Register or Login To Download This Patent As A PDF
|United States Patent Application
;   et al.
May 26, 2005
Apparatus and method for meta-document creation and processing
A graphical user interface ("GUI") is described for creating and managing
a meta-document comprising: a sub-documents region for receiving and
storing graphical indications of a plurality of different types of
documents responsive to user input; a personal note region for receiving
and storing a text message related to the plurality of different types of
sub-documents; and a send document graphic which, when selected by a
user, transmits the meta-document including all of the sub-documents to
one or more destinations.
Mathew, Boban; (Arlington, VA)
; John, Thomas; (Austin, TX)
; Evans, Dagny; (Arlington, VA)
BLAKELY SOKOLOFF TAYLOR & ZAFMAN
12400 WILSHIRE BOULEVARD
October 1, 2004|
|Current U.S. Class:
|Class at Publication:
What is claimed is:
1. A graphical user interface ("GUI") for creating and managing a
meta-document comprising: a sub-documents region for receiving and
storing graphical indications of a plurality of different types of
documents responsive to user input; a personal note region for receiving
and storing a text message related to the plurality of different types of
sub-documents; and a send document graphic which, when selected by a
user, transmits the meta-document including all of the sub-documents to
one or more user-specified destinations.
2. The GUI as in claim 1 further comprising: a document destinations
region for storing one or more of the destinations to which the
meta-document may be sent.
3. The GUI as in claim 2 wherein one of the destinations is a file
transfer protocol ("FTP") site.
4. The GUI as in claim 2 wherein one of the destinations is a World Wide
5. The GUI as in claim 1 further comprising: a browse dialog to allow the
user to browse and select sub-documents to be included within the
sub-documents region of the meta-document.
6. A machine-readable medium having program code stored thereon which,
when executed by a machine, causes the machine to generate a GUI
comprising: a sub-documents region for receiving and storing graphical
indications of a plurality of different types of documents responsive to
user input; a personal note region for receiving and storing a text
message related to the plurality of different types of sub-documents; and
a send document graphic which, when selected by a user, transmits the
meta document including all of the sub-documents to one or more
7. The machine-readable medium as in claim 6 wherein the GUI further
comprises: a document destinations region for storing one or more of the
destinations to which the meta document may be sent.
8. The machine-readable medium as in claim 7 wherein one of the
destinations is a file transfer protocol ("FTP") site.
9. The machine-readable medium as in claim 7 wherein one of the
destinations is a World Wide Web site.
10. The machine-readable medium as in claim 6 wherein the GUI further
comprises: a browse dialog to allow the user to browse and select
sub-documents to be included within the sub-documents region of the
11. A method comprising: combining a plurality of sub-documents into a
single meta-document; defining security information for providing access
to the sub-documents within the meta-document; transmitting the
meta-document to a particular storage area on a network; transmitting an
indication of the location of the meta-document to one or more users;
receiving a request to access the meta-document from a user; requesting
the security information from the user; providing the user with access to
the sub-documents only if the user provides the correct security
information; and transmitting an electronic receipt to a creator/sender
of the meta-document indicating that the user was provided access to the
12. The method as in claim 11 wherein the security information comprises a
password unique to the meta-document.
13. The method as in claim 11 wherein the storage area comprises a file
transfer protocol ("FTP") site or a Web server.
14. The method as in claim 11 wherein the indication of the location of
the meta-document is transmitted via an email message.
15. The method as in claim 14 wherein the security information comprises a
password transmitted in the email message along with the indication of
the location of the meta-document.
16. A machine-readable medium having program code stored thereon which,
when executed by a machine, causes the machine to perform the operations
of: combining a plurality of sub-documents into a single meta-document;
defining security information for providing access to the sub-documents
within the meta-document; transmitting the meta-document to a particular
storage area on a network; transmitting an indication of the location of
the meta-document to one or more users; receiving a request to access the
meta-document from a user; requesting the security information from the
user; providing the user with access to the sub-documents only if the
user provides the correct security information; and transmitting an
electronic receipt to a creator/sender of the meta-document indicating
that the user was provided access to the meta-document.
17. The method as in claim 16 wherein the security information comprises a
password unique to the meta-document.
18. The method as in claim 16 wherein the storage area comprises a file
transfer protocol ("FTP") site or a Web server.
19. The method as in claim 16 wherein the indication of the location of
the meta-document is transmitted via an email message.
20. The method as in claim 19 wherein the security information comprises a
password transmitted in the email message along with the indication of
the location of the meta-document.
 The present application is a continuation of the following
co-pending U.S. patent applications: U.S. Ser. No. 10/889,689, filed Jul.
12, 2004, entitled, "Generic Inbox system and Method"; and, U.S. Ser. No.
10/889,992, filed Jul. 12, 2004, entitled, "System And Method For
Multi-Tiered Rule Filtering"; and, U.S. Ser. No. 10/889,709, filed Jul.
12, 2004, entitled, "Agent Architecture Employed Within An Integrated
Message, Document And Communication System"; and, U.S. Ser. No.
10/889,708, filed Jul. 12, 2004, entitled, "Virtual Contextual File
System And Method"; and, U.S. Ser. No. 10/889,688, filed Jul. 12, 2004,
entitled, "Multimedia Notification System And Method", each of which
claim priority to U.S. Provisional Patent Application Ser. No.
60/486,166, filed Jul. 11, 2003, entitled, "Integrated Message and
 1. Field of the Invention
 This invention relates generally to the field of information
management systems. More particularly, the invention relates to an
apparatus and method for meta-document creation and processing.
 2. Description of the Related Art
 The average individual accesses and manages a surprisingly large
number of messages and documents every day. In a typical business
environment, the number of legitimate messages received and sent in the
course of a day averages roughly fifty. These include emails, faxes,
voice messages, voice calls, text messages, and instant messages. The
number of devices that individuals use for communications and messaging
has also multiplied. Such devices include computers, fax machines,
wire-line phones, wireless phones, personal digital assistants ("PDAs"),
and pagers, with each device typically handling a different type of
message or method of communications. Most individuals today manage their
messages across different media and, more importantly, over multiple
types of devices.
 Simultaneous with the proliferation of messages and messaging
devices, the penetration of personal computers and servers in homes and
offices has also risen sharply. The average individual accesses, creates,
modifies, saves, and otherwise manages a large number of documents every
day. This number is even larger when documents are broadly defined to
include private and work-related databases as well. To complicate
matters, documents are often transferred among individuals as stand-alone
messages such as faxes, as attachments to electronic messages, as
information embedded within messages, and as data files with attached
 To help manage the complexity of multi-media messaging over
numerous devices, unified communications solutions consolidate different
types of messages into a single platform. Many of these platforms allow
for remote access and management of messages over the Public Switched
Telephone Network ("PSTN"), the Internet, as well as other public and
private voice and data networks. Increasingly, such solutions are also
tied to communications systems themselves to allow both real-time and
near-real-time communications. For example, many voicemail platforms
enable users to use the call-back number of a voicemail sender to return
a call during the course of retrieving a voicemail. The goal of unified
communications solutions, therefore, is to allow users to access and
manage different types of messages from a single access point, regardless
of the user's device of choice. Through communications system interfaces,
unified communications solutions also permit some limited communications
(as opposed to retrieval and management of messages) from the same
 In the area of document and data management, solutions have
generally taken the form of remote access to data storage devices that
house documents and databases and the sharing of data on such devices
based on a user's security level. The management of documents and data,
however, has traditionally been viewed as a problem quite distinct from
communications and the management of messages. Differences between data
management solutions and communications/message management solutions,
however, are becoming blurred as communications and message management
solutions increasingly enable document access and transfer. Nevertheless,
data management solutions and communications/message management solutions
today remain, for the most part, quite separate.
BRIEF DESCRIPTION OF THE DRAWINGS
 A better understanding of the present invention can be obtained
from the following detailed description in conjunction with the following
drawings, in which:
 FIG. 1 illustrates various functional platforms employed in one
embodiment of the invention.
 FIG. 2 illustrates a WorkSpace enterprise environment according to
one embodiment of the invention.
 FIG. 3 illustrates a WorkSpace carrier environment according to one
embodiment of the invention.
 FIG. 4 illustrates WorkSpace user access and information flows
according to one embodiment of the invention.
 FIG. 5a illustrates a meta-document employed in one embodiment of
 FIG. 5b illustrates various delivery methods for meta-documents
enabled by one embodiment of the invention.
 FIG. 6 illustrates WorkSpace system hardware architecture employed
in one embodiment of the invention.
 FIG. 7 illustrates a general view of a WorkSpace system software
architecture employed in one embodiment of the invention.
 FIG. 8 illustrates a more detailed view of a WorkSpace system
software architecture comprised of a plurality of agents.
 FIGS. 9a-c illustrate a virtual contextual file system employed in
one embodiment of the invention.
 FIG. 10 illustrates an exemplary graphical user interface for
managing advanced rules.
 FIGS. 11a-e illustrate an exemplary graphical user interface for
specifying advanced rule criteria.
 FIG. 12 illustrates one embodiment of a method for rule detection
comprised of basic rules supplemented by priority sub-rules.
 FIG. 13 illustrates a method to resolve conflicts in message and
document filtering/routing according to one embodiment of the invention.
 FIG. 14 illustrates an exemplary sample distribution comprising
evening home calls.
 FIG. 15 illustrates a stylized triangular distribution of the
evening home calls.
 FIG. 16 illustrates an exemplary two-dimensional representation of
a two-variable joint distribution.
 FIG. 17 illustrates an exemplary generalized two-dimensional
representation of a two-variable joint distribution.
 FIG. 18 illustrates an exemplary mapping of conditions against
 FIG. 19 illustrates an exemplary outcome space for rules as defined
by acceptability thresholds.
 FIG. 20 illustrates an exemplary degree of membership in a rule
 FIG. 21 illustrates an exemplary representation of perceived
intrusiveness of calls to home phone.
 FIG. 22 illustrates an exemplary joint mapping of condition (time
of day) and outcome (intrusiveness) associated with calls to home phone.
 FIG. 23 illustrates an exemplary joint mapping of condition (time
of day) and outcome (intrusiveness) associated with voicemail messages.
 FIG. 24 illustrates an exemplary representation of joint outcomes
of two possible actions (call to home and voicemail).
 FIG. 25 illustrates an exemplary outcome space for rules as defined
by acceptability thresholds.
 FIG. 26 illustrates an exemplary user interface for specifying user
preference to cluster and listen first to messages from a set of message
senders defined by the user.
 FIG. 27 illustrates multimedia message processing logic implemented
in one embodiment of the invention.
 FIG. 28 illustrates a pre-inbox and multiple layers of rule
processing implemented in one embodiment of the invention.
 FIG. 29 illustrates an exemplary graphical user interface that
allows the user to specify whether or not to apply a rule if a particular
set of actions were taken by prior rules and to specify the version of
the message to which to apply a particular rule.
 FIG. 30 illustrates an example of user preferences related to
message access/retrieval and corresponding message sets according to one
embodiment of the invention.
 FIG. 31 illustrates a pseudo-address method for text messaging
according to one embodiment of the invention.
 FIG. 32 illustrates an exemplary pseudo-address method for instant
messaging according to one embodiment of the invention.
 FIGS. 33a-o illustrate an exemplary graphical user interface
employed to access and configure the WorkSpace system.
 FIG. 34 illustrates multimedia notification and forwarding logic
employed in one embodiment of the invention.
 FIG. 35 illustrates a generic inbox and a generic inbox manager
employed in one embodiment of the invention.
DETAILED DESCRIPTION OF PREFERRED EMBODIMENTS
 Described below is a system and method for advanced information
management and rule creation within an integrated virtual WorkSpace.
Throughout the description, for the purposes of explanation, numerous
specific details are set forth in order to provide a thorough
understanding of the present invention. It will be apparent, however, to
one skilled in the art that the present invention may be practiced
without some of these specific details. In other instances, well-known
structures and devices are shown in block diagram form to avoid obscuring
the underlying principles of the present invention.
 Note that in this detailed description, references to "one
embodiment" or "an embodiment" mean that the feature being referred to is
included in at least one embodiment of the invention. Moreover, separate
references to "one embodiment" in this description do not necessarily
refer to the same embodiment; however, neither are such embodiments
mutually exclusive, unless so stated, and except as will be readily
apparent to those skilled in the art. Thus, the invention can include any
variety of combinations and/or integrations of the embodiments described
 A system is described below that contains communications, message
management, and document management functions as well as applications
utilizing these functions. It is a user portal to communications, message
management, and document management functions. It is also a tool that
enables advanced communications, message management, and document
management. This system will be referred to herein as the "WorkSpace"
system. As shown in FIG. 1, the WorkSpace system contains a
communications management platform 110 that is connected to both public
and private telephone and data networks 140. The communications
management platform is integrated with a message management platform 120
that is connected to the same telephone and data networks 140 as well as
to a document and database management platform 130. The document
management platform could also be connected independently with the
telephone and data networks. Each of these three platforms is connected
to each other either directly or indirectly. In turn, they may also be
connected to other platforms that host third-party applications 150. The
term "platform" is used here to describe software code installed on
appropriate hardware that performs communications, message management,
and document management functions. Finally, although not shown
explicitly, a WorkSpace system may also contain process- or
situation-specific applications that incorporate various communications,
message management, and document management tasks.
 As a portal, the WorkSpace system acts as the entry point for the
important tasks handled by many individuals during the course of a day:
(1) communications; (2) message management; and (3) document management.
As mentioned above, it may also act as a portal to applications that
incorporate these three functions or as an interface to other stand-alone
third-party applications. For example, consider the communications and
document requirements of a doctor. They may include transferring
documents to colleagues as part of messages about patient care. An
application in this context could include (a) transmittal of a
prescription to a pharmacy along with (b) information on patient
insurance from an insurance database on the doctor's computer and (c)
transmittal of some lab results to a colleague along with a link to
retrieve the history of the patient's lab tests. The prescription
transmittal and the test result retrieval methods are examples of
applications that may be enabled by and accessed through the WorkSpace
system described herein. The insurance database is an example of a
third-party application that may or may not be integrated with the
WorkSpace system but is nevertheless accessible through the WorkSpace
 In one embodiment, WorkSpace software integrates its communications
and message management platforms to communications systems such as
Private Branch Exchanges ("PBX"s) that are in turn connected to
communications networks. Alternatively, the functionalities of such
communications systems may be incorporated in the WorkSpace system. It
also allows users (consistent with that user's privileges) to access and
manage documents and databases on computer devices such as servers and
mainframes. Beyond merely facilitating access to documents and databases,
the WorkSpace system also allows for the creation of context-specific
document creation, transfer, storage, and other document management
functions by using the communications and message management platforms as
engines for these functions. It is especially powerful when documents,
messages, and communications are part of the same work process. The
WorkSpace system, therefore, integrates communications, message
management, and document management in a single system. It also allows
the creation of different applications that incorporate these three
An Exemplary Enterprise Environment
 FIG. 2 shows a typical enterprise environment in which a WorkSpace
system is deployed. In one embodiment, the enterprise, driven by its
voice communications requirements, is connected to the PSTN 260 directly
via Time Division Multiplexing ("TDM") circuits such as T-1's and PRI's
or analog phone lines. In an additional embodiment, the enterprise is
indirectly connected to the PSTN through a media gateway 230 used to
connect an enterprise using packet-voice protocols such as
Voice-over-Internet-Protocol ("VoIP") for internal voice communications.
Such media gateways generally handle conversions from/to TDM protocols
to/from VoIP protocols and may be (1) a stand-alone device; (2) an
integrated component of an enterprise telephony switch 210 that has
packet-switching capabilities; or (3) an integrated component of a
WorkSpace system server 215. An enterprise that chooses to handle the
VoIP to TDM conversion itself rather than through a third-party service
provider will use a media gateway 230 to perform the conversion.
 The first embodiment is typical in a circuit-switched environment
while the second describes a VoIP environment. In yet another embodiment,
the enterprise may be connected directly to the PSTN over TDM circuits
but may also process some or all VoIP calls to originate and/or terminate
PSTN calls. In this example, a carrier-grade telephony switch 245 with
media gateway functionalities or a carrier-grade media gateway 245
handles the VoIP to TDM conversions. Such a device lies either at the
edge of the enterprise's data network 225 or within a carrier's data
network and may or may not be operated by a third-party service provider.
 On the enterprise side in the first and third embodiments, the TDM
trunks or lines from the PSTN 260 terminate on enterprise telephony
switch devices 210. Such devices include digital PBX's, analog and
digital key systems, and VoIP-capable PBX's. These are the devices that
route calls to and from end user stations such as telephones and fax
machines 200. End-user-facing trunks or lines connect telephony switch
devices to end user stations. If the enterprise telephony switch device
has packet-switching capability, end user stations 250 capable of
processing data packets may be connected to the enterprise's data network
rather than to the telephony switch.
 The design of the WorkSpace system allows connectivity to (a) the
enterprise telephony network (regardless of the underlying transport
protocols), (b) other data servers or computers 235, (c) other message
management servers or computers used by the enterprise such as email
servers 220, (d) other real-time communications servers or computers 240,
and (e) servers or computers hosting third-party applications 270. It
should be noted that separate or additional data storage devices, message
management platforms, and real-time communications devices are not
required for complying with the underlying principles of the invention.
They need to be deployed only if message and data volumes, higher levels
of security, and/or user preferences for third-party solutions are
relevant considerations. An enterprise's Local Area Network ("LAN") or
Wide Area Network ("WAN") would normally tie together the above described
infrastructure. Users typically access the WorkSpace system over a
computer device 250 such as a personal computer or PDA connected to the
data network of the enterprise, either through a private or a public data
network. Users may also access the WorkSpace system through a telephone
device connected either to the PSTN or the enterprise's voice network.
Access through hybrid computer-telephone devices is also possible.
An Exemplary Carrier Environment
 In one embodiment of the invention, the WorkSpace system is
deployed in a carrier (service provider) environment. This type of
deployment, illustrated in FIG. 3, allows carriers to provide data
management services along with communications and messaging services. As
shown in FIG. 3, the WorkSpace system is connected to a carrier's
telephony switch 310 regardless of whether the switch was operating in
circuit-switched or packet-based environments. In another embodiment, the
WorkSpace system itself could be used instead of a separate carrier
switch for switching and routing voice calls. If this were the case, the
carrier would have to deploy a media gateway 330 either stand-alone as
shown or integrated with the WorkSpace system to handle TDM to VoIP
conversions. In the former scenario, packetized voice calls would travel
over a data network 325 to the carrier's WorkSpace servers 315. In the
latter scenario, TDM voice traffic would terminate into the WorkSpace
servers after passing through a media gateway 330. End users access the
WorkSpace system through a telephone device or a computer device 350
connected to a data network which may be either private or public. Users
could also access the WorkSpace system through a telephone device
connected to the PSTN.
 As in the enterprise environment, carriers may choose to deploy
messaging platforms of different vendors or additional servers 320 that
are tied to WorkSpace systems over a data network 325. Additional or
separate data servers 335 could also be connected in the same manner.
Carriers may also choose to provide third-party hosted applications 370
that are not part of the WorkSpace system. A carrier may also opt to
deploy real-time communications servers manufactured by a third-party
vendor 340. As long as industry-standard, non-proprietary protocols are
used by third-party vendors of message management, data management, and
real-time communications devices, integration with the WorkSpace system
requires virtually no integration effort. The above-described
infrastructure would be connected through a private and/or public data
 Carriers that want to retain their embedded TDM infrastructure but
also support packet-voice traffic could deploy media gateways 330 to
convert TDM traffic to the appropriate packet-voice protocol. This would
be in addition to a TDM switch. Alternatively, a carrier could deploy a
hybrid telephony switch capable of both circuit switching and packet
switching of voice traffic. This configuration would also permit carriers
to migrate voice traffic from legacy TDM equipment to packet-voice
equipment over time.
 In one embodiment, the WorkSpace system provides a portal comprised
of three main work functions of individuals today. These functions
consist of (1) communications across various media, (2) management of
different types of messages, and (3) management of documents and
databases. Each of these functions in turn includes numerous
sub-functions. The software contains code to control access and security
to the system. The software code is also designed to work with other
mechanisms for managing access to computer devices and data storage
devices that may have been developed by others. Interfaces to third-party
communications systems such as telephony switching systems to handle
different types of communications may also be included in the WorkSpace
system. By embodying the ability to interface with communications systems
or by incorporating communications system functions within in it, and by
utilizing its message management technology to manage documents, the
WorkSpace system goes beyond the mere unified communications and group
work technologies that are commonplace today.
