Lotus Development Corp. unveiled this week a long-promised version of its popular 1-2-3 computer spreadsheet program for IBM mainframe computers.

The program, called 1-2-3-M, allows personal computer users to pull data from a mainframe computer file and dump it directly into the 1-2-3 spreadsheet.Lotus and IBM said the software could cut days off the traditional procedure, in which data from a mainframe often must be altered so that it may be entered into a 1-2-3 spreadsheet on a personal computer.

Spreadsheet programs allow the display of rows and columns of figures or bar graphs to represent such things as a company's sales or profits. They are among the most popular programs for personal computers, and Lotus 1-2-3 is the leading personal computer spreadsheet program.

The move into mainframes represents the first foray by the Cambridge, Mass.-based company into software for another type of computer.

Lotus and IBM signed an agreement in April 1987 to jointly develop a spreadsheet program for IBM mainframes. The program originally was supposed to be released in 1988. Other versions of 1-2-3 also have suffered lengthy introduction delays due to programming bugs and other problems.

Lotus Vice President Frank Moss outlined two possible uses for 1-2-3-M. One example would be for a retail-store company that needs to take information such as sales data from spreadsheets on personal computers located in its stores and transfer it to a central mainframe computer at company headquarters.

A second use would be for a marketing company whose regional sales offices need to send data from spreadsheets to the main office.

Users do not need to know the computer commands for the mainframe computer. The Lotus program automatically transfers data from personal computers to the mainframe and vice versa.

"Corporatewide tasks can be performed incredibly quickly," Moss said.

Under the IBM-Lotus agreement, IBM will be the sole marketer of the program, which is designed for use on IBM's System-370 computer line.

IBM said Sears, Roebuck and Co. is one of about two dozen companies that have been using a preliminary version of 1-2-3-M since August.

The software, which will be available next month, ranges in price from about $15,000 to $48,000, depending on the size of the computer system. In addition, monthly licensing charges of $583 to $1,800 are assessed, the companies said.