Lotus – SmartSuite Millennium Edition release 9.0 review

word-processor, spreadsheet, etc.
Photo of Lotus – SmartSuite Millennium Edition release 9.0
£350 + VAT, £150 + VAT upgrade

With the office suite market now whittled down to just three major players – Corel, Lotus and Microsoft – some business users are making decisions based solely on their recognition of a company name. That’s not particularly clever, as the products from these three vendors differ greatly. Lotus’ latest venture is this slightly premature Millennium Edition, which brings together several office-related applications in a single package.

For users familiar with Microsoft Word, Lotus’ word-processor has a somewhat unusual interface, but the change is not unwelcome. There’s a fair amount of thought gone into the design of this latest version of Word Pro; for instance, if you want to create a header or footer, just click the mouse in the appropriate part of the page. There are context-sensitive menus (which can be altered to mimic Word or WordPerfect) and bubble help, single-click access to important features such as the page layout box, easy creation of tables, frames and styles and so on. There’s a good range of import and export formats, too, including the latest versions of competing products such as Microsoft Word.

1-2-3 was the spreadsheet application that helped to sell early PCs, and it’s still going strong today as part of this package. In most respects it is similar to the version that shipped as part of SmartSuite 97, but there are plenty of new formulae functions. One particular innovation is that 1-2-3 now supports data entry via speech, thanks to the inclusion of a tailored version of IBM ViaVoice speech recognition software. This allows for dictation directly into Word Pro, too, and a microphone is included in the box.

Other applications which will be familiar to SmartSuite users include the Approach database package and Freelance Graphics presentation program, and the latest versions of these two are also included here. So is Organizer, Lotus’ handy time- and contact-management package that has one of the best user interfaces of any PIM available. There’s a copy of ScreenCam, too, for multimedia authoring, along with the latest Web browsers from Microsoft and Netscape and a Lotus e-mail client. New to this release is FastSite, Lotus’ Internet/Intranet publishing tool, aimed at end-users who want to publish several files in HTML format simultaneously. It provides an easy way to link pages together, with all the main components of SmartSuite able to import and export data in HTML format. The majority of these applications can be launched from the single-click icons placed on the taskbar by the install program.

SmartSuite Millennium Edition release 9.0 can be run from CD with a 30MB hard drive installation, while a full installation of all features will take up around 230MB. An additional 125MB is required for IBM ViaVoice. The program runs under Windows 95/98/NT4 or later and comes with a free copy of the ‘Lotus SmartSuite Millennium Edition for Dummies’ book.

Company: Lotus

Contact: 01784 455 445

It is, unfortunately, not possible to go into a great deal of depth here about the various features and functions of the numerous SmartSuite Millennium Edition components. Nor is it possible to make any comments on the stability of those components, other than stating that we experienced no crashes or errors during our review. But from what we've seen, this is a comprehensive collection of office applications, most of which are well integrated. With its in-depth Web support, speech recognition capabilities and handy tools such as Organizer, there's really not much that this package can't do. If your company is in the market for a new office suite, don't assume it's a one horse race.