Actinic Business Version 8.0

For more than ten years Actinic has been one of the UK's most popular e-commerce packages. It has survived where many have failed, and the reason it's succeeded for so long is that it Actinic understands what a business needs out of an e-commerce package, rather than what a bunch of techies think a business needs out of an e-commerce package.

Price
£799

For more than ten years Actinic has been one of the UK's most popular e-commerce packages. It has survived where many have failed, and the reason it's succeeded for so long is that it Actinic understands what a business needs out of an e-commerce package, rather than what a bunch of techies think a business needs out of an e-commerce package.

The latest version is no exception, with new sales and marketing features that include the ability to create best seller and new product lists, a facility to create a "users who bought this also bought" type list for products, a cross promotion feature and automatic mailing list generation.

Designers also get a list of new features including Dreamweaver integration, plus a new point and click interface, a quick formatting toolbar, and the ability to fine tune product categories down to a product level. This is probably one of the best features in the new product for sales and marketing as well as designers as instead of being forced into displaying specific standard categories you can add new categories for specific types of products. So for example if you were a music retailer and you'd set up a template for CDs and one for Albums that displayed the Title and author, if you had a boxed set then you'd need to setup a new category and have a new template. But with the new facility all you need to do is make a rule that says if the CD is a box set then it must also display the additional title fields in the CD title area.

Actinic also comes with the ability to integrate into Dreamweaver, which can be setup on installation or at a later-date. The integration allows designers to take a page design that has been created in any web editor, and then use Dreamweaver to turn that page design into an overall page layout for Actinic, complete with data fields taken from Actinic, and then it can be exported into Actinic and edited further.

The supply department will also be happy to see a new barcoder option and a one-click order completion added to the package. To help streamline orders within your warehouse it's now possible to display bar codes, on the order processing reports, to represent key elements of the order details on the invoice, to create a barcode for the packing list, and to add fields such as the credit card number on the data entry barcodes. One-click orders are also going to help speed up much of the back office part of Actinic. In previous version to fulfil an order required a user to click through lots of different pages. With the new version of Actinic the one-click order completion facility allows you to do up to seven things with just one click. You have the option of sending an email to the customer, printing the invoice, printing the packing list, and taking the full payment, it also allows you to select that the item(s) have been packed, shipped and invoiced.

Elsewhere, pricing for items can be given in a choice of two currencies - but you'll need to enter the exchange rate and remember to change. You can also define a list of "payment friendly" countries or regions and exclude any orders from countries or regions you think are suspicious. You can even reject certain states in the US and Canada if you wish. There's also a very comprehensive set of rules for working out tax and VAT payments that can be switched to just a basic VAT system if you only intend to sell to the UK. There's an equally comprehensive system for calculating shipping and handling which also can be switched to simple single shipping cost.

Sales and marketing departments are probably spoilt the most with this new version of Actinic. The new best seller lists and new products lists features allow users to create a list of products that can appear on every page (or just on specific pages) to promote certain products. Naturally the best seller list works out the best selling products from the orders that have been received over a user-defined period, and displays them as a list in the store. However a nice touch is the ability to put your own "best sellers" into the list, and to then lock certain products into particular positions regardless of their actual sales figures. Likewise although the new products lists can be made up of the newest items that have been added to the store, but it's also possible to "cheat", and to keep certain products on the list for as long as you want.

In addition there are four types of discounting you can create within Actinic, the standard "5% off all orders over 25" and discounts based on product number such as "3 for the price of 2," discounts triggered by coupon codes, and loyalty discounts that depend on the customer type. Conversely it's also possible to change the system so that there's a surcharge paid if you order via credit card or other payment methods and with a bit of tweaking down to individual card types.

Version 8, is not just an upgrade from Version 7 but represents over three years of development work that started before the launch of Version 7 and was funded by a Smart award from the DTI's Small Business Service (SBS) back in 2003. Those three years of development work have produced a product that will be very hard to beat by any other product on the market. Actinic is now an enterprise-ready product, that retails at the cost of a small to medium sized product, and it's ready to use out of the box, unlike many of the enterprise competitors.

Verdict

An enterprise-ready e-commerce package that works out of the box and has tools and features to keep the accountant, designer, sales and marketing department and the back room staff happy.

Systems Pentium PC, Windows 98, 2000, ME, XP or NT4, 128MB memory, 100MB, recommend 65536 colour display Web site NT or UNIX/Linux server, Perl 5.004 or later, User writeable CGI bin

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