 While the WorkSpace system may be particularly suitable for an
enterprise environment, the ability to access WorkSpace systems over the
Internet enables the creation of personal WorkSpace services that can be
offered by hosting and communications service providers. It integrates
communications, message management, and document management functions in
a single system. It is especially well suited to work with user devices
that are capable of both voice and data communications. Two examples of
these devices include hybrid hand-held phone-computer devices and
stationary computer user devices enabled for real-time communications.
 In one embodiment of the invention, accessing the WorkSpace system
is similar to accessing well-publicized Internet or Web portals. While
such portals typically have Web-based applications that provide real-time
stock quotes or up-to-the-minute news along with Web-enabled transactions
such as online shopping and online dating, one embodiment of the
WorkSpace portal is more specifically geared towards work-related
functions of communications, message management, and document management.
The WorkSpace portal is accessible either over the public Internet or
through a private data network and allows only authorized users to access
the system. Once within the system through the WorkSpace portal, basic
functions as well as applications built upon these functions are made
available to the user. In its most basic form, a user can access various
message types, communicate or send messages across multiple media, and
access documents made available to the user. The WorkSpace system,
however, is designed to accommodate more complex combinations of these
functions that are customized for specific individuals, systems, or
processes. These combinations are essentially custom-developed
applications available to users or systems that access them through the
WorkSpace portal. The WorkSpace system is also designed to interface
seamlessly with third-party applications and databases.
Core Workspace Functionalities
 While embodiments of the WorkSpace system allow for advanced
management of communications, messages, and documents, some of the core
functionalities of the WorkSpace system will now be highlighted. In one
embodiment of the WorkSpace system, users can send, receive, forward, and
otherwise manage messages of different types, including but not limited
to email, text messages, faxes, voice messages, and video messages. These
messages can be sent and forwarded to as well as received from both other
WorkSpace system users/locations and users/locations external to the
WorkSpace system. As different types of messaging are developed, they too
can be easily incorporated into the WorkSpace system.
 The WorkSpace system also allows users to communicate with both
system users and users external to the system. In one embodiment of the
WorkSpace system, users can send, receive, and forward instant messages
("IM"). They can also make and receive audio phone calls and video phone
calls as well as forward such calls to destinations both within and
external to the WorkSpace system. They may also participate in audio
conferences, video conferences, Web conferences, group chat, and various
combinations of these and other collaborative communication schemes.
 Document access and management is another core functionality of the
Workspace system. Users can store documents of different types and access
them through the various interfaces to the WorkSpace system. More
importantly, they can save the documents they accessed back to their
original locations with little or no manual intervention (i.e., no
uploading of document from a local computer to a WorkSpace system
computer or server is required). They may also transfer these documents
through the messaging capabilities of the system. The WorkSpace system
can also be linked to external data sources to facilitate a single access
interface or it can be more closely integrated with third-party data
sources to enable meaningful management of such data through the various
functionalities of the WorkSpace system.
 The WorkSpace system is also a Personal Information Manager. In
particular, the system has an extensive contacts management function.
Schedule (event) management of a single user or a group of users and the
assignment and tracking of tasks are also facilitated by the system.
Finally, the system has an extensive alerts functionality that reminds
users of particular events, deadlines, or tasks through various messaging
and communications methods. In one embodiment, alerts may be in the form
of: a direct alert in one's inbox; an email; a text message; a recorded
message sent to a phone number; a pop up while logged in; or any
combination of these methods.
 In one embodiment of the invention, both the contacts and the
calendar functions of the system are integrated with the messaging and
communications modules of the WorkSpace system. For example, both
messages and communications may be generated from the contacts section.
Information from a user's contacts is also made available when various
rules for managing information within the WorkSpace system are specified.
Similarly the calendar items are integrated with both the messaging and
communications modules to enable multi-media alerts and to schedule both
events and tasks.
 While there is prior art that focuses on one or more of the core
functionalities within the WorkSpace system, there are virtually no
systems that combine all of the above-mentioned functionalities in a
single platform. This integration of messaging, document management, and
communications functions mentioned above (or any combinations) in a
single platform is innovative. So too is the advanced means of managing
such information (both statically (information storage and access) as
well as dynamically (information flows) that are described in greater
User Access and Information Flows
 In one embodiment, users may access WorkSpace system functions and
applications in several ways including: over a telephone device, from a
data network access device such as a personal computer, or through hybrid
devices such as I-Mode phones, Blackberry handheld devices, and devices
that access data sources through voice recognition schemes. As shown in
FIG. 4, users generally access WorkSpace system computers with devices
480 connected to the PSTN and/or the Internet. Of course, access through
other public and private voice and data networks is also possible. Given
the narrow bandwidth of the telephone and the generally imperfect user
experience with accessing text over the telephone, most users are
unlikely to want long text messages or documents read to them over the
telephone. Such access to text messages or documents is technically
feasible and can easily be accommodated if desired by users through the
use of Text-To-Speech ("TTS") engines. Non-text documents (such as
spreadsheets and databases) and non-text messages (such as faxes) may be
accessed over a narrow-band telephone device but they may not be
susceptible to much meaningful manipulation or management. In one
embodiment of the invention, for such documents and messages, users
access their summary characteristics (such as size, name, or document
type) over the telephone and use such characteristics to transfer them
and perform other management functions, as described herein.
 One way to access a WorkSpace system is over a data network to
which the user is connected over a broadband connection. One particular
user device is a hybrid telephone-computer device that communicates over
both voice and data networks. This optimal access method allows fast and
complete access to one's documents and messages in addition to convenient
real-time communications. The broadband connection may be either in the
form of Web access using a browser or in the form of a computer
application (computer client application). The browser-based Web access
gives the user ubiquitous access from anywhere and from virtually any
device connected to the Internet.
 Access through a computer client application requires WorkSpace
software to be installed on the device used for access to the WorkSpace
system. However, the use of the computer client application gives the
user additional capabilities such as working offline (i.e., not connected
to a WorkSpace system) to compose messages or to schedule one's calendar.
The computer client application also overcomes many of the limitations
inherent in the use of a Web browser such as the ability to seamlessly
and quickly save a document back to its original location in a WorkSpace
system. Such saving back is virtually seamless when the client
application is the system access method. It should be noted however, that
in one embodiment of the invention, a Web plug-in allows users to save
back their documents to their original WorkSpace location without having
to save the documents locally and then uploading them to the WorkSpace
location. Finally, the computer client application of the WorkSpace
system is designed so that WorkSpace system computers can be accessed
through the client as long as there is an Internet connection.
 Information (broadly defined) is either stored directly on or is
sent to WorkSpace systems by individuals or systems over voice and data
networks, both public and private. Examples of such information include
voice calls, faxes, text messages, emails and documents. As shown in FIG.
4, incoming information is generated by voice-network-connected devices
or systems 460, data-network-connected devices or systems 455, and
data-network-connected data storage and production devices 450 (grouped
as 410 in FIG. 4). Based on the preferences and the settings of the user,
the information is processed by the WorkSpace system and routed to
voice-network-connected user devices or systems 475,
data-network-connected user devices or systems 470, and
data-network-connected data storage and production devices 465 (grouped
as 420 in FIG. 4). In addition, users may be notified of messages and
documents that they have received based on notification criteria
established in a WorkSpace system 430, as described herein. When
connected to communications switching equipment or communications
networks, or if communications functions are incorporated within a
WorkSpace system, users may engage in real-time and other communications
enabled by such equipment and networks. As mentioned earlier, the
functionalities enabling such communications need not be external to the
Examples of Integrated Communications, Message Management, and Document
 While the message management functionality of the WorkSpace system
is valuable by itself, the system utilizes message management as a tool
to make more efficient work processes that require either document
management/transfer capabilities and/or message management/communications
capabilities. Many such processes are handled today as separate
sub-processes and often by separate applications--ones to handle message
management and communications and others to handle the management of
documents and data. These processes generally involve multiple tasks
 By way of example, consider a message (voicemail or email) sent by
a customer placing an order or a completed order form (fax or
Internet-based form) to purchase a product or service. In FIG. 4, the
voice mail and fax arrives at the WorkSpace system through voice-network
connected user devices 460 and the email arrives from a data-network
connected user device 455, typically a computer tied to an email server.
The Internet-based form would be stored on a data-network connected data
storage device 450 that the user would access over the Internet,
complete, and then forward to the WorkSpace system. Many fulfillment
processes for customer orders require multiple tasks involving multiple
individuals and queues. As a first step, the message management platform
could either attach the message to or embed it within the company's order
form. It could then be automatically sent to a queue requiring the first
fulfillment task. These two steps would result from software instructions
within the WorkSpace system (i.e., implemented by one or more of the
functional modules shown in FIG. 7). Since the message itself is now part
of the order form, the fulfillment person could even review the message
if they want to confirm certain details from the customer's message.
 Furthermore, in one embodiment, a call may be generated to the
customer if the message contained a call-back number and thus would
combine communications functions with document and message management
functions. The WorkSpace system enables such communications either by
incorporating communications functionalities within itself or by
connecting to communications switching and routing equipment either
directly or indirectly through communications networks, as described
above with respect to FIGS. 2-3.
 To continue with the example, the first fulfillment person may
attach a voice file to the order form to clarify any special instructions
with their own call-back number for the benefit of the person handling
the next task or queue. This integrated approach also allows the customer
to find out by telephone or over the Internet the particular status of
their order which is easily identified by the task or queue.
 An extension of this approach is to have a voice recognition
algorithm convert the customer's initial phone order onto an order form
with the voice message still attached to the order form and available for
validation by a fulfillment person. One example of this type of order
process is prescription call-ins to pharmacies by physicians. If this
were the application contained in one embodiment of a WorkSpace system,
voice recognition software tied to within the system would complete the
prescription order form within a certain degree of certainty. The
attached voice message would be available for validation of the order but
filling out the order would be at least partially completed.
 Another example of a process where communications, message
management, and document management functions are integrated involves
sorting and managing information based on characteristics of the sender
or those of the information itself. In a telephone call context, the
calling number ("ANI") or the called number ("DNIS") associated with a
telephone call may determine where the voice message file would be
placed. For example, consider the above example of physician prescription
call-ins. A nationwide pharmacy chain could assign unique toll-free
numbers for each pharmacy location. The voice message files could then be
sent to and stored in mailboxes specific to a pharmacy location.
Alternatively, the voice message files could be attached to or embedded
within a prescription order form and sent to a specific document location
for the pharmacy. This involves specific routing and forwarding
instructions 420 implemented by the WorkSpace system that send the
document to a data-network connected data storage device 465 that is
accessible by pharmacy staff over voice or data networks.
 As a general proposition, characteristics of documents, messages,
and real-time communications may determine whether and how the WorkSpace
system stores, sends, or otherwise handles information it has received.
Of course, specific instructions to handle the information are triggered
by such characteristics. For example, in one embodiment of the invention,
the type of document attached to a message or otherwise sent to a user is
used by the WorkSpace system to determine where the document is stored.
For example, a user may wish to store all spreadsheet files that they
received in a specified location (e.g., a spreadsheet binder). Another
user may specify that both messages and documents from different sources
be stored together or sent to the same location. Similar instructions may
also be dictated by work processes as opposed to users. Context-specific
applications for such routing and forwarding 420 may be employed through
the core communications, message management, and document management
software within the WorkSpace system, as described herein.
 Another example of integrated communications, document management,
and message management functions involves individuals accessing documents
based on certain summary characteristics and requesting over the
telephone that these documents be sent to designated recipient locations
(e.g., fax machine or email address). For example, an individual may
request that a paper titled "Voice-over-IP White Paper" in one of their
directories be sent to their boss's email address or to the fax number of
a hotel where a colleague is staying. Even documents that are external to
a specific WorkSpace system could be accessed and managed in a similar
fashion. Security for access to external documents, however, would be an
added consideration. Thus, one embodiment of the WorkSpace system
provides integration of document management functions with message
management and communications capabilities. In one embodiment, documents
may be accessed over a data network (including the Internet) and managed
with message management functions. Similar access and management of
documents is also possible over the telephone.
 A final example entails the creation and delivery of "meta
documents," documents that are comprised of sub-documents of different
types. For example, a mortgage application may consist of copies of tax
documents (possibly a TIF file), an application form (possibly a PDF
file), and a spreadsheet listing an individual's assets against which the
mortgage is obtained. Finally, an applicant may wish to include a
personal cover letter (possibly a word processing file) or a note along
with the application to explain certain irregularities in their
application. On the reverse side of the transaction, the mortgage company
may want to deliver to the applicant closing documents that may also
consist of different types of sub-documents. Indeed, many transactions
involve documents of different types that must be delivered to different
parties to a transaction. Such documents today are sent as attachments to
an electronic message, or as stored documents on a storage disk, or more
commonly, printed out and mailed to the relevant party to the
 One embodiment of the WorkSpace document management engine allows
for the creation of a meta-document comprised of different document
types. Its meta-document creation software allows for the assembly of
documents of various formats, thereby creating a single unified document
using a simple Graphical User Interface ("GUI"). FIG. 5a illustrates one
embodiment of a GUI used to create and transfer a meta-document. The
interface allows the end user to compose a personal note 510 that is
typically attached to a set of documents that are transferred. It also
allows the user to place various types of documents 520 in sequence
within the meta-document itself. Documents of different types and sizes
may be organized within the meta-document in the sequence chosen by the
user. These documents are stored in locations that are connected to or
otherwise accessible from the user's WorkSpace system. The documents may
be on the user's computer, on a network shared document storage device,
or even a third-party location. In one embodiment, users may select
documents to be included within the meta-document using a "browse"
function such as those used to attach documents to electronic mail.
Security and access rights may be considered in determining whether
documents may be placed within the meta-document.
 Once a meta-document has been created, several options are
available for delivery of the meta-document. One option involves the
transfer of the meta-document to a secure but accessible data storage
area (e.g., such as an FTP or Web site) where security information such
as a password specific to the document transfer is needed to access the
document. The sender of the message may create the password or have it
automatically generated as soon as the document is sent. If so desired,
the sender may also request that the system automatically provide the
password to the recipient (e.g., via an email, text or voice message).
For security or convenience reasons, however, the sender may prefer to
provide the password information to the recipient verbally or through
some other means of communication. Once the recipient accesses the file
and downloads it successfully, in one embodiment, an electronic receipt
notification is automatically transmitted to the sender. The foregoing
process effectively replaces the overnight mail delivery of documents.
The same process, of course, may be clearly used for the transfer of a
single document without the creation of a meta-document.
 If security or receipt notification is not a concern, the sender
may send the meta-document as an electronic mail attachment or even have
it faxed (text documents only) to a designated fax number location.
Another option is to have each of the component documents within the
meta-document automatically or manually printed out, assembled, and
delivered through physical delivery methods such as overnight mail. As
shown in FIG. 5b, various delivery methods enabled by WorkSpace system
software may also be used for the delivery of such documents, depending
on the size of the document and the urgency of delivery. The combination
of meta-document creation combined with a delivery mechanism that is part
of an integrated message/document management system is particularly
 As highlighted by the above examples, the most efficient use of the
functionalities within the WorkSpace system involves processes that
integrate communications, message management and document management
functions as required by business practices or as dictated by user
preferences. The use of communications and message management platforms
as engines for document management, all within a unified portal
framework, is advantageous.
An Exemplary System Hardware
 FIG. 6 illustrates one embodiment of a WorkSpace system computer
651, which may perform the functions of a Web server, a messaging server
for the management and storage of messages, a server for the storage of
documents and/or databases, and a server for switching and routing
real-time communications as described herein. A similar computer system,
either attached to system 651 with a telephone network interface or
within system 651 itself, with TTS and speech recognition programs may be
used to read text messages to users and to implement a voice response
unit, as described herein.
 The CPU 652 may contain a single microprocessor (e.g. an x86
microprocessor), or it may contain a plurality of microprocessors for
configuring the computer system 651 as a multi-processor system. The
memories 653 include a main memory, such as a dynamic random access
memory (DRAM), as well as a read only memory, such as a PROM, an EPROM, a
FLASH-EPROM, or the like. The system 651 also includes mass storage
devices 655 such as various disk drives and tape drives. The main memory
typically includes dynamic random access memory and high-speed cache
memory. In operation, the main memory stores at least portions of
instructions and data for execution by the CPU 652.
 The mass storage may include one or more magnetic disk or tape
drives or optical disk drives, for storing data and instructions for use
by CPU 652. For an enterprise-based WorkSpace system, for example, at
least one mass storage system 655 in the form of a disk drive or tape
drive, stores the operating system and application software as well as
data, such as received and sent messages and documents. The mass storage
system 655 within the computer system 651 may also include one or more
drives for various portable media, such as a floppy disk, a compact disc
read only memory (CD-ROM), or an integrated circuit non-volatile memory
adapter (i.e. PC-MCIA adapter) to input and output data and code to and
from the computer system 651. It should be noted that mass storage
devices for messages, documents, and other user information, as well as
parts of the application software may be outside computer system 651.
 The computer system 651 also includes one or more input/output
interfaces for communications, shown by way of example as an interface
659 for real-time communications via a real-time communications network.
Examples of real-time communications include: voice calls; video calls;
audio conferences; video conferences; and audio/video conferences
integrated with Web conferences. The interface 659 may be a modem,
channel bank, digital signal processor card with ports, fax cards, or any
other appropriate voice-grade communications device, for digital and
analog communications of various types via a voice communications
network. The physical communication links may be optical, wired, or
wireless (e.g., via satellite or cellular network).
 The computer system 651 may further include appropriate
input/output ports 656 for interconnection with data networks or devices
connected over a common data network. The input/output ports 656 may be a
modem, an Ethernet card or any other appropriate data communications
device. To provide the WorkSpace service to a large number of customers,
the interface 656 preferably provides a relatively high-speed link to a
data network or to the Internet. The physical communication link may be
optical, wired, or wireless (e.g., via satellite or cellular network).
Alternatively, the computer system may comprise a mainframe or other type
of host computer system capable of Web-based communications via a data
network or the Internet. The input/output ports may include a display and
keyboard serving as the administrative or user interface. Although not
shown, the server type system could also include a port for connection to
a printer. The input/output ports are one of the main access points for
users into the computer system 651 as well as the point of
interconnection with other WorkSpace systems and related computer
 Each computer system 651 runs a variety of application programs and
stores data, enabling one or more interactions via the communications
interfaces or the input/output ports to implement the desired processing
for the WorkSpace service or the processing of requests for related
services. One or more such applications enable the delivery of Web pages,
the management of documents, the generation of email and other messages,
and communications in a real-time environment. Those skilled in the art
will recognize that the computer system 651 may run other programs and/or
host other Web-based or Internet Protocol based services. As such, the
computer system 651 need not sit idle while waiting for WorkSpace service
related functions. Also, the system 651 may be implemented as a single
computer system or as a distributed system having multiple appearances at
different nodes on the Internet.
 The components contained in the computer system 651 are those
typically found in general purpose computer systems used as servers,
workstations, personal computers, network terminals, and the like. In
fact, these components are intended to represent a broad category of such
computer components that are well known in the art. It should be noted,
however, that the underlying principles of the invention are not limited
to any particular computer system architecture.
