<![CDATA[Brenda Ralston - Brenda's Blog]]>Thu, 28 Sep 2017 01:02:43 -0600Weebly<![CDATA[Tab Stop Order]]>Tue, 05 Sep 2017 06:00:00 GMThttp://brendaralston.com/brendas-blog/tab-stop-orderDo You Ever Wish You Could Enter
New Act! Contact Info
In YOUR Desired Order?
Just reset your Tab Stops!

Act! has a feature allowing you to tab through your Contact screen.  But we often use different fields and custom fields, so we have to point our curser to our preferred fields.

You can set your fields to allow entry in your preferred order...  And Here's How!

In your Tools Menu, select Design Layouts, Contact.  You will see the layout with your Fields.  On the top of your screen, (left to right) you have File, Edit, and View (etc.) Select View, Tab Stops, and Show Tab Stops.  Little red boxes will appear to the right of some of your Fields, with numbers. Those numbers represent the order in which your Tabs currently stop. 

To change the order, select View, Tab Stops, Clear.

Once you Clear your tabs, simply select the Fields in the order you wish!  The little red boxes with numbers will reappear on Fields in the order that you click.  

Once you have YOUR preferred order, just close the window and confirm that you wish to save your changes.

Using the same process, you can also change the Tab Stop order in the layouts for Group, Company, and Opportunity by selecting that layout as opposed to the Contact layout.

The process may vary based on your Act! version, your User Role, etc.  If you have questions, trouble, etc... Just let me know.
Happy ACT!ing Up! 
<![CDATA[Restarting SQL]]>Mon, 07 Aug 2017 19:29:40 GMThttp://brendaralston.com/brendas-blog/restarting-sqlPicture

Ever try to open your Act! database and see THIS?

Or maybe THIS?
I am seeing this more frequently in Windows 10, however it has been happening after a computer restarts at least occasionally, for quite some time.
Restarts can be intentional, but are often "surprises" after a computer downloads automatic updates, power surges or power outages, and other random reasons.  Then (often on a Monday morning before coffee) you attempt to open your database and get one of these errors.  Never the best way to start the day.

Act! uses SQL, which runs on your computer as a "background service" and starts up when your computer starts.  Usually.  When it does not start up before you attempt to open Act!, one of those errors is the thanks you get.

If you are using a shared database and no one can get in, do this on the database host (server) machine.  If you are the only one who gets this error, do this on your machine.

1)  In the lower left of your screen, type "services.msc" (without the quotes) in the Search bar (or Cortana... shown here):

Or select the Windows button and "R" and type "services.msc" (again, no quotes) there (shown here).  Then press Enter or OK.
This will open the Services console
on your computer:

2) Scroll down to "SQL Server (ACT7) and click to select it, as shown above.

3) Near the top left, select "Start (or restart) the service".

Now you should be able to open your database!
(Disclaimer: this is not always the problem, but  I am seeing it frequently)

I know (believe me...  I know),
it is inconvenient and a nuisance,
but it just takes a minute
once you know what to do.

Now you can get back to work.

<![CDATA[Spring Forward, Change the Clocks, Check the Smoke Detector Batteries... And check your Act! Scheduled BackUps!]]>Fri, 10 Mar 2017 06:00:00 GMThttp://brendaralston.com/brendas-blog/spring-forward-change-the-clocks-check-the-smoke-detector-batteries-and-check-your-actscheduled-backupsPicture
Yes, any good excuse to get me back on my soap box ;-)

I see so many times, that when we need a backup, something went wrong.  We figured our backup system was backing it up (but Act! backs up differently so whatever backup system needs the right kind of file to backup, so we can easily restore the database.)  Or maybe we just figured "auto-pilot" was good enough?  Or maybe we're just busy and we forgot?

So let's stop what we're doing, and do ourselves a favor! 

You must have the Administrator or Manager User Role to backup your database, so if you do not, then pass this to someone who does.

From the Tools menu, select "Act! Scheduler".  This will open a window that shows Tasks that have been created. (If noting is listed, see this article on my blog about backups and specifically how to schedule a backup.)

