Learning to Count The Lotus Way

My first encounter with Notes was version 4.5. Since then I've seen the release of 4.6, 5.0, 6.0, 6.5 and now 7.0. Apart from the minor incremental releases between these releases they are the only versions made public since 4.5, as you're no noubt aware.

Now, I don't know if I understand the rules of software versioning, or even if there are any, but Notes confuse me. It seems it's more about creating an image of "newness" than it is a reflection of how much the software has changed. I'm sure all software companies like to see their version number increase by a whole number. I'm sure all customers like to think they're getting something new for their money. But what does it all mean?

I'd always thought an increase to the next whole number meant there had been a radical overhaul of the UI, a load of bug fixes and lots of cool new features. It was true, to a certain extent, of the jump from 4.5 to 5.0 and of 5.0 to 6.0. Hence, I had expected the jump from Notes 6.5 to 7.0 would be something worth getting excited about.

When 5.0 came out I was actually quite excited. It looked a lot better and weren't Pages cool!? When 6.0 was released I was only mildly excited, even though there was more reason to be than with 5.0: Looping @Functions, @URLQueryString(), @WebDBName, the ability to change mime type on Pages, JavaScript Libraries, CSS Resources and many other improvements. All very nice. Now that 7.0 has come out it's all I can do to muster an ounce of excitement. You can turn debugging on/off with a button and no annoying prompts. Hmmm. Yeah. Thanks for that.

Am I missing something? Where are the new features? Yesterday I managed to get a copy of Notes 7 (don't ask how!). I followed the instructions to install it alongside 6.5 and clicked the new icon on my desktop. My first thought was "Damn it. The new Lotus Notes 7 icon is still pointing to the 6.5 folder!". It looks exactly the same. It wasn't until I noticed the Lotus Notes icon had a big 7 next to it that I realised my mistake.

So, what is new? Well, there's the debugger SmartIcon. And, err, oh yeah, design elements are closer together, as below:

Check this out too. You can now sort the elements by the Name column. Sorted.

Am I the only one disappointed with this charade? At the very least I had expected a Preview in Firefox button. Maybe Opera too. Even better, maybe a way to customise the list of browsers. Like Topstyle does (eyes right). How cool would that be? Can you imagine if Designer was half as cool as TopStyle. Me either. The big difference is that Nick Bradbury listens to his users and does something about it.

What exactly is new and improved in 7? I mean, for me, the developer. Forget the increased performance and scalability. As Quinn would say - "Yeah, like, woteva". What is going to make my life less hassle and my websites contains less hacks?

Mike got what he wanted! What about me? Seriously IBM/Lotus. I can make the Designer client stink so much less. I have some really great ideas I could share with you. Or do you not care for us and our stupid opinions?! Should I just keep quiet? Yeah? Ok, sorry. I'll just get back to work then shall I?

By the looks of Hannover I may manage some excitement again in the future. Although, that said, I only make websites and only care about the actual client UI because I have to stare at it for most of my working day. What will Hannover deliver to us developers?

For now I plod along suffereing the daily strife of Domino Designer's myriad of annoyances.

You know, despite what it looks like, I am actually quite an upbeat guy. I would love to tell you about how much I love the new features. I really would. It's just that I just can't!

It all leaves me wondering whether Notes 7.0 should in fact have been Notes 6.5.5 (or 6.6 at a push). What were they thinking?

Boss Man: Geez, guys. You know, it's been a couple years now since six dot oh!
Dev Boy: You're right. What should we do?
Boss Man: Ya know that six dot five dot five release slated for September?
Dev Boy: Yeah
Boss Man: Rename it seven dot oh!!
Dev Boy: But....
Boss Man: No buts, just do it.
Dev Boy: What if they notice nothing's changed?
Boss Man: Don't worry son. I'll tell 'em performance and scalability have increased again. Let 'em prove otherwise.

I leave you with a snippet from the CLP Application Developer Domino 7 Upgrade Exam:

Question 21

Tommy is designing a web application in Notes Domino Designer 7. He wants to see what it looks like in the Firefox web browser. What does he do?

A) Nothing. Tommy is a Notes developer. Why would he care what something looks like.
B) Nothing. Tommy looks up to Lotus and shares their view that nothing but Internet Explorer matters.
C) Simply presses the Preview in Firefox Button.
D) Press the Preview in Internet Explorer button, copy the URL from the window that opens, open Firefox, paste the URL in to the address bar and press enter.
E) Quit his job and go in search of a better tool with which to earn his living.


  1. C'mon, now. IBM hasn't been hidning the fact that this is a server-focused release. They've been saying it loud and clear for at least a year.

    But I suppose there is a good point in that IBM has said they'll be alternating between server-focused releases for the point-zeros and client-focused releases for the point-fives, but what about the developer-focused releases? Hmmm....

    As for why version numbers change in general... there's been some consistency in this, kind of. I think that the major factor that defines a point-zero release version bump for Lotus is whether or not there is a large-scale change in the ODS code layer within the API. 4.6 to 5.0 was an ODS change in the NSF file format. 5 to 6 had another ODS change. There was no ODS change from 6 t 6.5. I can't remember whether there was an ODS change from 4.5 to 4.6, but I don't think so. I don't think there was one from 4 to 4.5 either. I know that there was definitely an ODS change from 3.3 to 4. There's no change in ODS format in the NSF file between 6 and 7 but there is DB2 as an alternate ODS. (Well, sort of :-)... Certainly, when they announced 7, the intention was that DB2 would be there, maybe even as the preferred ODS.) In any case, I think that the underpinnings in the layer of API code that handles the ODS have had a major re-working for 7 even if the actual NSF storage format hasn't changed.

