PACKT Publishing reached out to me recently to see if I'd be interested in reviewing their new book 'IBM Lotus Sametime 8 Essentials: A User's Guide.' Given my history with the product (and having answered no small number of questions about how it works), I was interested to take a look. (Disclosure: PACKT Publishing provided me with a complimentary electronic copy of the book for review purposes.)
I found the book to be a very thorough and well-organized look at how to use Sametime instant messaging and Web conference features, running from the basic embedded capabilities in Lotus Notes all the way through Sametime Advanced and Sametime Unified Telephony. For users new to using Sametime, or even those moving up to a "modern" version from Sametime 3.1 or its ilk, this would be an excellent "how-to" guide as well as a reference companion. While the concept of "instant messaging" is something most people are familiar with these days, Sametime is packed with enough features and capabilities that it's helpful to have a resource that walks through all of the capabilities, explains the preference settings, and highlights some of the more advanced (and less-than-obvious) features.
Authored by Marie Scott and Thomas Duff, who should be no strangers to those in the Lotus community, the book is very well laid out and walks through topics including using Sametime in Lotus Notes, setting up and using the Sametime Connect client (from setting up your the contact list up through transferring files and screenshots, and everything in between), scheduling and leading a Web conference, using chat rooms, broadcast communities and instant share in Sametime Advanced, and using Sametime Unified Telephony. The Appendices cover new features in Sametime 8.5 and 8.5.1, as well as using Sametime in other applications such as Lotus Connections or Microsoft products... and even contain a link to the Sametime song.
The books is structured in a way that covers the basics before moving on to more advanced features, something novices should appreciate, as they should the use of accompanying visuals, preference setting descriptions and index in the back.
Having been involved in books like this before, I know there is often more material that could be included than there is room for. That said, there are a few things that I wished had been called out - features that I used to get a lot of questions on or that I discovered even veteran Sametime users weren't aware of (and my apologies if I just missed it in the book). For example:
- You can drag and drop a file into the chat area to initiate a file transfer, instead of using the paperclip icon
- Clicking the "search directory" option when typing name will find that person even if they're not in your contact list (I've discovered colleagues who had been using Sametime 7.5 for over a year and still thought the only way to chat with someone was to first add them to their contact list.)
- You have the option to have separate chat windows or a single tabbed chat window (and can start a chat with a new user directly from within the chat window).
Those are all minor points, though. To re-iterate what I said earlier, I'd highly recommend this book to anyone starting to deploy Sametime or upgrading to Sametime 8.x, and it's certainly a worthwhile reference to stick on the office shelf for new hires using Sametime for the first time. Well done, Marie and Tom!