Review of new software tools to manage your network

I recently had the chance to play with the latest versions of several software packages which I use heavily: Act! by Best Software; eGrabber by eGrabber Inc.; and Cardscan from Cardscan, Inc. Disclosure: these companies were kind enough to send me sample copies of their latest models.

ACT! 2005 for Windows is a comprehensive tool for managing your key business and personal relationships. I have been using various versions of the program since 1996. As with previous versions, you have a great deal of power to slice and dice your data in countless ways. You can customize many different components of the program to make it work exactly the way you want. The new version includes some very useful features that previously I had to create kludges to simulate. For example, you now have one-click access to all of your open opportunities (i.e., sales leads).

The bad news: the program is slow, even on my fast Dell with 1 gigabyte of memory. It does not include certain functionality which I think of as mandatory: e.g., the ability to do a Boolean search of which groups a person is a member of.

Although in general I think Act is a very useful program, I urge you to test it on your machine with a large contact database and see if it runs fast enough to be useable in your environment.

eGrabber is an extremely handy program which converts free text (an email signature; a profile on someone’s web page) into an entry in your favorite contact manager. This makes it much easier to keep clean records of your sales leads and the other people with whom you need to talk. It’s an inexpensive tool and well worth installing. My one complaint: it does not properly process foreign addresses. If you provide it with an address in France, even if you explicitly write “Paris, France” at the end of the entry, eGrabber will not properly enter into your contact manager the fact that you are looking at a French address.

Cardscan 7.0 is a significant upgrade to Cardscan 6.0 . It is a small handheld business card reader plus a software program. The handheld scanner is not notably different than the preceding version, but the software program is a major step forward. With the prior edition, my assistant or I had to make manual changes in about 80% of the entries that came from this program. Cardscan would make errors by running letters together, not understanding that an email address was an email address, and so on. With the new version, we only have to edit about 5% of the entries that come in. My only complaint: with a two line address (e.g., “#3 West 35th St., 7th Floor”) Cardscan imports that data as one line with a line break. However, Act! works better if that data were converted into two different lines in the Address1 and Address2 fields respectively. I could not find a way to configure Cardscan to handle this common situation more smoothly.

Anyone who frequently meets new people would benefit by purchasing these useful tools.