    That's my theory, anyhow.


    • avatar
    • Andrew Tetlaw
    • Tue 20 Sep 2005 11:58 PM

    Even though I was aware this was a 'code' release as opposed the a 'client' release it was still dissappointing.

    It's nice to have shared columns, Java 1.4, web services as a design element, SQL views and DB2 store... but I still hangout for a cool UI !

  2. Hi Jake,

    wouldn't it be time to kiss designer good by (kiss by IBM)? It would be a cool move for IBM to break it into pieces and turn it into Eclipse plug-ins. A decent LS Editor with support for custom classes, version control like the rest of the coders and and and.

    My bet: Hannover designer is Eclipse.

    :-) stw

  3. I've just attended the local release of Lotus Domino 7 here in Sydney.

    They use a boxing ring analogy to present the collaboration features of Notes. Speaker after speaker emphasised that Notes was not dead and would continue to be developed.

    They obviously want companies to use it as a component of Workplace (operating as a Portal). They recognise companies are not going to let go of their legacy systems so they intend to use Web Services to integrate Lotus Notes databases and other application databases for the end-user experience.

    One new feature of Domino Designer is a Web Service design element to consume web services. In a point release they intend to provide/modify the design element so that it produces a web service.

    You are right, Jake. They haven't addressed the many inadequacies of version 6.5.

    I am surprised they haven't talked to you about what you see they could do to improve Domino for designers, as you have described quite a number of them. They still only listen to their high revenue customers!

    How about setting up a database listing the inadequacies of Domino Designer and letting people add their items?

    One that I would add is the fact that when a file is added to a rich-text field, the file's icon only shows up when it is an IBM icon, such as Lotus 1-2-3. Icons from applications developed by Microsoft and other companies should be shown.



  4. PS. I love Question 21!

    • avatar
    • Anthony
    • Wed 21 Sep 2005 01:23 AM

    You summed it up nicely. Even though IBM keep stating that Notes/Domino is not a dead platform the only ground breaking changes in user interface from IBM seem to be coming from Eclipse RCP. I can't see any changes to the user interface of Notes/Domino Designer/Domino Administrator until they are all plugins for Eclipse.

    Remember it was not so long ago when IBM had a roadmap that merged Notes/Domino into Websphere. The only difference from that position and today is that they no longer mention merging and they talk about co-existance, web services and portals.

    • avatar
    • yuval
    • Wed 21 Sep 2005 02:05 AM

    I am working with R7 since beta 1 and the one and only feature i can't leave without when going to a customer that works with R6.x is the ability to change design element name without open it - try it and you will never want to use 6.5 again.

  5. Waay

    Your forgetting one very important development.

    Web services.

    I have a really simple example over at {Link} showing the worlds simplest web-service consumer (4 lines of Lotusscript!), and Domino 7 serving a web service from Lotusscript.

    It took all of 10 minutes to research and write.

    Or - how about Agent performance profiling ? Now if that doesnt knock your socks off - what will ?

    Granted, its a server release, and we're not seeing a *lot* of new developer features this time around - but hey - ND8 is eclipse based. Thats when the eclipse plug-in stuff really starts to rock.

    Shared columns ? That work in v6 clients ?

    Complete desktop management and lockdown ?

    You see, whilst folks like us like lots of change and new stuff to develop with, the poor sods out there who manage the servers do NOT want change. And they dont want to have to change the client every 18 months - obviously.

    So - this is a server release. There's enough stuff in there to keep us mildly busy for the moment - and ND8 - well, book out some serious learning space..

    ---* Bill

    • avatar
    • Jake Howlett
    • Wed 21 Sep 2005 02:27 AM

    Richard. I had literally no idea this was a server-based release. They didn't say it loud or clear enough for me to hear. Or maybe it's that I don't listen ;o) Either way it would have been nice of them to at least go about some kind of annoyance removal exercise while they were at it.

    Andrew. I'm with you in the wait for the cool UI. I think that's why I get so frustrated. The day I realise there will never be a cool UI for Notes Designer is the day I become a happy(ish) developer.

    Stephan. I would love to.

    Dietrich. Maybe the Wiki would be a good place for listing all the bugs. A fruitless exercise though?

    Yuval. That's a nice feature. I could live without it, but it's nice. Why, why, why is this not mentioned in the "What's New" help page? I rely on that page to give me some idea of what to look at in the new releases. Instead I find the cooler things out by word of mouth. What other additions have they no mentioned...

    Bill. Good point. I'm starting to think I've jumped in with both feet on this one and am going to come out of it a little shame-faced. I still can't help feeling completely let down by release 7. Must learn not to expect....

    • avatar
    • QS
    • Wed 21 Sep 2005 03:04 AM

    We were on an information meeting at IBM sweden a couple of weeks ago.

    7.0 client is as you say not much different to the 6.5 client. BUT! On the server side there are more differences. So we have to wait to version 7.5 to see changes to the client.

    So versions X.0 are server side changes and X.5 are for the client.

    • avatar
    • QS
    • Wed 21 Sep 2005 03:11 AM

    Another thing...

    I just can agre with Anthony, they have changed their mind.

    And now Workplace is not one product, it is a product family where Domino is one product in the workplace family.

    ~150 million domino clients. I think they got scared and tries to keep the Domino client as long as they can.

    • avatar
    • Fredrik
    • Wed 21 Sep 2005 04:33 AM

    R7 is a nice server focused/admin focused release. Basically it gives the Administrators a lot of new stuff to make their work easier.

