Actinic Business multi-user 7.5 review
Actinic Business is best described as an ‘Internet shop in a box’. It allows the owner to create and run an e-commerce website simply, without needing to delve into the complexities of HTML or Perl scripts. Even so, it’s capable of providing extensive features, including full order processing. The product details, page information and orders are all held in a database, with the web pages created from customisable templates.
The single-user version has been around for a while, but this multi-user version has several advantages. Naturally, the most fundamental of these is the ability for more than one user to access the data at any one time. Once set up, an administrator is able to create administrators or order processors. While you can have as many order processors logging in as your licence allows, only one administrator at a time may be logged in. Should a second user with administrator rights try to log in, they’re offered the choice of logging in as an order processor.
Currently, Actinic prefers to do the installation itself at the client’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 has to be installed on each user’s machine and, on first loading, the location of the shared database is defined, either through a mapped drive letter or using UNC names such as servermyshare. It’s recommended that Actinic is first installed on the machine with the shared database, 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’re an administrator or an order processor. An administrator can update the product details on the site and make other changes in much the same way as the single-user version, although some changes to these settings may only be made if all other users are logged out. The administrator can log users out at any time using the same admin screen. One observation here is that the user is only given a warning message box telling them they’ve been logged out by the administrator. This could be infuriating if you’re in the middle of completing an order; we’d prefer a way that would give the user a chance to finish what they were doing, or at least save the page they were on. It’s a small point, but an administrator will need to use this facility with caution in the real world. While someone is working on an order, it’s shown as being edited by that user and everyone (save from administrators) else is locked out of it.
As with the single-user version, a useful feature of Actinic Business is that you can create and process orders manually to allow for non-web orders. However, new in the multi-user version is the ability to edit the product price for a particular order, which is handy for orders typed directly into Actinic where a special price might be agreed while on the phone to a customer. However, there’s no way to audit such alterations, unless the operator enters notes in the Journal field. We’d prefer to see some indication on the various reports that the price was changed by the operator. This option can be switched off by the administrator if it’s felt that it’s too dangerous to the profit line to leave on.
The standard printouts of picking list, invoice and data entry now have the option of being printed with barcodes containing any of the following: postcode, order number, customer name, address lines and, on the data entry report only, a credit card number. This feature is in response to requests from a number of existing customers who are handling a large number of orders a day and need an easy way to track the status at the warehouse stage.