Users say new Lotus Notes client worth a close look

Some of the new features in IBM Corp.'s Version 6.5 of Lotus Notes and Domino, announced earlier this week, are getting high marks from corporate users as companies decide whether an upgrade is in their future.

Scott Melendez, the principal information systems engineer for enterprise messaging for the city and county of San Francisco, said that in beta testing, the new integrated Notes 6.5 e-mail and instant messaging client has key features "that are steps in the right direction that our customers like." About 20 users in his IT department have been testing the new Notes client and have been happy with its offerings, he said.

Among the popular additions are a new follow-up folder in which a user can put incoming e-mails that need a response so the messages aren't lost in the flood of new mail. Also getting good marks, he said, are new symbols that appear on-screen next to an e-mail when a user has responded to the message or forwarded it to someone else, making it easier to quickly see the status of messages.

"Those small things really make a difference for end users" by aiding productivity and making e-mail chores easier, Melendez said. Many of the 15,000 city and county employee users already have Microsoft Outlook for e-mail at home, so they're used to some of the new features, he said.

San Francisco's government has used Notes and Domino for several years, he said, and is just now finishing an upgrade to Notes 6.02. By the beginning of next year, an upgrade to the newest version will begin to bring the new features to users, he said.

An IT manager for a large pharmaceutical company who asked not to be identified agreed that the new Notes 6.5 brings welcome updates.

"We'll probably go with 6.5 on the client," she said.

She said a key new feature is the deep integration between the e-mail and instant messaging, which allows users to easily instant message others from their mail client and to see who is online. The new built-in IM capabilities used to be part of the separate Lotus Sametime application.

The company has more than 100,000 users worldwide, and they, too, will appreciate the new interface, which offers features similar to Outlook, the IT manager said. But before any upgrade takes place, "further analysis will need to happen," she said.

Perry Hiltz, a systems engineer at consumer goods and industrial products manufacturer Henkel Corp. in Dusseldorf, Germany, said he's still working to roll out last year's Notes 6 upgrade to 35,000 global users and hasn't even had a chance to look at Notes 6.5. Henkel users are still running the Notes 5 client and won't begin moving to Notes 6 until the end of 2004, he said. Hiltz is running Domino 6 on several of his servers in conjunction with the Notes 5 client software.

With so many users in so many locations around the globe, upgrading is a tedious project, Hiltz said.

"There's features I personally would like to see out there today" on his users' desktops, such as features in Notes 6 that would let him push updated new client software out over the corporate network, rather than having to install it manually on-site. Also, Notes 6 allows for setting up new user policies from a remote location. Neither feature is built into Notes 5, which is why the upgrade to last year's Notes 6 will take a while. "To bring in a change is a drawn-out process," Hiltz said.

Lotus, in its announcement on Monday, said Notes and Domino 6.5 will be available at the end of the month. Among the new features is a "block mail from sender" button that allows users to train their Notes client to stop spam that gets through corporate network controls.

Pricing starts at US$89 per user for the basic Notes 6.5 e-mail client and US$1,145 per processor for Domino Messaging Server 6.5. For more full-featured e-mail and collaboration versions, pricing begins at US$125 per user and US$2,964 per processor for Domino Enterprise Server 6.5. Also available is a stand-alone Web-based version called Domino Utility Server 6.5, which starts at US$15,067 per processor and allows companies to write collaborative applications for Domino that can be accessed by users through Web browsers without needing separate client software.

Lotus Notes and Domino 6.5 are available for Microsoft Windows NT 4.0, Windows 2000, Windows 2003 Server, Windows 2003 Advanced Server, IBM iSeries (formerly AS/400), IBM zSeries mainframes, IBM AIX, Sun Solaris 8 or 9, Red Hat Linux Advanced Server 2.1 and UnitedLinux 1.0.

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