I know that DNA binding transcription factors are trans-acting, but what about general transcription factors? Are they cis or trans acting?
When we say trans we mean that a diffusible factor, or agent is involved. So a molecule synthesized at one location, that can have a regulatory role in another location in the cell is said to be a "trans-acting" factor.
When we say cis we mean physically linked to, in such a way that the biological regulation only affects other molecules that are attached (in other words, something that is "cis-acting" cannot be freely diffusible).
So prokaryotic operators or promoters, and eukaryotic enhancers and promoters would be examples of cis-acting sequences, or elements. All protein transcription factors, or even DNA-binding proteins, are therefore trans-acting.
General transcriptional factor complexes bind to DNA at promoters of genes via DNA binding proteins such as TATA-binding protein.
It is quite clear that it is trans-acting.