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Sage ACT! Pro 2012 Review
Sage ACT! 2012 continues its tradition of providing robust contact management and a true CRM solution for SMBs. However, potential customers should be aware that memory requirements exceed the advertised specifications and the price hike may be hard to justify even with the new capabilities.
(4 out of 5)
- Robust contact management
- Integrates with third-party services
- Updated features in the UI
- Good integration with Google services
- Slow and lengthy installation
- Sluggish performance during testing
- Occasional screen freezes
- Requires more memory for optimal performance than specifications suggest
- Price increased significantly since last version
Sage ACT! Pro 2012
is the update to Sage ACT! Pro 2011, a customer relationship management solution, and introduces some new features, many of which allow ACT! to integrate with email and cloud services. ACT! 2012 retains many of the wonderful features of ACT! 2011, including granular contact and calendar management, plus the ability to create a marketing campaign. These capabilities make Sage ACT! a true CRM solution and more than your typical personal information management application, and it’s one of the premiere SMB CRM solutions available.
However, each version of Sage ACT! seems to get more bloated than the last, and, as the company adds features, ACT! takes longer to install and performs slower. The price for the new version has also jumped considerably. Sage ACT! 2011 was $171.99 for a new purchase and now ACT! 2012 is $269.99 for a new install—almost $100 more! The upgrade price has also increased from $126.95 to $199.95. While there are new features in ACT! 2012, I question whether they are worth such a price hike.
Act 2012! Pro, the version I tested, supports up to ten users. The setup process in ACT! 2012 does not differ much from the 2011 version, but installing it took quite a long time. In this day of nimble apps and cloud computing, Sage ACT! 2012 installs like software from the late 1990s. Prerequisite components that automatically get installed with ACT! are Microsoft’s .NET 3.5 SP1, Windows Installer 4.5, and SQL Server 2008 R2 Express. Not only do the components take a while to install, but the installation process goes through a lengthy computing space requirements phase, too. You’d better have some time on your hands before beginning an installation of ACT! 2012.
Once installed, you have the same rich, albeit, slightly cluttered UI of the preceding version of ACT! There are a few new items in the interface. One is a tab to a page named “Connections,” an area within the interface that gives you options for integrating ACT! with external services. Connections is where you can pull up information on the company associated with a contact from Hoover’s website via the Sage Business Info Services feature introduced in the last version of ACT! Business Info Services is now part of the Connections page along with a wizard that walks you through integrating ACT! with Google’s Gmail, contacts, and calendar.
I tested integrating ACT! with my Google information. It’s fairly easy, though you do have to be mindful of setting up the integration properly, meaning follow all the directions in the wizard. It took me one or two attempts at importing my over 300 Google contacts before realizing I had to establish how the contacts would sync—for example, the options are adding Google contacts to ACT!, or if the same contact exists in both databases, choosing which version to keep. In addition, you have to choose how the contact information is mapped during integration.
ACT! has a new Universal Search feature where searches can be done against contacts, notes, groups, companies, and other criteria. The new Scratchpad feature acts as a notepad of sorts. You can jot notes down on the scratchpad and then import that information as a note, history, or activity into the ACT! database. Scratchpad works as advertised.
The Import Wizard now has a page with a link to an import log that gives a summary and status of imported records; useful if you are importing a large data set. The Lookup bar on top of the Navigation bar can be hidden, adding more screen real estate.
The most impressive features are the ones that bring new Web-based administration to ACT! However, Web-based administration is only available in the Premium edition of ACT!, not the Pro version I tested. I think this is unfortunate because although Web administration is primarily for customers with a large number of ACT! users, it still provides a good way to centrally manage the up to ten users the Pro version supports.
With Web administration, admins can manage ACT! users through a browser and set passwords, create and manage teams, and lock and unlock databases. Users can also edit and save attachments via a browser but again, only in the Premium version.
Still, the new features in ACT! Pro contribute to boosting ACT! its functionality. My biggest gripe with ACT! is that it seems slower than ever. Granted, I tested installing and running on a slightly dated laptop with an Intel i3 processor, but even with that, plus 2GB RAM and a fairly lean database, I didn’t expect the sluggish performance and the occasional “ACT! is not responding” error that cropped up often enough to make testing frustrating. The specifications list system requirements for ACT! 2012 include: a minimum of a 1.8 GHz Pentium IV and 1GB RAM. Take caution: if you are going to run ACT! 2012, plan on feeding its memory neediness with as much RAM as possible.
Still One of the Best, But Performance Lacks
Sage ACT! continues to be one of the most comprehensive and professional contact management applications in the business. With new features that allow for integration with third-party email and calendars, it’s also a centralized portal for all your contact information.
As office and productivity apps move to the more flexible cloud, running ACT! on local machines and servers is becoming more of an antiquated deployment model. Sage seems to just be getting on board with taking ACT! off-premise and placing it in the cloud with its mobile ACT! Connect app and now the new Web admin features, but the company still needs to work on keeping all the great features that are in ACT! while making the software lighter, more cloud-friendly, and less of a big piece of locally installed software from yesteryear. Sage Act! Pro 2012 still gets four out of five stars—it’s quality contact management—but last year’s version, Sage Act! Pro 2011, retains the Editors’ Choice for contact management.
By Samara Lynn, PCMag