Meeting Notes

Meeting: February 14. 1995


Tips and Techniques from Open Forum.

During our monthly open forum we discussed editing the layout of the ACT! for Windows contact screen, changing the order of items in an ACT! for Windows popup list, and the use of ACT! add-ons.

If you are using ACT! for Windows you can change the layout of the contact screen with Symantec's layout editor program. By using the layout editor, you are no longer limited to the standard contact screens provided by Symantec. You can place fields wherever you'd like thereby designing your own contact screen.

The layout editor is available through Symantec. You may download it from the Symantec Bulletin Board or order it on disc from the manufacturer.

While we're on the topic of contact screens, you can choose from a variety of "stock" layouts using the (Windows) command: VIEW, LAYOUT. The only trick is that this command alters the flip side of the contact screen - not the screen in view when the command is invoked. If this all gets a bit confusing, remember that you can restore things to their original state using the commands: VIEW, LAYOUT, CONTACT 2, then VIEW, LAYOUT, CONTACT 1.

Popups are a great time-saver for entering general information in any contact field. (You can create your own popups using the command: EDIT, FIELD ATTRIBUTES then selecting the appropriate field and checking the popup box.)

When multiple entries are made in a popup box, they are automatically arranged alphabetically. (Note that you can add entries to a popup by using the EDIT, ADD command once the popup is open.) Suppose you had a popup, though, for day of the week and wanted the days to be listed in calendar order (rather than in alphabetical order). How would this be done?

The trick is to check off the "code field" box in the field attributes menu. (Use the EDIT, FIELD ATTRIBUTES command.) This creates a second field in the popup. To enter days of the week so that they appear in calendar order, type "1, 2, 3, etc." in the popup entry field and the corresponding day of the week (Monday, Tuesday, Wednesday) in the code field. Again, use the EDIT, ADD command once the popup is open.

A number of add-on programs for ACT! exist which give ACT! added features and flexibility. Examples of such programs are ACT PAC and ACT TREE. Such programs allow you to organize (and edit) ACT! contact records in a spreadsheet format, move entries easily from one field to another, or use other word processing programs with ACT!.

While these add-on programs may seem appealing at first, they add another layer of complexity. When difficulties occur it can be difficult to track down the true cause of a problem. This is why we suggest that PC users remove aftermarket screen savers and other "unnecessary" programs.

Meeting Topic: Boolean Lookups.

Lookups are among ACT!'s more powerful features. Simple lookups permit you to identify all contacts in a given state, zip code, or those with a particular ID Status. These quick lookups are readily accessed from ACT!'s pull-down "Lookup" menu. Keyword lookups search all fields, notes, and history for a specific word of your choosing. Keyword lookups are the only lookups that search notes and history. However, keyword lookups are slow.

Boolean lookups are a class of lookups that involve two or more parameters. An example of a Boolean lookup might be "everyone on Milwaukee Avenue/Blvd./Street who is a customer". Two criteria need to be satisfied in order for a contact to be selected by this lookup. The contact street address has to be Milwaukee (Ave., Blvd., or Street) and the contact has to be a customer. (The ID Status field should contain the designation: "customer".)

Such a lookup can be executed using the command: LOOKUP, OTHER. The next step is to clear all fields. This can be done using the command: EDIT, CLEAR. Next, type "*Milwaukee*" in the address field and "Customer" in the ID Status field. The asterisks (*) as "wildcards" and instruct ACT! not to differentiate between Milwaukee Street, Milwaukee Avenue, or 123 Milwaukee Blvd. Click on the OK boxes to run the lookup.

To select those contacts who are located on Milwaukee Avenue, Street, etc. or who are customers requires a different approach. One way to do this is to follow the steps in the previous paragraph but to execute the command: QUERY, CONVERT TO SMARTQUERY after entering the information in the contact fields. Then change the Boolean operator "AND" to "OR". Alternatively, you could type out the query in the smartquery window.

While there is a specific order of operations for Boolean logic, the best insurance against unanticipated results is to use parentheses around those operations that should be performed first. For example, using parentheses in the following query guarantees that only customers who are located either on Elston or Milwaukee will be selected.

((Address_1 CONTAINS "Milwaukee") OR (Address_1 CONTAINS "Elston")) AND (ID Status=Customer)

Finally, you may find it helpful to construct a small dummy database to test your query. Make sure to include contacts who parameters lie just inside and just outside the search criteria as this is where errors typically occur.

© Copyright 1995 by Alan M. Lee, all rights reserved. Other nonprofit computer user's groups may reprint this material providing credit is given the author and C.C.S. Future rights for publication reserved by Alan M. Lee. ACT! is a registered trademark of Symantec Corporation.