Outdated Java Applet Opinions?

java exception Working on a project at the moment and the Domino Java Applets have reared their ugly heads. The project is to web-enable a Notes application, whilst keeping as much of the current functionality as possible. This includes a few fields where bullet-points and basic formatting are needed. All this and it needs to work in as many of the current browsers as possible.

The client mentioned using the Java Applets and I mentioned my reservations. I didn't tell him not to use them - after all, the customer is always right - I just raised my concerns. He was a good listener and open to suggestion. The status quo is that we're using them until I can come up with a better alternative or persuade him how bad they really are. When it came to it, my argument against them didn't really seem that convincing at all. He asked why I didn't like them and my answer began with a long "Errrm". Below is a list of my objections:

  • Require Java be enabled in browser (mine isn't).
  • Require specific JVM version (mine is different and so I see the above error).
  • Slow to load and awkward to use/look at.
  • Removes keyboard focus from the browser. Try pressing F5 while you're in the applet. Nothing!
  • IE users initially see a warning prompt asking them whether to install the applet.
  • Inability to customise.

Have I missed anything off? Am I being unfare? Is my opinion out-dated?

I tried to explain to the client that my objection wasn't a personal thing but a professional concern for the products I develop. If the applet is the cause of problems at some point down the line (and you can be sure they will be), it's bad for both the client and my reputation.

I know this question has been asked before but what is currently the best alternative?


  1. I really hate applets because I always have different VMs on my ordinateur. Take a look at the webadmin.nsf (the newer version the better), it really looks pretty much the same in the browser like it does in the admin client and afaik it uses no java (I didn't open it in the designer yet) but Javascript and maybe DHTML.

    • avatar
    • KM
    • Tue 29 Jun 2004 06:40 AM

    I'm no applet fan either, so I almost fully agree...

    But there are some cases where an applet can be usefull.

    I once saw an applet where you could follow a money marathon organised by students in real-time. In this case we can speak of a continious Client-Server connection.

    • avatar
    • Ines
    • Tue 29 Jun 2004 06:47 AM

    You missed the fact, that you are unable to use the context menu of the browser e.g. to open documents in a new tab oder window from an applet view. This nearly drove me mad a few days ago because it took so long to open the link, read the text, go back by using the browser button, instead of a middleclick (for opening the link in a new tab), reading and closing the tab by double-click in Firefox.

    • avatar
    • Doug
    • Tue 29 Jun 2004 06:48 AM

    I agree that the Domino applets are not all that great.

    If the only Rich Text that your clients need is "bullet-points and basic formatting", I would look to use a light-weight editor such as the open-source HTMLarea, or even the innate "Best Fit for OS".

    If your client needs to do intense formatting, look at eWebEditPro or edit-on pro. These both require a software install, but are very powerful editors.

    Are the documents that are created/edited from the web also going to be edited from within the Notes client? If so, the innate editors in Domino definately have their issues with translating tables between the two clients, due to the method of using placeholder images in empty table cells. Just something to keep in mind.

    • avatar
    • Ed
    • Tue 29 Jun 2004 11:29 AM

    I too am no great fan of the Domino applets. However, most of my work is with internal corporate web sites, and in a homogenous browser environment like that, many of the applet disadvantages go away - different JVM's, Java applets disabled, even the IE security prompts are not an issue. In that environment, and for applications which require rich text to be created from a browser and edited later by a Notes client, I think the RT applet is a reasonable solution.

  2. Jake -

    Is the client using IE? Does he just need to do Rich Text? If so, check out the site above - Alan Hurt is a former co-worker of mine who has put together a really cool (ActiveX) based tool to do this.

    Won't work, of course, in Mozilla.


    • avatar
    • Khalen
    • Tue 29 Jun 2004 01:28 PM

    You are not being unfair: Your arguments however are technology based.

    For the record, I agree with you on all points -- and the image with your post sums up Domino's applets problems pretty nicely.

