Sage ACT! 2012 Cookbook

4 (1 reviews total)
By Karen Fredricks
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  1. Working with the Welcome Page and Navigation Bar

About this book

Sage ACT! is a top-selling CRM application that helps  businesses to organize contact information, calendars and notes, and ultimately maximize contact relationships in one centralized database to optimize business efficiency and profitability. Recent versions have included the addition of powerful new CRM tools designed to increase the productivity of your business and its sales force.

This cookbook is full of immediately applicable recipes covering ACT! 2012, with a particular emphasis on advanced features in the new release. Many recipes will be relevant to users of ACT! who have not upgraded since 2009, 2010, or 2011  as many advanced features originate from these releases. The content will familiarize you with the new Start Up options and a new design to better navigate the product. You will also learn to use ACT!'s E-Marketing and Opportunity features so that you will be able to easily build your business and keep track of your profits.

This practical cookbook provides numerous recipes that will take you from being an ACT! novice to a CRM pro in no time, as you learn to utilize all of the advanced functionality of ACT! 2012 added in the most recent ACT! versions.

The recipes begin by covering the most basic elements of opening an ACT! database, and advance to include several recipes that will guide you through powerful CRM functionality including creating E-Marketing Campaigns and sending them off to specific segments of your database. If you have information in your ACT! database, you need to be able to use it quickly and logically—this book will help you do just that.

Publication date:
September 2011


Chapter 1. Working with the Welcome Page and Navigation Bar

In this chapter, we will cover:

  • Understanding the Welcome Page

  • Changing the Startup view

  • Working with the Navbar components

  • Collapsing and expanding the Navbar

  • Changing the Current view area

  • Customizing the Navbar

  • Connecting ACT! to other services



By default, the Welcome Page is the first page that, well, welcomes you when you open ACT! The purpose of the Welcome Page is to acquaint you with some of the more common ACT! features. Although some of the links found on the Welcome Page are nothing more than shameless plugs to entice you to purchase more ACT! services, there is a lot of great content to be found on the Welcome Page.

The Welcome Page holds four main categories of information:

  1. 1. Links to ACT! help screens

  2. 2. Links to ACT! training videos

  3. 3. Links to specific ACT! features

  4. 4. Links to various areas on the Sage website

Theoretically, the Welcome Page will help you get up and running very quickly in ACT! However, although you can't change the information on the Welcome Page without some advanced knowledge of JavaScripting, you can choose to not use it because most of the information that it contains is also found elsewhere in the ACT! program.


Using the Welcome Page

Getting ready

You can only get to the Welcome Page by opening up an ACT! database. If you don't have a database open in ACT! you'll see an abbreviated version of the Welcome to ACT! screen like the one shown below, which allows you to either open or create a database:

How to do it...

  1. 1. Open a database to see the complete Welcome Page.

  2. 2. The Welcome Page is divided into several areas which you can navigate to. Click on any of the areas as shown on the Welcome Page in the following image:

How it works...

The tasks displayed on the Welcome Page vary according to your user permissions. For example, if you are logged on as an Administrator your Welcome Page will include tasks such as Creating Fields and Importing Data. However, because you must be an ACT! Administrator to create a field, you won't see that option listed if you sign on as a standard user.

The areas labeled Learn About It include links to the help screens of various features. The Try It area links will actually take you to the feature itself. For example, clicking the Import Data link will open the Import Wizard and the Add/Modify Fields link will open the Define Fields dialog window.

In addition to the links to the help windows and feature dialog windows, the Welcome Page also includes links to Featured Videos and a variety of websites, including links to the ACT! Online Community and the ACT! e-store.

There's more...

Perhaps this section should be entitled There's No More because unfortunately the Welcome Page is not easily modified.