An Exemplary System Software and Data
 Many concepts discussed herein relate to the software elements,
such as the executable code and/or the various databases containing
information essential for proper working of the executable code, and
other software used to implement the different functions in each of the
software modules identified in FIG. 7. These functions may reside on the
same physical system or on different physical systems that are linked by
local or wide area communications networks. However communications among
WorkSpace systems and computer systems serving as storage systems for
messages, documents and databases may be private and/or appropriately
 Thus, some of the concepts discussed herein relate to
functionalities embedded within and processes enabled by WorkSpace
software. The software consists of executable code that performs various
functions contained within various modules. It also consists of various
databases that are essential to the performance of the executable
software code. The exemplary modules illustrated in FIG. 7 include system
access, security and administrative modules 701 for providing access,
security and network administration functions (e.g., such as user
authentication, encryption, and authorization, as described herein); real
time communication modules 702 and non-real time communication modules
703 for providing the various real time and non-real time communication
techniques described herein; communications, message, and document
filtering modules 704 for providing the various rule-based filtering
techniques described herein; media conversion modules 705 for converting
between different types of communications media (e.g., voicemail to email
conversion); communications, message and document routing modules 710 for
performing various document and message routing functions described
herein; message and document storage modules 707 for performing
message/document storage functions; message and document access and
management modules 708 and 709, respectively, for providing various
message and document management functions described herein; account and
system management modules 706 for providing end users and administrators
with account management capabilities described herein; personal
information management modules 711 for management of contacts, calendar
items (events, tasks, alerts), and other user-specific information; and
search and retrieval modules 712 for providing the search and
message/document retrieval capabilities described herein.
 Thus, FIG. 7 provides a high level view of the functional modules
used to implement a variety of different WorkSpace system features
described herein. The specific functions performed by each of the modules
701-712 will be apparent from the specific examples of system operation
set forth below. It should be noted that other modules necessary for
specific or custom processes or applications may also constitute
functional modules of a WorkSpace system. For example, an embodiment of
the WorkSpace system may entail integration with a company's accounting
system. In this case, an additional third-party application interface
module would constitute a WorkSpace system functional module.
 In one embodiment, the functional modules illustrated in FIG. 7 are
designed to run on a Linux operating system, but may also be extended to
work with other operating systems such as UNIX and Windows. Of course, as
mentioned above, the underlying principles are not limited to any
particular software or hardware implementation.
Embodiments of an Agent Software Architecture for Integrated
Communications, Message, and Document Management
 One embodiment of the invention is built from a plurality of
autonomous communicating entities referred to herein as "agents." By way
of example, messages transmitted via different communication media, such
as email, voice, and text messaging, are managed using agents that
process and communicate messages/documents from one location to another
while respecting various instructions that are associated with the
messages/documents. As described in greater detail below, in one
embodiment, the agents perform their respective functions (e.g.,
processing, routing, filtering) based on a multi-layered set of rules
(see, e.g., FIGS. 27-28).
 In one embodiment of the WorkSpace system, some agents are
responsible for performing specific tasks such as, by way of example,
sending an email, saving a message to a folder, or handling a phone call.
Agents that perform these specific tasks are referred to herein as "Task
Agents." Some agents in the WorkSpace system mainly perform the work of
coordinating the tasks of other agents. Such agents are generally
referred to as "Manager Agents."
 FIG. 8 illustrates an exemplary architecture showing a plurality of
manager agents 800-807 and a plurality of task agents 810-823 managed by
the manager agents. Manager agents are arranged in a hierarchical
fashion, with some manager agents, such as manager agent 800,
coordinating the management activities of other manager agents 801-807.
This model of management is generally called a "Federated System of
Agents" and is a way of organizing communications between agents.
Messages between agents are sent through manager agents so that manager
agents may decide the best way to perform the activities associated with
 Even though the agents 800-807 can run autonomously, i.e., as
independent programs, they can also respond to messages they receive
through a messaging medium. In one embodiment, internet sockets are used
to pass messages between agents, but other techniques for message passing
may also be used. When an agent receives a message it can choose to act
on the message by responding to it, performing a task requested in the
message or ask other agents to perform this or other related tasks.
 Within the WorkSpace system, agents may be organized on the same
computer or they may be organized, according to their function, on
separate computers. Since portions of WorkSpace may operate on different
computers, the WorkSpace system may be considered as a distributed
program. For example, agents handling fax services may reside on one
computer while agents handling Web services may reside on a separate
computer. The agents that are on different computers may work together as
if they are on the same computer by exchanging messages that relate to
performing tasks. For example when a fax arrives at the fax server, an
agent on the fax server will inform its manager agent on the same fax
server, which will then inform the manager agent on the Web server
computer. This information will tell a Web server task agent to update
the Web pages of the user who just received the fax, even though the Web
server computer never received the fax. When the user tries to retrieve
the fax, a Web server agent will, through a system of managers, ask an
agent on the fax server to retrieve the fax and to send it to the user's
 A system of agents accomplishes distributed message management of
equivalent messages through the coordination of multiple management
tasks, one task for each location where the message is stored or sent. At
the head of these agents is a main task manager agent 800 that
coordinates all other manager agents 801-807 and associated task agents.
In one embodiment, when a message is managed by a task agent, the main
task manager is informed when the particular task is performed. This, in
turn, initiates a series of instructions to manage the same message
across the system as specified by a set of rules.
 In operation, any request to the WorkSpace system arrives at one of
the different interfaces provided by one of the manager agents 800-807.
Depending on the nature of the request, a task is initiated within the
domain of the manager, or some other managers are involved in handling
the request. The workflows involved for handling different tasks are
coded into the request-handling manager. In one embodiment, the session
manager agent 807 is involved in most activities not involving telephony
connections and the call manager 806 is involved in activities involving
 As an illustration, suppose that an instant message is sent to a
WorkSpace system user. In one embodiment, this message arrives at an
agent managed by the session manager agent 807 that handles instant
messaging. The session manager agent 807 may invoke some rule-based
filters to decide how to process this message. The security manager 804
may also be involved to determine whether the instant message received is
a legitimate message. The user manager 801 may be involved in retrieving
the user's profile to determine where to forward the message (e.g.,
perhaps in a different format).
 Suppose that the rules/filters determine that a text message
containing the content of the instant message is to be sent to the user's
cell phone. Then, in one embodiment, the appropriately filtered text
message version of the instant message is created by a message
translation agent. This message is then relayed to the user's cell phone
through an agent managed by the call manager agent 806. If the message
cannot be sent successfully, the call manager agent 806 may notify the
session manger agent 807 to send an instant message to the sender,
indicating that the user is offline. To do this, the session manager
agent 807 needs to maintain a session history, so a history agent
subordinate to the session manager is utilized to see how to respond to
the last message.
 The foregoing example illustrates that many different components
may be involved in achieving a task. In addition, tasks may be achieved
asynchronously through message passing and the system does not depend on
every component being available all the time. For example, in the
example, the fact that the user's cell phone is not be turned on is
merely a condition to be handled by the call manager agent 806.
 In addition, each component maintains its own activity and
interprets any arriving request reasonably based on its available
information. For example, in one embodiment, the session manager 807
maintains a history that tells it how to handle a failed attempt to send
a message. This can also take into account other conditions such as a
later message from the same sender.
 Moreover, for tasks that may involve significant computational or
communications resources, many versions of the same capability (i.e., the
same manager agents and associated task agents) can be provided within
WorkSpace system. For example when experiencing a high volume of call
handling, the session manager may communicate with the next available
call manager through the local high speed network just as if it is on the
 Finally, using the agent architecture, capabilities may be
developed and added in stages (e.g., some can be achieved and tested
while others are being developed). For example, until a text message
agent is available, an email agent may send an email to the user
containing the text of the instant message. Incorporating the text
message manager would then require only a few lines of extra program
logic when the text message manager becomes available.
 The foregoing example is intended to illustrate the way agent-based
systems work in managing messages and communications, but should not be
read to limit the scope of the present invention. Different agent types
and hierarchies may be employed while still complying with the underlying
principles of the invention.
 In one embodiment of the invention, the set of agents illustrated
in FIG. 8 provide the following features to the WorkSpace system:
 1. User Manager Agent 801
 1.1. Profile--each user has a profile that expresses user
information such as logins, address or devices. This may also include
accounting information for billing and personal information such as
contacts and calendar items (events, tasks, alerts).
 1.2. Preference management--users can express preferences that may
be used by the filtering and routing subsystems of the session manager.
 1.3. Capabilities--users may be provisioned for various
combinations of services. These preferences are used by the session
manager to decide on services available to the user. The provisioning
manager interacts with the user to recall and change account capabilities
that can be later used during sessions.
 2. Storage Manager Agent 802
 2.1. Archival agent--data about prior states of the WorkSpace
system, including, by way of example and not limitation, database backups
and previous user preferences that are saved using an archival, or
 2.2. Session history agent--history of various sessions are stored
using a session history manager that can recall previous sessions. This
is also the part that may be affected if very large storage for user
sessions, such as email and voice mail, is offered as part of WorkSpace
system. There are different session histories for different communication
modes, each of these may be handled by a separate agent:
 2.2.1. Fax history agent--provides a history of received/sent
 2.2.2. Text message history agent--provides a history of
received/sent text messages using the short message service.
 2.2.3. IM history agent--provides a history of received/sent
 2.2.4. Email history agent--provides a history of received/sent
 2.2.5. Voice message history agent--provides a history of
received/sent voice messages.
 2.3. Call records agent--record of various telecommunication
sessions are saved since these may be needed for billing some services
and also for resolving disputes.
 2.4. Voice mail archives agent--this manages older voice mail
messages and usually includes automatic cleanup of old records (being
autonomous, the agent can perform this task at regular time intervals
regardless of other activities.)
 3. Account Manager Agent 803
 3.1. Billing agent--involves preparing the bills on regular
intervals according to different criteria. There may be different modes
of billing such as direct billing and credit card billing that may be
handled by subsystems of this agent.
 3.2. Account profile agent--a user may have different profiles,
different display preferences, multiple messaging accounts, and other
information specific to the user.
 3.3. Account utilities agent--interfaces with external data sources
with which data is exchanged. There may be different subsystems for this
agent that handle tasks such as synchronization of data (e.g., personal
contacts, calendar items), exporting and importing of data including
sound and image files, and interfacing with external applications (e.g.,
corporate accounting system, third-party content providers).
 4. Security Manager Agent 804
 4.1. Web security agent--this manages security of the Web site,
with log-ins, cookies, secure sockets and other standard Web security
 4.2. Device security agent--deals with similar security
considerations for other access devices. The method and quality of
security will differ based on device capabilities.
 4.3. Secure storage agent--applies primarily to accounting
information, but it can also be used in managing storage of anything
securely. The functionality here is to store everything in such a way
that all information is stored in an encrypted way so that a compromised
computer does not compromise the contents in storage.
 4.4. Voice signature agent--is a way to manage security of voice
sessions, it is a possible addition to the various functions, but may
require integration with some third party system.
 Data Manager Agent 805--Manages the various databases employed on
the WorkSpace system including, for example:
 5.1. Personal Information databases--manages each user's contacts
and calendar items.
 5.2. Telephone number database--manages comprehensive list of
 5.3. Account history--user account history
 5.4. Session history--includes major parameters such as session
duration, start and end time for each mode of access. More detailed
session data such as email or voice mail may be separately stored by the
 5.5. Provisioning history--this is useful for account disputes
 5.6. Management reports--the database can produce a variety of
reports, this can also use some standard report generation tools.
 5.7. Just in time information systems--this may be used for
management reports, but it can also be a service that supplies filtered
reports to users.
 6. Call Manager 806--manages all aspects of telecommunications.
 6.1. PSTN interface--access to the PSTN through an intelligent
 6.2. Fax server--this is an important WorkSpace system component
for managing incoming/outgoing fax traffic.
 6.3. Voice mail server--this is another important WorkSpace system
component for managing voicemail.
 6.4. Voice services--involves managing messages using voice
commands and may require some third party components.
 6.6. Telecommunications services including forwarding, recording,
conferencing, and blocking of voice and video calls and conferences.
 6.7. Voice over IP services--for providing and managing voice over
 6.8. Fax over IP services--for managing fax over IP communications.
 7. Session manager 807--Manages user sessions within the WorkSpace
 7.1. Web session manager
 7.1.1. Web page server
 7.1.2. Application interfaces
 7.1.3. Database manager for Web sessions
 7.2. Filtering subsystem
 7.2.1. Rule management
 184.108.40.206. Rule session--where the user defines the rules
 220.127.116.11. Logical rule interpreter--this may utilize a simple rule
 18.104.22.168. Flexible rule interpreter--this involves finding balanced
resolution between multiple possibly conflicting rules
 7.2.2. Learning filters
 22.214.171.124. Neural network learning filters
 126.96.36.199. Machine learning systems
 7.2.3. Spam filters--if required
 188.8.131.52. Email filter
 184.108.40.206. IM filter
 220.127.116.11. Voice call filter
 18.104.22.168. Fax filter
 22.214.171.124. Voice message filter
 126.96.36.199. Text message filter
 7.3. Message translation system--consists of systems for extracting
information from messages in one format and sending that information in
an appropriate form to a target device. The following agents are merely
 7.3.1. Fax header to telephone
 7.3.2. Email to stored voice messages
 7.3.3. Voice mail to email enclosure
 7.3.4. Any media to text message
 7.3.5. Any media to speech
 7.4. Provisioning
 7.4.1. Account provisioning--may also be in the accounts manager
 7.4.2. Route provisioning--setting up various call and message
 7.4.3. Route preferences--is related to rules and user profiles
 7.5. Synchronization
 7.5.1. Synchronization with other messaging systems or external
 7.5.2. Synchronization with desktop data
 7.6. Third party devices
 7.6.1. Wireline phone devices
 7.6.2. Wireless phone devices
 7.6.3. Wireline computer devices
 7.6.4. Wireless computer devices
 7.6.5. Personal Digital Assistants
 7.6.6. Hybrid phone/computer devices
 7.7. Call session manager--handles various aspects of a call
session and is related to the call manager.
 7.8. History manager--also interacts with history storage and
 7.9. Voice session--largely voice-based sessions. The following
components may be considered separately:
 7.9.1. Voice recognition
 7.9.2. Text to speech (TTS)
 7.9.3. Voice dialing
 7.9.4. Voice security
 In one embodiment of the invention, the hierarchical, agent-based
architecture described above is used to enable the various WorkSpace
system features described herein. It should be noted, however, that the
underlying principles of the invention are not limited to any particular
software or hardware architecture.
Context-Specific Views and Filtering Using a Virtual Contextual File
 Individual users of computer devices access documents and messages
in a variety of formats. Generally, different document/message sets are
associated with different devices. The documents accessed on a desktop,
for example, are often different from those obtained through the Web.
Similarly, the documents/messages retrieved through telephone systems
form yet another set of documents/messages. One embodiment of the
WorkSpace integrated message and document management system overcomes
limitations of traditional systems and aims to provide contextual access
to messages and documents from different devices.
 Users generally need access to not just individual documents but a
group of related documents. Users of desktop computers generally organize
related documents in folders. The simplest way to provide access to
documents is to provide access to documents based on the physical
organization of documents in a desktop computer. This however does not
meet the requirements of contextual access. Users may have different
contexts for their documents. For example, a user may have various
work-related projects. In addition, such a user may have contexts
associated with home, social activities or hobbies. One embodiment of the
WorkSpace system provides contextual access to groups of
documents/messages and yet provides this access in a way similar to how
messages/documents may be accessed on a familiar desktop system.
 FIG. 9a illustrates one embodiment of a Virtual Contextual File
System ("VCFS") implemented within the WorkSpace system to provide users
with contextual views of messages and/or documents. The VCFS 930 is
connected to the PSTN 920 and the LAN/WAN INTERNET 960. The VCFS 930 is
also connected to document/message servers 980 within the WorkSpace
system that provide raw document and message (hereinafter referred to
generally as "documents" in this section) storage. The document servers
980 may support any of the document and message types described herein
including, for example, email messages, voice messages, fax messages,
word processing documents, and spreadsheets. The documents stored within
the document storage may be accessed through any of the communication
channels described herein including, for example, telephone or fax
devices 910, Internet phones 950 or computer devices 970. Devices
utilizing wireless telephony are included among telephone and fax devices
910, while a variety of computer devices including internet devices and
wireless local area network devices are included among computer devices
 In one embodiment, the VCFS and the other components illustrated in
FIG. 9a exist within the framework of the WorkSpace system and the agent
architecture described above. For example, the call manager agent 806
(and associated task agents) may provide connectivity to telephony
devices 910, 950 and the data manager agent 805 (and associated task
agents) may provide access to the document servers 980. In fact, in one
embodiment, the VCFS is itself a manager agent which communicates with
the rest of the agent framework via message passing. In one embodiment,
documents are organized according to contexts such as "Work," "Friends,"
and "Home." A variety of additional customized contexts may be specified
by the user.
 FIG. 9b provides a more detailed illustration of one embodiment of
the VCFS. Access device 911 may be any access device including PSTN
phones, fax devices, Internet computers, Internet phones, or computing
devices of all types. Through the graphical user interface 900 (or other
type of interface) of the access device 911, users may specify contexts
941 for document viewing and access. For example, as illustrated a user
may specify a "Work" context. In response, context mapping module 921
within the VCFS will employ document filtering techniques to ensure that
only documents related to "Work" are displayed and made accessible to the
user. In addition, in one embodiment, the user may switch contexts at any
time. In one embodiment, the GUI 900 includes a drop-down menu for
switching between contexts (e.g., such as those described below). In
response, the context mapping module 921 generates a new view based on
the selected context. For example, in response to selection of the
"Friends" context via the GUI 900, the VCFS will filter out any documents
not associated with the "Friends" context. In one embodiment, the
currently selected context 941 within the access device is used by the
VCFS to identify and organize documents related to the particular
 Information associated with the current context is communicated to
the VCFS through various network protocols (e.g., wireless and Internet
transmission protocols including wireless Internet). The Context mapping
module 921 interprets the context to create the virtual file systems by
retrieving information associated with the current context from the
document servers 980. Thus, for each context, such as "Work" or
"Friends," the context mapping module 921 maps actual files or folders
residing on the document server 980 to the current context 941 of the
access device. As illustrated, the document server contains multiple
files (e.g., documents and messages) and folders such as "File or Folder
 Each context within the context mapping module 921 is associated
with an arrangement of files and folders on the document server.
Moreover, it is possible for different contexts to share one or more
files or folders on the document server (such as "File or Folder C" in
the illustrated example). It is also possible to have files or folders on
the document server 980 that are not associated with any context.
 FIG. 9c illustrates the operation of one embodiment of the context
mapping module 921. In this embodiment, the context mapping module 921
performs the mapping functions through a set of rules which may be
specified by the user (e.g., via the WorkSpace user interface as
described below). The VCFS may also contain a set of predefined rules.
For example, a predefined rule may associate documents created between 8
a.m. and 5 p.m. with the "Work" context. The context mapping module 921
interprets the rules to search the document system for files and folders
matching the current context. This information is then packaged to appear
to be a real file system that simulates the desktop appearance of a file
 The context mapping module illustrated in FIG. 9c includes three
major components: a document indexing system 922, the rule interpreter
912 and a virtual disk 902. The document indexing system 922 maintains
persistent, up-to-date information related to the files and folders that
are used by the VCFS. Specifically, in one embodiment, the document
indexing system 922 creates and updates information that facilitates
later retrieval of documents (performed, for example, during periods of
low user activity). This involves analyzing the contents of the actual
document storage 980 to associate documents with certain specified
properties. Information from this analysis is stored in a property list
932 that extends the usual dictionaries used in search operations. A
property list may contain details besides document contents. For example,
it may contain information about the time of creation and the times and
durations of previous access, when associated with various contexts. In
particular, property lists also contain information, called ancestry,
about each file or folder in terms of its "parent" and other "ancestor"
folders. The property list is used to create a reverse index 942 which
associates queries about documents with actual documents according to
document properties. In a simple example, the reverse index could
associate a point in time with documents created within a few hours of
that point in time.
 In one embodiment, the reverse index 942 and property list 932 are
further analyzed within the document indexing system 922 using a scoring
system 952. This system assigns scores to matching documents so as to
organize the documents using a number of different criteria. Some of the
criteria may be common criteria associated with file systems on the
desktop. For example, the scoring system 952 may organize files based on
alphabetical ordering of names and/or times of creation or access. Other
scoring criteria may be based on various measures of relevance such as
frequency of access or higher degree of match with each document query.
 Another function of the document indexing system is executed when
users are searching for documents. This operation involves the virtual
disk 902 and the rule interpreter 912. During this function, queries are
sent from the rule interpreter to the document indexing system. Each
query accesses the reverse index 942 and the scoring system 952 to create
a hierarchy of files and folders based on the query.
 The rule interpreter 912 utilizes predefined or customized rules
associated with the user's current context. For example, one rule
associated with the "Work" context may state "Documents created under
folders starting with the name `Project` belong to the Work context."
