One Last Domino Project

Lotus Domino has got its knockers. Of which I've always been one. But, believe it or not, I'm also quite fond of it.

Back in January I said that I was no longer a Domino Developer. But then, in February, I was approached to do some Domino work. Nothing too taxing. A classic Domino website (customer still on version 8.0) that was pretty much a plain website. It didn't take long and I delivered it earlier this week.

Delivering the site was a doddle, as you'd expect, and was done on site - although it could easily have been done remotely. Such is the ease with which Domino apps can be deployed in to a live environment, it took me all of about 20 minutes.

Compare this with, say, an ASP.NET app's deployment, which would take quite a lot longer and involve FTP, RDC (for SQL database creation), IIS Manager. All very messy.

It's been nice being able to reminisce of how I used to work. I'm not saying I particularly miss Domino development, but there is a lot to be said for it. Domino is an amazing product: solid, reliable and simple to deploy, maintain and update applications.

It's a shame Domino is going the way it is really. And let's not pretend it's not. It's a dying product. I know we've all been saying this for 10+ years but now, really, come on, it's on the way out.

But hang on. Surely the fact I've just been asked to do a Domino job mean there's at least some work out there? Well, yeah, kind of. But even this customer is planning an imminent move to SharePoint. They just needed to get this one site online before then. Maybe it's the last Domino app they'll ever commission.

It's all a bit of a shame really.


    • avatar
    • Nils
    • Fri 8 Apr 2011 06:25 AM

    Deployment is one thing in Domino that you really miss when you start working with SharePoint, it's such a mess...

    In SharePoint 2007 you need to use Open Source projects to have any meaningfull deployment process at all. It's better in 2010, but still a mess....

    • avatar
    • Jorge Coelho
    • Fri 8 Apr 2011 06:44 AM

    I agree with the growing decline Jake. I'm reaching a point where it almost seems uncomfortable mentioning that I have Lotus/Domino development experience. I equate it to being a writer and mentioning that I am proficient in Word Perfect.

    I too look back on the days of development with much fondness, but understand that long-term survival in this market means not working on Lotus/Domino.

    1. As I've noticed others doing as well, I've started trying to list my experience in terms of what was accomplished with whatever bit of that was most relevant to current times. Domino might not take top billing anymore, but it would be short-changing yourself to leave it off completely. So I'm apt to say I'm integrating Mobile Devices (Blackberry, iPad) with business logic and workflows using Java and IBM Domino. Being as many people interested in retaining services stop reading when they've found what they wanted, this takes the widest net approach.

      Show the rest of this thread

    • avatar
    • Palmi
    • Fri 8 Apr 2011 10:16 AM

    I agree with you that "its going away" meaning old way of doing Stuff in domino. You can now get more out of Domino ( ed brill licence ) and Xpages is REALLY going places and has great support by the community and OpenNTF. Some would argue that is little late coming to the game but when it comes down to it , its not the platform that we should focus on but the RAD and functionality. You say that your not a domino developer anymore so you are dot.net ASP . Cool that means that you can do some work for companies that have that in house. but if some small company came to you and said " we need website, email , some workflow applications and it should be inhouse -

    Could you REALLY tell them to go to MS shearpoint ?. REALLY ? RAD in domino just got lot FASTER and better with Xpages. We have companies that are coming back to Domino getting away from MS. They really can say now that its better and cheaper to use Domino. I can show them in 30 min what Xpages can do ( thanks Dave Leedy) and with Traveler (free) and they are blown away and yes you get server for free all you pay is per user, gets cheaper next year when you pay 20 % of original price. You may not have companies knocking on you door asking for domino work but you know that there are few hundred companies startups every month in UK . they are not all going to Google apps. Get on the website and see if you can´t help them getting IT to work for them.

      • avatar
      • Jake Howlett
      • Mon 11 Apr 2011 02:50 AM

      None of what Domino is now capable of really matters any more if nobody wants to use it.

      Admittedly, the world I operate in is very small, but *all* of my customers are moving off Domino. All of them. And then when I get a new Domino customer (as mentioned above) they're moving too!

      Time for a survey me thinks...

      • avatar
      • Jake Howlett
      • Mon 11 Apr 2011 02:55 AM

      To answer your question "Could you REALLY tell them to go to MS shearpoint?". No.

      Not that I couldn't. Just that I wouldn't. I never makes those calls. Unless the platform to host on is for me to decide, in which case I'd choose the best fit. For most of my roles though it's not down to me to suggest moving platforms.

    • avatar
    • Thomas
    • Fri 8 Apr 2011 11:31 AM

    Domino has been milked by IBM for the last 10 years... they've made a real mess of it. I think of Domino as big melting pot that everything has been tossed into over the years... workplace, websphere, eclipse, java, etc... etc.... The melting pot has become so sullied that it just doesn't taste good to upper management anymore. Nobody really knows what Domino is or does. It's really hard to sell a product that claims to do nearly everything, but doesn't do anything really well.

