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Lotus adds IM, search to Notes

IBM's Lotus unit plans to add instant-messaging and Internet search functions to the next version of the software, known primarily as an e-mail client.

IBM's Lotus unit plans to add instant-messaging and Internet search functions to the next version of its Notes office software.

Although Notes is known primarily as an e-mail client, IBM has redesigned the user interface for the upcoming version 6.5 update to incorporate messaging functions that are based on Big Blue's Sametime software. Office workers can see whether a colleague is available online and exchange messages within the same application window they use to check e-mail and calendar information.

"Now you only need the one client," said Alan Lepofsky, senior technical marketing manager for the Lotus division. "The concept is that anywhere you see a name, you should be able to interact with a person, either by e-mail or IM."

The new Notes also includes tools for organizing e-mail messages, including a "follow up" tool that tags important messages with details on what type of follow-up action is required. Lotus has also beefed up tools for filtering e-mail and diverting spam, including point-and-click tools for creating filters.

"Lots of people know what rules are, but they don't use them, because they're so difficult to set up," Lepofsky said. "We want to give people an automated way for you to really reduce the amount of unsolicited mail that you get in your in-box."

The new Notes interface will also include a search window that can scour corporate networks or the Web, using existing search engines as defined by the user. There's also a "launcher" window for one-click access to frequently used applications, Web sites, documents or databases. "It's basically a bookmarks folder that you populate with links to whatever you need quick access to," Lepofsky said.

Lotus is set to announce pricing and availability later this month for version 6.5 of Lotus Notes/Domino Workplace.