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Lotus manages time

Lotus is preparing to give away copies of its Internet-ready addition to Organizer 97 in a bid to defend its position in the maturing market for personal information managers.

IBM subsidiary Lotus Development is preparing to give away copies of its Internet-ready addition to Organizer 97 in a bid to defend its position in the maturing market for personal information managers.

The software developer will demonstrate the product, called the Organizer 97 Web Calendar, next week at Internet Expo in Boston. By the middle of next month, it will be available free for download from the company's Web site, according to Jim Burnham, who is in charge of marketing the organizer for Lotus.

The tool lets geographically dispersed end users share and update their calendars on the Web. A CGI application, the tool works with standard Web browsers like Netscape Communications' Navigator and Microsoft's Internet Explorer.

First, the server software must be installed on users' corporate intranet or Internet service provider's server. The server software works in conjunction with Organizer 97 for Windows 95 and Windows NT, introduced three months ago and priced at $79.

Organizer 97 Web Calendar was developed as part of the company's efforts to support open Internet standards, like Versit's vCalendar specifications. Lotus and its development partner Clear Blue Network Systems are also seeking industry acceptance of their Internet Calendar Access Protocol as the open Internet standard for calendaring and scheduling tools, Burnham said.

While Organizer 97 featured a few Internet applications, the add-on has new hyperlinks to allow users to create, view, edit, and delete appointments, as well as link directly to shared files. The system will be automatically updated each time the user logs in to reflect new or canceled meetings. Users can make the schedules read-only or assign passwords to colleagues so that they may schedule meetings electronically.

Lotus is also developing a version of Organizer to work in conjunction with its Notes groupware. The tool is code-named Dante, but will be sold as Organizer 97 GS and cost about the same as Organizer 97 when it ships early next year, according to the company.

Lotus has already sold "tens of thousands" of copies of Organizer 97, according to Burnham. The company hopes that the new Web Calendar will encourage the 10 million users of older Organizer versions to upgrade.

Burnham said the company is also trying to entice ISPs to install the server software so that individual users can access the tool over the Internet.

The Web tool now has colorful graphics capabilities. The enhanced Notepad offers linking and embedding for OLE objects and allows users to post to the Web directly from Notepad pages. Unfinished items on the To-do list now automatically roll over to the next day to remind users of pending tasks.

The Organizer, often remembered for its flaming electronic trash can, has added sound effects, including the crackling of flames.

"You'll hear the trash burning up, as well," Burnham said. "Time management is not everybody's favorite activity, so we try to make it fun."