    It's really unfortunate.

    • avatar
    • Darren
    • Fri 8 Apr 2011 01:51 PM

    If I had a pound (£, the British unit of currency) for every time I've heard a customer saying they're going to move their Notes / Domino applications to SharePoint, and then finding that SharePoint can't handle it, I'd go out tomorrow and buy myself an iPad. And I don't even want an iPad.

      • avatar
      • Jake Howlett
      • Mon 11 Apr 2011 02:51 AM

      I don't doubt that Darren, but you can't escape the fact that customers are falling over themselves to get away from Domino. You might feel safe in the knowledge they'll struggle, but surely the fact they're trying in the first place is cause for alarm?

    1. I concur Darren.

      I worked on a project to move all applications from Domino (some 200+) to Sharepoint. 2 Years later - no move. It was noticed after Sharepoint was put in that domino was so stable that they considered just leaving them there! Oh the irony.

      On a positive note, great to see you getting some xpages work Jake :-)


      Show the rest of this thread

    2. This is starting to mirror my own company's trip with the .NET/Sharepoint world. Three years ago, the move was imminent! No more Domino apps were going to be designed, and we were all getting training in SQL, VB.NET, Sharepoint, etc.

      Three years have gone by, we're still designing new Domino apps, and nothing's been done with Sharepoint/.NET that I can see (besides a mention here and there, a few lines in a meeting outline).

      Two years ago, I was like Jake, and ready to count Domino out -- I don't know anymore. :\

    • avatar
    • Jerome B
    • Sat 9 Apr 2011 09:30 AM

    Jake, yes a bit of a shame with Domino. I am new to the sharepoint stuff and have a domino app which has the purpose of global collaboration of people working on a product. The form has many subforms and each subform has a name field and fields relating to that persons task for that section. Many of these subforms make up the form. I am wondering whether being a past notes development whether this can be done on sharepoint, given the talk of the limits in the number of fields in a list. Also I don't think you could like in Domino edit the list item using a different form as I have done in domino loading in form a subform for each individual user to mimic the behaviour of allowing them to edit only their section. Any pointers on how to do this in sharepoint would help. My notes form has in total over 2000 fields as it is essentially a very long questionaire grouped into subforms for each participant in the product development.

    My key problem is:

    1. Can you have a list with more than 1000 items in it in one form.

    2. Can you render parts of the form to be edited and not all of it to simulate different users only editing their section of the form.

    I need to build it in a sharepoint environment.

  1. Domino was an amazing collaboration dev environment, but was often misunderstood, at least in both Notes organisations in which I have worked and from the criticisms I have read over the years.

    Totally agree re it being a shame, and I still feel that, despite my not having used Domino for about 3 years now. My only role in Domino is now from a support and migration perspective, but I still come across tricks and cheeky hacks which impress.

    Notes/Domino is now a dirty word in my organisation - I still experience ignorance about what it does/did, but I don't attempt to correct or inform. I accept that the choice of collaboration platform has changed. In my case, SharePoint 2010 *is* pretty compelling stuff, but it is still messy as Nils says. Better, more RAD than 2007, but still a little messy.

    I'll still remain the "last fan" of Notes in my organisation, though, but it's Microsoft all the way now. Doesn't mean I won't keep reading about Notes!

    @Jerome B - not sure about the limit on the number of *fields* in a list, but there are recommendations for the number of *list items* in a list. This, for SharePoint 2007 at least, was soft-set to 2000 for rendering purposes, but lists storing higher numbers are possible. Just not recommended. It's better in SharePoint 2010 though.

    You *can* change which form to edit a SharePoint list item. Either change it as part of a new list definition (it's a schema XML attribute) or consider changing it in the deployed site using SharePoint Designer.

    For multiple subforms, consider these two options (and anyone else chip in with any other ideas!):

    - an application page - this is a custom aspx page you create yourself to perform the rendering and can contain whatever logic/controls you like. You are not then restricted to out of the box SharePoint rendering

    - use sections in an InfoPath form (assuming you have the enterprise version of SharePoint which allows for InfoPath forms services) and these can have what are called Conditional Formatting (InfoPath 2007) or Rules (InfoPath 2010) applied which hides or displays.

    If your Notes form has 2000 fields, and the recommended limit is 256 (check out the limits in 2007 here: http://blah.winsmarts.com/2008-4-SharePoint_limits.aspx), then you might want to consider re-structuring your form. Perhaps you can isolate certain related fields, use a separate form for those and link through to them using a lookup field.


    • avatar
    • Giulio
    • Sun 10 Apr 2011 09:11 PM

    I like these sort of posts Jake, it lets me unleash my "Mr. Hyde".

    General animosity by business and customers towards Lotus Notes has reached a point where they'll even believe the crap espoused by a M$ BP to get out of the platform. And it's understandable considering what a tremendous balls-up the Notes 8 client was, when it was released with much fan-fare.

    Eclipse is very poorly implemented and the complexity to exploit the capabilities to integrate and evolve add-ons is beyond the majority of developers.