    A better argument to present your client might be the fact that Microsoft's phasing out Java VM support in all their products.


    Microsoft's suggestion is of course using another JVM. That solution will impose an extra maintenance burden on their IT department.

    It might be a white lie since the MSJVM is still in MSIE.

    • avatar
    • Andrew Tetlaw
    • Tue 29 Jun 2004 06:38 PM
    • avatar
    • William
    • Tue 29 Jun 2004 07:52 PM

    Seen quite a few Notes Web application with Java Applets and users face lots of problem (a big one is performance problem). Took those project in hand and remove them. Use css to format to make them look good. Performance problem solve and so are other problems. User love it so does my boss. So now I've never use applet when can be avoided

  3. You'll notice that the TeamRoom template now works on the Mac. Why? Could it have something to do with the fact that they replaced most of the applets with DHTML?

    When they work, the applets are great. Unfortunately, that means almost never. Too bad, because if they worked Domino would be a great web platform.

  4. The newest web mail templates have also abandoned the applets for DHTML. You could argue that even argue that Lotus is setting the example and not using the applets.

  5. While we just made a customer happy by replacing the outline applet with a solution based on dTree (Jake had pointed us to), I still have to contradict on webadmin.nsf in R6. It still DOES use applets to a certain extend, so you still need an appropriate JVM.

    • avatar
    • rolf
    • Wed 30 Jun 2004 04:56 AM

    Hi Jake,

    I haven't seen it but a college of mine uses an xml + xls combination for the view allowing the client to sort the columns if need be. and if you want to check for updates of view content it it possible to do a http-head request. then you can get a modified/not modified result back. If you use setInterval you can be notified if the view has been updated. Be carefull though for the openform, readform, openview commands only one of these in combination of the $$ViewtemplateDefault can be used because of Domino caching.

    • avatar
    • Ian
    • Wed 30 Jun 2004 05:17 AM

    We stopped using Java applets for some of the reasons stated above - but mainly due to Accessibility issues with them.

    Our standard screen reader used by visually impaired people could not interpret the data contained within them - mainly the View and RTF ones.

    • avatar
    • Moritz
    • Wed 30 Jun 2004 01:06 PM

    Long time ago, I accessed my email frequently over a browser and quickly customised the template to use html rather than java applets. A week ago, I needed to access one email and in desparation went into an Internet cafe, typed my url, the java applets loaded and I thought: déjà vu, oh sh1t, here we go again, please, please, please. The email opened fine until, of course, a java error occured. Everything was there but the emails. I wanted to scream.

    • avatar
    • yuval
    • Wed 30 Jun 2004 04:04 PM

    if your customer works mainly with I.E on windows you can use the R6 option :'Using best fit to OS'.

    This will use ActiveX if supported , Java applet if not, and i think simple TextArea if none is supported.

    This option is the next keyword below the 'JavaApplet' option in the RT Web access display property.

    The call thing about this ActiveX (same as iNotes) is that you can manipulate it with by editing his js src file on the server (\Domino\Data\domino\java\editctrl\dhtmled.js)

    • avatar
    • yuval
    • Wed 30 Jun 2004 04:09 PM

    "the cool thing", sorry for my english.

  6. We are having issues with Applets also. We use Domino as a Information Portal. Mainly Use Forms and Views. Our Views were initially create using Applets. For the most part, they worked fine. Now that many other Web Based applications install Sun Java, some of our Users can no longer see the Applet \ Views. I am not the Developer. I have been able to create View by duplicating what the developer did. Getting pretty good.

    I guess, my question is; is there a way to code in my view; to use MSJVM instead of Sun Java when opeing in a Web Browser...??

    Any Help would be appreciated..

  7. What ver. of java that can run lotus notes web mail apllets both of IE6 and firefox 1.0.3 in the same time?

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Written by Jake Howlett on Tue 29 Jun 2004

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