Meeting Notes

Meeting Date: March 12, 1996

MEETING FEATURE: New Feature! Tales From the Trenches.

Tales From the Trenches gives us an opportunity to describe how various ACT! users utilize ACT! in unique and different ways. Hopefully this segment, which will appear from time to time, will expand your notion of what ACT! can do, stimulate your imagination, and help you get more value from your investment in ACT!.

Jack Murch of Motorola has a rather unique job. As a customer relations manager, Jack is regularly called on to arrange visits and tours for foreign industrialists, suppliers, and potential business partners to Motorola’s facilities. It’s safe to say that Jack would have great difficulty doing his job if it weren’t for ACT!. The heart of everything is Jack’s master database of 1000 contacts of Motorola facilities, hotels, transportation companies, concierges, tourist attractions, and associates. Jack uses ACT! for Macintosh on a network with 10 users and, like most of us, uses ACT! to keep track of contacts and to schedule activities for himself. Jack also uses ACT! to help him organize and coordinate company visits.

The fun begins when a guest is scheduled to visit. Jack creates a separate ACT! database specifically for the visit. This new database, a subset of Jack’s master database, contains all pertinent contacts: hotels, Motorola facilities, restaurants, tourist attractions, etc. The database also includes a my record labeled "the visit". This way Jack can schedule activities for the visit and print out an itinerary or calendar. Jack differentiates between administrative, off-site, and on-site activities by scheduling these activities as low, medium, or high priority respectively. This way when Jack scans ACT!’s task list, he can immediately zero in on all on-site activities since they all appear in red. Off-site activities appear in blue and administrative activities appear in black.

Jack has invested considerable effort in customizing ACT! to the task. For example, he renamed one of ACT!’s user fields "transportation". To make life easier, Jack created a custom popup listing various modes of transportation available. Jack makes use of the optional code and popup entry fields available in popups to abbreviate field entries while providing a full description of the entry. This helps make Jack’s system user-friendly.

Jack has also cleverly devised a custom report he calls "agenda". This report represents a day-by-day list of activities. The report includes information from the "meeting" and "to do" fields and includes the contact name and phone number. Finally, Jack has created a number of his own custom letters and templates. This way Jack can create name badges for a number of visitors, an airport gate sign to give to a driver meeting a guest, or a standard letter inviting an out-of-town guest to dinner.

As if this wasn’t enough, Jack also uses ACT! as an inventory system to track company assets - specifically two-way radios which are loaned out to employees. Jack re-named the "company" and "contact" fields "model" and "serial number" respectively. He uses the "call" and "to do" fields to record the date a radio is lent out and the date a radio is returned. Jack also created fields for the borrower’s name, the frequency band of the radio and the unit ID. Finally, Jack uses ACT! to keep track of a each radio’s repair history.


Synchronizing Databases on Two PCs

Q What is synchronization and is it part of ACT! (for Windows) 2.0.6? Will laplink serve the same purpose?

A Synchronization is process whereby two databases are updated field by field so that their contents are identical. ACT! 2.0.6 alone does not have the ability to perform synchronization. The addition of Mobilelink to ACT!, however, permits the user to automatically keep databases synchronized. Mobilelink keeps a transaction log of changes made to each record on a field by field basis. The end result is two databases with identical information reflecting the most recent changes made. Laplink, on the other hand, permits you make a copy of your database on a portable (second) computer. This permits you to take your portable PC into the field and make changes to the data. When you return to the office, laplink permits you to transfer this information back to the main PC. However, laplink works by overwriting the original database. Thus any changes were made to your database on the office computer while you were away would be lost.

Phone Dialer Area Code

Q How do you tell ACT! what area code you are calling from?

A In order for ACT! to correctly dial the phone for you, you need to tell ACT! what area code you are dialing from. This enables ACT! to differentiate between phone numbers that have the same area code as yours and those that do not - and ensures that ACT! dials the area code appropriately. ACT! 2.0.5 and all later versions have a pull-down menu with three choices for location. This allows ACT! to accommodate laptop users who have an office in one area code but also work from another location (home) with a different area code. To enter specific area codes for these locations, use the command EDIT, PREFERENCES, DIALING. Click on the down arrow adjacent to "location" and enter the appropriate area code for the given site. Note that you can enter any prefixes (such as a "9" to dial out at the office) that are necessary.

Faxing Notes and History

Q How can I fax notes and history for a contact to an associate?

A In general, you can fax from ACT! as long as you can get the PRINT command to work. (Faxing works the same as printing - only instead of printing to the printer, you "print" to your fax/modem.) For example, you can fax your ACT! notes. To fax history, create a report (one way is to use the command REPORT, CONTACT REPORT). Next delete the information you don’t want. Then, just fax the document. The commands are FILE, PRINT, SETUP (select fax as the printer), OK. Adventurous users may want to create a custom report which includes notes and history.


of the ACT! User Group will be held on Tuesday May 14. We will demonstrate and discuss a variety of "add-on" products which enable you to scan business cards directly into your ACT! database, interface with other word processors and more! Plus, the latest ACT! for Windows update, 2.0.8, will be available. User Group meetings are free and open to all C.C.S. members. They are held on the second Tuesday of each month 8 times a year at the Midway Motor Lodge in Elk Grove Village. Call E Tech Systems at (847) 352-4770 for details.

© Copyright 1996 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.