    For the Domino Web developer there's actually not that much to get extremely exited about, and I’m not talking about the new tools and mechanisms to debug and profile code and manage design elements which are all great (no doubt about it, love it).

    I’m talking about that very little has changed between the past 3 releases that reflects on how web-applications are built today (in general). The web-development paradigm has changed; modern languages/application frameworks (.net, php, jsp/servlets etc) have for example customizable session-state objects that help us developers to keep track of what users do on our web-applications, dependency cache mechanisms and so on, things that change the way how a web-application is designed and built from a general perspective. Very little of this stuff is available for us in the Domino world.

    Web-services are nice, and a very welcome addition to our development toolbox, and is definitely a step in the right direction. The option to natively consume and provide web-services directly in Domino is very important in an overall interoperability perspective and will make it easier for us to communicate with and integrate different systems. I would like to see more of this type of functionality in domino.

  6. I somehow doubt that the next client-focussed release will be given the dot-five treatment. Hannover will be more than big enough to warrant a dot-zero version number. That's one of the reasons why you haven't seen much in the way of incremental changes in the Notes client suite -- the next set of clients, while retaining backward application compatibility, will mark a radical change. Underline "radical" a few times, please.

    And Fredrick -- IBM has already made their position clear on making Domino a competing platform for Websphere. It ain't gonna happen. Domino does what Domino does -- if you need JSP, they have a standards-compliant platform for that already. If you need to integrate what Domino does into what is fundamentally a Websphere application, there are tools for that (the Domino tag library, etc.), and the toolkit will continue to expand. If you need Websphere's capabilities and want to use them exclusively with Domino, use your entitlement.

  7. Jake: A few blog entries like this is all that shows up on a google search of brill "server focused", so I guess I shouldn't be that surprised that not everybody got the message. The word has definitely been out there. There ought to be some sort of IBM strategy paper or presentation out there. Maybe I'm searching on the wrong string to find it. I know that at Lotusphere and various other conferences it's been stated very clearly.

    Anyhow: check out this thread over on NotesTips:


    It goes back to Feb 2004, and includes mention (comment 72) of the fact that IBM had described ND7 as server-focused.

    And check out comment 9 in this thread over in Rocky's blog from back in January of this year:



    • avatar
    • Axel
    • Wed 21 Sep 2005 08:02 AM

    I would be happy, if they were putting more effort on bug-fixing.

    All those nasty gotchas that inflict us.

    I hope that this will get less weird when Notes is being based on Java technology. So they should put all their effort on that.

    Also lets admit that competiting systems on workflow and collaboration are simply getting better. Heck. Even client java is a lot better now (read book by scott delap on sourcebeat.com).

    The integration with webservices is a good thing.

    How much does the notes community apreciate the stuff that was build in. I am working now heavily on xml/xslt stuff with domino and to my biggest surprise I am getting more and more fan of the LotusScript classes for xml stuff in release 6.

    The idea of a document based Java platform (workplace) isn't an idea as stupid as i thought. It fits very well in the service oriented architecture.

    So lets follow the old saying of italian politics which now fits so well for german politics (lol):

    Everything has to change, so that nothing changes.

    • avatar
    • Jake Howlett
    • Wed 21 Sep 2005 08:06 AM

    The marketing message failed to reach me. I had absolutely no idea about 7.0 including few client features. Maybe I should pay closer attention to the Domino blogosphere.

    • avatar
    • Karen
    • Wed 21 Sep 2005 08:53 AM

    You should pay closer attention to the Domino blogsphere, Jake.

    You should also post more CLP Application Developer Domino x Upgrade Exam questions as the mood/need arises. I got a big kick out of that one.

    • avatar
    • Brian Miller
    • Wed 21 Sep 2005 09:02 AM

    Something no one has mentioned here yet, and it's potentially HUGE for application development.

    The DB2 integration. As long as you're using an R7 client and server (thus, for clients needing this, they must upgrade), you can finally stop bristling when clients ask you about reporting. You see, if you store a database in DB2 SQL instead of NSF, you can generate a view directly from a SQL SELECT statement. Thus, for the first time, you can have one row in a view contain data from greater than one document. This was always unpossible because Notes won't (and, still doesn't) allow @DbLookups from column definitions.

    Used the right way, this is HUGE. And, it's likely what took up more than half of the effort of coding this release.

  8. I have to agree with Richard in his remarks but more importantly did you ever read anything on IBM's website?

    The release notes are available to the public -- which denotes all the server side changes as well as the other product new features. I don't understand how anyone at IBM can make it more available: IBM allows anyone to download the public beta's prior to their "gold" releases(you have to register though, but it is worth IMHO), IBM create a beta forum for R7 for people to post/question the product, and in the normal R6 notes.net forum users shared or IBM denoted what was going to be in the R7 product line.

    I found all the R7 features by just reading the release notes when the product went gold September 1, 2005. In my situation I felt out of touch because my was working/traveling at a lot with my last employer, but it did not take long to get myself caught up.

    I am not trying to be critical, but to me it seems you find it easier to complain (or cry foul) than to spend the same engine to keep up with the technology. I know you can read because you share the glories of Microsoft and their product lines. In my opinion you seem to not respect the fact that your blog is popular and that many search engines spider it, because you just make your opinions of what you don't like and the first comment posted outside your blog entry is you were very unaware of some aspects.

    You are entitled to do as you like as it is your blog, but to me it seems you are just at this plateau with Lotus Notes that you are venturing more towards other platforms. I think it is good because you will enrich your development skills, but I wish you were a little more tactful or try to be informed or admit how you are not as informed in the lines of Lotus Notes/Domino.

