Lotus Notes improves with office-suite capabilities

OK, I know. Lotus Notes isn’t really a full office suite. In fact, it’s more like a universal database that provides office suite-like capabilities such as e-mail and, now, compatibility with Microsoft Office 2007.

But the new features and clean interface of Lotus 8.5 merit some recognition. Older versions of Lotus were enigmatic and hard to use, let alone understand. But new capabilities, such as the ability to right-click documents in any view to see a more concise menu of options, have made the software a lot more accessible. Now you can also right-click documents to mark them as read or unread, similar to what you see in Outlook with e-mails.

Lotus Notes 8.5

Pros: Easy-to-use interface; interoperability with OpenOffice.
Cons: Not really a full office suite.
Features: B+
Performance: A
Ease of Use: A
Value: B-
Price: $125 at most online stores

GCN Lab reviews 5 top office suites

Improved image manipulation now automatically compresses images, such as bitmaps pasted into documents, and automatically converts them to smaller .gif or .jpg formats. As in earlier versions, you can use red text to indicate unread documents, which provides an easy way to highlight the text in the data areas of Notes, such as the inbox and messages.

Mail signatures imported from preferences will now be ignored by all spell-check operations, and a new spell-check preference lets you automatically correct common typing errors, such as "teh" instead of "the." It will also auto-correct writers when they start a sentence with a lowercase letter or type two capital letters, such as “GOvernment.”

IBM installed a well-built and intuitive toolbar with icons for oft-used editing options, such as text color, highlighter, insert link and underline text. Those changes are subtle but have a big effect on ease of use.

Along those same lines, IBM added new table-editing options, such as the ability to drag column or row margins to resize, drag the margins of the entire table to resize it, or drag the contents from one cell to another. You can also now insert a new row or column by holding down the Shift key and double clicking the common border. Another feature that I missed in Lotus and took for granted in Microsoft Access is the ability to undo multiple errors.

With Lotus 8.5, you can now drag and drop groups to Notes’ name fields and rich text fields, drag names from external applications to Notes’ name fields, or even drag search results from a desktop search to Notes documents. That saves a lot of time if you spend most of your days in Lotus. So although it’s not a full office suite, it’s improved enough in the latest version and has enough features similar to those of full office suites that we wanted to include it.

IBM, www.IBM.com

About the Author

Carlos A. Soto is a former GCN Lab technology analyst.

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