Modifying the Welcome Page

If you really want to explore the possibility of modifying the Welcome Page you'll find its contents located in the Program Files/ACT!/ACT! for Windows/Home/XML folder in the Data.xml file. Although you can make simple changes to the heading and graphics of the Welcome Page by opening the data.xml file in an XML editor, making changes to the links themselves requires knowledge of JavaScripting and is probably not worth the effort to edit. You may need assistance from an ACT! Certified Consultant to modify them.

Seeing changes in the Welcome Page

Because the data.xml file is stored outside of your database, it is associated with your ACT! installation. And, because so many of the links are attached to specific Sage websites, the Welcome Page presents a great opportunity for Sage to supply you with information. Don't be surprised, therefore, if the contents of the Welcome Page change as you apply update patches or upgrade to newer versions of ACT!


Changing the Startup view

Most ACT! users have a love/hate relationship with the Welcome Page. It seems like for every ACT! user who loves the helpful links found on the Welcome Page, there's another user who wants to simply "cut to the chase" and start using their database.

If you've outgrown the functionality of the Welcome Page, or you just want to plunge headfirst into your contact when you fire up ACT!, then there are a number of options available to you for changing the default startup option.

Getting ready

The startup options for an ACT! database are found in the Preferences. In order to get to the Preferences, you must have an ACT! database open.

How to do it...

  1. 1. From the Tools menu, click Preferences.

  2. 2. Click the Startup tab. You can see an example of the Startup tab in the following screenshot:

  3. 3. Select a view from the Startup view list in the Log On settings section of the Startup tab. Your choices include Welcome, Contacts, Contact List, and Dashboard.

  4. 4. Click OK.

How it works...

The Startup view preference is machine specific and not user or database specific. All of your ACT! preferences are located in a single preference file that lurks deep in the heart of your computer. This single file contains the preference settings for all of the ACT! databases located on your computer. That means if you change the default startup preference to open the Contact List, then all ACT! databases that you open from that same machine will also open up to the Contact List view. Conversely, if you access your ACT! database from a different computer, then it will open up to the view previously specified on that computer.

There's more...

Although opening ACT! to the Contact Detail view is a popular startup choice for most ACT! users, you can also specify that your database open to either the Contact List or Dashboard view.

Returning to the Welcome Page

Find yourself missing the Welcome Page? You don't have to change your Preference settings to access it. You can manoeuvre to the Welcome Page at any time by simply clicking the Welcome button on the Navigation bar.


Working with the Navbar

You might already be familiar with the concept of a Navigation or Navbar, especially if you are currently using Outlook. The Navbar generally runs along the left edge of a software program and allows you to access the various features.

You might use the Navbar as a placeholder of sorts. ACT! is a powerful program and offers lots of functionality. Unfortunately a new ACT! user (or even a fairly accomplished one) might occasionally get lost. For example, the Company List view can be easily confused with Contact or Group List views because they look pretty much the same. As you move from one ACT! function to the next, you'll notice that the corresponding button on the Navbar lights up. In addition, if the ACT! function offers both a Detail and List view you'll notice that the corresponding button (located near the top of the ACT! window) lights up as well.

The following figure shows you what the ACT! Navbar looks like:

You'll notice that the Navbar actually includes several areas:

  • Current view: lets you know whether you are currently in the Detail or List view

  • The Navbar Lookup area: allows you to quickly access a specific record

  • Related Tasks: offers suggestions for functionality based on the current area of ACT!

  • Navbar buttons: allows you to quickly move to other areas of ACT!

Depending on your ACT! layout, you might feel that the Navbar is intruding on your available screen space. Some of you might not like the Navbar, or prefer to access the various parts of the ACT! program directly from the Menu Bar. If that's the case you might want to minimize the Navbar.

There are not a lot of times that we can boast that using a feature is as easy as "clicking a button" but this is one of those times.

Getting ready

Make sure that you've started ACT! and that a database is open. If you don't see the Navbar running along the left side of the screen it means that ACT! is running but you haven't as yet opened a database.

How to do it...

