Lotus iNotes

In today’s dispersed enterprises, companies must provide access to easy and flexible messaging and collaboration tools for employees and customers. Lotus Development Corp.’s next-generation Web client for its Domino server, iNotes, provides enterprises and ASPs (application service providers) the opportunity to allow workers to remotely access all the collaboration features behind Notes from an easy-to-use Web browser interface.

Due to ship in early 2001, iNotes replaces the Notes Web-mail client and comes with many impressive features and a great new look and feel in the interface. Lotus has made many enhancements in functionality including multiple attachments, rich editing capabilities, Lotus Sametime integration, and offline support. The product provides collaboration features comparable to those of the Notes client’s — without the user’s having to carry around a client desktop. Nor is as much IT support required for maintaining clients.

Large enterprises as well as small to midsize companies that want to extend users’ access internally and externally will benefit from this new client, as it requires few IT resources and minimal training. ASPs that want to deliver enterprise solutions can do so soon with iNotes, which will allow them to offer a rich messaging and collaboration solution to their customers.

We worked with the beta version of iNotes that accompanied the Domino Release 5 server. Following the configuration steps and creating our users, we accessed from a Web browser all the same messaging and collaboration features that we were used to in the traditional Notes client. Although the beta supports only Microsoft Internet Explorer 5, subsequent browsers will be supported after final release, according to Lotus.

Unlike the current Web client, which is pretty drab and limited in functionality, we saw a very graphical interface — similar to what you see with a Notes client. We were presented with a customizable welcome page, where users can see at a glance new messages, calendar entries, and Web pages. We chose from six layouts to select the information we wanted to display. We also liked the ease of navigation, with more pull-down menu options. For instance, we could create messages and tasks, or make appointments from one menu, no matter what view we were in. It was a great change to see whether messages were read or unread.

This release gives remote users full ability to use Notes via the Web. We added and tracked meetings with the calendar feature, and iNotes provides shared calendars. Creating new messages is also enhanced: We could add an undetermined number of attachments (Web mail was limited to two), spell-check messages, and insert images. Users can create multiple notebooks (called Journals) for tracking notes or other random information.

With iNotes, users can break away from lugging a client machine for access to Domino. Users can use the same or multiple machines to access mail and other information, making remote or traveling employees more productive. Roaming users will no longer have to carry a laptop to access their contacts, e-mail, and appointments. Users can also manage e-mail, contacts, and schedules off-line with Domino Offline Services (DOLS), which will ease their data synchronization from a browser interface. Running offline does require that users download the DOLS component and the iNotes Synch Manager application to their machines.

Current Notes users, companies needing to expand user access, and ASPs can deliver rich messaging and collaboration with iNotes. With the increased mobile access in this new client, companies will enjoy the reduced requirements in IT resources as well as the minimal demands for user training.

Senior Analyst Lori Mitchell is a longtime user of Lotus Notes. She likes the prospect of using a full-featured Web client to collaborate with her colleagues. Collaborate with her via lori_mitchell@infoworld.com.

THE BOTTOM LINE: BETA

Lotus iNotes Release 5, beta

Business Case: Corporations and ASPs will benefit from providing Web access to Notes’ robust back-end messaging and collaboration system — without the bulk, support, and costs required for Notes client software. You can set up remote access from any Web browser, thereby being spared the need to carry a client machine or Notes ID file.

Technology Case: You can easily provide your user or client base with the ability to access Notes messaging and collaboration without the need to physically touch their workstations. iNotes users require only a Web browser, which greatly eases your support and training demands. Those working offline will need to download one server component. PROS

Pros:

+ Easy access via Web browser

+ Full functionality in Notes PIM (personal information manager) client

+ Rich text editing

+ Offline usage available

Cons:

– Download needed for offline use

– Not all browsers supported by beta

Cost: Not determined; most likely to be closely matched with the regular Notes client (at approximately $50 per user); minimal training for users

Platform(s): Beta works with Internet Explorer 5.0; other browsers will follow

Shipping: First quarter 2001

Lotus Corp., Cambridge, Mass.; (800) 343-5414; www.lotus.com

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