Finding available time in IBM Lotus Notes V8 using the Scheduler UI

Learn how the enhanced Scheduler user interface in IBM Lotus Notes V8 makes the search for free time easier.

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Bill Le (billle@us.ibm.com), QE Software Engineer, IBM

Bill Le is a QE Software Engineer for the IBM Lotus Notes client team in Westford, Massachusetts. He joined IBM in 2003 as an intern for the Domino Access for Microsoft Outlook team. He holds a Bachelor's degree from Northeastern University.



14 August 2007

IBM Lotus Notes V8 greatly improves the user experience, including its enhancements to the free-time lookup feature on the meeting invitation. In previous Lotus Notes releases, the Scheduler user interface (UI) did not provide much flexibility. Lotus Notes V8, however, lets users select subsets of participants, thereby allowing them to focus on the invitees who are most important or critical to the meeting. In this way, the Scheduler UI helps to speed up the search process for available time. Even more conveniently, Lotus Notes V8 allows the user to right-click on one or more active names and to perform a Find Available Time search to quickly find the next time that person is available to meet.

Scheduler UI

The improved Scheduler UI appears under the Find Available Times tab in the Check Schedule dialog box when the chairperson creates a meeting, or when the participant proposes a new time or delegates a meeting invitation. It also appears in the Check Schedule dialog box when the chair reschedules a meeting.

Let's explore the feature with the following scenario.

Assume it is the end of the sales quarter for company X. Company X has two sales teams: Team A and Team B. Daria Mars is the leader for Team A, and Allen Mars is the leader for Team B. Ray Mars is the manager of both teams. Mark Mars is on Team A (see figure 1). Mark needs to schedule a meeting to discuss and report on his team’s quarterly sales. Mark wants to invite his manager, his team, and Team B to the meeting. In Mark's opinion, his manager, Ray, and his team's leader, Daria, are key participants. Team B's leader, Allen, is an optional participant, but he is also considered important to the meeting. Therefore, when trying to find a good time for everyone to meet, Mark is most interested in accommodating Ray, Daria, and Allen.

Figure 1. Company X's structure
Company X’s structure

Mark creates the meeting with Ray and Daria as required attendees and the rest as optional. Because Ray, Daria, and Allen are the three key participants for the meeting, Mark searches for free times only among Ray, Daria, Allen, and himself. To do this task, Mark can simply select the checkbox next to the names of Ray, Daria, Allen, and himself from the Scheduler, and he can deselect the rest of the checkboxes (see figure 2).

Figure 2. Scheduler UI with key participants selected for free-time search
Scheduler UI with key participants selected for free-time search

Note that the Scheduler UI also provides checkboxes for the two categories: Required and Optional. This categorization allows users to easily select or deselect all the invitees in those groups. By deselecting the Optional checkbox, Mark clears the selection of all the optional invitees. He can then select Allen individually. In figure 2, because the free-time search does not include the remaining attendees (Bill Mars and others), the free/busy times of these attendees are slightly grayed out and their free/busy times do not contribute to the free time's results. The time bar, therefore, turns green on the 3:00 PM-4:00PM timeslot on July 12, 2007. If Mark enables free-time search for everyone in the 3 pm-4 pm spot on 07/12/2007, the time bar turns red because one of the other Optional invitees may be busy at that time (see figure 3).

Figure 3. Scheduler UI with all participants selected for free-time search
Scheduler UI with all participants selected for free-time search

Now, assume that Allen from Team B cannot attend the meeting on July 12, and he wwants to propose a new time for the meeting. In his opinion, this meeting is important to his whole team, and he wants everyone on the team to attend. When Allen searches for free time, he can select Mark, Ray, Daria, Bill, and Sarah and deselect the rest of the attendees (see figure 4). In figure 4, Elba and Wong are busy in the 4:00 PM-5:00 PM timeslot on July 12, 2007, but because Allen disables free-time search for them, the time bar turns green.

Figure 4. Scheduler UI in the Check Schedules dialog box when proposing a new time
Scheduler UI in the Check Schedules dialog box when proposing a new time

Similarly, assume that Mark accepts the proposed new time, but before he reschedules the meeting, he can click Check Schedule to view the free times for all his key individuals (see figure 5).

Figure 5. Scheduler UI in the Check Schedules dialog box when rescheduling
Scheduler UI in the Check Schedules dialog box when rescheduling

Right-click and find available time

Mark has booked a projector for his meeting. On July 12, 2007, Mark receives an email from Jonathan Mars in the IT Department with directions on how to use a newly purchased projector. Mark reads the instructions, but he still has some questions. He decides to book some time with Jonathan to get hands-on training. He right-clicks Jonathan’s name in the email and chooses Find Available Time.

The Find Available Time search from the right-click menu executes a quick search on both Mark and Jonathan's schedules and opens the Find Available Time dialog box. The Find Available Time dialog box identifies the most useful information from the search, telling Mark that Jonathan is available for a one-hour meeting today (July 12, 2007) from 10:00 AM to 11:00 AM and that Jonathan is completely available until 12:00 PM. The Scheduler UI also shows Jonathan is free at 4:00 PM-5:00 PM (see figure 6). Perfect! Mark can click the Create Meeting button to set up a meeting with Jonathan at 10:00 AM.

Figure 6. Scheduler UI in the right-click/Find Available Time dialog box
Scheduler UI in the right-click/Find Available Time dialog box

The Scheduler UI still supports alternate names. It removes the Invitee switcher because it is no longer necessarily a free-time search functionality.


Conclusion

The Scheduler UI in IBM Lotus Notes V8 delivers a great deal of flexibility and freedom when users search for free time. The result of the free-time search is greater productivity for users.

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