  1. 1. Click the collapse icon (<<) located at the top of the Navbar to collapse it.

  2. 2. To expand it, click the expand icon (>>).

  3. 3. The Navbar should look like this after you've collapsed it:

How it works...

It is not possible to totally remove the Navbar from ACT! When you collapse the Navbar you are in essence replacing the Navbar with a much thinner version. The Navbar buttons no longer show labels, just the graphic associated with each button. However, you can also resize the Navbar by dragging the Navbar's right edge to the left or right.

There's more...

Although you might find that the minimized Navbar better suits your needs there are a few things to consider.

Unfortunately, the folks at Sage must not have thought that many people would actually minimize the Navbar; no mouse-overs appear as you hover your cursor over the Navbar buttons. You're left to your own devices in terms of knowing which button is which unless you memorize the Navbar icons.

When you minimize the Navbar you also lose the ability to perform a Navbar lookup; you'll have to create your lookups using an alternative method.


Changing the Current view

A Detail view is a layout which has fields and tabs that you can customize. You use the Detail view to add and edit information about a single entity. The Detail view provides functionality including the ability to:

  • Create new records or edit existing ones

  • Link various records together

  • Add notes, histories, and activities

The List view displays the data contained in the fields on the Detail view in columns that you can sort, move, or hide. You can even export all of your records from the List view by clicking the Excel button on the List view's icon bar. The List can display all of your records, or only those records that match your latest query.

Throughout the course of a day, you'll find yourself moving back and forth between the Detail and List views. Fortunately, you can do it with one click each way.

Getting Ready

Make sure that ACT! is open to a database and that you've already added a handful of Contacts, Groups, Companies, and Opportunities. After all, it doesn't make a lot of sense to look at an empty list!

How to do it...

  1. 1. Click the area of ACT! that you want to use from the Navbar.

  2. 2. Click the Detail View or the List View button.

How it works...

ACT! often works quietly in the background to make your life as simple as possible. A case in point is switching between the various elements and views. For example, you might look at the Opportunity List that you've filtered down to just include one specific stage. You then click the Detail View button so that you can view each of those opportunities in more detail. From the Detail view you click on the Contact tab and then click on the name of the person that is associated with the current opportunity. At that point you might be interrupted and need to quickly look up the phone number of another contact. When you're ready to return to the opportunity that you were working on, you can simply click the Opportunities button on the Navbar; ACT! will automatically return you to the Detail view of the last opportunity that you were working on.

There's more...

Although many ACT! users associate the List view with Contacts and Opportunities, there is also a Company List view and a Group List view. However, these views are not used as often as the Contact List view because the Company and Group Detail views already include a tree running along the left-hand side that displays the hierarchy in alphabetical order, like the one you see in the figure below:


Customizing the Navbar

Most of us are quite content with the Navbar but it's always nice to be able to tweak it if the mood hits you, by either adding or removing buttons. For example, you might not use the Opportunity functionality and want to remove it from the Navbar.

Getting Ready

Make sure that you've already fired up ACT! and that you have a database open.

How to do it...

  1. 1. Click the Configure (double right-pointing arrows) button on the bottom right corner of the Navbar.

  2. 2. Choose Navbar Options from the contextual menu. The Navigation Pane Options box opens like the one you see in the following figure:

  3. 3. By default, all available options are already on the Navbar.

  4. 4. Remove the checkmark next to any item that you'd like to remove from the Navbar.

  5. 5. (Optional) To change the order of the Navbar items, select an item and then click the Move Up or Move Down button.

  6. 6. Click OK to save your Navbar changes.

There's more...

Once you've added or removed an item from the Navbar you might want to either increase or reduce the amount of room devoted to the Navbar buttons. You'll notice a slider (the line with several dots on it) immediately above the Navbar buttons. You can drag the slider up or down to change the area that appears on the Navbar.