Now select "View Task Log"...

This will open another window, that will show you scheduled tasks and their status:  This should show you a decent amount of useful information, like the database name, the database host computer name, user name, location of your backup, etc...

But what you really need to see, is that the Type of Event is "Backup with Attachments", and the Result is Task Completed with "Errors: None"!

If you see an error or incomplete task, check the blog article linked above, check the Act! Help Menu, check the Act! Knowledgebase, google it, call me…  DO SOMETHING TO FIX IT!!

And replace the batteries in your carbon monoxide detector too ;-) 

<![CDATA[Excel to Act! Import Cheat Sheet]]>Mon, 18 Jan 2016 21:46:55 GMThttp://brendaralston.com/brendas-blog/excel-to-act-import-cheat-sheetIt can be difficult to remember how to Import a spreadsheet from Excel into Act! when it is not an everyday activity.  Print this 1 page Cheat Sheet if you wish, and have this handy reference...
File Size: 350 kb
File Type: pdf
Download File

<![CDATA[Is Your Act! Database Running S-L-O-W ?]]>Fri, 04 Sep 2015 16:51:26 GMThttp://brendaralston.com/brendas-blog/is-your-act-database-running-s-l-o-wPicture
  Within the last couple weeks, I am seeing a lot of databases "hanging up", and upon investigation I find that some of the necessary SQL services have become Disabled.  We simply have to reset the service(s) to Automatic and start them.  Maybe a Windows Update is causing it, but it is a very easy fix. 
  Another possibility may be this:  Basic database maintenance is critical to keeping a happy, healthy database: Most of us know about the Act! Scheduler and its ability to perform maintenance and repair on an automatic, scheduled basic (if you don't, let's talk.) What most people don't know, is that old data makes our database slower and slower until one day... Molasses! 
  One of many things that we can do, is delete information that is obsolete. In doing so, your database has less info to index, less to search, and takes less time to do so.  But I have heard, “I need that! That’s my business! That’s my livelihood! THAT’S WHY I HAVE Act!” 
  I am not asking you to delete your database! And one would have to pry mine from my cold, dead hands! 
  But Act! has a neat little feature that helps us choose and remove old data.  The hard part is deciding what time frames are right for you. Always create a current backup first!  Personally, I belong to the Redundancy Department of Redundancy: I need and I strongly recommend a “safety net” database in addition to your "every day database". To do so, just create an archive copy of the database, shared and available just as your working database is. Then the archive database can be opened when needed for reference. Once that is done, you can simply take the following steps to Delete Old Data:
  • Create  a current Back Up
  • Select the Tools Menu/Database Maintenance/Remove Old Data
  • Check Notes, then enter the number of days "older than" (that will be removed). 60 days is the default, but you can change that to 365 or 90 (or another, as you wish.)

  • Check Histories, then enter the number of days "older than" (that will be removed). 60 days is the default, but you can change that to 365 or 90 (or another, as you wish)
  • Check Cleared activities, then enter the number of days "older than" (that will be removed). 60 days is the default, but you can change that to 365 or 90 (or another, as you wish)
  • Check Document tab entries older than, then enter the number of days "older than" (that will be removed). 60 days is the default, but you can change that to 365 or 90 (or another, as you wish)
  • Check any of the above, or all of the above: You have options! Start by leaving more, and see what works for you. (Think of it like a haircut: You can cut off more, but you can’t glue it back on.)
  • Select OK, which will present the following verification screen showing your selections:
  • If you agree, select “Yes”.
  Monitor progress, and remove more old info when you are comfortable.
  Remember to always make a backup first, and always retain an archive copy for reference.  That way, you should have an "archive" copy of your database to which you can easily refer... but don't be surprised that you will find that you need it less and less as time goes by.   You can also clean old data from your database by doing a look up on “Edit Date/On or Before/(date)” and deleting Contacts that have not been edited since that date: Let’s face it, if you have not touched the record in 5 years or so, it is probably not accurate information and you probably don't need it. But that’s another topic…   
  Another speed issue could be the Universal Search Indices...  Maybe I need to write a series on "The S-L-O-W Database Phenomenon"? 
  Whatever ails your database, User Roles and Versions differ so remember: I am a phone call away...  To make sure you are not without needed data!
<![CDATA[5 Simple, Everyday Tips to Use Act! as a Sales Tool]]>Wed, 22 Jul 2015 20:02:14 GMThttp://brendaralston.com/brendas-blog/5-simple-everyday-tips-to-use-act-as-a-sales-toolI Love Act!, and I use it everyday to keep my calendar, phone calls, notes, details, etc.  It is simply my "go-to" ensuring my "paycheck".

