Symantec Corp.'s Act 2000, though targeted more at corporate than at government users, can do miracles for users drowning in contact information. Offices with fewer feds and growing numbers of contractors inevitably have more phone numbers and e-mail addresses to bring together. Not only does Act 2000 track project contacts, it puts them in context. Act 2000 remembers Joe Smith's multiple e-mail addresses and organizes all e-mail, files and phone calls to and from Smith with their outcomes.

Under the hood, Act 2000 is a database application combined with an easy-to-use contact manager. The interface, especially in this latest version, is a snap to navigate. A bar on the side of the screen makes the contact databases easy to get to. The size of the bar is customizable, as are the icons' sizes and the forms view of the contact information.

You can define fields to track information for certain tasks, and you can rename predefined fields or modify them to work better with your data. Act 2000 comes with 10 templates to use on their own or alter for the specific contact information you want to examine.

Although Act 2000 is best-of-breed in sales contact management, it paints itself into a corner by focusing so heavily on sales, because the tools do both contact and project management well.

Act 2000 excels at putting data into concise, configurable reports. Whether you need to print a list of contacts or detail the history of your interactions with someone, the reports probably will be usable as is or with only slight modifications. One of the best new features is subgroups.

Surprisingly, however, only a single level of subgroups is possible, not nested levels. Two groups can have the same name, but you cannot place one subgroup under two different groups. As federal workers know better than most, a two-layer-deep organization tree that cannot show one subunit with ties to two higher units is not going to represent today's public or private organizations very well.

You can put a single contact in multiple groups, however, either by adding it manually or by setting up easy user-defined rules for such additions.

Communicating with all the contacts is very easy. Act 2000 integrates with Microsoft Outlook 98 and Outlook 2000 calendars and e-mail functions and has more robust features. Act 2000 can even import Outlook's contact data. It also is compatible with Microsoft Word 95, 97 and 2000.

If you're looking for a particular person, type in a word or phrase and Act 2000 will search the entire database. Or use the lookup feature to search within specific fields. After you find the contact, you can schedule something with Act 2000's stackable multiday events, useful for sharing calendars.

Like most Symantec products, Act 2000 comes with a Live Update feature guaranteeing that you work with the latest patches and most up-to-date version of the application. Whether you work in agency public affairs or represent your department to other agencies or citizens, Act 2000 will help you get the message across.

Act 2000 Contact Management Software

Tracks project contracts, assembles addresses, searches easily

Symantec Corp.

Cupertino, Calif.

Grade: B+

Phone number: 1-800-441-7234

Web address: www.symantec.com

Price: $199.95; $99.95 upgrade

Pros:

+ Robust, flexible management of contact data

+ Good user interface

Cons:

- Limited by focus on sales

Real-life requirements:

- Windows 9x or NT 4.0, 16 megabytes of RAM, 40 megabytes free storage.