Another rule may state "If a document A has text that substantially
overlaps text from a document B already belonging to the Work context,
then A also belongs to the Work context." A virtually unlimited number of
additional rules may be employed. The find documents 962 component of the
rule interpreter is a rule-based interpreter that translates rules, such
as the ones mentioned, to query terms that are understood by the document
indexing system. For example, documents that fall within a folder
starting with the name "Project" are identified through the reverse index
942 using the ancestry property of each file or folder.
 Once a hierarchy of folders or files is obtained from the document
indexing system 922, the package documents component 972 creates a
secure, possibly compressed, version of the file system on the document
server 980 for use by the virtual disk. The packaging may include whole
documents or just links to documents based on the user's context and
current access device. For example, if the user is accessing documents
through a telephone, the package documents component 972 may provide the
information only in the form of links, whereas if the user is accessing
through a broadband internet connection, the package documents component
972 may supply the entire contents of some files.
 In one embodiment, the contents from the package documents
component 972 is utilized by the virtual disk 902 to present the user
with a file system that mimics the appearance and functionality of an
ordinary desktop file system (e.g., such as Windows). The first step of
providing this view is to retrieve the packaged documents (or packaged
links) from the package documents component 972 of the rule interpreter
912. After retrieving the packaged documents, a disk organization
component 982 arranges the packaged information in the form of a disk.
The user may access this information through a variety of devices.
Depending on the device, the device access module 992 interprets the disk
organization information in a manner suitable for the device. For
example, when documents are accessed using a personal digital assistant,
the device access module 992 may provide the documents using a familiar
folder view as on desktops, but if accessed through a telephone,
documents may be arranged in the form of a menu as in interactive voice
response ("IVR") systems.
Advanced Rule-Based Administration & Management for Communications,
Messages and Documents
 As mentioned above, one embodiment of the WorkSpace system employs
a variety of rule-based techniques for managing communication channels,
messages and documents. In particular, users may invoke advanced rules to
perform functions such as filtering, routing, synchronization,
notification, and searching. The specification of rules (criteria,
exceptions, and actions) is essential to advanced management of messages,
documents, and communications. Such rules may be specified (1) on a
system-wide basis applicable to all users, (2) at the system-level but
applicable to a select set of users or accounts; (3) at the system-level
in the form of pre-defined default rules that can be changed by the user;
and (4) at the user level in the form of rules that the user can define,
activate, and change.
 The WorkSpace system employs various techniques to facilitate
advanced information management including filters, views, searches, and
saved searches. Given a particular set of information, filters narrow the
set based on criteria defined by a user. In general, filters are used to
narrow the set of information temporarily, quickly, and somewhat broadly.
Filters are used in the WorkSpace system to narrow pre-defined sets of
messages, documents, contacts, and calendar items. Pre-defined sets of
messages include messages in a given folder, messages that comprise a
view, and messages retrieved by a search. Pre-defined sets of documents
include documents in a given binder, documents that comprise a view, and
documents retrieved by a search. Pre-defined sets of contacts include the
entire set of contacts and contacts retrieved by a search. Pre-defined
sets of calendar items include the entire set of calendar items,
particular subsets of calendar items (events, tasks, alerts), and
calendar items retrieved by a search. The notion of a pre-defined set
could easily be extended. In general, filters are temporary and any
characteristic of the set of underlying members of the information set
(e.g., document name, receipt date of a message) could be used to define
 In contrast to a filter, "views" are more permanent. Users specify
the various sources of information (e.g., folders, binders) as well as
the characteristics of such information. Views are permanent displays of
the filtered information and are automatically updated as the information
in the defined sources change. Examples of views that many users find
extremely useful include "new messages," "messages from particular
people," "documents attached to messages," and "documents in a particular
storage location" such as a user's local drive.
 Searches of various kinds (quick, basic, and advanced) allow a user
to retrieve information based on the information source and information
characteristics that a user specifies. In contrast to views, searches are
ad hoc and temporary. They are applied to information within the
specified sources as it exists at the time of a search. In between views
and searches are "saved searches" that contain previously defined sources
of information and information characteristics. Such searches are applied
to information contained in the specified sources at the time of the
search. However, the sources and characteristics are saved so that a
search may be run at a later time without having to repeat the
specification of sources and information characteristics.
 The above techniques--filters, views, searches, and saved
searches--apply to data that is essentially static at a given point in
time. They do not apply to information that is flowing in real time.
Messages and calls, however, flow and rules may be specified to
information as it is being received or sent. In the context of such
dynamic flows of messages and calls, users may define management rules to
handle them. Users may define management rules for incoming and outgoing
messages such as email, text messages, faxes, and voicemail. They may
also define management rules for incoming instant messages and calls. All
of these management rules can be applied to incoming and outgoing
information based on various characteristics of the information. In one
embodiment of the invention, the management rules are defined within the
context of a particular "mode" with "normal" mode being the default mode.
The notion of "modes" is described in greater detail elsewhere in this
 Some of the prior art incorporates few of the above-mentioned
notions of narrowing the set of information in a user's WorkSpace. Yet
few, if any, incorporate all of the various techniques described
above--filters, views, searches, saved searches, and management rules.
Even fewer allow for such techniques to apply simultaneously to various
types of messages and across multiple sources of information (e.g.,
messages and documents).
 In addition, the prior art has been fundamentally restricted in how
to specify complex information characteristics. In particular, the
ability to specify an unlimited number of rules with multiple criteria
joined by AND, OR and NOT is not found in the prior art. The use of such
"joins" does exist in the prior art but typically in the context of a
single criteria specification such as "keyword" and often limited in the
number of values that could be specified (e.g., three keywords). In
general, much of the prior art in multiple criteria specification assumes
AND as the operative join. Thus, advanced criteria specification in the
prior art requires that all (and not some as implied by the join OR) of
the criteria must be met. Furthermore, the method of specifying advanced
or complex multiple criteria in the prior art is typically cumbersome and
 The WorkSpace system allows for the specification of advanced rules
in the context of views, searches, saved searches, and management rules.
Three notable differences from the prior art is the ability to: (1)
specify different types of "joins"; (2) rearrange the order of the
criteria; (3) define unlimited multiple criteria efficiently; and (4)
preview the results of applying the specifications before making "views"
and "management rules" permanent.
 One embodiment of the Workspace system provides these features via
a highly intuitive graphical user interface ("GUI") illustrated in FIGS.
10 and 11a-e. FIG. 10 shows a set of criteria 1001 which may be joined
together using a variety of logical connectors selected through a drop
down selection menu 1002. In one embodiment, the drop down menu 1002
includes AND, OR and NOT connectors. If two criteria are connected via an
AND connector, the values of both criteria must be met to trigger an
action. By contrast, if two criteria are connected using an OR connector,
an associated action may be triggered if the value of either criteria is
met. Finally, NOT connectors are employed to exclude certain criteria
from the search, view, or filter. Any number or new criteria may be added
via an "add" graphic element 1003 and joined together as described above.
In addition, "move up" and "move down" elements 1004 allow the user to
reposition each of the rules relative to one another (thereby
facilitating the organization of the rules and associated connectors).
 FIG. 11a illustrates a GUI which may be employed to create new or
edit existing criteria (i.e., in response to selection of the "add"
graphic 1003). The GUI includes a plurality of tabs 1103 for specifying
various different types of criteria including a "senders" tab for
identifying one or more message senders who satisfy the criteria. In the
illustrated embodiment, the "senders" tab is selected and a listing of
users 1101 is provided which may include all WorkSpace system users, all
contacts in a user's address book, all business contacts, all personal
contacts, or any other grouping of potential message senders. Once
selected, the sender is moved from the first listing 1101 to a second
listing 1102 which includes all message senders to whom the rule applies.
 FIG. 11b illustrates a GUI generated when the "recipients" tab is
selected from the plurality of tabs 1103. As in FIG. 11a, a listing of
users 1111 is provided which may include all WorkSpace system users, all
contacts in a user's address book, all business contacts, all personal
contacts, or any other grouping of potential message senders. Once
selected, the recipient is moved from the first listing 1111 to a second
listing 1112 which includes all message recipients to whom the rule
applies. In addition, a drop down menu 1113 is provided so that the user
may specify whether the recipients are listed in the "TO" field, the "CC"
field, the "BCC" field, or "ANY" field of the electronic message.
 FIG. 11c illustrates an exemplary GUI for entering keyword
criteria. A plurality of keywords may be entered in a plurality of data
fields 1122 which may be joined together by AND, OR, and NOT operands
selected via drop-down menus 1121. A second set of drop-down menus 1123
allow users to specify whether the criteria should include the entire
keyword phrase or only portions of the phrase (e.g., any single word
included in the phrase). In one embodiment, the user may also specify
wildcard characters (such as $ or !) to identify portions of relevant
words within the phrase. In addition, the user may specify specific
locations in which the keywords appear via selection elements 1124. A
variety of options are available including, for example, message subject
 FIG. 11d illustrates an exemplary GUI for entering message property
criteria. By selecting from a variety of check boxes 1131, the user may
specify email accounts through which messages are received; date/time
periods over which messages are received; email flags, priority levels
and sensitivity levels; categories associated with the email messages
(e.g., personal, business); and email message size limitations. A variety
of additional message properties described throughout this detailed
description may also be selected by the end user.
 FIG. 11e illustrates an exemplary GUI for specifying attachment
properties associated with electronic messages. The GUI includes
user-selectable options for specifying no email attachments 1141 and any
email attachments 1142. When the option for no email attachments 1141 is
selected, no messages with email attachments associated with the overall
user-specified criteria 1101 will be permitted. By contrast, when the
option for any email attachments 1142 is selected, no attachment
filtering is performed by the system. In addition, in one embodiment, an
option 1143 is provided for identifying specific attachment criteria. In
particular, a first data entry field 1144 is provided for specifying
particular attachment suffixes (e.g., .doc for Word documents) and a
second data entry field 1145 is provided for specifying file names of
attachments. Once again, different wildcard characters (e.g., $ or !) may
be used. Once entered, the attachment suffixes and names are listed
within regions 1146 and 1147, respectively of the GUI. The suffixes and
names may be added and removed via selection buttons 1148.
 The WorkSpace system also permits the specification of advanced
rules in the context of data synchronization. One critical feature of the
WorkSpace systems is the ability to synchronize information such as
messages, contacts, and calendar items inside the WorkSpace system with
similar information in other systems. WorkSpace enables specification of
advanced criteria to refine the set of such information that should be
synchronized. It also allows the definition of different synchronization
instructions for information that have different characteristics.
Resolving Conflicts in Action and Filtering Rules
 1. General Background
 Action rules specify what to do with a particular communication,
message or document. How should a call be routed? Where should a message
be sent and how? Where should a document be stored? Filtering rules on
the other hand make a determination about message or document
characteristics. For example, is a call, message, or document from
someone who is a friend? What is the nature of the call, message or
document if the sender is also a work colleague? This is important
because users may specify different rules for communications, messages
and documents from different groups of senders.
 Once users are allowed to specify action and filtering rules,
conflicts between and among such rules are inevitable, especially as
communication, message and document types and rule-triggering conditions
multiply. The question then is how to resolve them. One answer is never
allowing users to specify conflicting rules. While appealing, this
solution requires the system to anticipate all conflicts and for the user
to isolate and resolve easily the source(s) of all conflicts. Another
answer is to require the user to specify the order of applying action
rules (e.g., apply rule one before rule two) or the priority of filtering
rules (e.g., if caller is friend and colleague, treat caller as friend
for purposes of applying action rule). This is the approach taken by many
filtering and action rule schemes. For example, rule one is applied
before rule two. However, this still leads to conflict if rule two
specifies an action (e.g., mark the message as important) at odds with
rule one (e.g., mark the message as normal). Most systems today recognize
the conflict and apply neither rule.
 An approach employed in one embodiment allows the user to specify
sub-rules related to priority. For example, a user may specify that a
rule not be applied if a particular type of action was specified by a
previous rule. In the previous example, the user may specify that if a
previous rule marks the message as normal then a subsequent rule should
not remark the message as important (i.e., the message would remain
marked normal as called for by the first rule). This approach of basic
rules supplemented by priority sub-rules employed in one embodiment of
the WorkSpace system is an approach that is superior to doing nothing if
there is a conflict among rules.
 An exemplary method directed to this approach is set forth in FIG.
12. At 1201, a plurality of rules are specified and arranged in a
preferred order of rule execution. At 1202 sub-rules are specified which
define a priority of actions associated with each of the rules. At 1203,
a version of the message and/or document to which subsequent rules are to
be applied is identified. For example, the user may specify whether the
criteria of a rule is to be checked against the original version of the
message (i.e., as it existed prior to the application of any other rules)
or the most recent version of the message (i.e., inclusive of the changes
resulting from other rules). FIG. 29 illustrates one embodiment of a GUI
for specifying this functionality.
 Another embodiment of the WorkSpace system employs the following
solution that allows the user to specify rules and not be concerned about
conflicts unless they are "large". The solution is a method of
simultaneously resolving conflicts between and among rules rather than
attempting to resolve them sequentially as in the first embodiment. The
logic underlying the solution is as follows: "Small" conflicts should be
resolved intelligently by the system while only "large" conflicts should
require user intervention or a default resolution scheme. Consider a user
who specifies that calls to their office phone from "friends" between 5
p.m. and 7 p.m. be routed to their home phone. They may also specify a
second rule that specifies that phone calls from "work colleagues"
between 6:30 p.m. and 8 p.m. be routed to their cell phone. Suppose that
John who is both a friend and work colleague calls at 6:55 p.m. This is
an example of a "small" conflict assuming a conflict resolution threshold
of 30 minutes. Since John is both a "friend" and "work colleague," the
two rules clearly conflict--the first requiring that the call be directed
to their home phone and the second requiring that the call be directed to
their cell phone. Given the 30-minute threshold, however, the conflict
would be resolved automatically since the second rule is "more or less"
dominant and the call would be sent to the cell phone. The second-rule is
dominant because the 30 minutes (between 6:40 p.m. and 7:10 p.m.)
centered on 6:55 p.m. is contained entirely within the second rule while
only 20 minutes (between 6:40 p.m. and 7:00 p.m.) is contained by the
first rule. With the same set of rules but with a threshold of 10
minutes, a call from John at exactly 6:40 p.m. would result in the two
rules being equivalent. This is because a 10-minute window centered on
6:40 p.m. (between 6:35 p.m. and 6:45 p.m.) would be contained entirely
within both rules. When no rule is "more or less" dominant, some default
resolution method such as "send the call to voicemail" would have to
apply. The above situation would be an example of a "large" conflict.
 It is difficult to anticipate the possibility of the above conflict
when the user is entering their call routing rules. In fact, it is not
clear at all that the user should be prohibited from entering the second
rule because there are many situations where the two rules (despite
overlapping times) would not conflict. By contrast, if a user first
specified that calls from "friends" between 5 p.m. and 7 p.m. be sent to
their home phone and then specified in a second rule that calls from
"friends" between 6:30 p.m. and 8:00 p.m. be routed to their cell phone,
the system would consider the second rule to be a "large" conflict that
required user intervention. The system would generate an error message
that prevented the second rule from being specified.
 In one embodiment of the invention, to accomplish the type of
conflict resolution described above, rules are first converted to
mappings between multi-dimensional real number spaces. Each variable in
each condition is then mapped to a part of the real number line and
associated with a statistical distribution centered at a numerical value
(real number). Similarly, outcomes in each rule are mapped to a
statistical distribution. Conditions associated with each rule are mapped
to a multi-dimensional region made up of the regions for each individual
variable. In each specific sample of variable values, an approximate
outcome of the rules is computed using a resolution method. This is
illustrated in FIG. 13. The outcome is then compared with outcomes
prescribed by the rules to determine the amount of conflict present in
the rules in that specific situation. For small conflicts between
applicable rules, the method determines a solution that approximates
user-supplied instructions on the disposition of each message. For large
conflicts as determined by a user- or system-specified parameter, the
method informs the user of the specific rules that cause large conflicts.
The method updates the degree of large conflicts while the user adds and
removes rules. One embodiment of the WorkSpace system detects and
resolves message and document action and filtering rule conflicts using
the following method:
 Referring to FIG. 13:
 1301: Convert variables in the conditional part of each rule to a
value in a statistical distribution centered at a point in the real line
and convert each outcome also to a numerical value in the real line.
 1302: Map all conditions applicable in a particular time and space
locality as a region in N-dimensional space.
 1303: For each time-space region, determine the outcome of
applicable rules using a resolution method.
 1304: Compute the distance of the outcome value from each of the
possible values of outcome variables from rule-specified outcomes using a
 1305: Compare the distance of outcome variables with a specified
threshold to determine if conflict is small or large.
 1306: If the conflict is small, use the outcome of the resolution
as the value of the outcome and use the resultant value to manage
messages and documents within the specific time and space.
 1307: If the conflict is large, determine the rules that
participated in the decision. Iteratively compute the distance of the
outcome variables from rule outcomes as user changes the rules that
caused the large conflict.
 Users of the WorkSpace system are likely to specify rules to route,
store and otherwise handle communications and messages, including those
created by telephone, fax, voicemail, email, and text messaging systems.
They may also provide rules to route, store and otherwise handle
documents. These rules apply to a combination of time and space
constraints. The rules instruct underlying transmission, retrieval, and
storage systems to manage these communications, messages, and documents
based on those rules that apply at any particular time and location.
 Each rule describes a specific set of actions corresponding to a
specific time and space location. Individually, each rule is assumed to
provide non-contradictory information about the disposition of any
applicable message or document. However, when creating a rule, it is
difficult for users to determine if one rule may conflict with another.
Consequently users may create rules that instruct the underlying system
to perform conflicting actions. Indeed, the likelihood of such conflicts
is so great that one may safely assume that they will arise with most
 The method described herein overcomes this limitation of rule
systems for disposition of communications, messages and documents. It
applies to management rules where conditions for the application of each
rule are based on a location in space and time. It applies to the
management of a variety of communications, messages, and documents that
arrive at a particular location (i.e., communications or data storage
device, in a particular format, within a specific time period). The
method determines a disposition of each communication, message, or
document according to an approximate evaluation of all possible actions.
In situations where such an action would vary significantly from the
prescribed outcome, the method determines that rule conflicts are too
large to provide a reasonable approximate outcome and instructs the user
to avoid such conflicts in their rules for managing messages and
 A related consequence of the method here is in managing filtering
rules. Filtering rules may apply to the outward characteristics of
messages and documents, but may also apply to the content of the messages
and documents. These rules decide on the disposition of a piece of
information on the basis of conditions that involve variables in time and
space, including an information space. Filtering rules may be interpreted
as involving mappings between multi-dimensional spaces of real numbers.
When users create filtering rules, they may create conflicts between
these rules. The method described here resolves conflicts between these
rules to produce approximate actions. The method also advises users on
filtering rules that may create large conflicts. Under such advice, users
may tune filtering rules to lower the level of conflict between rules.
 2. Resolving Conflicts in Communications, Message, and Document
 Communications, message, and data management systems offer users a
variety of devices and methods for exchanging communications and messages
and for managing documents. While most systems were designed with a view
of creating and delivering communications, messages, and documents using
similar devices and platforms, the proliferation of devices and methods
of communications, message, and data management have created the need to
deliver communications, messages, and documents generated on one device
to a variety of target devices or locations. Therefore, communications,
messages, and documents sent to a device may be routed to a different
device and location based on preferences selected by the user. These
preferences are often expressed in terms of rules.
 Rules consist of conditions and consequences. Conditions usually
involve statements that contain variables. When the variables in a
condition fall within specific ranges of values, the rule is applicable
(or said to "fire"). A rule also contains one or more consequences.
Consequences consist of specific actions. When a rule fires, the actions
listed among the consequences should be carried out by the system that
utilizes the rules. Rules in a communications, message and document
management system generally determine how communications, messages and
documents should be handled under specific conditions involving time and
space. Here space is generally described in terms of locations and
devices and time is described as time periods.
