As we wrap up the first two weeks after acquiring the Topline add-on products, we wanted to share our vision for Designer, Dash, and Alerts. At this point, all three have been updated and recompiled with our licensing system, along with minor feature improvements in Alerts to support SSL encrypted email sending.
It should be noted at the outset that Keystroke will only support our version of these products moving forward as the licensing server for the Topline versions has been permanently decommissioned. Past TopLine customers, with current installations of these add-ons, will continue to enjoy uninterrupted use of these products, but those attempting to activate Topline license(s) from April forward will need to purchase an upgraded license to do so as we cannot provide free product substitutions.
The biggest question we had after purchasing these products was how would Designer fit into our family of add-ons? We did, after all, develop Tables4act a few years back and it has been adopted by Swiftpage as the standard for custom tables in Act!.
The truth is that one size does not fit all, and Designer has undeniable appeal as an entry-level custom table product at a lower perpetual price point, and is ideal for smaller desktop deployments. Our vision for Designer should be understood in three ways – what is being added, what is being subtracted, and what is being preserved.
Firstly, we’re adding a new “Lite” tier to the Designer product line. This tier will include all the features of the full “Standard” tier that has been trusted since 2008, except that it will only support one custom table per database, and exclude the “schema export” and "Export to Excel" features. This economy tier of Designer will cost only $59.95, and offers excellent value to those Act! desktop customers who need only one custom table, and can select from our menu of 30+ templates to import.
As the main distributor of Act! Pro v22, we think both tiers of Designer offer excellent value when bundled with Act! Pro, especially for those customers looking for essential custom table functionality, while avoiding recurring subscription fees.
The other feature we intend to add is support for 64-bit versions of Act!. Swiftpage has made their intentions clear that they intend to release a 64-bit version of Act! this fall, and Designer is currently compiled to support only 32-bit. We plan to update Designer to support both bitnesses of Act!.
Secondly, we’re subtracting support for Act! Premium for Web. Moving forward, Keystroke Designer will only be a desktop product, supporting all versions of Act! Pro and Premium back to v18.2. With the constantly changing browser requirements, it doesn’t make sense to invest in two web-enabled custom table products, especially when this platform requires ongoing maintenance and compatibility updates better suited to a subscription product like Tables4act.
Those with Designer currently enabled for Act! Premium for Web can continue to use it as such, but should assess whether this is a practical option for the future given it’s deprecation. Migrating to Tables4act is simple. Uninstall one tables product, install the other, and then update the table layouts to support the new product. All custom table data will be accessible as it was before, just with a newer user interface.
Thirdly, we’re preserving support for VB scripting. Many ACC’s over the last decade have deployed sophisticated VB scripting to support the custom table deployments, and with Tables4act supporting only C# scripting, we believe it’s important to maintain support for VB scripting in Designer.
This isn’t to say we won’t one-day migrate the product code to C#, but we’ll do so with an eye towards preserving this scripting feature.
The Dash add-on was the crown jewel in the Topline product acquisition. It’s an easy-to-use reporting product that renders results in graphical charts and graphs, as well as incisive KPI text-based reports. Dash is also the only 3rd party reporting product to seamlessly integrate inside the desktop version of Act!, delivering real-time reporting results at your fingertips.
Our plans for Dash are simple. We intend to update the code to C#, as well as update the reporting libraries it uses, and provide support for 64-bit versions of Act! when it is introduced later this year. These efforts will modernize the user interface, and will extend compatibility to future Act! users.
Current product tiers of Personal and Manager will remain unchanged in features and price, but we'll look to adding a new tier called "Ultimate", which will include scheduled report delivery.
Most importantly to Dash users, though, is our aim to expand its’ data access beyond local SDK connections to include data reporting from Act! Web API and Keystroke API (K-API) connections, as well. Expanding data access to include both API’s broadens the range of customers Dash can support significantly. Not only can Act! Premium Cloud customers benefit from this, but SaaS customers can also enjoy standalone reporting from their desktop for data hosted in the cloud. Business owners and managers can gather extensive insights on user activity, history reporting, and even advanced pipeline metrics without ever opening or logging into Act!.
Alerts is a powerful add-on that can automate many database maintenance functions, as well as report delivery. Integrated with Dash, Alerts can schedule the delivery of reports to people inside and outside the organization, as well as notify Admins to user activity. The Dash report delivery is one feature we had to rewrite based on the age of the previous methods, but we cannot guarantee backwards compatibility with legacy versions of Dash.
Like Dash, Alerts is limited to local connections to Act! via the SDK. We believe the true potential of Alerts will be unleashed with a modern updating of the code and expanding the data connections to include both available API’s.
Imagine configuring functions like contact & company updates remotely, or managing daily Limited Access updates to your cloud database? Expanding the data connections to include the API not only broadens the market for Alerts, it also increases the speed of those updates.
And speaking of delivery, SaaS and Cloud customers will soon be able to deliver Dash reports via Alerts based on hosted databases.
For those that have purchased legacy versions of any of these three add-on products, we understand the frustration of having to purchase them again in order to re-activate them. We get it, but nothing will be done to disrupt people's current use of these installed Topline products. The Topline licensing system was not designed to call home after the initial activation, so everyone who purchased legacy versions of Designer, Dash, and Alerts should enjoy continued uninterrupted use of these products until such time a re-activation is required (please note we've received reports that upgrading your Act! can trigger a call home and disable the add-on).
It should be clear from this blog, though, that we intend to invest heavily in these products to expand their functionality, features, and data connections, while providing ongoing updates for each. It's an ambitious roadmap to be sure, but one we're committed to, which is why we've made the decision to only support our new versions of these products moving forward. We hope you'll join us for this journey.