The original version of ACT! for the HP 95LX brought industrial strength contact management to the world of Palmtops. Unlike simple electronic rolodexes and calendars, ACT! provided a complete set of tools for tracking all of the people, activities and tasks that make up your professional and personal life.
The ACT! basics
In ACT!, everything starts with the contact database. For every person in the database you can record two addresses, five phone numbers, E-mail addresses and information about two assistants. You can use the 15 user-definable data fields to record additional information according to your individual needs.
Once you have entered a record in the database, finding it again is easy. ACT! provides indexed searching on the company, first name, last name, city, state, zip code, status/ID field and even one of the user definable fields. In my 865 record data base it takes longer to enter the search text than it does for ACT! to locate the corresponding records. If more than one record matches, a convenient list view lets you easily select the intended record.
In addition to descriptive fields for each contact, ACT! can track multiple scheduled activities for every record in your database. You classify these activities as Meetings, Calls or ToDo's, and schedule each for a particular date and time. You can also assign a lead time to each event, so ACT! will beep you in time to prepare for or travel to the activity. ACT! even warns you if you try to schedule one event that conflicts with another.
Once you have scheduled activities, you can view them in a month or week-at-a-glance, or daily format.
The monthly view tells you which days have scheduled activities.
ACT Monthly View on the HP 100LX: Graphic
The weekly calendar tells you the number of meetings, calls and ToDo's scheduled for each hour.
ACT Weekly View : Graphic
The daily view is the only calendar view where you can see the description of the actual event, and even this view limits you to the first few characters of the description.
ACT Daily View: Graphic
Tracking business expenses
Anyone using a contact database probably needs to track business expenses. For each expenditure, ACT! lets you record the date, type, purpose and location. You can use the hourly rate and billing time fields to automatically calculate fees for services and the odometer reading and mileage rate fields will determine your automobile expenses. Three user defined fields help you track all of your expenses, which ACT! can print out in either of two report formats.
Entering personal ToDo's
Many, but not all appointments are associated with another person. For example, I might need to set a personal ToDo to wake up at 5:30 a.m. so I can catch a flight. To schedule such an appointment, enter yourself as a contact and associate the event with your own record. Unfortunately, you quickly get a personal list that is too large to manage.
ACT! even has a history file that tracks the result of every scheduled event and records any entries you make in the "results" field. A separate notes file lets you create and save a series of time-stamped notes for each entry in your database.
Displaying contact information
All of this information is useless if you can't access it easily. Due to the limited resolution of the 95LX, six different screens are required to display all of these fields.
A function key lets you move through the screens one-at-a-time, but there is no way to back up. If you miss a screen you must cycle through all the other views to get back.
In addition to screen displays, ACT! can produce five reports including a phone list, future activity, task list, detailed contact listing and an address book. You can elect to have any of these reports displayed on screen, stored in a file or printed.
While ACT! is a powerful set of contact management tools, its greatest strength for the Palmtop user may be its multi-platform support. In addition to the HP Palmtop version, ACT! is available for DOS or Windows. These have even greater capabilities than the Palmtop version. The software comes with the ability to merge changes from your Palmtop back to your PC or to transfer your PC database to your Palmtop (cable not included). The ability to perform advanced tasks on the PC but always have your contact database with you is a potent combination.
Differences between version 1.0 and 1.1
Mark Scardina, contributing editor to the HP Palmtop Paper, was involved with creating ACT! version 1.1. In addition to the new version's ability to automatically install on the 100LX and zoom to display F-keys, ACT! 1.1 has some other improvements.
The original Palmtop version of ACT! tended to keep the serial port on when it wasn't needed; The new version handles this better.
If you wanted the original version of ACT! to display one of its alarms, you had to sacrifice your use of APPT alarms on the 95LX. The alarm system on the 100LX is more complicated and 100LX owners using the original (1.0) version of ACT! have to disable the ACT! alarms. This problem has been solved with version 1.1.
Mark also said that the newer version has fewer problems communicating with a PC and is better at correcting database corruptions.
In addition to the above, ACT! for the HP Palmtop launches into correct screen mode, improves serial port control and transfers, improves handling of corrupted databases, and includes converter of PDB to CDF files for importing into ACT!
Version 1.0 was only intended for the 95LX but can be configured to run on the 100LX. (See the sidebar for more on installing 1.0 on the 100LX.)
If you don't have ACT! and are looking for a powerful contact management tool, then ACT! 1.1 for HP Palmtops ($129) may be the best tool for the job. However, if you already have ACT! 1.0 for the 95LX, you may want to try it on your 100LX first and see if it suits your purposes. If you don't need the improvements described above, you may want to save the $39.95 upgrade fee.