    I think the software is still worth having a career in the field and I think you are have benefited quite a deal, but it that perspect is perhaps overlooked from time to time.


  9. Jake,

    I totally agree with you. Every time an article would come out in the past year touting the new features of ND 7, I eagerly looked for improvements to Designer. All I read about were **exciting updates** to calendaring. Big deal!

    Over a period of months I compiled my own Designer usability wishlist which I posted at notes.net in June 2004 and also sent to IBM/Lotus -- {Link}


    • avatar
    • Jake Howlett
    • Wed 21 Sep 2005 10:40 AM

    Patrick. I agree with you in part and had to think hard about whether to even start this post. Anyway, I'll respond in detail later. Hope I've not annoyed you, or any other readers, too much ;o)

    • avatar
    • Mike
    • Wed 21 Sep 2005 11:16 AM

    Lotus's release strategy can be summed up as:

    ".0 for dough, .5 for show"

  10. Now that Jake got the slaps on the neck he deserves ;) I feel like returning to the original point: Do the changes to Notes client and Domino Designer justify the release step form 6.5 to 7? Certainly not. But at least the second half of the step from 6 to 7 looks much more meaningfull to me, than the first half.

    And don't try to tell me that the trouble already started with R6: The changes over R5 have been massively underestimated by many for much too long. IBM's strategy to call the betas Rnext did not do them any good there.

    One more nice add-on to 7 (or did I plain miss the R6 version?) is the new document "Installing Domino Servers" (G210-1993-00). It's a relatively short (123 p) but yet very complete introduction to setting up and running a Domino environment. Much better (from my point of view) than previous "Yellow Books" or release notes. Not primarily adressing developers, but still a good read.

  11. What good are any changes or version releases if IBM doesn't sell their own software? I know this point has been brought up in the past, but their marketing is about as good as that which you might see for Alaskan cabbages. There is such a thing, but only the growers and the volume consumers knom about it (ok, and me).

    Get out into the businesses, even those who already have it deployed, and SELL it. Get into the businesses with fewer than 10k seats and SELL IT. Big blue can really learn a lot from M$. Sell to everyone, copy the competition shamelessly by changing the branding and labelling or color scheme and call it product innovation and standards compliance.

    This probably will shoot my chances of getting that BOF session at 'sphere (like there were any to start with) but IBM has dropped the ball so many times with Notes I doubt they remember where they left it.

  12. Jake,

    It is not that I am annoyed, but moreover you are discrediting yourself when you written an article and then in the first comment admit you did not know a fact (or two).

    I have gotten called out in the early days on notes.net for writting a point of view, but not doing the research to support the view point.

    Lastly people are zing IBM/Lotus for the marketing point of views, but it do you see M$ advertising about Visio or Project product on television? Do you see M$ advertising IE7 in print ads?

    How can a company such as IBM/Lotus get more customers on the software each year if there was not any marketing effort? I don't think it is important to have every freakin' product in the consumer industry if it is not truely a consumer product.

    Secondly, I find that today it is many times easier to get information than back when I started using the products in '94/'95. There were not many good search engines to help organize information on the Internet. Heck, if I just type in good a search term like 'Lotus Notes licensing' or 'Domino R7 features' (at google.com), I can find the information with the URL links -- most in fact to IBM's own website.

  13. I can agree to an extent that there are not alot of new "cool things" in this release. Nothing like R3 to R4, or 4 to 4.6, or even 4.6 to 5.

    The late addition of web services reminds me of the battle for "Print Preview" that lasted until R5 (or was it 4.6?). Too long in coming.

    What I am more curious about is if Hannover is to be the next big thing with Notes, will the upgrade path force customers through R7?

    • avatar
    • David Frahm
    • Wed 21 Sep 2005 04:18 PM

    Just a clarification on the web services...

    R7 cannot natively consume a web service (client). Rather the new web service design element is for providing a web service (host).

    The term "web service" is a pretty big bucket -- once you have to create some per real-world requirements (SOAP v1.2, WS-I Basic Profile v1.1, etc.) you learn that Domino web services are a bit limiting. Workarounds/hacks/whatever are just as necessary as with web views. It is still way short of the experience a .NET or J2EE developer enjoys because they have full control.

    I'm not trying to knock Domino, but just don't think cause IBM says R7 and web services in the same sentence that everything is easy.

  14. One more thing. Any of you who are independent developers or consultants working with Notes and Domino... if you're not a member of IBM's PartnerWorld program, and if you are not a participant in the Lotus Partner Forum, you're missing out. That's the best way to keep up and be well-informed about Lotus product directions. That's the best way to build relationships with IBMers and to engage them in a frank exchange of opinions.

    • avatar
    • Anonymous
    • Wed 21 Sep 2005 07:11 PM

    The more you use .net / vb / asp the more you realise that the growth of this platform far exceeds Lotus growth over the last 5 years.

    I'm not sure if this is partly due to backwards compatibility slowing Lotus's ability to grow, but if you look at the interface, rich text components (try resizing a table uggggg), and something like an embedded view that when you fit to screen it actually fits if you have fields above it (trust me i've tried everything), there's no real improvment here over the last 5 years.

    I find it funny when Lotus list a major improvement on their what new in Lotus 7 as checking an empty subject in a new email and prompting the user if its empty (like 5mins development time).

    I think lotus also have issues with the underlying structure of the stored data. As a "knowledge" platform, I just get this uneasy feeling with working with data in a normalised way. Structure a multi nsf system can often result in having duplicate data in nsf's for security / performance reasons.

    Having worked with Exchange / SQL / VB recently has been actually very refreshing. The developer community is large and support is easy to come by. Saying that Lotus will not be going anywhere in our organisation soon, it does have many good points it just seems to be the lack of improvement in the core of the product that is dissappointing.

