AOL on Wednesday plans to launch a new version of its software that lets users access their e mail, instant messaging, search and media on the same screen.

The new software, dubbed AOL OpenRide, comes after it announced plans this summer to offer most of its services for free in an effort to boost online advertising sales.

It also stopped marketing its Internet dial up access service, but continues to maintain and charge for it.

OpenRide, which lets users check e mail from rivals such as Google Inc. and Yahoo Inc. reflects a new approach to courting users.

Although it has made most of its services free, AOL now also aims to have users rely on its software for other functions, such as viewing photos or listening to a music collection stored on the PC using the OpenRide.

The software screen is divided into four parts that change size depending on what the user is viewing. Elements of one window, an e mail message for example, can be dragged and dropped into another window, such as the contact name on a buddy list.