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ORLANDO, Fla.—At its Lotusphere conference on Jan. 22 here, IBM’s Lotus division announced that it will soon release a public beta version of its Notes and Domino 8 technology.

Company officials said the technology, formerly code-named Hannover, will enter public beta in February, and that will be the final beta testing phase of the product before it ships midyear.

“Today we’re dropping the code name and getting ready to launch Notes and Domino 8,” said Ken Bisconti, vice president of product management for Lotus.

IBM officials said the development process for Notes and Domino 8 has included one of the most comprehensive testing programs in Lotus history, opening up the technology to a vast number of potential testers. The result is a new Notes and Domino product that delivers enhancements to e-mail, calendar and contact management applications; access to spreadsheets, presentations and documents; and a shareable activities center, IBM said.

Thousands of testers have weighed in, providing feedback on a variety of features, including e-mail productivity enhancements in Lotus Notes and Domino 8 such as Recent Collaborations and Message Recall. Also, with Recent Contacts, users will get a one-click, dashboard view of recently sent e-mails, chats and other content to key contacts to quickly locate a contact or e-mail content, the company said.

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Notes 8 offers a standards-based work environment and features support for ODF (Open Document Format), giving users access to office tools without the cost of a separate license. With IBM Productivity Editors, users can create, edit and save a variety of documents in ODF format, including word processing, spreadsheet and presentation documents. The Productivity Editors also allow a user to import and export supported file formats used by Microsoft Office and Open Office file formats, edit those files, and save them in either the original format or as ODF documents, IBM said.

Also, the new version of the Lotus tools support open standards and cross-platform usability with a native look and feel: The Lotus Notes 8 client can run on many supported operating systems, including Windows, Macintosh and Linux. Based on the Eclipse standard, Notes 8 has been designed to give users a native experience on each of the platforms.

The Domino 8 server also runs on a wide variety of operating systems: Windows, Linux, AIX, Sun Solaris, iSeries and zSeries.

By building Lotus Notes 8 on an Eclipse-based framework, developers and ISVs will be able to create Notes applications that link together multiple applications in ways they never could before to create useful enterprise mashups.

In addition, Notes users will be able to do activity-based computing with “Activities,” a Lotus technology that shares and organizes e-mail, instant messages, documents and other items related to a particular activity or project into one logical unit.

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Inspired by IBM researchers and developed by Lotus, Activities uses Web 2.0 technologies such as Backpack, ATOM, Tagging, REST (Representational State Transfer), AJAX (Asynchronous JavaScript and XML) and JSON (JavaScript Object Notation) to deliver a lightweight, Web-based collaboration offering. Activities is also a core component in Lotus Connections, Lotus’ new social software portfolio, empowering users to add structure to tasks that are informal and highly collaborative.

Looking beyond Lotus Notes 8, Bisconti said Lotus plans to extend e-mail security, support alternative directories and support 64-bit platforms without mandating which ones users must use.

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