 A rule may be statements such as "If I get a phone call on my
office phone between 5 p.m. and 10 p.m., and if the phone call is from a
friend, then forward that call to my home phone." In this rule, the
variables in the conditional part of the rule include: (a) a time period
between 5 p.m. and 10 p.m.; (b) a device that may be considered as
location, i.e., office phone; and (c) an originator that may be
considered as another "location," namely a friend. The consequence in
this rule involves: (d) a location, i.e., home phone; (e) an action on
the home phone, i.e. ring the phone to get immediate attention; and (f)
an implicit specification that the time period involved is the same as
the time period in the condition.
 In many situations, rules are defined by the provider of a service.
For example, a telephone service provider may activate a "call waiting"
tone to a user already using a phone--the determination of when to supply
this tone is made by rules created by the provider. With some systems,
however, users have the ability to create rules that personalize or
customize the way messages are delivered.
 The method described here generally applies to situations involving
rules created by users. Unlike rules created by careful analysis, users
tend to create a variety of rules in an ad-hoc manner. These rules are
interpreted in a strict manner by most communications, message, and
document management systems. Due to unintended interplay between rules,
the behavior of a system may not conform to a user's expectations. There
are situations where rule interpretation does not produce correct
communications, message or document management solutions. The following
examples consider some such situations.
 1. Rules are often evaluated based on hard boundary values. For
example, a rule that specifies calls to be routed to a home phone number
starting at 5 p.m. would not apply at 4:59 p.m. As a result, a user may
not get a call that came in at some boundary value as illustrated above
even though that value was close to the time a rule would have applied.
 2. Rules are generally interpreted in a linear order. For example
an older rule that calls should be forwarded starting at 5 p.m. will need
to be removed to activate a new rule that says calls should be forwarded
after 6 p.m. Often users have difficulty understanding such interplays in
rule execution order. The result is that the older rule (that the user
may have forgotten) overrides the newer rule that was recently created by
the user to address specific needs.
 3. A rule may conflict with another rule when interpreted in a
strict way. For example there may be a rule to send calls to the office
from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. and another to send them to the home phone after 4
p.m. Rule systems generally do not interpret what needs to be done from 4
p.m. to 5 p.m. Here again users have trouble understanding the
interactions of various rules.
 4. If rule boundaries do not cover a specific situation, a rule
system may do nothing. For example, there may be a rule covering the time
period from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. to send calls to the office, another
starting at 6 p.m. to send calls to the home phone. But there is no
interpretation of what to do at 5:02 p.m. and at 5:58 p.m. even though
there are reasonable solutions in both situations.
 The problems of rule application have been addressed using various
forms of approximate reasoning. These may include Neural Networks, Fuzzy
Logic, Probabilistic Reasoning and some lesser-known methods such as
Belief Networks. All of these methods try to overcome the limitation of
strict reasoning. Each method used varies in terms of how it carries out
 While the different approximate reasoning methods differ in terms
of their methods, they generally try to find a conclusion by
simultaneously evaluating multiple pieces of evidence. When multiple
pieces of evidence are considered in user-created rules, conflicts may
also be present. The method here deals with conflicts that arise from
evaluating multiple conditions simultaneously when performing approximate
 One embodiment of the method also tries to consider multiple
conditions using a method that can be adapted to different approximate
reasoning methods. In one preferred application of the method here, a
form of reasoning related to fuzzy logic is used as the approximate
reasoning component. The method described here differs from other methods
in one key respect--in managing messages and documents, the method
described here is aware of whether the conflicts it deals with are too
large. Hence the method is able to determine whether an approximate
conclusion is reasonable and therefore alert the user that the conflicts
may be too large to be overcome by a selected approximate reasoning
 3. Resolving Conflicts in Communications. Message, and Document
 Filters are communications, message, and document management
screening devices that attempt to select communications, messages, and
documents from a pool of all available communications, messages, and
documents. Filters accomplish this task by evaluating properties of
communications, messages, and documents. The properties considered by
filters for managing communications, messages, and documents include time
and space characteristics. Filters generally involve properties of
communications, messages, and documents but may also be related to their
 Filtering rules then are instructions on how filters should be
applied. These rules contain a set of conditions and an implicit action
(place communications, messages, and documents meeting the conditions in
a single set). The conditions may involve a number of variables. When
variables within the condition of a filtering rule are within certain
ranges of values, the filter applies, or fires. As a result, variables in
the action part of the rule are set to specific values (i.e., in the set
or not in the set). These values eventually translate to some actual
actions in terms of the disposition of a message or document as defined
by action rules.
 Filtering rules are often applied to messages and documents where
content may be assessed. For example, a filtering rule (together with an
action rule) may be "If an Excel file arrives from work colleagues as an
email attachment, detach the file and place in the `Work Excel` file
folder. Otherwise, do not detach." Another filtering rule (together with
an action rule) may be "If an email arrives with a subject line that
mostly consists of sexually explicit words, and if the sender is not in
my list of contacts, then send the email to my trash folder." Here the
degree to which the subject line is made up of meaningful words is
assessed as a real number value. Similarly whether the sender is in my
list of contacts may also be assessed as a numerical value, i.e., a real
number. The action may also be considered as a numerical value associated
with the degree to which the user may pay attention to the incoming
message or document. Thus filtering rules may be interpreted as mappings
between multiple dimensional real number spaces.
 Filtering rules are created by users or service provider
organizations. Service providers usually filter only messages that are
generally accepted to be promotional "junk" mail since it is hard for
them to determine the value of each type of content. Individual users or
organizations of users may create filtering rules to try to reduce the
number of messages they need to consider. When users create filtering
rules, it is hard for them to assess and anticipate the potential
conflicts between filtering rules and their associated action rules. Such
conflicts in user-created filtering rules arise especially when multiple
conditions need to be considered. The following are some of the conflicts
in filtering rules that may result in unintended consequences while
 1. A filtering rule may specify an ad-hoc numerical value. For
example a rule may specify that if a message contains three occurrences
of the word "price" that it should be considered as junk. However there
may be other evidence along with this word (such as that this is in
direct reply to a message sent by the user) that may indicate that this
message should get immediate attention and not be treated as junk.
 2. Filtering rules are also generally applied in the order in which
they are given. This produces unintended results since earlier rules have
precedence, a fact that may not be clear to users especially if the
earlier rules are "legacy" rules. In this case, the conflict is that
older rules should be given greater weight in an overall estimation of a
 3. Rules may be directly in conflict. This frequently happens when
merging rules created in different situations such as work-time filtering
rules combined with personal-time filtering rules.
 4. Filtering rules often do not cover all situations. This leads to
further conflicts as users try to create rules without sufficient
consideration of potential conflicts. This is often a problem for example
in unsolicited email filtering (including rules created by service
 5. Since filtering rules are hard to write, users often combine
rules created by others. This combination is done without understanding
the situation when the rules were created and results in unintended
consequences. This situation is often seen when Internet Service
Providers combine lists of suspect sites, resulting in unintentionally
blocking legitimate sites included within the general domain.
 Conflicts within filtering rules are resolved using the method
described here. In the case of filtering rules, variables are evaluated
in terms of positions within a vector space of multi-dimensional values.
This mapping results in some clusters; data outside of these clusters
generally are mapped to one of these clusters. Clusters are created both
for variables within conditions of the rules and for variables involved
in the consequences of rules (i.e., actions). A vector space is an
N-dimensional space; a two-dimensional space is illustrated in FIG. 16.
Each dimension of such a space consists of data values in that dimension.
The data values generally are close to each other while some may be
further from the majority of values. This is illustrated in FIG. 14. In
two-dimensional space, a cluster is illustrated in FIG. 16 and FIG. 17
where a cluster is the set of points that looks like a shaded region. The
darkest parts of the shaded region include the majority of points in the
cluster; there are fewer points in the less densely shaded parts.
Mappings between clusters are illustrated in FIG. 18 where each of the
curves lines going from left to right indicates a mapping. A mapping
associates points representing variables in the conditional ("if") part
of the rule with variables in the consequence part of the same rule. When
there are multiple rules, there will be a corresponding number of
 When a specific message or document is evaluated by the filtering
system, a set of rules applied to a set of clusters fire in response to
conditions in the rule. This is evaluated using an approximate reasoning
system that may be related to fuzzy logic or neural networks. The
resulting conclusions are compared to clusters of outcomes. If the
distance is too great, the rules involved in this outcome are shown to
the user to determine whether some of them may be adjusted or removed.
FIGS. 19 and 25 illustrate this distance with circles. Values falling
within the circle are within the expected distance of a centroid, the
center of gravity of the two-dimensional region. This process can be
continued until outcomes are close to one of the outcome clusters.
 The method described here is different from other approaches to
filtering rules in the way conflicts are removed based on whether
conflicts are large or small based on user- or system-specified criteria.
The method includes an iterative refinement procedure that adjusts rules
until conflicts are within user-specified bounds. A flow chart of this
iterative procedure is shown in FIG. 13.
 One embodiment of a high level method underlying the WorkSpace
system filtering and disposition of communications, messages, and
documents is detailed below. The numbered items in this method (numbered
1-7) correspond to the numbered steps shown in FIG. 13. The variables in
Step 1 of the method are those that appear within rules. The rules here
may be related to filtering and disposition of communications, messages,
and documents. The variables are converted to numerical (real number)
values that correspond to the degree of membership in a representative
set. This can be done using a possibility value as in fuzzy logic that
can be derived from a probability value associated with a statistical
 As an example, we may consider a variable that represents the time
that a solicitation phone call arrives at a home phone. Most of these
phone calls may arrive around 7 p.m., but other calls may arrive as early
as 4 p.m. and as late as 10 p.m. There may be a few calls before 4 p.m.
and after 10 p.m. In this case, the probability of a phone call at home
may be derived from a distribution of the frequency of such calls. It may
be pictured as a normal distribution as shown in FIG. 14.
 For computational convenience in this method we convert the
distribution here into a triangular profile as illustrated in FIG. 15.
The method can determine a degree of membership of a variable
"solicitation phone call arrives at home" based on this distribution by
picking the value of the triangular profile at each point. The values may
be set so that the value at 7 p.m. is 1, and the values before 4 p.m. or
after 10 p.m. are zero.
 As a result, if a rule contains a condition that "if a solicitation
phone call arrives at home and (other conditions) then (do the following
actions)" then this can be converted into a numerical mapping where the
value of the "solicitation phone call" is now converted into a numerical
value. Other variables may also be converted, generally based on an
estimation of a degree of membership in some set of values. The choices
of these conversions are implementation-dependent and are generally
guided by distributions of values as indicated here.
 In Step 2 of FIG. 13, we consider several of these variables
simultaneously. Each of these variables has distributions. Considering
these distributions as degrees of membership we can consider the joint
distribution of several variables. If we consider only two variables,
such a distribution involving two variables may be pictured as a shaded
grid as shown in FIG. 16, where the shading is darker in some places and
lighter in some other places. The darkest shading represents the region
where both variables have the highest possible values.
 If a rule has two variables, then each rule says that the darkest
region of the grid is mapped to a value for each variable in the action
part of the rule. If the values of the variables do not fall within the
darkest region, then the rule does not apply according to conventional
rule-based procedures. But in approximate reasoning, the rule may still
apply when values are outside of the darkest region of the values of the
variables. The values may not be distributed near the center of space,
but may be centered on another part of the two dimensional space as
pictured in FIG. 17.
 Before we consider Step 3 of the procedure in FIG. 13, we determine
the list of regions of space. In the two dimensional case pictured above,
this means we perform steps 3, 4 and 5 for each small square region
within the large grid shown above. For Step 3, for each such region, we
evaluate rules that may involve the pictured variables. Assuming that the
outcomes consist of two variables also, this means that each rule maps
regions in the condition space, as pictured above to a similar outcome
space. In FIG. 18, the outcomes or consequences are shown on the right
side and the conditions are shown on the left side.
 In the pictorial representation shown in FIG. 18, a region in the
condition space is shown as being mapped to three different regions in a
consequence or outcomes space. There is greater or lesser value
associated with the conclusion in each mapping, with the darker colors
indicating greater certainty. Based on approximate reasoning such as
fuzzy logic, we can arrive at an overall value in the outcome space as a
resolved value. In the picture above, the black square without an
associated arrow ("outcome square") represents the resolved value from
all of the different mappings.
 Each rule is a mapping; the resolved value is not exactly the value
predicted by any of the rules individually. The resolved value is also
not necessarily at equal distance from all the outcomes of rules. In FIG.
18, the outcome square is closest to Rule 1 in the outcome space,
indicating the greater influence of the rule that fires with the greatest
 At Step 4 as shown in FIG. 13, we consider the distance between the
outcome value represented by the outcome square and the values predicted
by each of the rules. Since the outcome square is not exactly the value
predicted by any of the rules, this outcome is in some conflict with each
of the rules pictured here.
 At Step 5 as shown in FIG. 13, we consider whether conflict between
rules is too great. There is a threshold of distance of the outcome from
the predicted outcome from the rule that may be set by the user (or the
administrator of a system.) This may be considered as a Euclidean
distance, i.e., the distance between two points in N-dimensional space.
This can be evaluated by means of a simple formula for two-dimensional
space: Euclidean Distance from (x.sub.1, y.sub.1) to (x.sub.2,
y.sub.2)=Square Root of ((x.sub.1-x.sub.2).sup.2+(y.sub.1-y.sub.2).sup.2)-
. The formula for N dimensions is similar.
 Here (x.sub.1, y.sub.1) is a point in two-dimensional space and
similarly (x.sub.2, y.sub.2) is also a point in two-dimensional space. In
practice, we will consider square regions in space, thus instead of
considering specific points, we will consider small square regions
centered on these points. The distances are indicated in FIGS. 19 and 25.
In FIG. 25, the circle on the left for instance indicates the set of
points that are within some distance of the center, marked as "2" in the
figure. The point marked as "A" in FIG. 25 is within the threshold
distance from the point "2". Any point in two-dimensional space that
falls within the circle on the left is within the threshold distance from
the point "2".
 The regions in FIG. 18 may be considered as points in
two-dimensional space. One of the squares within the grid shown may be a
square of some size with center at a point such as (x.sub.2, y.sub.2)
considered in the formula above. The distance is computed as shown using
the centers of the square regions and then compared to the distance from
each of the rule outcomes and the outcome square. This distance can be
considered as a circle centered at the center of the square representing
the outcome for each rule. This is shown in FIG. 18.
 There are three circles shown in FIG. 19, all of the same size
based on the threshold distance specified by the user or administrator.
In this case we can see that the circle representing distance from the
outcome of Rule 1 (1610) reaches (in fact contains) the black square. The
circle representing Rule 2 (1620) also reaches the outcome square (though
barely) within the defined threshold level and the circle for Rule 3
(1630) does not reach the outcome square at all. We consider further
actions based on this result at Step 6 as shown in FIG. 13.
 At Step 6, we note that Rule 1 and Rule 2 are in conflict but the
outcome is not in great conflict with the rules. But at Step 7, we will
have to either remove Rule 3, or adjust the conditions in that so that
the circle around the outcome of Rule 3 reaches the outcome square
(within the defined threshold) computed with the newly formulated rule.
 The process of refining rules continues iteratively until the rule
set does not produce large conflicts on all regions we consider. This
process may be guided by a user, but it also may be automated if we allow
for the algorithm to adjust the values of conditions and consequences so
that distances found at Step 5 are not too great.
 The user may choose to increase or decrease the threshold
associated with Step 5. If the threshold is increased in this example,
then the circle surrounding the square representing Rule 3 outcome (1630)
will increase in diameter--it may increase to touch the black square. If
the threshold is decreased, then the circles shown will decrease in
diameter and the circle surrounding the square representing Rule 2 (1620)
may also not touch the black square. Then the conflict with Rule 2 will
also be considered too great and Step 7 will also need to adjust or
remove Rule 2.
 One embodiment of the method will consider more than two variables
in general, hence the squares shown here will be "cubes" in N-dimensional
space and the circles will be "spheres" in N-dimensional space. The
condition space shown on the left in the previous figure may be
N-dimensional while the outcome space may be M-dimensional and N and M
may not be the same.
 The methods described here can be detailed in terms of an
implementation using specific mappings of variables to numerical values
and specific approximate reasoning method. One preferred approximate
reasoning method is based on fuzzy logic. The application of the method
to filtering differs from the application to routing only in terms of the
mapping of variables to numerical values; the underlying conflict
resolution method is the same in both applications.
 4. Example of Rule Conflict Detection and Resolution
 Consider the following situation involving message routing. Rules
specified by users may involve conflicts. We consider an algorithm to
resolve situations involving these conflicts.
 Bill is a member of both "Friends" and "Work Colleagues" groups.
Jane has specified two rules for call routing.
 Rule 1: If Friends call between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m. send the call to
my home phone.
 Rule 2: If Work Colleagues call between 7 p.m. and 9 p.m. send the
call to voicemail.
 Bill calls at 7:30 p.m. How should the call be routed?
 Below is an explanation of the proposed conflict detection and
resolution for this example. The example will later clarify the following
aspects of our conflict detection and resolution algorithm:
 Conflict resolution applies to the time when Jane is specifying
rules, the result of conflict resolution is utilized when handling a call
as required in this example.
 Calls are handled using fuzzy logic algorithms which are well known
but have not previously been used in selecting the rules to apply to
filtering and routing of messages and documents.
 Following is a brief overview of fuzzy logic. The application of
fuzzy logic to the specific call routing situation here may be new. In
conventional logic, a statement is either considered as completely true
or completely false. Fuzzy logic considers a statement in terms of
whether something belongs to a set. Then also, using conventional logic
we could take the view that an object is either in the set or not in the
set. In fuzzy logic, a real-valued function is considered that assigns a
value to the membership in a set in terms of the degree of membership of
an object in a set.
 One usual example is to consider a statement "the outside
temperature is pleasant." Depending on the location, the temperatures
that are "pleasant" may vary. But let us assume that if the temperature
is 70 degrees, nearly everyone considers that to be pleasant. If the
temperature is either less than or greater than 70 degrees, it may be
considered pleasant by fewer people. As the temperature differs
significantly from 70 degrees, fewer people will consider it pleasant.
Thus for any temperature, we may assume a value indicating the level of
certainty that this temperature is pleasant. Instead of performing
deduction based on the absolute certainty that temperatures are either
pleasant or non-pleasant, fuzzy logic uses these real number values of
certainty in logical deductions involving rules.
 In the context of the rules given in the example, we can assign a
degree to which conditions of each rule are valid. Considering Rule 1, we
could assign a real number to the degree to which conditions of this rule
are true. Since there is only one condition, whether a call arrives
between 6 p.m. and 8 p.m., we can consider a membership in this set using
a simple triangular function. The specific function may be implementation
dependent and may be related to data on call distribution, but for now we
just pick a simple triangular function that indicates the degree to which
a time belongs to the conditional part of Rule 1.
 Thus as shown in FIG. 20, if a call arrives at 6 p.m., we consider
the Rule 1 condition to be true with value 0.5, at 7 p.m., the value is
1.0, at 8 p.m. the value is again 0.5. Earlier than 5 p.m. and later than
9 p.m., the conditions of the rule do not hold. The value then is
considered to be zero. This is just one example of interpreting the
condition in Rule 1, the shape of the triangular function shown here may
be varied by bringing its lower corners closer to 6 p.m. and 8 p.m.
 Now let us consider the consequence of Rule 1. This consequence
should be either true or false in a specific situation. But before we get
to determine whether it should be true or false, we will give it a
membership value similar to the membership value for conditions. One way
to assign a membership value to the consequence interpreting this the
same way we considered the statement "the temperature is pleasant." We
will consider the act of ringing the home phone based on whether people
consider this intrusive. For the sake of this discussion let us assume
that most people consider a ringing home phone to be quite intrusive,
while few people consider it extremely intrusive and very few people
consider it entirely welcome. Then we may consider "ring the home phone"
as a triangular function based on an axis where intrusiveness ranges from
very low to very high.