I will be the first to admit that I am NOT a sales person, but I am a decent customer service person and a long term, dedicated Act! User!

So not being a sales person technically, what simple steps do I take and what do I see that helps sales people sell?

1.  Set and Alarm Activities!  I have been saying this for some time, and it remains my Number ONE Tip for Act! Users...

Each time you view an Act! Contact Record for whatever reason, make sure there is a "next activity" set and alarmed!  The next activity may be to call in 6 months and check in, it may be to send a survey to identify additional product or service needs, it may be to send a personal note asking about their child's school play...  Whatever it may be, alarm it so you will be reminded, and do it... And then set another alarmed activity...

2.  E-marketing!  This is my personal favorite and just last week and client reminded me what I have heard so many times:

It matters less what you say.  It matters more, that you send something! 

Don't let writer's block or analysis paralysis stop you!  Keep visible, remind your customer base that you are still available, and make sure they have your number handy!

As time goes by, Act! is making this easier: If you have not tried it, maybe it's time!

3.  Opportunities:  This feature is not for everyone and I hear so often that the Act! Opportunities feature is "cumbersome".  But when I look at how some people use Opportunities, more often than not, they have over complicated the process.  Keep it simple and try it, and when doing so a sales person can easily see dollar signs... And how may sales people like dollar signs?  (Rhetorical question!)

4.  Last Results:  In the "boxed" Act! Layout, there is a Field called "Last Results" in the Business Card section of the Contact Record.  I like to use this Field for a brief note regarding the status of a Contact record at our last "touch". By doing so, I don't have to review Notes, Histories, Activities, Opportunities, or anything else: I can immediately see where I last left a record. It's my Short Cut!

5.  Mail Merge:  Don't forget good ol' snail mail!

E-marketing has gone so far, but remember the days when we received a letter?  With very little word processing experience, you can use Act! to automate multiple personalized looking letters, post cards, mailing labels, envelopes, etc.  I have a client/friend who built her real estate business by printing and mailing postcards to her target market.  Success!

For specifics on any of the items listed, I offer personalized, custom live or remote training, answering questions and providing direction, on the features YOU use or want to use.  Just contact me.

So what's YOUR favorite way to use Act! as a Sales Tool?

<![CDATA[Act! E-marketing is Catching On!]]>Tue, 02 Jun 2015 17:04:55 GMThttp://brendaralston.com/brendas-blog/act-e-marketing-is-catching-onI'll admit it: I was a "hold out".  I didn't want to change to Act! E-marketing!  I was happily using Swiftpage for my e-mail marketing.  Changing meant losing my old templates, and taking the time to learn the new builder, new reports, which buttons to push, it's a different pricing structure...  I am "an old dog" and I had to learn new tricks. 

Then they announced that no further development would go in to Swiftpage e-marketing:  It was not being discontinued, but this meant that it would eventually become obsolete.

It was time to Embrace Change.  Painful as it may be.

What am I talking about?  Act! E-marketing (AEM)  vs. Swiftpage E-marketing (SPEM)?  Well, that in itself can create confusion!

What you may notice, if you have Act! v17, is that you have 2 options:
IF you have "embraced" AEM and you just want to get rid of the SPEM icon, go to Tools, Manage Add-ons, and UNcheck the ACTSPE2005 button.  Restart Act! and the icon will be gone from your menu bar.

