Lotus sets dynamic intranet duo flying on their own

Lotus sets dynamic intranet duo flying on their own

FastSite makes posting Web documents in 25 file formats easy and fast, without webmaster intervention. It removes the document-posting bottleneck for intranets.

FastSite converts documents easily, and SmartCenter puts a Web portal, with links, on your screen

By Jason Byrne

GCN Staff

Microsoft Corp. is working to pull all of its products into its office software suite, but Lotus Development Corp. is doing the opposite. It recently let loose two standalone products that had gotten their start in SmartSuite.

FastSite 2.0 and SmartCenter 1.0 are two very different products, each independent but also continuing to flock with the other applications in SmartSuite.

FastSite is an easy tool for converting office documents, such as memos and spreadsheets, into formatted Web documents ready for posting. It works with 25 file types including those of Lotus, Microsoft and Corel Corp.

Box Score ''''''

Easy publisher for Internet or intranet

Lotus Development Corp.
Cambridge, Mass.
tel. 800-555-5555


Price: $115
retail, free in SmartSuite Millennium Edition

+ Translates various documents into publishable Web content

+ Works with Lotus, Microsoft and Corel formats

- Customization difficult beyond basic templates

Real-life requirements:

Windows 9x or NT 4.0, 16M of RAM, 10M free storage, Microsoft Internet Explorer 3.02 or higher browser version


Individual user's information portal

Price: Free download until Nov. 1; part of SmartSuite Millennium Edition

+ Places intranet and Internet information unobtrusively

+ Easy to use and customizable by a user or an organization

- Cannot pull contact and schedule information from any outside source except Lotus Organizer

Real-life requirements:

Windows 9x or NT 4.0, 16M of RAM, 12M free storage, browser

What FastSite does best is loosen the bottleneck in posting documents to intranets. Because it can apply a uniform format to each page, no webmaster is needed to format the pages. If content managers have rights to their particular sections of the site, they can take over the entire posting process.

Content cop

FastSite is great to have around to ensure that content does not turn stale because of posting delays. In my tests, it produced uniformly well-formatted Hypertext Markup Language pages. Its integration with Lotus Domino also worked well, which should be a big help to organizations with Domino Web servers.

The one problem I found was in customizing the FastSite pages. Adding backgrounds and other common Web publishing extras demanded a more full-featured HTML formatting tool. FastSite is best for pages with static content and simple navigation. Priced at $115, it's for the average user, not the Web designer.

SmartCenter 1.0 has an interesting slant on personal information management. Now that practically every Web site hypes itself as a portal, SmartCenter sticks a portal right on the desktop interface. Portal sites claim to provide one-stop shopping for information. SmartCenter does the same thing through a bar, similar to the Microsoft Windows taskbar. It has several drawers that act as containers for Web pages.

The product comes with links to many handy pages, all rendered within the drawer's window. Click on a link within the window, and the program opens a full window in which to browse.

As in FastSite, the settings can be centrally administered. That makes it a perfect entry point for intranet as well as Internet information. Each drawer can contain different folders. A folder might hold either a list of important links or actual Web content.

The SmartCenter toolbar has drawers for keeping track of contacts, appointments and to-do lists.

Users of the Lotus Organizer PIM can have the drawers access the information within their contact and schedule databases. Otherwise, SmartCenter uses its own files to track such items.

Not just for looks

SmartCenter's appearance is customizable. It can sit at the top or the bottom of the screen and sport various toolbar wallpapers. It might at first look like window dressing, but it does help you find information. Considering that you can download the tool for free until Nov. 1, it is a superb value.

Both products offer a lot to organizations that want greater value and productivity from their intranet investments.


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