Read an Excerpt
Excerpt from Chapter 2
How and what you enter in your ACT! database determines its effectiveness in helping you get organized. The key to making ACT! work is inputting the amount of information that’s right for you. If your success depends on long-lasting personal relationships with contacts, then you’ll want to include names of spouses and family members, birthdays, special interests, and the like. If, on the other hand, your contacts change frequently and your dealings with them are rather casual, you’ll probably limit the information you record to just the basics—name, address, phone number, and e-mail.
The truth is, your database will probably contain contacts of both varieties and some in between. Remember, there are no rules and no required fields (unless you set them). Keep track of the information that provides the maximum benefit and forget the rest. And don’t worry, you can always go back and enter or edit it at later date if the need arises.
Planning Your Contact Entries
As with most things in life, a little early planning early can save you a lot of trouble as you build your ACT! contact database. Here are a few issues that you might want to address before you start entering your contact information:
• How do you plan to enter contact names? First name and then last name, or vice versa? Whatever you decide, be consistent. ACT! doesn’t care, but your contact lists will be a lot easier to read if you enter all contact names using the same format. I find that Last Name, First Name format works best for me and provides the easiest to use contact lists.
• Do you plan to use an informal, first name salutation on letters, faxes, and so on, or do you prefer something more formal? See Chapter 16 for more information on setting name options.
• What method of moving between contact form fields do you prefer? The Tab key is standard, but you can change it to the Enter key. See Chapter 15 for more on setting general options.
• Do you need more (or different) fields than those supplied on the standard contact form? No problem, you can add and modify fields on the layout. See Chapter 17 for about customizing the contact layout.
Adding A New Contact
Now you’re ready enter your contact information. Grab your Rolodex and let’s get to work! Because ACT! automatically sorts your records as you enter them (by default ACT! sorts by Company) you don’t have to worry about the order in which you add your contacts.
To find out more about changing the default sort order see Chapter 15.
One last thing before you begin adding contacts. A number of fields including Title, Department, and ID/Status, and others contain drop-down lists of items you can select to fill the field. Simply click the down arrow that appears at the end of the field and select the desired item. You can even edit most of the drop down lists and add your own items.
See Chapter 18 for more about editing field drop-down lists.
While you may not need someone to hold your hand and walk you through entering every field on the contact layout form, there are some things that may not be obvious at first glance. Those are things we’ll cover here.
To begin with, the Standard toolbar in the Contacts window offers a number of handy tools for working with contacts. Slowly move your mouse pointer over the buttons to see what each button does.
You have several options for opening a blank contact—click the New Contact button on the toolbar, right click the current form and choose New Contact from the shortcut menu, or press the Insert key. If you absolutely must do things the hard way you can also select New Contact from the Contact menu.
Obviously, what you’re going to do next is start entering the appropriate information about your contact. To make your experience a little more rewarding and a little less time consuming take note of the following items.
• Navigating the Contact form. You probably know that pressing the Tab (or Enter if you changed the default) key move you from field to field. However, did know you can skip all but the basic fields by using the other key? That’s right, whichever key you did not choose for the default move key will take you from the active field to the Phone, ID/Status, Address, E-mail Address, Last Results, or User 1 field depending on where you are when you press it (the order may change slightly depending on your layout). These fields are called group stop fields and can be changed in the layout designer.
To learn more about adding and removing group stop fields see Chapter 18
• Drop down lists. A number of fields have drop down lists that contain a set of pre-defined items from which you can choose. Many of them come with a handful of items already entered. This may or may not work for you. The great thing about drop down lists is that you can add, delete, and modify the listings to suit your needs. All you have to do is place your cursor in the field and press the F2 key. You can also scroll to the bottom of the list and select Edit list. Either way the Edit List dialog box appears (see Figure 2-3). Actually, just entering a new item in a field with a drop down list adds that item to the list.
Figure 2-3: The Edit List dialog for the
Company field lets you modify the company
names that appear in the drop down list.
• Semicolon. You can use the semicolon to perform a little bit of magic when entering a name in ACT!. Placing a semicolon between two words of a name enables you to sort by a part of the name other than the first word, while retaining the complete name for use in letters and faxes. For example, entering “The Backyard Biscuit Bakery” in the company field results in the name being entered in a letter or fax correctly (The Backyard Biscuit Bakery); however, it also causes the name to be sorted by the word The. This is hardly practical, especially if you have a number of companies whose names begin with The. If, on the other hand, you enter the name as “Backyard Biscuit Bakery; The”, you find that the name still appears correctly on letters and faxes but is now sorted by Backyard.
• Comma. Use the comma to separate last names and suffixes (Jr., Sr. and so on).
• Contact Name dialog. Clicking the button on the right side of the Contact field displays the Contact Name dialog box seen in Figure 2-4, which enables you to correct any names that you enter and ACT! misinterprets. It also contains an option to display the box every time you enter a mane that consists of more than two names. By default, the option is checked, so you may see the box if you enter a name like Billy Bob Johnson or Charles Everett Winston III.
• Phone numbers. ACT! makes entering phone numbers a snap by enforcing whatever country phone number format you choose. By default the United States is selected. This means that phone numbers must conform to the [3 digit-3 digit-4 digit] format (i.e. 800-555-1234). If most of your contacts are in a different country you can change the settings in the Country Codes dialog box (see Figure 2-5) that appears when you click the browse button in any phone number field. If your contacts hail from an assortment of countries you can select the Free form phone format, which will allow the entry of any combination of numbers. The dialog box is available in all phone number fields.
(Figure unavailable)Figure 2-4: Use the Contact Name dialog box
to ensure that ACT! doesn’t mix up the first
and last names.
• E-mail Addresses. While it appears that you can add only one e-mail address per contact, no such limitation exists. Click the button at the right end of the E-mail Address field and select Edit E-mail Addresses to open the E-mail Addresses dialog box seen in Figure 2-6. Here you can enter as many addresses as you want, as well as edit and delete existing addresses. You can even access the ACT! E-mail settings by clicking the E-mail Preferences button. If you add multiple addresses be sure to mark the correct one as the primary address. That’s the one that will appear in the contact form. The others will appear alphabetically on the drop down list. Unfortunately, it’s also the only one you can use to send e-mail to the contact. That’s right, you can’t just open the drop down list and choose a different address. To use a different address you first have to make it the primary address. One last word of advice. If you want to edit the E-mail Address field after you’ve entered an address, don’t click on it. Doing so will open a new message in your e-mail client. Tab to the field and then open the drop down list.
Figure 2-6: You can create multiple e-mail addresses, but only
the Primary address can be used.
Saving your contact information is almost foolproof. As soon as you enter data in a record and perform another action (move to next record, change the view, and so on) it is saved. This even includes closing the database entirely. However, if you fill all the available fields in a contact record before performing such an action, the loss of data in a single record can still be quite annoying. Therefore, if you’re entering a lot of information in each record you may want to perform a manual save every once in a while. Press Ctrl+S, click the Save button on the toolbar, or choose Save from the File menu.