  15. And as a follow-up to David, there is one more important ceavat with Domino 7 web services implementation: It's actually just an extension to the agent concept, so almost everything that's true for agents is true for web services as well. In the first place this means, that - just like with agents - the code is loaded to memory, executed and unloaded everytime the service is called.

    Anonymous, I'm not so sure if your points are valid. Comparing Notes/Domino to Outlook/Exchange is fine, but not to .net, SQL Server, asp and so on. Also, the document centric approach might be limiting in certain applications, but still it's here to stay. For good.

    Creating relational data structures is nothing that comes "natural", it's an abstraction from real life, that is not necesarrily well suited to any kind of problem, even if experience might make you feel so.

  16. A few people have asked me to comment on this thread, so I guess I'll add my $0.02.

    It is true that ND7 might be viewed as a "server/admin" focused release as a great deal of the engineering effort was for "behind the scene" features; optional DB2 data store, web service brokering, Domino Domain Monitoring (DDM), Domino Web Admin on Mozilla, policy lockdown, outgoing mail disclaimers, etc... but let's not loose site of the new features in the client: (in no specific order)

    Mail Threads displayed in memo header, Background View Indexing, AutoSave, Discover Folders, Calendar Filtering, Exiting Notes Warning, Open With... Edit With... , Calendar Cleanup, Recipient Message Marking, Signed/Encrypted Indicators, Close All Window Tabs, Save Window State, Much more Instant Messaging Integration, Enhanced Webconference integration on Calendar form, All Calendar View and New Categories, Preferred Rooms/Resources, No Subject Warnings on email, Sort By Subject, New mail rules (such as Blacklists and Whitelists, by form, stop processing action), Improved right-click mouse options (included developer being able to place actions there), MS Office Smarttag support, Notes embedded chats can be saved into mail file

    Notes embedded chat shows timestamps and only people online, Notes embedded chat allows you to send links (DB, view, doc), and more.

    Do these feature dramatically change the UI the way Hannover will? No. But they add many useful enhancements to the way people can work with Notes.

    For a (somewhat) complete list of ND7 information, see this page:


    Now, I'll try and respond to some of this thread's comments:

    1. "I have some really great ideas I could share with you. Or do you not care for us and our stupid opinions?! Should I just keep quiet?"

    Did you share any of your great ideas during the year long ND7 beta? Have you shared any of them in the Business Partner Forum?

    2. "What will Hannover deliver to us developers?"

    from {Link} "...will let developers combine their existing Lotus Notes applications with line-of-business application components to solve specific business problems.” How I'd translate that... you're going to be able to build the most powerful Notes applications ever. They will be able to combine with Workplace based applications, it will not be "one of the other".

    3. Remember it was not so long ago when IBM had a roadmap that merged Notes/Domino into Websphere.

    Can you please point me to that roadmap? WebSphere is a brand. Was it your (mis)impression that IBM wanted to "merge" Notes/Domino into WebSphere Application Server? Into WebSphere Portal? Each of these products does very different things, IBM NEVER wanted to merge them, but yes many sales reps were overzealous on pushing WebSphere products to Domino accounts, and caused confusion. IBM does want our customers to use products from all our Brands. Why wouldn't we? I'd love to see all Notes/Domino customers also using Lotus Sametime and QuickPlace, Workplace Services Express or WebSphere Portal, WebSphere Application Server to serve up JSPs, Rational Application Developer to build J2EE applications, various Tivoli products for monitoring, security, backup, mail archiving, and using DB2 for relational data storage. It would also be great these were all run on IBM hardware, and IBM Business Partners were used to consult on all of this.

    4. Get into the businesses with fewer than 10k seats and SELL IT

    It is true that IBM sales teams themselves are not always focused on SMB accounts. However, that is why IBM has 100,000 business partners around the world, to fill in the gaps in areas that IBM does not directly handle. That is why IBM has created Express lines of hardware and software. I don't think there is a small company (I even include 1-100 seats) on the planet that could not benefit from using Notes/Domino Express!

    5. I echo Richard's comments of "any of you who are independent developers or consultants working with Notes and Domino... if you're not a member of IBM's PartnerWorld program, and if you are not a participant in the Lotus Partner Forum, you're missing out." Go here to sign up, hope to see you in there.


    I hope this helps... Alan Lepofsky - IBM

  17. Hi Alan - great post.

    Domino 7 has always been a server focussed release in my mind - because of thats how its always been mentioned as.

    However DB2 will be a huge asset to developers when it becomes fully available. I can't wait to find some time to test this.

    I guess though a new full version of any product would always assume a feature improvement across the board to people such as customers who dont really follow the tech information etc.

    I would say though that I remember the "diagram" from IBM that had the Domino roadmap that was a running alongside (websphere) and then a final image of a join together - I guess that was sometime in 2002.

    This was before "Workplace" was a known entity to customers (well me at least).

    • avatar
    • Jake Howlett
    • Thu 22 Sep 2005 06:26 AM


    This site is for web developers and has as little to do with the Notes Client as is possible. When I ask "What's New?" I do so as a web developer - who doesn't care one iota about Calendar Cleanup and the like.

    If I thought for one second that sharing my ideas for improving Designer in the BP forums would help then I'd probably would. Would it though? Really!?

    If you search this site for "roadmap" you will see the image they're talking about.

  18. re "If I thought for one second... Would it though? Really!"

