Meeting Notes

Meeting Date: November 1997


: NOTE OUR NEXT MEETING WILL BE ON TUESDAY JANUARY 13. The meeting date was erroneously reported as January 14 in last month’s column. We apologize for the error.


Add-on products are software utilities that offer added enhancements to applications to suit the needs of specific users. Some very useful add-on products for ACT! users come from a Vienna, Virginia company by the name of Oakhurst Systems.

This month, we heard from two ACT! users both of whom use ACT! and Oakhurst add-ons in their daily work. Kay Braun, Manager of Computer Systems for Woodfield Chevrolet Geo uses ACT! to manipulate her customer database. This way, customers can be notified when a car lease is about to expire, or, a holiday greeting card list can be compiled. Kay faced a problem, though, when she first started her job. The customer database was in a different format on a mainframe computer.

The information was in the form of "quote-comma delimited" ASCII data. Each field of data was surrounded with quotation marks and was separated from other fields with commas. Kay used Oakhurst’s OAK!Merge! to transform the existing database into an ACT! 3 database. OAK!Merge! ’s "Wizard" simplified the process. In operation, OAK!Merge! prompts the user to follow a sequence of steps to convert the database starting with identifying the input file followed by mapping the data to the various ACT! fields. The user is again prompted to provide mapping instructions, i.e., which data in the original database is to be "mapped" (entered) to what ACT! field. (This ensures that unintended mix-ups such as the customer name ending up in ACT!’s zip code field will not occur!)

OAK!Merge! also prompts you to decide how to handle duplicate records. OAK!Merge! asks you which field you would like to use to establish whether or not a record duplicates an existing one. (Typically the name field is selected.) OAK!Merge! also asks you to decide how data will be handled if it is established that a new record is a duplicate of an old one. You are given the option of creating a completely new record, updating the existing one (identified as a duplicate), or totally ignoring the data for the new record. The nice thing is that once these protocols for handling data are established, they can be saved. This way, when another batch of data needs to be merged, it can be done rapidly and simply.

Tom Graham of Goda & Associates uses OAK!Check! to maintain and clean Goda’s in-house marketing database (in ACT!, of course). Goda & Associates designs, sets up, and maintains Internet web sites. OAK!Check! actually is capable of performing 11 different actions not available in standard issue ACT! 2 or 3 software. They include doing simple arithmetic operations, copying one field to another, removing or replacing characters in a field, swapping two fields, and updating phone number area codes.

Two of Tom’s favorite OAK!Check! features are case change (capitalization) and popup validation. Case changes standardize the appearance of data in fields. OAK!Check! permits the user to "standardize" capitalization across as many fields as desired throughout an entire ACT! database. The user has the option of making fields all capitalized or capitalizing the first letter of each word.

Pop-up (or drop-down for ACT! 3.0 users) validation ensures that data entries in fields having pop-ups exactly matches pop-up entries. Often times different users may enter information in slightly different ways. For example, one user might enter the state as Ill. while another might enter it as IL or Illinois. Obviously, data entry must be consistent for ACT!’s data queries (searches) to work properly.

OAK!Check! gives the user the option of simply "flagging" contact records containing mismatches for correction at a later time, or, in OAK!Check!’s "interactive mode", the option to fix a record as OAK!Check! finds it. OAK!Check! also gives the user the option of replacing a specific errant entry in a field with another. For example the entry "client" could be automatically replaced with "customer".

It’s easy to see why OAK!Check! is a very valuable utility to many ACT! users.


Q: Is there an easy way to create a new report in ACT! 3.0?

A: The usual way to create an ACT! report is via the command FILE, NEW, (select) REPORT TEMPLATE. You can get some help via the HELP section’s Report Designer by clicking on the HELP icon (question mark) and searching through the help index. Some users find it easiest to create a new report by simply modifying an existing one. Use the command REPORTS, EDIT REPORT TEMPLATE to open an existing report. After you have made the changes you want, be sure and save your work using a different file name (using the SAVE AS command) to avoid erasing the original report.

Q: How do I get ACT! to give me a list of the phone calls I need to make today?

A: Use the ACT! command VIEW, TASK LIST or the F7 short cut key. Note that you can use the filter icon to change which activities are displayed.


Our next meeting will be January 13, 1998. Note that our meeting location has changed (as of this past September) to the Schaumburg Prairie Center for the Arts Lecture Hall located at 201 Schaumburg Court (just off Schaumburg Road, between Plum Grove and Roselle Roads). The ACT! User Group (a SIG of the C.C.S.) holds meetings on the second Tuesday of the month eight months out of the year. User Group meetings are free and open to all C.C.S. members. Call E Tech Systems at 847-352-4770 to get meeting notices or e-mail us via

E Tech Systems is an ACT! Certified Consulting firm and Symantec Authorized Training Center. E Tech has installed, configured, and customized ACT! for dozens of companies and trained hundreds of ACT! users. Alan Lee can be reached at E Tech at 847-352-4770 or via e-mail to

© Copyright 1997 by Symantec Corporation. All rights reserved. Portions copyrighted by Alan M. Lee. 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.