 In fuzzy logic, generally seven discrete values are recognized:
very low, medium low, somewhat low, even, somewhat high, medium high and
very high. This range is usually shifted so that we consider the low
values to be negative, even to be zero and the rest to be positive. We
generally label the values NL, NM, NS, ZE, PS, PM, and PL. Based on this
scale, we may construct a triangular function as in FIG. 21 that
indicates the perception of intrusion of ringing the home phone. This
function may be different from the one shown in FIG. 21 based on our
knowledge of people's likes and dislikes. In FIG. 21, we are assuming
that a ringing home phone is considered intrusive by a medium high
proportion of people, while almost no one considers it to be welcome. We
can shift this function in various ways depending on adjustments to this
 The standard fuzzy logic deduction step involves two stages. The
first stage is a minimization (the second stage is not quite a
maximization problem). The first stage involves examining the degree of
membership of the variables in the conditional part of a rule, and
minimizing over these to take the smallest degree of membership. As part
of the first step, we also determine the degree of membership in the
consequent variables of each rule. The second step involves combining the
degrees of membership of each consequent variable and creating a discrete
value by combining contributions from multiple rules. The discrete value
can be computed using various methods. The most common method involves
finding the x-coordinate of the centroid of the regions of support from
all the rules.
 In the example here, both rules have only one condition each,
therefore there is no need to minimize over the degrees of membership of
each variable in the conditions. For Rule 1, we combine FIGS. 20 and 21
above to get the degree of membership in the consequence, assuming that
the call is coming in at 7:30 p.m. FIG. 22 shows the condition and the
consequence together, the x-axes of the two variables have nothing in
common, but the y-axes are aligned (we generally normalize the values of
the triangular functions so that their maximum values are always 1.0 and
minimum values are 0.0.) The shaded region shows the support for the
action of Rule 1. The standard procedure here is as follows:
 1. Compute the value of the condition variable at the specific
location. So here the variable's value is 7:30, so we draw a line from
x-axis value 7:30 to the corresponding functional value.
 2. Find the minimums of all y-values for all the conditional
variables. In this case there is only one variable so the conditional
value is just the one value we have for the single variable.
 3. Find the corresponding value in the function for the variable in
the rule's consequence. (The drawing makes it look higher than it should
be here, but the idea is that we cut off the triangular function at the
 4. Consider the shaded region as the support for Rule 1. We have to
combine the supports for all rules that apply at a later step.
 If this were the only rule, then the centroid of the support region
will have x-axis value=PM, therefore we can conclude that Rule 1
sanctions a PM activity, that is to ring the home phone. But we have to
consider the effect of Rule 2 also.
 Now let us consider Rule 2 in the same way. For simplicity, let us
assume that the condition in the rule is treated the same way as in Rule
1 except for a change in the triangular function. The consequence, in
this case voicemail, may be placed on the same x-axis as the consequence
in Rule 1, by considering the intrusiveness of voicemail (let us assume
this voicemail is without notification, so that it is not very
intrusive.) The triangular function here may be something that starts
high at NL and comes down in value by the time it reaches ZE (this is
based on the thinking that most people consider voicemail to be not
intrusive at all but nobody considers it even slightly intrusive.)
 Based on all the assumptions above, the operation of Rule 2 in this
situation can be illustrated by a picture as shown in FIG. 18. Here the
condition of the rule is shifted so that we think of the rule applying
between 6 p.m. and 10 p.m. (condition of Rule 1 applied between 5 p.m.
and 9 p.m.) The shaded region shows the support for the conclusion. The
next step combines the two rule consequences to determine the appropriate
action. FIG. 24 illustrates this combination.
 In FIG. 24, each of the lines (A, B, C) indicate points (at the
other end of the line as indicated by the arrow head) that are possible
values for the centroid of the two regions. The different values may be
obtained based on the exact shape of the two triangles, for instance the
two triangles may overlap somewhat. Depending on the centroid value
obtained, we compute the discrete value of the x-axis of the centroid
point. Based on that value we decide on the appropriate action.
 1. If the centroid is A, then the x-axis value is reasonably close
to the conclusion that voicemail is appropriate. So we send the message
to voice mail.
 2. If the centroid is C, then similarly the action of sending the
call to the home phone is appropriate.
 3. If the centroid is B, we really cannot decide what action to
 All that has been said above is fairly standard fuzzy logic; this
is well known except for the fact that we are considering it for rules
involving action rules and filtering rules as applied to communications,
messages, and documents.
 The situation B above is one where the rules cannot reach a
conclusion, i.e., the applicable rules are in conflict. We can of course
create some fall back rule, such as "if in doubt, send everything to
storage." But that is simply an administrator overriding the wishes of
the user. There is a way we can avoid such conflicting situations. The
method to avoid conflicts should be utilized when rules are created.
 The conflict resolution method has a parameter that may be set by
the user or the administrator. This parameter is the maximum allowable
distance of an obtained solution from the centroids of each of the
participating consequent regions. In the example here, there are two
participating regions, those corresponding to the consequences of Rules 1
and 2. The distance is simply the distance of the centroid of the
combined regions from the centroids of the individual participating
regions. FIG. 25 illustrates this situation.
 Here the points 1 and 2 indicate the centroids of the consequent
regions associated with Rule 1 and Rule 2 respectively. The two circles
centered at these points indicate the maximum allowable distance for a
solution to be from the points 1 or 2. In this case solution B is not
acceptable to either Rule 1 or Rule 2. The other solutions are acceptable
according to the designated distance.
 Even if situation A or C is obtained, the conflict resolution
algorithm will consider whether the centroid that is obtained is too far
from the centroid of the region within any of the triangles. If the
distance indicated by the circle radius is smaller, either A or C could
also indicate a conflict. Distance in this case will be a simple
two-dimensional distance. In more complex cases, the N-dimensional
regions replace the triangles illustrated here. In this case, the
distance may be the N-dimensional Euclidean distance between points.
 One embodiment of the conflict resolution method works during the
time that rules are created. Consider the interaction where Jane creates
rules. Initially there are no rules. Jane creates Rule 1. There is no
possible conflict with anything else since this is the first rule.
 Now Jane creates Rule 2. At this point, our algorithm computes the
consequence for the system of rules using a set of sample values. We may
consider several sample x-axis values for each of the variables and
compute the result of applying the rules at each of these values.
 Since the algorithm computes the result of applying rules, it will
find a situation where the centroid found is too far from the centroid of
individual regions according to the maximum allowable distance. FIG. 25
illustrates this distance by circles from the two centers "1" and "2",
the points within the each of the circles are within the distance of the
corresponding centroids. An administrator may set the maximum allowable
distance but it can also be a parameter that is adjustable by the user.
Thus the method knows that there are conflicting situations. There are a
number of possible solutions to this conflict. The user may change the
rules in many ways as shown below. If the user adjusts rules using 1, 2,
3 or 4 below, then the conflict detection will be run again. This process
continues until all conflicts are resolved.
 The following actions summarize possible responses to conflict. The
user or administrator may choose only some of these solutions. The
algorithm itself is used only to detect conflicts--any mix of the
following methods may be used to resolve conflicts.
 1. Jane can simply remove one of Rule 1 or Rule 2.
 2. Jane can adjust Rule 1 or Rule 2 to be a different range. The
conflict detection algorithm then re-computes the samples to check for
conflicts. If, for example, Jane moves the time range of Rule 2 to the
left, then the support from Rule 2 at, say 7:30 p.m., will be so low that
the centroid will get pulled into the region close to the centroid for
 3. Jane can be shown different times of conflict and can choose to
deactivate Rule 1 or Rule 2 during these times of conflict. In general
this means that Jane selects sets of rules to apply at different times
based on our report of conflict periods.
 4. Jane can adjust the maximum allowable between the centroid and
the consequence (assuming that the system allows users to do this). This
may make the result close enough.
 5. Jane can leave the conflict in place. The system can choose to
interpret conflicting situations arbitrarily (for example, we can pick
the first rule that applied and use that as the only rule, or it can pick
the nearest shaded region to the actual centroid).
 In this example, assuming that the user prefers lesser intrusion,
and assuming the shapes of distributions given in FIGS. 21 through 25,
the call will be sent to voicemail because Rule 2 will have more impact
than Rule 1. There are several complications not considered in this
example which, in one embodiment, are accommodated within the context of
filtering and action rules as applied to communications, messages, and
 1. Rules with multiple variables among conditions have not been
considered. This changes the fuzzy logic algorithm by minimizing over
multiple variables before computing the support in the consequence.
 2. The rules and their functional forms may be influenced by data
on what sort of calls are likely to occur at what time.
 3. Intrusiveness is only one dimension of a possible set of
variables we may consider, so that the conflict resolution may be taking
place by considering regions in N-dimensional space (as illustrated in
the earlier write up about this method).
 4. The rules are subject to cultural interpretation, for example
the level of intrusiveness of different access methods may vary based on
 5. Application of Routing and Filtering Rules to All
Communications, Message, and Document Management Functions and to All
Types of Communications, Messages, and Documents.
 One embodiment of the WorkSpace system allows the application of
the rule conflict resolution algorithm described above to all
communications, message, and document management functions and to all
types of communications, messages and documents. In addition, the user
may specify their rules online and in a more limited context choose their
rule-set over a telephone device. The WorkSpace system, therefore, allows
users to specify rules to access, send, forward, delete, save, and
otherwise manage communications, messages, and documents. It also permits
users to specify rules for notification of messages and documents and the
routing of all communications. The WorkSpace system also allows users to
specify different rules for all communications and message types that can
be into an integrated platform such as the WorkSpace system. Such message
types include voicemail, email, text messages and faxes but the
functionality of specifying rules is easily extended into all message
types that can be integrated into a unified messaging platform. The same
is true of the different types of communications as well as documents and
databases that can be managed by the WorkSpace system.
Advanced Features of the Workspace System
 A variety of advanced information management features may be
implemented using the foregoing integrated WorkSpace architecture:
 1. Multimedia Distribution Lists
 Prior art distribution lists are media-specific. For example, email
distribution lists are typically comprised of email addresses only
whereas fax distribution lists are comprised of fax numbers only.
However, these prior systems were not capable of supporting distribution
lists comprised of both fax numbers and email addresses to be used for
the distribution of a fax.
 By contrast, the Workspace architecture described herein allows for
the creation of non-media specific distribution lists. For example, using
the integrated messaging platform described above, WorkSpace system users
may define a fax distribution list to include fax numbers, email
addresses, and system generic inboxes. Voicemail messages may also be
distributed across multiple types of media using a single distribution
list. For example, the user may speak a message and distribute the
message to system users and individuals outside the system. System users
may receive the voice message either directly or as an email attachment
while those outside the system would receive the voice file as an email
attachment. Various other multi-media distribution lists may be created
for the distribution of various message types while still complying with
the underlying principles of the invention.
 The use of distribution lists in messaging systems within a common
medium is commonplace. For example, there are voicemail distribution
lists and email distribution lists enabled by voicemail platforms and
email servers respectively. Such distributions lists may be defined by
users or pre-defined for users. Such distribution lists, however, do not
take into account the messaging preferences of message recipients. Some
individuals rely primarily on voicemail while others rely primarily on
email. Yet others constantly engage in text messaging or two-way paging.
For example, a user may know that their boss checks their voicemail often
but seldom checks their email. By contrast, the boss's secretary may
check email frequently but voicemail infrequently. If that user wants to
send a voice message to both parties reflecting the two recipients'
preferred messaging media, the user may create a distribution list that
contains their boss's voicemail box number and his/her secretary's email
address. The user may record a voice message and send the message to both
of these destinations at the same time with a single user instruction.
The voicemail would then be sent directly to the boss's voicemail box and
to the secretary in the form of a sound file attached to an email.
 One embodiment of the WorkSpace system allows users to create
cross-media distribution lists. Given different messaging habits, the
ability to create a single message but send it to different device types
in different formats through the use of a single multimedia distribution
list increases the probability that the recipient will actually receive
and listen to messages sent by a user.
 2. Accessing Messages Over Different Media
 As indicated in FIG. 27, in one embodiment of the invention, users
may specify rules 2731 to define different sets of messages arranged
differently when accessed over different media. Such rules may be applied
to messages accessed by telephone as well as those accessed through a
data network connection. For example, when a user calls in to check email
and voicemail messages, he/she will typically prefer a different set of
options for reviewing messages than when he/she checks messages from a
 Thus, in one embodiment of the invention, the user may specify
different criteria for reviewing messages by telephone. For example, the
user may not want to review certain types of messages via telephone such
as faxes or text messages. Similarly, the user may only want to review
email messages from certain designated message senders when the user
calls in via telephone (e.g., his/her boss, spouse, or children).
 The user may also specify rules to cluster and/or sequence new
email and or voicemail messages. For example, the user may specify that
he/she wants to review messages from co-workers first, followed by
friends and family. In addition, the user may specify an order within
each cluster. For example, within the "Work" cluster, the user may want
to review messages first from his/her boss and administrative assistant
prior to any other coworkers. Similarly, within the "Friends and Family"
cluster, the user may want to review messages from his/her spouse before
reviewing any other messages.
 FIG. 26 illustrates one embodiment of a graphical user interface
for configuring various voicemail parameters. For example, by selecting
element 2607 the user may define a set of potential voicemail senders
whose voicemail the user wishes to listen to first. In one embodiment,
the user may select voicemail senders via a system/contacts selection
list 2602. Once selected, the voicemail senders (or sender groups) appear
in selection list 2603. By selecting one or more of selection elements
2605, the user may specify various information to be played back with
each message including, by way of example, the date/time of the message,
the sender name phone number and/or user ID, and the message itself.
 By selecting element 2608, the user may specify that message
management functions performed via the telephone (e.g., review, save,
delete) are to be synchronized when the user connects via a computing
device (e.g., a computer with a Web browser). Conversely, by selecting
element 2609, the user may specify that online management functions
performed online are to be synchronized when the user connects via a
 In addition, in one embodiment, different forwarding features are
made available when the user checks messages over different media. For
example, when the user checks email messages via a telephone, the user
may be provided with forwarding options suitable to the medium such as
voice recognition. Thus, the user may forward messages by stating the
name of the user to whom the message(s) should be forwarded.
 In one embodiment, to simplify message sending and forwarding by
phone to Internet-format addresses (e.g., firstname.lastname@example.org) that are either
difficult for voice recognition schemes to recognize accurately or
cumbersome for users to verbalize, the address book maintained on the
WorkSpace system will allow the user to enter an X-digit "forwarding"
number for each contact. To forward a message, the user may then simply
enter the X-digit number via the telephone keypad. This mechanism may be
used in addition to or in lieu of voice recognition (which may not be
accurate under certain conditions). In one embodiment, the user may enter
multiple X-digit numbers to forward the email message (or other type of
message) to multiple recipients. Similarly, distribution lists containing
Internet-format addresses can also be assigned an X-digit numerical
identifier for purposes of sending and forwarding messages by phone.
 It should be noted that the foregoing examples are meant to merely
illustrate the flexibility of the WorkSpace system described above. The
underlying principles of the invention are not limited to any particular
set of rules for reviewing and/or managing messages.
 3. Advanced Attachment Processing
 In one embodiment, the user may provide specific rules defining how
the multimedia message processing logic 2701 processes message
attachments. For example, in one embodiment the user may specify certain
local folders into which certain attachments should be automatically
stored. For example, a user may create a folder in which any attachments
from his/her boss or administrative assistant are stored. Similarly, the
user may filter message attachments based on the attachment type. For
example, the user may specify that any spreadsheet attachments from
his/her administrative assistant are stored within a "Spreadsheet"
folder. Various additional attachment types may be identified for
folder-selection purposes (e.g., word processing documents, music files,
 One embodiment of the invention will automatically decode (e.g.,
unzip/uncompress) encoded attachments prior to storing the attachments to
a designated folder. Thus, in this embodiment, multiple files encoded
within a single file may be automatically sent to different destinations
following decoding and analysis.
 Rather than physically detaching attachments and storing them in a
local folder, the multimedia message processing logic 2701 may generate
different user-specified views of the attachments. For example, the user
may create a general view of all attachments contained within the generic
inbox 2723 and/or an email platform 2720. The user may then filter the
general view and create temporary or virtual attachment folders using any
of the variables described herein as filtering criteria (e.g., message
sender, attachment type, attachment size, data and time). This feature
would be particularly useful to users who use their emails as storage and
filing systems. Once again, the underlying principles of the invention
are not limited to any particular set of view filtering criteria.
 4. Multi-Tier Rule Execution
 FIG. 27 shows that multiple layers of rules may be implemented by
multimedia message processing logic 2701 including system rules 2730,
user-specified advanced rules 2731 and default setting rules 2732
examples of which are described throughout this detailed description. As
such, one embodiment of the invention includes conflict detection logic
2702 and conflict resolution logic 2703 for detecting and resolving
conflicts, respectively, between rules. The conflicts may exist within
the same layer (e.g., the user-specified rule layer 2731) or across
multiple layers (e.g., a user-specified rule 2731 may conflict with a
system rule 2730). The conflict detection logic 2702 and resolution logic
2703 may implement any of the various detection and resolution techniques
 FIG. 28 illustrates one embodiment of the invention that employs a
"pre-Inbox" 2820 to store incoming messages until all rules within each
layer have been applied and any conflicts between rules have been
resolved. The pre-inbox may be implemented in a variety of ways. For
example, in one embodiment the pre-inbox is maintained as a
first-in-first out ("FIFO") queue or buffer allocated in volatile memory
(e.g., RAM) and/or non-volatile memory (e.g., a hard drive). In one
embodiment, the pre-inbox is managed by a file system such as the virtual
file system described above. However, the underlying principles of the
invention are not limited to any particular mechanism for managing the
 Message filtering in this embodiment may occur at both the system
level and the client level. In FIG. 28, system-level filtering of
incoming calls/voicemails and/or faxes (hereinafter "calls") is performed
by WorkSpace system PBX 2801 and system filtering module 2802, and
system-level filtering of electronic messages such as email, text
messages, and instant messages (hereinafter "electronic messages") is
performed by message server filtering module 2811 and system filtering
module 2812 (i.e., based on the system rules 2730 illustrated in FIG.
27). By way of example, the WorkSpace system PBX 2801 may be configured
to route all calls to a particular number to a company's branch office.
Similarly, incoming messages such as email and instant messages may be
initially filtered by an external server 2811, such as a system-level
firewall, prior to arriving at the pre-inbox 2820. For example, the
external server filtering module 2811 may implement virus and spam
filtering at the system level.
 System filtering modules 2802 and 2812 provide an additional layer
of system-level filtering which may be configured by a system
administrator. For example, an administrator may configure system
filtering module 2812 to forward all incoming email messages addressed to
email@example.com to a specified group of individuals. Similarly, the
administrator may configure system filtering module 2812 to block all
calls from certain designated numbers (e.g., via a caller "blacklist").
Time of day routing of nighttime calls to an answering service is yet
 In one embodiment of the WorkSpace system, highly complex rules may
also be specified at the system level. For example, the administrator may
specify that messages containing the word "billing" anywhere in the
message should be sent to a group of specific individuals in the
accounting department. Another example is a rule according to which any
emails to a "trouble reports" group received after 5 p.m. should be sent
to the email address of the specific person who is on call for the night.
Once again, however, the underlying principles of the invention are not
limited to any particular set of rules.
 "Client-level" rule filtering is performed by user-specified rule
filtering module 2803 and default settings module 2804 for calls; and by
user-specified rule filtering module 2813 and default message server
rules module 2814 for electronic messages. The user-specified rule
filtering modules 2803 and 2813 apply both user-specified mode rules and
user-specified management rules. In one embodiment, the user-specified
mode rules are applied first, followed by the user-specified management
rules, although they may be applied in the reverse order or
simultaneously while still complying with the underlying principles of
the invention. In one embodiment, mode filtering rules cause the
filtering modules 2803 and 2813 to filter calls and electronic messages,
respectively, based on the particular "mode" in which the system is
operating (e.g., vacation mode, work mode, etc). User-specified
management rules cause the user-specified rule filtering modules 2803 and
2813 to filter calls and electronic messages, respectively, as specified
by the end user (e.g., via the various GUIs set forth herein).
 Default settings 2732 are applied by default settings module 2804
for calls and default message server settings module 2814 for electronic
messages. For example, with respect to calls, the default settings 2804
may specify that all voicemails are automatically to be deleted once
listened to by the user. With respect to electronic messages, for
example, each time a user sends an email message, the message may be
stored in the user's "sent mail" folder. It should be noted, of course,
that the underlying principles of the invention are not limited to any
particular set of system, user-specified or default rules.
 It should be noted that the "client-level" filtering described
above does not necessarily require filtering on a client computer.