    The web is a big place, Jake. You've done a great job here on this site, and you've built a reputation and gathered a bunch of respect. This is a nice home you've built for yourself, and you've thrown open the door to lots of visitors, but IBM's got a much bigger house. They've got some open doors, too. You should pay them a visit.

    I can name BPs whose ideas expressed in the Partner Forum have gotten them invitations to talk directly to the developers in Westford. I can name features that were first suggested in the Partner Forum -- by me -- that have made it into Domino Designer.

    Am I telling you that joining PartnerWorld and the PartnerForum would guarantee that you get everything you want? Of course not. But I am telling you... promising you even to the extent that anyone outside of IBM can... that you _will_ know more about IBM's direction, and you _will_ have a greater chance of influencing it if you do so. Yeah, some of your ideas will still fall on the floor. In some cases IBM will say "yeah, that would be great, but it ain't gonna happen". But some of your ideas might just be accepted because they're good and right. Some others might be subjected to questions about customer interest, and accepted only if you can help IBM understand how it serves their financial interests... but it won't just be you answering the questions from IBM. Other BPs that IBM knows, other BPs with customers who could use your feature, might add their voices to yours for a particular feature request, and that can help build some momentum for your ideas.

    Momentum is necessary. IBM gets loads of great ideas and requests from customers and partners and developers, and there are a few hundred bloggers out here contributing their own ideas, too. Momentum develops a lot better when people collaborate to build it, and that will happen a lot more readily -- and a lot more visibly to the people who matter -- if the collaboration happens in one place instead of being scattered around the web, here in your house, over in Steve's, in mine, and all the other houses/blogs that are out there.

    So, believe it or don't. All I've got is my own experience to share with you, and all I'm doing is trying to help you find a way to have a stronger voice with IBM.

    • avatar
    • Jake Howlett
    • Thu 22 Sep 2005 07:44 AM

    Thanks Richard. I did actually join PartnerWorld the other day. I might pay a visit to the forums one day soon and see how far I get.

    • avatar
    • Glyn Thomas
    • Thu 22 Sep 2005 08:33 AM

    My first encounter with Lotus was late beta 3.00, installing servers, clients with the odd bit of development and project management, at a time when Novell was a leading force in the server market. Since then, Microsoft has dominated the corporate server market , as an enthusiastic Lotus Notes person, I prayed that Microsoft would take over Lotus and develop the key technologies of the product into the smart client which Microsoft promotes today.

    If they had I would still be in a job, Microsoft Lotus would be placed to sit in with .net and the Lotus community would I believe be supported in the Microsoft way rather than the IBM consulting way...!

    • avatar
    • Axel
    • Thu 22 Sep 2005 09:45 AM

    I will save Allan Lepovskys list in my MS Word 2003 and going to read that in train. Thanks a lot.

    I am hearing that databases stored in DB2 are very slow.

    Is that right (no flame, just question). Guy was saying so in forum)?

    @harkpabst (old collegue of mine): So a rdbms schema is a not natural abstraction and a document is just natural? Notes documents are the same abstractions as db schema. (don't want to discuss, but its truth)

    • avatar
    • Fredrik
    • Thu 22 Sep 2005 10:29 AM

    Stan: Yes I know that IBM wants us to move over to WebSphere for “WebSphere-like” application development and its probably the right way to go in the big picture, and I really like the many new doors that opened for us (have used both the toolkit and WAS/Portal together with domino), but does this mean that no new (major) web-related features/functions in the core product will appear in future releases? Does this mean that domino as a standalone-web-platform stopped evolving?

    Don’t get me wrong, I love domino, and my intention was not to rant on the new release, it was just a reflection about the lack of new development related features (4.6 and 5 really got me exited).

    David: Thanks for the clarification about web-services

  19. Alan,

    Thanks for directly addressing my gripe.

    My experience working with business partners has been in the past that they are not (or were not a year ago) actually able to sell the software. How they were expected to help move seats was something of a mystery. I eventually had to sign up as a business partner myself just to get a desktop license for a client, but I still couldn't get them software.

    The problem, as I see it, with IBM relying on the BPs to reach smaller targets is the past confusion created by IBM's consultants and sales reps who were out in the market directing small projects towards Websphere. How is a BP supposed to sell Notes when "IBM themselves don't recommend Notes for this" or that?

    When IBM bought Notes, they acquired a technology BEST suited for small companies and it remains as such. (mail aside, which is better for large deployments than Exchange). Workflow, RAD, KM... small companies need it and I'm convinced Domino is the best solution for lots of in house applications. Why, then, does IBM (yourself apparently excluded) seem to not actively send this message anymore?

    Or mybe I too am not paying enough attention, perhaps having become jaded from my expeirences.

  20. Jake -- the Partner Forum takes some time and effort to arrange. It is Notes-based. No web access. Initially, this was by design, as Lotus had an interest in making sure that BPs were using the Notes client. It's only remained that way for the last several years out of inertia as far as I can tell. People at IBM have wanted to set up web access, but haven't invested in getting it switched over. Anyhow, the point is that you have to go through the process of cross-certifying, setting up connection docs, pulling replicas, etc., so it's not something you can do on a whim. Plus, the information is probably really well hidden on the PartnerWorld site. To be honest, I don't even know where to go or who to contact to start the process any more, but I'm sure I can help find out if you run into any roadblocks. Feel free to drop me a line any time.

  21. @Jerry: BPs definitely are able to resell the software. I choose not to, however, because keeping up with part numbers, prices, procedures isn't worth the hassle -- and there's virtually no margin in it. I refer any software sales for any of my clients to one of several BPs I know who do enough volume to make it worth their while to keep up with it all. Still, you make a very good point. IBM wants to rely on BPs as the primary channel for SMB sales, and there are lots of BPs who can do that, but the percentage who actually do go out and proactively sell product is probably relatively small.