You might have noticed two other options on the Navbar's Configure button: Show Fewer Buttons and Add or Remove Buttons. Unfortunately these two options lack the flexibility of the Navbar options. The Show Fewer Buttons option removes a single button from the icon bar, starting with the Reports button. Although the removed items then appear to the left of the Configure button, they are very small and hard to identify.

The Add or Remove Buttons option lists all of the Navbar buttons; supposedly the ones that you're not currently using are "dimmed". However, because it's so hard to tell exactly which icons are dimmed, you'll probably find it much easier to use the Navbar Options button covered earlier.


Connecting ACT! to other services

Having a variety of unrelated software programs can often lead to duplication of work. Fortunately, ACT! can connect directly to two popular email clients: Outlook and Google.

In addition, Sage Connected Services for ACT! is a portfolio of subscription-based services and productivity tools that integrate with Sage ACT! and are designed to grow your business and work more effectively. Prices for the Connected Services products vary; some come with trial periods or free levels.

Although it is likely that Sage Software will continue to add new service offerings to ACT!, as of this writing the three Connected Services products are:

  • Sage Business Info Services for ACT! - connects with Hoover's to allow you to obtain more information about your existing contacts, or purchase and download a new list of prospects directly into ACT!.

  • Sage E-marketing for ACT! - links ACT! to an e-mail marketing service. You can learn more about this service in Chapter 12 of this book.

  • Sage ACT! Connect - synchronizes your ACT! data with BlackBerry, Android, and Windows Mobile devices.

Getting ready

To set up and access Sage Connected Services for ACT!, you need:

  • An Internet connection.

  • Your Internet browser configured to accept cookies.

  • An e-mail address in the E-mail field of your Sage ACT! My Record. The information in your My Record will be used when you set up an ACT! Connected Services account.

If you already have a Sage E-marketing for ACT! account (formerly known as Swiftpage), you can use it as your Sage Connected Services for ACT! account.

How to do it...

  1. 1. Click Connections on the Navbar.

  2. 2. Click the Sign Up Now link to start a trial version of one of the services.

  3. 3. Follow the prompts in the Account Management dialog window to either create a new account or to sign in using your existing credentials.

  4. 4. You'll be prompted for various pieces of personal information depending on the service you are signing up for.

  5. 5. When you are finished, click OK to save your changes and close the Account Management dialog window.

How it works...

Once you've signed up for one service you can easily add additional services by clicking the Manage Account links that now appear next to each of the service offers. You can also use the Manage Account links to quickly increase or decrease your current level of service.

There's more...

The Connections page also includes links to Outlook and Google. You can use the Configure Settings links to set up your connection to either of these services. Or, if you have already completed the setup, you can click on the Synchronize Now links to start a manual synchronization. Chapter 9 will give you detailed instructions on setting up the Outlook configuration, and Chapter 10 will guide you through the Google setup.

Linking to Accounting Software

Although not listed on the Connections page, there are a number of third-party products that link ACT! to accounting software, including QuickBooks, Peachtree, and MAS. These products require that you establish the connection from the linking software itself rather than from ACT!; consequently you will not find the connection information on the Connections page.

About the Author

  • Karen Fredricks

    Karen Fredricks began her life rather non-technically growing up in Kenya. She likes to say that she developed her sense of humor while dodging bombs in Beirut where she attended high school. She graduated from the University of Florida and holds degrees in English, Theatre and Accounting. She settled in Boca Raton where she includes tennis, trips to the gym and cheering for the Gators in her busy schedule.

    A true CRM expert, Karen is the author of over ten For Dummies books, including titles on ACT!, SugarCRM, Outlook, Business Contact Manager, Office Live and Marketing with Microsoft Office 2007. This is her sixth book devoted to ACT!.

    Karen’s firm, Tech Benders, customizes popular contact management and CRM software to help businesses grow by being more productive, efficient, and profitable. Karen believes in working smarter in order to have the time to enjoy life and tries to install that philosophy in her clients.

    Browse publications by this author

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