Rather, "client-level" is used broadly herein to refer to any type of
filtering other than system-level filtering that is unique to a user or
account. For example, the user-specified rule filtering module 2813 and
default message server settings module 2814 may be implemented on a
server (e.g., an email server) rather than on a client workstation.
Moreover, the particular order in which filtering is implemented in FIG.
28 is not necessary for complying with the underlying principles of the
 While prior systems may contain examples of system-level message
and call management (e.g., forwarding instructions), they generally do
not permit multiple criteria specification for such rules (e.g., forward
all email from "Friends" (sender criteria) that contain a music file
attachment (attachment criteria)). They also do not typically permit a
set of criteria to apply to a particular group of users or accounts
(e.g., forward incoming email with the word "billing" in the subject line
to certain individuals in accounting). Furthermore, advanced criteria
specification for rules does not exist nor does the ability to forward a
particular type of message (e.g., fax) to destinations of different media
types (e.g., fax machine, email). Finally, virtually no prior art
system-level management platforms allow for different actions to be taken
for different criteria, as described herein.
 As mentioned above, in one embodiment, as each set of rules are
applied by filtering modules 2802-2804 and 2812-2814, to the incoming
call or electronic message, respectively, the call/message may be
temporarily stored within the pre-inbox 2820. Once each layer of rules
has been applied, if a conflict is detected by the conflict detection
logic 2702, the conflict resolution logic 2703 attempts to resolve the
conflict (e.g., using one or more of the conflict detection and
resolution techniques, respectively, described herein).
 In one embodiment, a conflict may be as simple as two rules that
cause the same message to be copied twice to the same folder or to
multiple folders. For example, a user-specified rule may state that if an
email is received from "User X" between 4 p.m. and 6 p.m., it should be
sent to a folder designated for User X messages. However, another rule
may exist that states that all messages from "Friends" (User X is a
member of "Friends") are to be copied to the "Friends" folder. Between 4
p.m. and 6 p.m., all messages from User X would be copied twice to two
different folders. This may be the intended effect but unlikely because
message management rules that multiply messages are rarely useful to most
users. In one embodiment, where rules are applied sequentially to
messages based on the order of the rules, the user may specify that if a
message was "disposed of" by a previous rule, then the message processing
logic 2701 should not apply the current rule.
 FIG. 29 illustrates one embodiment in which the user may specify a
variety of email rule options. By selecting either 2901 or 2902, the user
may specify whether the criteria of a rule is to be checked against the
original version of the message (i.e., as it existed prior to the
application of any other rules) or the most recent version of the message
(i.e., inclusive of the changes resulting from other rules). In addition,
by selecting either 2905 or 2906, the user may specify whether actions
associated with the current rule should be applied to the original
version of the message or the most recent version of the message,
respectively. A basic repository of messages would not enable such
nuanced applications of message management rules. Storing the message in
the pre-inbox 2820 until all rules are applied allows for this criteria
check against a message as it first arrived in the WorkSpace system or as
it was changed by previous rules.
 By selecting 2903 the user may specify that the current rule should
not be applied if certain actions associated with previous rules were
applied to the message (e.g., the message was moved to a particular
folder as described above). The user can further specify any or all
actions which effectively "dispose of" the message such as delete, copy,
move, and forward. On the other hand, the user may in fact want to have
the two copies of the message in two different folders. The pre-inbox
2820 enables the execution of such a "meta rule" that gives the user the
 By selecting 2904, the user may specify that the current rule
should not be applied if a markup action associated with the current rule
conflicts with previous markup actions. By way of example, the first rule
may specify that a message (meeting certain criteria) be marked urgent.
If a second rule specifies that the same message be marked normal, a
conflict arises that is not easily resolved. The choices are clear:
execute the first rule, execute the second rule, or execute no rule.
Thus, the pre-inbox again allows the user to specify a "meta rule" that
the second rule should not be applied if a previous rule had marked a
message as "urgent."
 5. Integration with Third Party Applications
 Document management is perhaps the most critical application that
is tied to communications and message management. However, other
third-applications that work on or with generally used computer operating
systems may also be easily integrated with the WorkSpace system through
its Web server functionality. This capability also facilitates
integration with third-party data management applications.
 In one embodiment, integration of third-party applications within a
WorkSpace system takes the form of a "plafform" 150 within the WorkSpace
portal. Users may determine the choice of applications to be integrated
in the WorkSpace portal. Such integration is possible in WorkSpace
enterprise environments 270 and carrier environments 370. Examples of
third-party applications that may be integrated within a WorkSpace system
and incorporated in a WorkSpace portal include (a) Web-based applications
such as a sales force management application; (b) content sites that
provide real-time stock quotes for a brokerage firm or breaking news
information (online wire service) for a media company; (c) content sites
from which transactions such as the purchase of goods or the downloading
of content is possible; and (d) other messaging locations. Other examples
include integration with a company's accounting or time-keeper systems.
As part of such integration, scripts may be easily developed so that a
user does not have to reenter security passcode information to access
such systems when successfully logged into a WorkSpace system. Thus, in
one embodiment, the WorkSpace system acts as a gatekeeper application
that monitors security to external applications in addition to itself.
 6. Management of Messages Accessed Over Different Media
 One problem that is common to many unified communications solutions
today is the need to manage messages at least twice when different access
methods to messages are permitted or when messages are routed to
non-system locations. The cause of this problem is the fact that
equivalent messages are produced in various devices and locations.
Consider, for example, a messaging system that allows users to retrieve
voicemail by telephone and over the Internet. If the user reviews a
particular voicemail over the Internet and deletes it, the same voicemail
is typically retained as "new" in the telephone accessible area. The user
is forced to manage the voicemail the next time he/she accesses voicemail
by telephone even though he/she had disposed of the voicemail earlier.
 Alternatively, a few systems automatically mirror the status of
messages in one area in other areas. For example, a message accessed over
the Web and deleted would no longer be available over the telephone. This
too is an extreme outcome not desired by all users. Some users may
actually prefer to have voicemails accessible over the telephone even
though the voicemails have been reviewed over the Internet. For example,
a secretary may routinely review voicemail over the Internet for their
boss to alert the boss if urgent messages arrive, but the boss (who may
seldom use a computer) may want to have all voicemail available by
 One embodiment of the WorkSpace system allows users to specify
whether they want to manage only once their voicemails and other
messages. For example, a user may specify that he/she does not want to
double manage their voicemail messages. As a result, the WorkSpace system
would not make available to the user a voicemail that was previously
accessed over the Internet and deleted. Conversely, the user may want to
double-manage their messages for reasons unique to the user. In one
embodiment, the WorkSpace system allows the user to narrow the set of
messages they want to subject to single management (e.g., by
characteristics such as the identity of the message sender). Thus, in
this embodiment, the user's preferences dictate single and multiple
message management and the set of messages subject to either rule. The
user preferences may be embodied in a set of instructions within
WorkSpace message management software.
 In one embodiment, the method described above is accomplished in
the following manner. Each message is given a unique identifier based on
the recipient, type of message and time of arrival of the initial
message. In various file directories, the message identifiers are
retained, though the locations may be different. When the user asks to
delete, save, or otherwise dispose of a message, the action is carried
out by a centralized message storage manager 802 (see FIG. 8). This
message may be relayed by the centralized storage manager 802 to
user-selected subsidiary storage areas to appropriately dispose of the
uniquely-identified message. Each manager of a storage area then
identifies the message within its storage area and performs (or not) the
 The WorkSpace system, therefore, provides a method for users to
handle either identically or differently equivalent messages that are
stored in or sent to different locations. In one embodiment, this is
accomplished by a distributed federated system of task agents that are
distributed autonomous communicating processes such as that illustrated
in FIG. 8.
 In general, the sets of messages that are accessible by telephone,
over the Internet, or through other means need not be identical, and
these sets can be specified by a user to reflect their preferences or
habits. This is accomplished either by maintaining separate message
locations corresponding to each access method or marking each message to
be made accessible over particular access methods. For example, a user
may only want to access voicemail from work colleagues and friends over
the telephone but may want to have all voicemail available over the
Internet. When messages are made available in different access areas, the
status of the messages may be mirrored in each of these areas through the
techniques described above. Thus, a voicemail that has been deleted over
the telephone may also be among deleted voicemails in the message storage
area accessible over the Internet. As illustrated earlier, some users may
not wish to have such equivalence. If so, the central storage manager 802
would not issue instructions to maintain equivalence. Alternatively, a
user may want equivalence in only two locations but not in a third
location. In this case, only a subset of instructions may be executed.
 The problem of multiple message management is more difficult to
resolve in a context where the message itself has been forwarded or
otherwise sent to a device or location outside the message management
system. One example is where voicemail is forwarded as an email
attachment to an email address. In this case, the user may access the
voicemail through their email and even delete it. The same voicemail,
however, remains in the telephone accessible area of most unified
communications systems. The WorkSpace system addresses this issue by
allowing users to specify whether to retain messages that have been
forwarded to non-system destinations (outside fax numbers or email
addresses) and if so, what status to use for such messages (e.g., new or
saved or old or deleted). By way of example, FIG. 30 provides a graphical
representation of a set of voicemail messages for a user who wants to
access only work voicemail by telephone, has all voicemail from family
forwarded to their personal email, and requests that only non-work,
non-family voicemail be accessible over the Internet.
 7. Online Specification of Personal Preferences
 One embodiment of the invention provides for online specification
of preferences for multiple and different message and document types as
well as for multiple and different communication methods. This embodiment
of the WorkSpace system allows users and administrators to specify online
preferences with respect to all message and document types as well for
 As mentioned above, users may specify the set of messages as well
as how much or how little of the message or document characteristics they
wish to access over the telephone or view online. For example, a user may
not want to know over the telephone whether they have received faxes.
Alternatively, they may want to know over the telephone whether they have
received email from work colleagues or a text message from a particular
individual. They may only want summary information about faxes such as
the originating fax number but not the time of receipt. Users may also
want to start at a particular point in the IVR menu tree (e.g., new
voicemail) rather than the main menu.
 Users may also specify not only what messages and documents they
access but also how they access them. They may want a particular form of
clustering and sequencing. For example, a user may want to listen to
voicemail from family first and the remaining voicemails chronologically.
In one embodiment of the WorkSpace system, users may specify online
virtually all preferences typically associated with accessing voicemails
over the telephone. The specification of these preferences is not unlike
the specification of account preferences for Internet accounts. The
WorkSpace system described herein goes further by allowing users to
specify online access and management preferences for all types of
messages and documents managed through its integrated platform as well as
for real-time communications. A user's specific set of preferences
comprise a subset of the user's profile that determines the particular
set of feature/functionalities that are activated for the user.
 8. Heuristic IVR Menu Options
 Most Interactive Voice Response ("IVR") systems have a limitation
that can be a significant nuisance for many users. The announcements and
prompts employed in these systems are generally fixed and do not take
into account the underlying information that is to be conveyed or the
user's usage patterns. This is especially true of announcements and
prompts in the course of retrieving messages and information about
documents over a telephone.
 One embodiment of the WorkSpace system implements a heuristic
learning approach to this problem. For example, this embodiment of the
WorkSpace system will not provide users with prompts that apply to faxes
if they do not have faxes. This saves time and the absence of fax prompts
is itself informative. In addition, similar to online menus that
incorporate heuristic learning, IVR menus that have not been used for a
specified period of time may be automatically hidden (i.e., IVR menu
announcements not played) from the user while still available for use. It
is the usage of menus and choices within menus along with the presence or
absence of relevant information that will passively activate the "hiding"
of menus and choices. In one embodiment, different "hiding" rules are
specified for different menus and even for choices within menus. Rather
than hiding, menu choices used infrequently may be placed further towards
the bottom of each IVR list relative to choices which are used
 By way of example, consider a message retrieval menu that states
the following: "Press 1 for Voicemail, Press 2 for Fax, Press 3 for
Email." In one variation of heuristic IVR menus, if the user did not have
any faxes to be retrieved, the menu would now be "Press 1 for Voicemail,
Press 3 for Email" or alternatively "Press 1 for Voicemail, Press 2 for
Email." Either version of the truncated menu could also be activated if
the user never used the "Press 2" key during a specified period of time
(e.g., one month) that is specified as a system parameter or user
 In one embodiment, IVR choices may be managed online rather than
merely over the telephone. For example, different greetings and
announcements may be recorded and associated with different mailboxes via
the GUI 900 described above.
 9. Messages to Direct Reports from Superiors
 In one embodiment, managers in an enterprise can send messages to
their direct reports with relative ease. Assigning users to particular
departments and locations together with defining the departments and
locations within the jurisdiction of a "manager" makes this possible.
Users who are "managers" can send email, text, or voice messages to their
direct reports without having to define and update distribution lists.
The list of direct reports varies as personnel and management
responsibilities change. In one embodiment, important messages from
superiors are visible to users in the "Main" section of a user's personal
 10. Advanced Contacts Management
 To facilitate the ease with which various filtering and actions may
be specified, the WorkSpace system embodies the notion of a "group" that
is distinct from a distribution list. A distribution list requires the
user to assign particular destinations (i.e., email addresses, voicemail
boxes) to it. By contrast, a group consists of members within a user's
contacts. For example, a "Friends" group may consist of Bob, Tom, and
Jane. A voicemail distribution list of these three "Friends" would
consist of their email addresses and system voicemail boxes that a user
included as part of the distribution list. This distribution list is
irrelevant in the context of email messages and must be updated if the
email address of one of the three changed or if one of the three has a
new email address. By contrast, the group "Friends" can be used in the
context of all message types. Thus, a user may specify one rule that
states "Send all calls from `Friends` to voicemail" and another that
states "Forward all email from `Friends` to my personal email address."
The WorkSpace system knows that all phone numbers and all email addresses
of the three friends are to be included in the criteria. Furthermore, if
phone numbers of email addresses of the three change, there is no need to
redefine the rules.
 In one embodiment of the invention, the WorkSpace system updates
contacts information automatically. This may be accomplished in a variety
of ways. The first and most straightforward way is for a user to link a
system contact to their personal contacts. Alternatively, a user could
link their personal contact to a system member identifier. Once the
linkage has been registered on the WorkSpace system, when a contact
updates their information, the information about that contact is
automatically updated in the user's contact list. Conversely, updates to
their personal information by a user are automatically sent to other
linked contacts. The second and more complicated way to "create" linkages
is to generate a scoring scheme to determine whether a contact in a
user's list is a member of the system. There are numerous ways to
generate such scoring and create linkages including, for example, a score
based on how many contact fields are identical. Regardless of the linkage
method employed, in one embodiment, users are provided with the option to
specify whether they want to send and/or receive contact update
 Since the WorkSpace system may incorporate real-time communications
functionality, in one embodiment, calls may be generated directly from a
user's contact list. To ensure the success of such calls, it is important
that the information be entered correctly. Some prior systems validate
phone and fax number entries but only check to see if the entries are
comprised of numbers and/or a few select non-number characters. One
embodiment of the WorkSpace system prevents free-form entry and requires
the user to enter all of the sub fields of a number including: toll code
(e.g. 011 or 1); country code if not the user's default country; area or
regional code; and finally the local number itself. Such strict
enforcement of data entry minimizes the possibility of error when calls
are placed directly from a user's contact list.
 11. Advanced Call Management
 The WorkSpace system allows for the definition of basic and
advanced specifications for filtering and routing phone calls. Through
the GUI interface (certain aspects of which are described herein, users
may define complex filtering criteria based on the identity of the
caller, the called number, time of day, schedule, and other call
characteristics. Audio and video conference parameters may also be
defined in the same manner. Calls and conferences may also be controlled
and managed through GUI interface commands even as they are happening.
 In addition, both Web and client application GUI interfaces may
allow users to define IVR and Auto Attendant scripts (including
time-of-day and other criteria based routing). Various administrative
functions such as setting up a Centrex group and all moves, adds, and
changes could be conducted via the same interfaces rather than direct
programming of a WorkSpace system's real-time communication module. Both
users and administrators manage pre-recorded greetings and announcements
in the form of sound files from a network-connected computer device. One
embodiment of the invention treats voice and video calls/conferences as
movable objects so that functions like relocating entire
calls/conferences to a different server could be implemented.
Conceptually, this is no different than forwarding an email that is also
an object. The difference is that the former is a dynamic object while
the latter is a static object.
 12. Management of Text and Instant Messaging
 If voice communications is considered "real-time" communication and
if regular mail and email is considered "non-real-time" communication,
both instant messaging ("IM") and text messaging (such as over wireless
phones and pagers) may be considered "near-real-time" communication.
Users may wish to limit the individuals with whom they communicate
through these methods because of the invasive and pervasive nature of
such communications. They are invasive because they intrude into an
individual's privacy, in a written and recorded form. They are pervasive
because one can easily guess what another's text address is and certainly
one's online presence is easily detected by others. While ignoring text
messages and blocking instant messages are possible ways of controlling
"near-real-time" communications, a more polite technique that limits such
communications to a set of users may be preferred by many. This may be
accomplished through the use of "double-blind" or "pseudo-address"
 Through the use of a pseudo Internet address for text messaging,
all text messages that are sent to a user arrive in a WorkSpace system
and the message is then sent to the specified true text messaging
Internet address. Thus, as illustrated in FIG. 31, a user could publish
the text messaging address of firstname.lastname@example.org while the true
address is email@example.com 3110. The user could specify their
preferences to allow text messages from only certain individuals or
numbers, or groups of individuals 3120 to reach their true text messaging
address. With respect to text messages from all others 3130, users may
create a polite personalized response such as "User Name Is Not Able to
Receive Text Messages at This Time" or alternatively direct all
"unwanted" text messages to a message storage area 3140. The approach
simultaneously allows blocking of unwanted text messages, storing of
non-critical but valuable text messages, and the receipt of
wanted/critical text messages based on the characteristics of the
messages themselves (beyond just the sender or the sender's group). Only
text messages as defined by the user (e.g., from people at work and
marked urgent) reach the user's actual text messaging device. A secondary
benefit of this approach is the ability of users to switch to another
text messaging provider with a new text messaging address
firstname.lastname@example.org 3150 without having to republish their
previously published text messaging address. The text message could also
be easily forwarded to multiple devices and addresses very easily. This
approach is particularly useful for enterprises who wish to change
service providers with minimal disruption (e.g., avoid republishing
 A similar approach may be used for purposes of instant messaging,
as illustrated in FIG. 32. The invasive nature of instant messaging
combined with the psychological discomfort to block senders affirmatively
makes the "double-blind" approach extremely well-suited for instant
messaging. For example, users may publish their business or primary email
address email@example.com 3210 but login under a different screen
name firstname.lastname@example.org 3220 to go online. Similar to most IM filters
today, only those users 3230 whom the user permits would know that the
user is online and available for instant messaging. Unlike most IM
filters today, however, the user appears to these individuals as if they
were online with their published email address email@example.com, as
opposed to their login screen name. Furthermore, no affirmative blocking
of other individuals 3240 is required.
 The instant messaging module of the WorkSpace system enables a
multiplicity of "presence options" of which the double-blind scheme is
but one option. The ability to make one self available to some but not
others and through different schemes (double-blind scheme and text
forwarding) is essentially filtered routing of instant messages.
Different filtering criteria may also be specified to log certain IM
sessions but not others. This, of course, depends on whether there is a
system rule that enforces logging of all IM sessions.
Additional Workspace Graphical User Interface Features and Functional
 FIGS. 33a-o illustrate a graphical user interface ("GUI") 3300
employed in one embodiment of the invention. As in prior message
management platforms, the GUI provides access to a variety of information
management and messaging applications including, by way of example and
not limitation, email, an electronic calendar, and an electronic address
book. In one embodiment, the GUI also includes a telephony icon 3303 to
provide access to real time telephone connections (e.g., VoIP
connections) and an instant messaging icon 3304 to provide access to
instant messaging functions. To streamline access to real time
communication, in one embodiment, the telephony icon and instant
messaging icon are provided within the same location of the GUI at all
times (i.e., regardless the section of the GUI that the user is
 As illustrated, one embodiment of the GUI 3300 includes a primary
row of graphical tabs 3301 to provide access to the various WorkSpace
applications. In the example illustrated in FIG. 33a, the "calendar" tab
is selected, thereby generating calendar GUI which includes a secondary
row of tabs 3302 related to calendar functions. An "events" tab is
selected in the secondary row, thereby generating a monthly event view
 In one embodiment, users create new events by selecting a "new
event" button 3310. FIG. 33b illustrates an exemplary event creation
window which includes a variety of data fields for specifying a new event
(e.g., subject, location, event type, start time, end time, etc). In
addition, a "reminder" element 3315 is provided which, when selected,
allows the user to specify different mechanisms for reminding the user of
the new event.
