Actinic Business is best described as an «internet store in a box». It allows the owner to easily create and run an e-commerce site without having to delve into the complexity of HTML or Perl scripts. However, it is able to offer extensive functionality, including full order processing. Product details, page information, and orders are stored in a database with web pages created from customizable templates.
The single-user version has been around for some time, but this multi-user version has several advantages. Of course, the most fundamental of these is the ability of multiple users to access data at any time. Once configured, an administrator can create administrators or command processors. Although you can log in as many command processors as the license allows, only one administrator can log in at a time. If a second administrator user tries to log in, they are offered the option to log in as a processor command.
Currently, Actinic prefers to do the installation itself at the customer’s site, and for a limited time this is included in the cost. However, for this review, it allowed us to do the installation so that we could evaluate the process. A copy of Actinic Business must be installed on each user’s computer, and on first upload, the location of the shared database is defined, either by a mapped drive letter or using UNC names, such as servermyshare. It is recommended that Actinic be installed on the computer with the shared database first, rather than having the database on a remote server on the network.
The first time the system is run, the administrator logs in and sets up user accounts with a username, password, and whether they are an administrator or a command processor. An administrator can update the product details on the site and make other changes in the same way as the single-user version, although some changes to these settings can only be made if all other users are offline. The administrator can log out users at any time using the same administration screen. One observation here is that the user only receives a warning message box telling them that the administrator has logged out. This can be irritating if you are in the middle of completing an order; I would prefer a way to give the user a chance to finish what he was doing or at least save the page he was on. It’s a small point but an administrator should use this feature with caution in the real world. While someone is working on a command, it is displayed as edited by that user and everyone else (except administrators) is blocked.
As with the single-user version, a useful feature of Actinic Business is that you can create and process orders manually to allow orders that are not on the Internet. However, a novelty in the multi-user version is the ability to change the price of the product for a specific order, which is useful for orders written directly to Actinic, where a special price can be agreed while talking to a customer on the phone. However, there is no way to audit such changes, unless the operator enters notes in the Journal field. We would prefer to see some indications in the various reports that the trader has changed the price. The administrator can disable this option if he considers that leaving it activated is too dangerous for the profit line.
Standard checklists, invoices, and data entry prints now have the option to print with barcodes that contain any of the following: zip code, order number, customer name, address lines, and only in the data entry report, a credit card number. This feature responds to requests from a number of existing customers who handle a large number of orders per day and need an easy way to track the status at the warehouse stage.
Continuing on the topic of order acceleration, Actinic has added what it calls one-click order processing. Instead of having operators go through several steps, such as printing packing notes and invoices, emailing the customer, accepting payment, and marking the order as picked up and billed, you can now select the Complete Order and all the steps you need. – you defined in the one-click order completion settings will be executed. This is great for processing most orders as quickly as possible.
Actinic has created a market; Competitors such as ecBuilder at 145 GBP and 4D Business Kit at 450 GBP offer products with fewer features and only a single user option. Its closest competitor was Astrosell (see number 100, p138), but this has not progressed in the product version since the revision of version 3 in early 2003. With this multi-user version, Actinic has expanded its product by a note. Existing Actinic customers who are happy that they need more staff to fulfill their orders will find this update tempting.