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Conversation Place: Your Personal Receptionist

Novell Cool Solutions: Feature
By Doug Anderson

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Posted: 3 Jun 1999
 

You've heard us use the term "Universal Mailbox" before, right? Which would imply a place to keep everything, stuff like e-mail messages, documents, tasks, discussion threads, phone conversations, and . . . wait a second. Phone conversations? Actually, yes. GroupWise Conversation Place lets you manage your telephone directly from your desktop. You can answer your phone, place callers on hold, conference other callers, merge new calls with existing calls, and more. You can even look up phone numbers and dial them, all from within the safe confines of GroupWise. You may never have to leave your desk again. Except for obvious reasons.

Conversation Place is a super-cool, yet little-understood component within the GroupWise environment. It exposes and simplifies many commonly available,  rarely-used features of the telephone. Like merging two existing, yet separate conversations. How many times have you wanted to do that instead of hanging up on one person and calling back as a conference call? Well, now you can not only do it, you can do it from your computer. Here's what Conversation Place looks like in action:

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Address Book is closely integrated with Conversation Place to provide quick and easy access to any user information listed in system and personal address books. In fact, "integrated" is probably the wrong word. "Integral" is probably more appropriate. No more fumbling with dozens of sticky notes where the scrawled phone numbers always seem to be obscured in the sticky part. In fact, this is the coolest thing about Conversation Place. Combined with Address Book, it works as a Rolodex. Just start typing the name of the person you want to call in the Name box. Just like for any e-mail message, GroupWise starts searching your address books, looking for a match. When the right name appears, click Dial. Now your only choice is between picking up the phone or letting speaker phone take over. We trust you'll make the right decision.

"Wait," you say. "What if the people I want to call aren't in my organization or my Address Book?" Simple. Just put them there. You can add as many entries as you want to personal address books or even your Frequent Contacts book (which is where GroupWise looks first, by default). Once you put names and numbers in the book, you'll never need to write them on another sticky note.

So just what are the handy things Conversation Place does? Here's a sampling: initiates phone calls, answers phone calls, merges existing conversations, makes conference calls, transfers calls, drops any member of a conversation, tracks time and duration of calls, places callers on hold (never do this), and much more.

And, starting with GroupWise 5.2, which is due to hit the streets on September 17th, Conversation Place creates a folder in your Folder List called Phone Log, and creates phone message items that record the vital information about every call your phone handles, including caller, time, duration, whether the call is internal or external, caller's number, and more. Each of these phone messages is editable. That is, you can forward them, save them, print them, or annotate them. In other words, you can track them.

How Does It All Work?
Before we get to the guts, here's an important fact: While you have to have a TServer and a cool phone system, Conversation Place itself is absolutely free. That is, it already exists within the GroupWise environment. All the hoops you jump through involve bringing your phones and network up to speed, but Conversation Place proper is just another cool perk, gratis just for choosing GroupWise.

Conversation Place can interface (sorry, "interface" should never be used as a verb. It won't happen again) with your phone using either TAPI or TSAPI. Acronym alert: TAPI simply means Telephony Application Programing Interface, and is Microsoft's telephony solution. TSAPI means Telephony Services Application Programing Interface, and is Novell's telephony solution. People who know choose TSAPI.

To use TAPI you need either a modem or a TAPI service provider and TAPI32.DLL installed in the Windows\System directory on client computers. Luckily, TAPI32.DLL is installed by default when you install Windows (32-bit only. That is, Win95 or NT).

TSAPI requires a working (obviously) TSAPI TServer, CSTA32.DLL (in the Windows\System directory), and Novell Client 32 installed on client computers. TSAPI and its .DLLs are available as part of NetWare 4.11.

Conversation Place uses TAPI or TSAPI to let users manage their telephones directly from GroupWise. However, special hardware is required for the telephony server (either TAPI or TSAPI) to communicate with the PBX telephone system. The telephony server and its hardware must be set up and user accounts must be established before you can use Conversation Place. In other words, you have to have a pretty cool phone system and a telephony server all installed before you can even start thinking about using Conversation Place.

Once you have the right stuff in place, you can use Conversation Place Administrator to set some defaults. CPADMIN is not a scary thing; it simply lets you set up default calling location information which is then stored in a file called GWTPS.LOC, which is stored in the same directory where Conversation Place Administrator is located. This directory also contains the GroupWise client setup program users will run to set up the GroupWise client on their workstations. By providing default telephone information before users run Setup, you make it so users are automatically set up to run Conversation Place.

Here's a little tip: If users set up the GroupWise client before you ran Conversation Place Administrator, the default telephone information you set up will not be available immediately. For users running GroupWise client from the network, the new GWTPS.LOC file will be available the next time they start Conversation Place; unfortunately, it will not be selected. Users will have to run Conversation Place, then click Edit, Locations, and then select the location name that has been added to the list.

The new GWTPS.LOC file will not be available to users running the GroupWise client locally. Have these users rerun GroupWise Setup, or have them copy the new GWTPS.LOC file into the directory where they installed the GroupWise client on their workstations. Then they should run Conversation Place, click Edit, Locations, and then select the location name that has been added to the list.

A Quick Overview of What You Have to Do
1
. Set up a telephony server on your network. We suggest TSAPI.

2. Create accounts on the telephony server for all GroupWise users who will use Conversation Place. Don't be stingy; set up an account for everyone.

3. Log in as you would to administer GroupWise in NetWare Administrator. Run CLIENT\WIN32\CPADMIN.EXE (Conversation Place Administrator) from the GroupWise software distribution directory to set up default telephone information for all Conversation Place users. This is much easier than it sounds. As we mentioned earlier, this creates a file named GWTPS.LOC in the same directory where Conversation Place Administrator is located.

4. Notify users of the changes they will need to make. That is, users running GroupWise locally should re-run GroupWise Setup. Users running GroupWise off the network should simply go to Conversation Place, click File, Locations, and select the location name you specify.


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