Act doesn't do advanced sales functions, such as assigning quotas, and its sales forecasting tool is elementary at best. If you're looking for a serious sales arsenal, use GoldMine instead.

Calling for help
You can access Act's knowledgeable tech-support team via free phone calls for the first 30 days--7 a.m. to 4 p.m. PT on weekdays only--after which you'll pay $29.95 per incident or $3.95 per minute, or you'll have to buy a support plan. Act Advantage is your best deal; for $200, you get a year's worth of unlimited calls and access to the real-time, online chat. Short on cash? The online document database is searchable and extensive, and the free discussion forums may be able to point you to a solution.

With this edition, Act really has gotten its act together in many ways. But Act's sales tools don't quite match those of powerhouse CRM program GoldMine's. If you rely on Outlook religiously and want CRM capabilities, Act is your action item. Others who want more sophistication for about the same price should check out GoldMine instead.

Mouse over an item in any calendar view, and Act shows you the details of the task, eliminating the need to open the contact view.

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