 FIG. 33c illustrates an exemplary reminder GUI (generated in
response to selection of the reminder element) which includes a drop-down
selection menu 3322 comprised of different communication channels which
may be used to provide event notification. In one embodiment of the
invention, the notification types include any messaging types supported
by the WorkSpace system including, for example, email, text messaging
(e.g., instant messaging and/or standard text messaging), fax, and
telephony. A data entry field 3320 is provided in which the event
notification destination associated with the selected notification type
may be entered. For example, if "phone" is selected, the user may enter
different telephone numbers which will be called to remind the user of
the event. Similarly, if email or instant messaging is selected, then the
user may enter one or more email or instant messaging addresses in the
data entry field 3320. Each event notification type selected by the user
is displayed in a notification list 3321. In addition, a list 3323
containing different notification addresses/numbers is provided to aid
the user in selecting notification destinations. In one embodiment, the
list is comprised of the user's personal contact information (e.g., the
user's email address, telephone numbers, instant messaging address, etc).
 FIG. 34 illustrates one embodiment of software architecture for
implementing the foregoing features. This embodiment includes a
multimedia notification/forwarding module 3400 for generating
notifications and/or forwarding messages using a variety of different
communication channels including, but not limited to, email 3410, text
messaging 3411, telephony 3412 and/or fax 3413. In one embodiment, the
notification module 3400 is integrated as part of the calendar
application 3402. In another embodiment, it is integrated as part of the
contacts application 3403. However, as illustrated in FIG. 34, the
notification logic 3400 may be implemented as a separate, independent
program or agent and generate notifications and/or forward messages in
response to a variety of multi-media triggers including calendar 3402
events, contact application 3403 events, and/or various other types of
system events 3404 (e.g., incoming calls and electronic messages). For
example, calendar event triggers may include scheduled calendar events,
tasks and alerts. Contact event triggers may include, for example, the
additional of a new contact (e.g., by the user's administrative
assistant). Other system event triggers may include the receipt of
messages, data and/or calls as well as system threshold triggers such as,
for example, a voicemail or email storage space being exceeded. Various
other/additional event triggers may be employed while still complying
with the underling principles of the invention.
 As mentioned above, the user may configure the multimedia
notification module 3400 by specifying different notification addresses
and telephony numbers via the GUI 900. For example, when a telephony
notification is selected, the notification module 3400 will call one or
more designated telephone numbers prior to (or at) the designated time of
the event. In addition, in one embodiment, the notification logic 3400 or
the telephony module 3412 utilizes a text-to-speech engine to read the
user selected text associated with the event. For example, after
automatically calling the user, the text-to-speech engine may read the
subject line or other designated data associated with the event entry. If
a fax notification is selected, then, in one embodiment, the fax module
3413 will fax the user a printout of text associated with the event. If
email or text message notification is selected, then the email module
3410 and/or text messaging module 3411 will automatically generate event
notifications directed to the user's email address and/or text messaging
 FIG. 33d illustrates one embodiment of the GUI 3300 in which the
"messages" tab is selected from the primary row 3301 and the "check
messages" tab is selected from the secondary row of tabs 3302. In FIG.
33d, a single, unified view 3330 of all pending messages is generated,
including electronic messages, voice messages, and faxes. In one
embodiment, to retrieve an email, voicemail or fax the user may simply
select the corresponding message from the unified view. In addition, a
plurality of message filtering elements 3331-3334 is provided to filter
the unified view 3330 in a variety of different ways. For example, if the
user only wants to review email messages, the user may select the email
3331 filtering element. In response, the unified view 3330 will only
display email messages, as illustrated in FIG. 33e. Similarly, in
response to user selection of the voicemail element 3332, the unified
view 3330 will display only voicemail messages.
 Various additional types of message filtering may be specified by
the user. For example, in one embodiment the user may specify a view
containing only new messages (i.e., only messages that the user has not
viewed/accessed). FIG. 33f illustrates a GUI for specifying different
message views which includes a first drop down menu 3340 for specifying
each of the different message types supported by the WorkSpace system and
a second drop down menu 3341 for specifying the statuses of messages to
be displayed in the view. Message statuses may include, for example, all
messages, old messages, new & old messages, old & saved messages, new and
saved messages, and saved messages. Of course, a variety of additional
message view specifications may be provided while still complying with
the underlying principles of the invention.
 FIG. 35 illustrates one embodiment of a generic inbox 3500
architecture from which the various unified messaging views are
generated. In this embodiment, email messages, text messages, voicemail
messages, faxes, and other types of messages are managed by a generic
message manager 3501 which stores and processes messages from a variety
of different messaging platforms including multiple email accounts 3510,
voicemail accounts 3512, fax numbers 3513 and test messaging accounts
3514. In one embodiment, upon receiving a new message, the generic
message manager 3501 generates a unique identification code which it uses
to identify the message within the generic inbox 3500. In one embodiment,
each message is stored as a separate file within the generic inbox 3500.
Message view filters 3505 and 3507 provide a view of the generic inbox
3500 as specified via user-selectable view rules, examples of which are
provided above. The generic inbox is identified by a unique identifier
which, in one embodiment, is associated with an individual user. Because
the unique identifier is not tied to any message type or to any message
address (i.e., email address), it may therefore be easily associated with
multiple message addresses and multiple message types. Since different
message types are sent and received through different messaging platforms
(i.e., email servers, fax machines, voicemail systems), commands within
the WorkSpace system periodically polls the different messaging platforms
that are either part of or tied to it. These messages are then sorted by
the recipient address (i.e., fax number, system extension, email address)
and then placed in the recipient's generic inbox.
 As indicated in FIG. 35, in one embodiment, other WorkSpace system
users may send messages directly to the user's generic inbox 3500 via the
generic message manager 3501. That is, the generic inbox 3500 is a
separate, independent message repository from the user's email 3510,
voicemail 3512, fax 3513 and text messaging 3514 accounts. In fact, the
user may not even be assigned a separate email account and may
communicate with other WorkSpace system users exclusively via the generic
inbox 3500. The unified generic inbox 3500 provides for greater
flexibility than in prior systems because it allows a single point of
management and coordination for multiple email accounts, text messaging
accounts, voicemail accounts and telephone/fax numbers. Moreover, using
the generic inbox 3500, WorkSpace system users may send messages directly
to the user, rather than to one of the user's many email or voicemail
accounts. For example, a fax that one user received may be sent directly
to another user's generic inbox as a fax even though the other user does
not have a dedicated fax number. This is significantly differently that
forwarding a fax to a person's email address either as an email
attachment or an embedded message. The difference is illustrated by the
fact that the user without a dedicated fax number could forward the fax
to the fax machine at their hotel. This simply cannot be done with
systems that incorporate fax-to-email functionality.
 The generic message manager 3501 may also synchronize the state of
the messages viewed over the GUI interface 900 and those accessed over
the telephony interface 910. For example, if a user deletes a particular
voicemail message accessed over the telephone, the generic message
manager 3501 may alter the view rules for the GUI view and delete the
message (making it no longer accessible over the Web). Alternatively, the
instructions may be to leave untouched the status as viewed over the Web,
thus leaving the message available for viewing over the GUI even though
it was deleted over the telephone interface. Conversely, the instructions
could flow in the opposite direction so that a message whose status is
changed over the Web may or may not (depending on the specific
instructions) change the status when accessed over the telephone
interface. One embodiment of the WorkSpace system allows users to specify
virtually any type of synchronization parameters to synchronize messages
(or not) as viewed over the two different interfaces 900 and 910.
 FIG. 27 illustrates multimedia message processing logic 2701
employed in one embodiment of the invention which operates in response to
multiple sets of rules including system-specified rules 2730,
user-specified rules 2731 and default rule settings 2732. Depending on
the particular sets of specified rules, the multimedia message processing
logic 2701 may filter, store and/or forward messages received over a
variety of source media channels 2710-2713 to any one of a plurality of
destination media channels 2720-2723 (including the generic inbox 2723
described above). In one embodiment, the multimedia processing logic 2701
is a manager agent which manages the activities of a plurality of
subordinate message processing agents including, for example, the
multimedia notification/forwarding module 3400 illustrated in FIG. 34 and
the generic message manager agent 3501 illustrated in FIG. 35. However,
an agent architecture is not required for complying with the underlying
principles of the invention.
 In one embodiment, user-specified rules 2731 include mode rules
that specify how messages are to be processed when the user places the
WorkSpace system in a particular operational "mode." Modes are groups of
rules which reflect how the multimedia message processing logic 2701
should process messages based on the current status of the user. For
example, when the user is on vacation he/she may select the "Vacation"
mode of operation to cause incoming messages to be forwarded to the
user's administrative assistant and/or to be sent to the user's portable
data processing device.
 FIG. 33g illustrates a variety of operational modes including:
"Work" containing rules for when the user is at work, "Home" containing
rules for when the user is at home, "Travel" containing rules for when
the user is working on the road, "vacation" containing rules for when the
user is on vacation, "On-the-Fly" containing simple (all or nothing)
rules that a user can specify over the telephone, and "Custom" which may
include any combination of rules as specified by the end user. The notion
of modes allows a user to define contextual rules for all types of
messages and all accounts for each message type. Within each mode, the
user selects the appropriate auto reply and the appropriate voicemail
greeting to be applied to each of the user's accounts while in that mode.
The user also specifies forwarding and notification actions within each
mode that are based on either simple or advanced criteria.
 FIG. 33h illustrates an exemplary GUI generated when the user
chooses to edit a particular mode from FIG. 33g (e.g., the "Work" mode
rule in the example). Call forwarding element 3350 may be selected for
forward incoming calls to any one of a variety of multimedia destinations
(e.g., telephone numbers, email messages, faxes, instant messages);
voicemail forwarding element 3351 may be used to forward voicemail to any
multimedia destination; and mail notification element 3352 may be
selected to notify the user of a new call over any of the communication
channels supported by the workspace system. The user may configure the
multimedia message processing logic 2701 to forward messages and/or
generate notifications in a similar manner for fax messages (via elements
3410 and 3413), text messages (via elements 3410 and 3412); voice or
telephone messages (via element 3410 and 3412); and email messages (via
 In addition to system-specified rules 2730, a virtually unlimited
number of user-specified rules 2731 may be created and implemented by the
end user. Such user-specified rules may or may not be associated with a
particular mode of operation and may be implemented at all times. FIG.
33i illustrates one embodiment of a GUI for specifying a call-forwarding
rule which includes a drop-down list 3360 of other users and groups of
users (e.g., from the user's contact list) and two additional drop-down
menus 3361-3362 for designating a time period when the rule is to be
implemented. To cause incoming calls to be forwarded during the specified
time period, the user may enter one or more telephone numbers within a
forwarding number list 3363. When the user receives a telephone call from
a specified user (or a user from a specified group) during the designated
period of time, the call will be forwarded to one or more of the
telephone numbers provided in the list 3363. In one embodiment, the
multimedia message processing logic 2701 will initially attempt to reach
the user at the numbers relatively higher up on the list.
 In one embodiment, similar data entry features are provided for
email, fax and instant messaging. For example, the user may select
various email accounts or instant messaging accounts which will receive
forwarded messages (voicemails, faxes, emails or instant messages) sent
from specified users during a specified period of time.
 A variety of advanced rule definition features are illustrated in
FIGS. 33j-o. In this embodiment, the user may generate a new rule by
providing a rule name and specifying criteria for triggering the rule
(via criteria tab 3365), actions to take upon triggering the rule (via
actions tab 3366) and exceptions to the rule (via exceptions tab 3367). A
drop down menu 3368 allows the user to specify whether the rule applies
to incoming messages or outgoing messages.
 As illustrated in FIG. 33k, upon selecting the criteria tab 3365, a
second row of tabs 3370 is provided including a summary tab to provide a
quick summary of the rule; a sender tab to allow the user to enter
senders or groups of senders to whom the rule applies; a recipient tab to
specify recipients to whom the rule applies; a traits tab to allow the
user to enter specific message traits; and an attachment tab to allow the
user to specify different attachment features to which the rule will
 FIGS. 33k-l illustrate various traits 3371 that may be specified
when the traits tab is selected. The traits include but are not limited
to the type of message sent/received (e.g., voicemail, email, fax); a
date and time range within which the message is sent/received; particular
flags associated with the message; a priority level associated with the
message; whether the message is mass generated (e.g., as identified by
spam detection software); whether the message is of a particular calendar
type (e.g., task, reminder/alert, event); the particular email/instant
messaging account and/or the telephone/fax number to which the message
was directed (e.g., the user may specify a variety of different email
accounts, fax numbers and telephone numbers managed by the WorkSpace
system); and the particular category of the message. It should be noted
that the specific criteria above are provided for the purpose of
illustration only. The underlying principles of the invention may be
implemented using a variety of additional and/or different message
 In FIG. 33m, the actions tab is selected, thereby generating a
second row of tabs 3375 which the user may select to specify different
actions associated with the rule. In response to detecting a new message
to which the rule applies, the multimedia message processing logic 2701
will then perform the specified actions. These actions may include, for
example, forwarding the message to any of the messaging channels
3410-3413 supported by the workspace system (e.g., forwarding a voicemail
as an email attachment).
 In addition, the user may provide options for generating an
"auto-response" to the message. As with message forwarding and
notification, the multimedia message processing logic 2701 may
automatically generate a response via any of the messaging types
supported by the system. For example, in response to an email from an
important client, the multimedia message processing logic 2701 may
automatically generate a call to the client and play back a recording
indicating that the user is out of the office. As illustrated in FIG.
33n, in one embodiment, the user may specify a text message to be used
for the automatic response in data field 3376 and may also specify an
audio auto-response (e.g., a .WAV or .MP3 file) in drop down menu 3377.
In general, however, a text-based or image-based response is sent in
response to a text-based or image-based message and an audio response is
played in response to a phone call.
 As illustrated in FIG. 33o, the user may also specify a plurality
of exception traits 3380 identifying exceptions to the rule. In one
embodiment, the exception traits mirror the criteria traits described
above with respect to FIGS. 33k-l. Thus, after determining that a
particular rule should be triggered based on the specified criteria
traits, the multimedia message processing logic 2701 will determine
whether the message within one or more of the defined exceptions before
executing the action associated with the rule.
 In one embodiment, a drop down menu 3305 is provided within each
window of the GUI 3300, allowing the user to easily select and switch
between different profiles. Unlike most prior messaging systems in which
a 1:1 correspondence exists between a profile and an email account, in
one embodiment of the invention, multiple email accounts may be
associated with a user and a user may have multiple profiles. A "Work"
profile may include multiple business email accounts for which the user
is responsible. For example, if the user works in both the customer
service department and the billing department, them both of these email
accounts (e.g., customerservice@-xyz.com and firstname.lastname@example.org) may be
mapped to the "Work" profile. The user may also create a "Personal" user
profile for receiving messages from any of the user's personal accounts.
Similarly, multiple different address books, calendar entries, instant
messaging accounts, voicemail accounts, and fax numbers may be associated
with a user who has multiple profiles.
 In one embodiment, the user may choose to either share or enter
separate information between profiles. For example, the user may wish to
use the same address book and calendar for each profile, but use
different email addresses and telephone numbers/voicemail boxes.
 In addition, in one embodiment, a drop down menu that contains
"projects" to which the user belongs is provided. In response to
selecting a particular project from within the menu, a filtered project
view will be provided to the user, containing only those messages,
documents and/or other information associated with the selected project.
A "project" can be thought of as a type of "user" whose unique and
dedicated WorkSpace is accessed by different users (both within and
outside an enterprise) with different sets of privileges. This, of
course, is the definition of collaboration. Through a simple drop down,
system members can easily toggle between their personal WorkSpace and the
WorkSpace of "projects" to which they belong. In one embodiment, a
"project" can be integrated with third-party applications or Web
locations and could also serve as the master security with respect to
such applications and locations.
 The default settings 2732 illustrated in FIG. 27 provide default
rules employed by the WorkSpace system. These include certain basic rules
for managing messages which the vast majority of users will want to use.
For example, each time a user sends an email message, the message will be
stored in the user's "sent mail" folder. Of course, one embodiment of the
multimedia message processing logic 2701 will allow the user to change or
supplement any of the default settings 2732 if granted permission to do
 While the foregoing has described what are considered to be the
best mode and/or other preferred embodiments, it is understood that
various modifications may be made therein and that the concepts disclosed
herein may be implemented in various forms and embodiments, and that they
may be applied in numerous applications, only some of which have been
 At different times, all or portions of the executable code or
database for any or all of these software elements may reside in physical
media or be carried by electromagnetic media. The various data components
as well as WorkSpace system files relating to the performance of the
WorkSpace software developed by the processing also may reside in or be
transported via a variety of different media. Physical media include the
memory of the computer system 651, such as various semiconductor
memories, tape drives, disc drives and the like of general-purpose
computer systems. All or portions of the software may at times be
communicated through the Internet or various other telecommunications
networks. Such communications, for example, may be to load the software
from another computer (not shown) into the Web server or into another
network element. Thus, other type of media that may bear the software
elements includes optical, electrical and electromagnetic waves, such as
used across physical interfaces between local devices, through wired and
optical landline networks and over various air-links.
 The term "computer-readable medium" as used herein refers to any
medium that participates in providing instructions to a processor for
execution. Such a medium may take many forms, including but not limited
to, non-volatile media, volatile media, and transmission media.
Non-volatile media include, for example, optical or magnetic disks, such
as any of the storage devices in the system of FIG. 6. Volatile media
include dynamic memory, such as main memory. Transmission media include
coaxial cables, copper wire, fiber optics, and also the wires that
comprise a bus within a computer system. Transmission media can also take
the form of electric or electromagnetic signals, or acoustic or light
waves such as those generated during radio frequency (RF) and infrared
(IR) data communications. Common forms of computer-readable media
include, for example, a floppy disk, a flexible disk, hard disk, magnetic
tape, any other magnetic medium, a CD-ROM, DVD, any other optical medium,
punch cards, paper tape, any other physical medium with patterns of
holes, a RAM, a PROM, and EPROM, a FLASH-EPROM, any other memory chip or
cartridge, a carrier wave transporting data or instructions, or any other
medium from which a computer can read. Various forms of computer-readable
media may be involved in carrying one or more sequences of one or more
instructions to a processor for execution. Additionally, code for
implementing the described operations may be in the form of computer
instructions in any form (e.g., source code, object code, interpreted
code) stored in or carried by any computer- or machine-readable medium.
The machine-readable medium may include, but is not limited to, flash
memory, optical disks, CD-ROMs, DVD ROMs, RAMs, EPROMs, EEPROMs, magnetic
or optical cards, propagation media or other type of machine-readable
media suitable for storing electronic instructions. For example, the
present invention may be downloaded as a computer program which may be
transferred from a remote computer (e.g., a server) to a requesting
computer (e.g., a client) by way of data signals embodied in a carrier
wave or other propagation medium via a communication link (e.g., a modem
or network connection).
 Embodiments of the invention may include various steps as set forth
above. The steps may be embodied in machine-executable instructions which
cause a general-purpose or special-purpose processor to perform certain
steps. Alternatively, these steps may be performed by specific hardware
components that contain hardwired logic for performing the steps, or by
any combination of programmed computer components and custom hardware
 Throughout the foregoing description, for the purposes of
explanation, numerous specific details were set forth in order to provide
a thorough understanding of the invention. It will be apparent, however,
to one skilled in the art that the invention may be practiced without
some of these specific details. For example, although the embodiments of
the invention described above focus on the use of Fuzzy Logic techniques
for conflict detection/resolution, various alternate/additional
techniques may also be employed (e.g., neural networks, probabilistic
reasoning, belief networks). Accordingly, the scope and spirit of the
invention should be judged in terms of the claims which follow.
* * * * *