  22. Jerry, you're very welcome, I'm always happy to try and help when I can. Here is some more information that may help.

    The Domino Express Home Page: {Link} and here is a link to buy the software on-line: {Link} Just choose your country, and click "view pricing". For example in the US it is $133 and away you go. Also, here is the Express Licensing FAQ: {Link}

    Domino (and the tons of applications which can run on it {Link} is an excellent choice for SMB!

  23. Richard/Jake, I inlcuded the link to get access to the Partner Forum in my original post, but here it is again: {Link}

  24. @Alan: Ah, cool. Didn't notice that. Bookmarked!

  25. Hi Axel, if we want to get really picky, we could argue that even written language on a sheet of paper is an abstraction. It just depends on the level.

    Office users (in fact everyone who finished school just about successfully) are used to dealing with paper documents. When giving them an electronic representation of those documents, they don't care if the info is picked up from tables, from a notes document or appears just magically. In many cases they want a user exprerience that somehow mimics (and possibly extends) the concept of documents.

    Now, for a developer, simply storing the info in what the user recognizes as a document in something that technically represents a document as well, requires only a small level of abstraction. Mainly caring about stuff like data types or maximum storage capacity. Even non-programmers can do that. Creating (and maintaining) a data structure for a relational design definitely requires a more complex methodology, higer skills and a higer degree of abstraction.

    You could still make a valid point by stating, that db schemas as simple as that can be generated dynamically by software, as demonstrated by some of the applications that ship with Workplace.

  26. Here! Here! Jake. I'm completely with you on this one. Domino 7 is utterly disappointing for the Designer. There was so much opportunity for IBM to improve Designer and ... nothing.

    I mean really, can anyone say: 'DOCTYPE.' Folks who design Notes apps for the web have been complaining about the inability to specify a DOCTYPE for at least the last 3 years (well, I've been complaining about it for at least that long). How hard would that have been to have addressed in this release?

    There is virtually nothing in 7.0 that will really improve how I work, or for that matter, improve things for my clients. As for the DB2 integration, pantheon of IBMers couldn't convince me that this will add value for the masses. Let's face it, DB2 costs a small fortune -- software-, hardware- and talent-wise. I'd be hard-pressed to make a business case for a client to make an investment in DB2 merely as an alternate datastore for some Domino database. More importantly, if your readership had been following the IBM line on this release as closely as they claim to have, they would have no doubt noticed that 'technically' DB2 integration isn't even in 7:

    [excerpted from the IBM website] "In the first release of Domino 7.0, DB2 integration features are for test and evaluation purposes only, not for production or development work. Full support for DB2 integration features will be included in an upcoming release of Domino 7."

    I suppose, Jake, its not all bad. In the end, we did get shared columns. Look at it this way, if there is some modicum of time-saving in that, we'll have a bit more time to invest in all of the hacks needed to get our apps to look reasonably decent on the web...

    • avatar
    • Jake Howlett
    • Fri 23 Sep 2005 03:58 AM

    Thanks for joining me on this one Jennifer. I was starting to feel alone on this one.

    • avatar
    • Cris
    • Sat 24 Sep 2005 09:45 AM

    Hi Jake,

    I'm with you.

    I can't believe that Alan Lepofsky, listing some R7 new client features, has written:

    "No Subject Warnings on email, Sort By Subject, ...".

    I laughed at first, then I talked with some friends about that and they laughed too. ;-)

    Are IBM so pround of that new features? MS and other sw companies are so threatened.. ;-)

    Then I read about the invitation to join Lotus Partner Forum, the big Round Table.

    Guys, why can't I join that forum just using my web browser? Why still use cross-certification between servers if I (btw, I'm an IBM partner) prefer to use my nice web browser?

    I think Jake opinions and other smart guys should be listened very carefully by IBM, anywhere, even in personal blogs that are respected by the Notes community:

    in fact must admit I liked IBM's Alan posts, even if he wrote "A few people have asked me to comment on this thread...". Come on Alan, stay with us...


  27. @Cris: Blame the early Lotus Business Partners (including me) more than Lotus for the fact that you can't get to the Partner Forum with a browser. We played a big part in convincing Lotus _not_ to open up the forum to browser users back when Domino was just starting out on the web. On several occasions, IBM proposed opening it up, and we resisted -- strongly. However misguided, our reason was that we didn't want IBM partners with no serious committment to Notes and Domino to sit there lurking via browser and deriving value from all our contributions while not contributing. Bear in mind, this was in the late 90's, the integration of Lotus and IBM was far from complete, the integration of the Lotus partners with the larger IBM partner community was far from complete, and the capabilities of the Notes client as a collaboration client were still viewed as being way, way ahead of what you could do with a browser. Resistance by partners to opening up the Forum to browser users is probably all but gone now, but now I think it's a matter of resources to convert the design and webify all the capabilities we have built into the forum for the Notes client so as not to lose functionality, and to make all the content look good regardless of which client you want to work with.

  28. @Cris: and oh, by the way.... I'm one of the "few people" who really did send Alan a link to this thread and suggest that he might want to join it.

  29. I just fiinished reviewing product manager Mark Jourdain's "Application Development using IBM Lotus Domino Designer® 7" presentation. While there are a number of slides on NSFDB2 and on Web Services, which aren't exactly insignificant features, there are also another dozen slides about new methods/properties, new @functions/@commands, and stuff like that.

