When Written: June 2006
|Product||Price (excl. VAT)|
|Actinic Order Manager|
SUPPLIER: 0845 129 4800 or email@example.com
VERDICT: What an improvement! Easier to use, more features, better pricing, a must to upgrade to.
Sometimes when a software house releases an upgrade, it turns out that it is often not much more than a bug fix with a couple of extras to justify charging for it. This however is not the case with Actinic’s Version 8 upgrade to its suite of ‘internet shop in a box’ software. This product sits on your machine and via a database and some templates, builds a fully functioning e-commerce web site with lots of very advance features as well as a full order processing system to help you deal with the orders as they come in from your web site.
The product uploads the web site files and downloads the orders either from your own server or from one of the many Actinic Hosting ISPs. The whole range has changed, the pricing structure has changed, and the options for the developer community have changed, it really is difficult knowing what to include in this review as there really are so many changes. This new version has been a long time in coming but is quite ‘jaw-droppingly’ better than previous versions. In previous reviews we have been quite critical of some of the features of Actinic, but with version 8 most of these have been addressed to provide a very flexible, and easy to use, way of producing a internet based shop with full order processing capabilities. Actinic Version 8 makes the running of an on-line shop about as easy as it could be.
So what is different about this version? With so much that is different, lets start at the money making end, the web shop features. Actinic have added a way of displaying lists of “Best Sellers”, “Related Products”, “Also Bought” and “New Products”. All these help to suggest other items the user may want to buy even if they didn’t realise it themselves !
The whole user interface that Actinic presents has been improved, with drag and drop, dockable information panes so you can customise the look of the user interface to your liking. The actual designs that Actinic provide for you to choose for the web pages have been revamped and are much more modern and professional looking and use CSS for much of the design, although the old designs are still there if your site uses them. Tables are still present in the pages but this was felt necessary for reliable rendering, these may well go with future versions.
There have been huge changes to the design environment if you want to customise things and get down to the code level. In design mode when you click on an item in the preview window, the area of the code that applies to it will be highlighted in the code window. No more guessing what controls what. You can even add your own dynamic code if you are familiar with PHP. There is the almost obligatory code colouring to help with reading and understanding, and there are drop down libraries to help with the selection of Actinic’s per-defined variables. These huge improvements will interest anyone who has tried designing with Actinic in the past and Actinic must be congratulated on implementing such a quantum leap in this department with version 8.
So what else is different, well moving away from the ‘pretty bits’ and onto the slightly duller but no less important bits. Credit card details that are stored with the orders on the machine that has Actinic installed are now encrypted and there is now an option to force the user to log into Actinic to run it. The VAT reporting has been improved to please the accounts department, as well as customer accounts with different prices based on customer available in Actinic Business. The Marketing department get some new ‘toys’ with an engine that will auto generate mailing lists, this has an extensive filtering system, so all sorts of lists of can be generated from the orders received.
If you want to sell software or any other form of downloadable product like a document in pdf then Actinic have now included the digital download module in all their products as well as moving ‘one click order processing’ from the high range products to all products in the range. This last option speeds up the processing of orders by the allowing the several stages of processing an order and printing the reports to be automated to a single click. To make the order processing department’s work easier Actinic have now included price editing on all order lines, and to keep the packing department happy, bar code printing has been included in all products
So there you have it, Actinic have done a major re-write and have produced a product with something new for everyone, sure some of these are previous options which have now been incorporated across the range. But Actinic have taken notice of customer feedback and looked long and hard at the range, and come up with a group of products and prices that more closely fit the needs of the current generation of e-tailers. A final feature that makes the upgrade a little less fretful is that Version 8 will co-exist with older versions on the same machine so you can get familiar with it before you commit fully.
EASE OF USE: 5
VALUE FOR MONEY: 6
|Vendor PC:Pentium PCWindows 2000, 2003, XPMinimum 256 MB memory120MB free disk spaceRecommend 800×600 65536 colour displayInternet accessInternet Explorer v6 (and higher)||Web site:NT, 2000, 2003 or UNIX/Linux serverPerl 5.004 or laterUser writeable CGI bin|
Article by: Mark Newton
Published in: Mark Newton