If you have not yet tried AEM, what can be more fun than a free trial!  Open the Marketplace tab in the left menu bar, and sign up today.

The Act! E-Marketing tool provides an opportunity to access the capabilities and benefits of email marketing with 350+ customizable templates (to create your e-mail campaign), Web Forms (to gather new contacts and gain valuable insight to your current contacts), Call List (to automatically create a leads list for your sales team; displaying the most interested contacts), and Social Sharing (to expand your audience by automatically posting information to Facebook, Twitter, and LinkedIn pages.)

E-mail marketing is an inexpensive and influential tool. Research shows a whopping $40 return on investment for every dollar spent.

While you are "embracing" AEM, here are a few resources that may be helpful:

E-Marketing Training Video
E-Marketing Product Feature Demo's
How to Upgrade/Purchase

The above information does specifically address Act! v17, so if you are on an older version, you won't have the same options.  While I am normally not necessarily an advocate for upgrading if what you use is working, if you use any e-marketing product, Act! v17 and AEM can simply make your life easier...  and who doesn't want that?

However you use Act!... New or Old...  I can help you leverage Act!, and Act! E-marketing, in your business. 

From purchase and installation through implementation and problem solving, I invite your inquiries: I am here to help with your Act! challenges!

<![CDATA[Today's Act! Question]]>Fri, 15 May 2015 18:19:53 GMThttp://brendaralston.com/brendas-blog/todays-act-questionI really should get better about posting the Act! questions that I receive... but here's a start...

Question:  Does Act have the capability of searching in History to create a report on who we have sold a specific item in our inventory to?

Short Answer:  Maybe

Not so Short Answer:

The answer to your question lies in two details:

1.       The version of Act! that you use
2.       The manner in which you document sales

Assuming you are on a recent version (with the Universal Search), just type the desired Search into the Universal Search area in the top, right of your screen… 
Then hit “Go”.
Check the History box to narrow the lookup to Histories only.  Narrow dates if you wish.

Once the desired criteria are in place, you can select “Create Lookup:  Contacts” to place those contacts in a List View Lookup.  From there, you can adjust the Fields desired in the report and Export to Excel (or do a Custom Report.)

If you have an older version of Act! or have the need for a more "customized answer", call me:  I work with small businesses and single users to find Act! solutions for implementation and usage issues.

Send me YOUR questions...  This was fun ;-)

<![CDATA[It Scales! IT Scales!  Finally Act! Scales!]]>Thu, 26 Feb 2015 16:54:04 GMThttp://brendaralston.com/brendas-blog/it-scales-it-scales-finally-act-scales
Attention "Tired Eyes", "Road Warriors", "Work-From-Anywhere-Folks", "Users of Itty-Bitty-Laptops", and Surface Pro Users:

Act! has introduced a Version that
we can SEE Better!

Our monitors can now be set at 125%, without significant loss of productivity in Act!

I admit that it is not perfect for everyone, but significant steps have been taken.  I personally, have "tired, over-50 eyes", and just changing my DPI to 125 makes a great difference. 

Other great features in v17 and 17SP1 include:
* Improved Emarketing
* Improved Stability & Logging for Outlook Sync
* Some neat little easier-to-manage Admin functions
* Web functionality improvements
* and More
Full List Here

If you are on an older version of Act! and would like to discuss how YOU can benefit by an Upgrade,
Contact ME Today!
Service Pack 1 for Act! version 17 is NOW available...

<![CDATA[List View Fields]]>Wed, 15 Oct 2014 21:49:48 GMThttp://brendaralston.com/brendas-blog/list-view-fields Do you use ACT! List View to export data to Excel for certain lists and reporting needs?  Do you find yourself switching back and forth from certain fields in list view, over and over, wishing there was an easy way to save and revert?

THIS is my new favorite ACT! add-on!  List View Field Sets...  It gives you this option in your Customize Columns box: 

By selecting that Customize button, you can then easily add Lists that you frequently use, and then you can easily revert back to them!

To learn how YOU can have this amazing tool, contact me!
  As a reseller, I can make this simple for YOU...