    To say "There is virtually nothing in 7.0 that will really improve how I work" is incredibly disappointing and, in my opinion, quite a narrow view. If you just look at Autosave, or the Lotusscript debugger, or view indexing in background, or any of dozens of other new things in this release, pretty much every audeince benefits from it.

    This release was in beta for over a year. I'm not sure why the feature-set as shipped seems to be such a surprise to those in this thread. I don't recall seeing many of these names in the beta forum, providing feedback on the new features and ideas for future enhancements. I think Richard's point is, those who have provided such input do actually get back what they give, and sometimes more. I look forward to working with all of you on "Hannover" and beyond.

    • avatar
    • Jake Howlett
    • Mon 26 Sep 2005 01:59 PM

    Ed. There may well be something for every audience, but where do I fit in. I think the point lots of people missed about this blog entry is that I am talking solely about *me*. Name one thing in R7 that helps me as a web developer! Ok, shared columns *might* make my life a _little_ easier if I could ever get used to the idea of using them. Apart from that there's just nothing for me. Web Services? Never had call to use them! In a flash I'd swap both featuers for removal of a couple of the annoyances I suffer daily. I don't want wowing with new features. All I want are changes to the way I have to work and suffer with Notes on a daily basis.

    It's a purely selfish review of version 7, I know...

  30. "Web Services? Never had call to use them!"

    Yeah, I think a lot of us said the same thing when they built this add-in task called Domino atop Notes 4.5. Web browsers? Those are for static publishing! (If one even knew what a browser was at the time!).

    I don't mind a selfish review, Jake, but when you start off going over why it's not a release worth "getting excited about", I have to beg to differ. There are a lot of new features in the release that people are excited about, and some of them are architecturally significant enough that the 7.0 label is quite justified. IMHO, of course. :)

  31. @Ed: First, I hope you are well. Since I suppose your comments were directed at my support for Jake's perspective, I think I should reply, if not just for clarification sake. The fact is that my post was to be construed in the context of this original article and subsequent comments. In that respect, perhaps you could say that my comments were 'narrow' in scope, versus my having a narrow view.

    While it's true that I failed to speak up earlier through participation in the beta forum, it warrants note that the DOCTYPE issue I mentioned in my previous comment has been something of a sore spot for all of us that develop web-based Domino apps for a number of years. If you do a quick search in the Forum (even for 4/5) on notes.net (err... developerworks), you'll find that there are more than a few posts on the subject. To add the ability to specify what appears above the html tag could not possibly be that difficult to do for the smart folks at IBM that it's been overlooked through four years of development -- and yet it has.

    This leads me to believe that there is a disconnect between the development team at IBM and those of us who use the products in commercial development. I know you won't disagree that the real world is not a controlled environment where everyone uses the same browser (not to mention browser version). It's not even a place where companies use the client or browser to the exclusion of the other. What may seem to the un-initiated as a meaningless bit of generated text that Domino places at the top of the page is, in fact, a source of hours of extra development time for so many of us! This is costly to me as a developer and to my clients, who are of course, your (IBM's) customers too.

    I'll reiterate what Jake so perfectly (and humorously) brought to light: there are actually browsers out there other than MSIE. If you've ever developed a Domino-based web application for external clients, to whom you can't dictate which browser they use, you know that at every step along the way, you are constantly checking to see how things display from one browser to the next. The addition of a means to do this from within Designer is more than just a convenience, it's a necessity.

    To that end, do you know how much time it would save the average web developer to simply be able to edit stylesheets in Designer? After all, it's text for goodness sake! It's not like this would require much effort to add to Designer. However, all Domino web developers know that you can add hours to your development time in order to tweak your stylesheets, because to do so you must: check the design in all of your browsers, switch to another program, change that 3px reference to 4px, save the css file, go back to Designer, switch to the shared resources, select the css file, click the refresh button, click ok on the dialog box, switch back to your form/page/view, and check it all over again in your various browsers. All of those steps to simply change a 3 to a 4 on your stylesheet. Now, repeat that about 20 times per form/page/view that you design.

    I'm really not being narrow-minded here, Ed, but please don't offer me AutoSave or LS Debugger improvements as a reply to a very pointed (and valid) commentary about the lack of enhancements 7.0 offers Domino web developers. And, it's worth mentioning that I have not had any engagements this year that have been exclusively for the Notes client. I'm certainly not saying that the client is no longer a place that people work, but it's very clear to me that the browser has become the 'client' of choice for many organizations. With that in mind, it is ostensibly an area that IBM should look to continuously improve in terms of efficiency in the development environment, richer functionality, and streamlined application development.

    As for the enhancements that 7.0 does offer, I'm sure that they are great. To say that I am disappointed with the product overall is simply a misquote of my post. Frankly, I'm a bit disappoint that my comments were taken out of their original context. My work has been squarely rooted in web-based application development for the last year, and my clients sit very much in the SMB space. In both regards, DB2 integration offers very little in terms of improvements, which was the point of my comment you paraphrased.

    In the end, I'm still a Lotus devotee, admirer...some might say zealot. Simply put, I think that IBM really missed an opportunity to provide enhancements that not only seem to be well past their time, but would have offered significant returns for those of us in the developer community.

  32. Wild Bill's comment about agent profiling is spot-on. If nothing else, this is a reason to upgrade. I seem to recall a recent post ({Link} , along with a few others I can't find right now, where you were trying to determine the most efficient way to do something. Now Domino can help with that by telling you exactly how long each method takes to run in an agent.

  33. We are testing some databases of ours in Lotus Notes. It appears as a developer I dont find anything new. I also thought this testing is a waste exercise as there is nothing new that would fool the alreadyd esigned databases in earlier versions.

    May be we need to learn something else to survive.

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