Lifestreams enhances workgroup file sharing

If you have a workgroup in your agency or department that shares a pool of information, and you're looking for a better way for the group to access and share that data, take a look at Lifestreams Office. This new program from Mirror Worlds Technologies Inc. is a World Wide Web-based system for managing and accessing electronic data, including documents, e-mail, videos and any other type of file you may have on your computer.

When users log on to a Lifestreams server via a Web browser, they can choose to view the data streams in any of four formats: list, calendar, grid or stream. Each view offers thumbnails of the documents, provides document titles and arranges items in chronological order. The stream view, for example, stacks documents in an overlapping series across the main Lifestreams window, with the most recent documents at the top and date ranges clearly marked. It's easy, however, to re-sort documents by other criteria, including title, owner or modification dates.

Users can summon details about each document simply by hovering the cursor over the document thumbnail. There is, unfortunately, no built-in viewer for taking a quick look at the full document. Instead, users can either launch the document into its parent application, assuming that application is available locally, or save it to disk.

Lifestreams provides a full-text index on all items and delivers a powerful set of search tools. You can perform quick searches at the command line, or you can use the Power Search window to make it easy to combine terms. Lifestreams lets you join terms with Boolean operators, and you also can search the documents' associated properties, such as creation date or owner. Power Searches also enable users to save search arguments for future use.

In addition, administrators can predefine search arguments for all users. The documents and other files in a data stream come from two types of sources: They are either contributed by users or they are redirected from e-mail, newsgroups, a news wire feed or other sources by system administrators.

It's easy for users to add new files to the stream, and users can specify read and write permissions. All we had to do to contribute to the flow was click on the Add Doc button on the toolbar and fill in the relevant information. Only the owner of a document and administrators can delete files, and the latter has the ability to set time limits on document streams to keep the items from getting unmanageable in number.

Lifestreams offers administrators a straightforward set of tools for creating "feeds," collections of documents from a source such as a news wire or e-mail inboxes. Once the administrator sets up a feed, individual users can subscribe to any feeds to which they have access rights.

Administrators also will appreciate Lifestreams' logging feature, which tracks site activity. By default, the program closes a log file and creates a new one every 24 hours, but you can change the time interval. It is awkward, however, that the only way to open logging is by launching the program using a different batch file. That means the server will have to be shut down at least momentarily to switch on logging.

Lifestreams is easy to install and configure, and we were impressed with the program's interface and search tools. The program fulfills its goal of offering fluid and flexible access to pooled data. Bear in mind, however, that Lifestreams' approach may be less effective for larger groups and larger amounts of data. It is not clear whether users will take easily to Lifestreams' new paradigm for managing workgroup data.

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Lifestreams Office 1.3

Mirror Worlds Technologies Inc.

(203) 773-9422

www.mirrorworlds.com

Price and Availability

Prices for Lifestreams Office range from $850 per user to $300 per user, depending upon the number of users. The cost for 100 users is $62,500.

Remarks

Lifestreams Office offers workgroups a new way to share information—including documents, image files, spreadsheets—via the Web. The system seems most effective for small to midsize workgroups.

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