SoftArc Inc., released FirstClass 3.5. The new version of SoftArc's flagship product offers a number of significant enhancements to both existing Windows and Mac OS clients and servers--and marks the introduction of new products into the FirstClass family. Version 3.5 adds many new features suggested by SoftArc's installed base and delivers tighter integration with the Internet than ever before.
"Look out, Lotus Notes, FirstClass is better than ever," said beta tester Sean Murphy, administrator and project director at Emory University in Atlanta--a 14,000 user FirstClass site. "FirstClass 3.5 is wonderfully flexible, and the addition of a spelling checker, online viewers, and configurable toolbars makes the easiest groupware to use even easier."
Among the most anticipated features in FirstClass 3.5 is the ability for users to work offline. Offline users may now take advantage of virtually all features of a FirstClass client/server session. The FirstClass Client reproduces users' e-mail, FirstClass Directories, and conferences on a local workstation or mobile computer. Data may be replicated over modem, Internet, or LAN connections. Once the information is stored locally, users can work while disconnected from the FirstClass Server.
Work offline is handled by a new component: the FirstClass Personal replication agent. FirstClass Personal is installed by the FirstClass Client and works in the background, invisible to the user. For sites with normal FirstClass user licenses, no added software or configuration is needed--only the upgrade to FirstClass 3.5. Sites licensed for remote-only users must purchase a special software license to enable offline capabilities.
Also new to FirstClass 3.5 clients and servers is "client extension" technology. Made available to developers prior to the public release of 3.5, the FirstClass Client Extensions Toolkit enables independent software vendors to create products that add features to FirstClass. Collaborative whiteboards, viewers for files attached to FirstClass messages, and voice or video conferencing modules are just a few examples of the types of technologies enabled by client extensions. SoftArc is shipping several client extensions with FirstClass 3.5, including modules for cross-platform previewing of BMP files, PICT files, Macintosh sound files, CompuServe GIF files, and JPEG files.
Additional client enhancements include a spelling checker, user-customized toolbars, drag-and-drop support between FirstClass and other applications, an improved 32-bit version of the client optimized for Windows NT and Windows 95, and three-dimensional forms.
New server features in FirstClass 3.5 allow for easier administration. For multiple-server sites, new directory and routing options improve both Directory synchronization and routing among networks of servers. Enhancements to the batch administration system allow administrators to automate a larger number of labor-intensive tasks. Common Mac OS backup tools can now be used to back up post offices on Macintosh servers. Administrators are also able to filter the types of Directory entries available for view by classes of users.
FirstClass 3.5 supports new connectivity to corporate databases and other information sources. Changes to SoftArc's Database Toolkit allow developers to write powerful real-time connection modules for SQL, DAL, or ODBC databases networked to the FirstClass Server. Users can now easily update database records, execute relational queries, and display the query results in a single form. Multimedia information support is also enhanced.
SoftArc also now offers a FirstClass Client for DOS with the release of FirstClass 3.5. The new client offers the friendly, graphical FirstClass interface to users of 640K or better DOS machines, running MS-DOS, version 3.3 or later. The DOS client is freely distributable, but only connects to FirstClass Servers licensed with SoftArc's Text Services or Command Line Interface options.
Pricing of FirstClass 3.5 remains unchanged from previous versions. FirstClass Servers for Windows NT or Mac OS are each available for $495 U.S., including five user licenses. Pricing of additional user licenses also remains unchanged, ranging from $35 to $79 U.S., based on volume.
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