    So, developers alienated because of increased development complexity as well as general neglect, users are alienated because of poor performance and stability, and IT support alienated because of increased complexity to support it. In the meantime competitors and the world has moved on.

    Then, just to finish things off with a good kick in the gonads for BP's, IBM then openly cannibalises it's BP's by offering LotusLive as an alternative to on-premises, thus eliminiting any opportunity for BP's to sell Domino solutions. No wonder Jake, that you had to do ASP.Net. It's a safer bet MS won't sabotage your efforts.

    1. I noticed the difference of approach from MS too. I attended a dog food dev con about 3 years ago. What a different world. MS BPs were actively partnering with developers from MS to create their unique and powerful products. Never mind that the solution required fully 5 servers to implement, it gave users a level of capability unavailable anywhere else and there was a strong partnership of support and promotion from MS towards the BP.

      I know IBM tries, but MS is "winning" with BPs and hence a lot of customers. Now, in fairness, I am not in a position to regularly speak to an IBM person who might support the company I work for. But from all I've heard about how things have gone in the past, that one day conference was enlightening to say the least.

    2. Giulio,

      come on. Microsoft is selling their BPOS (love that shortcut) for little money. They are giving away their software for free for small companies / start-ups and in the education space. You can get a big software package with 10 seats for very little money by becoming a Microsoft Business Partner.

      What do you have do do for it?

      Sign in with your company profile and pay less than 300 GBP per year.

      In addition Microsoft margins are very low in SMB except you find some customers that don't care about paying 20%+ more.

      With Azure they have started a very big cloud initiative.

      If you think IBM is evil ask Anti-Virus vendors what they think about Microsoft's free Anti-Virus solutions for consumer and small business.

      Sure you can make money as a .Net developer as you can with PHP or Java or any other technology. And the fact that .Net does not narrow you on collaborative solutions but works in a much broader range of applications is a plus.

      But if you are a Business Partner and make your money with one of the big vendors you are having "fun" with all of them.

      The circumstance that there is less Domino work is a direct result of many years of stagnancy and IBM's decision to push other products and technologies.

      Show the rest of this thread

  2. AND YOUR CHALLENGE IS......................

    Sorry that this may be it for you and Domino Jake....It's been a fun ride all these years.

    I have learned a lot from you, and I thank you very deeply for it.

    Anyway, your challenge is, now you're a .net developer, to recreate this site in .net

    A .net developer couldn't possibly have a Domino site, surely?

    1. Well IBM Lotus developers (XPages) developers in many cases use Wordpress (or something else with PHP, Apache, MySQL). Sites like the XPages Blog use third party vendors like Squarespace.

      The dirty little secret about Sharepoint is that it is just web technology. Call it Sharepoint but just deploy a .Net application.

      • avatar
      • Jake Howlett
      • Tue 12 Apr 2011 08:45 AM

      The only reason I'd migrate off Domino is if Prominic.net pulled the plug on the free hosting. At that point I'd consider it, but, otherwise, I won't bother. If I do convert codestore.net to any other technology then I'll probably leave this .NSF being served as is from something like archive.codestore.net

      I don't have time to even think about anything like that now though.


      Show the rest of this thread

  3. I'm surprised to see so many people saying they or their clients are moving away from Domino. Everybody knows that the financial crisis has brought down to a stand still many IT projects and Domino is no exception, but to say that it's being dropped and the projects being done in other platforms, well I just don't see that.

    We are in Spain. In the last two yeas we have moved two companies from MS to Domino. The reason we convinced them was because of the power of Domino development. Now with xPages we are convincing a lot more clients to stay with Domino and start new development projects. And I'm talking about projects which are 6 months to a year for one programmer. because of all this work our company has doubled in size since last year and we are still looking for people as we just get more and more work. Existing and new clients are amazed at the type of work that can be done with their Domino server and xPages.

    From where we stand Domino is a strong and growing development platform.

      • avatar
      • Aaron
      • Mon 11 Apr 2011 01:57 PM

      Sounds like you need to sub a little out to Rockall! :) You know what you are getting up front.

      Show the rest of this thread

  4. I concur with Alejandro. Here in Switzerland, we still have some business going, and the customers are happy with the exciting new possibilities of XPages.

    Of course, we are losing some customers, but the ones that have moved over to Sharepoint are licking their wounds... They found out that it was a lot more complicated to develop stuff (infrastructure and qualifications of internal staff), and I hope that they might consider returning to Notes.

    Still, Jake, our main skills as (ex-) Notes Developers is that we can talk to clients, and program. The combination of both skills is unusual, and unusually high with Notes Developers, mostly because you can do so much on your own using Notes.

    My take is to try and keep up both skills, and then the underlying technology is no longer important. We all need to learn new stuff constantly, that should be a *fun* part of our jobs.

    Cheer up guys!

    • avatar
    • Harald
    • Thu 14 Apr 2011 12:59 AM

    Our company (34.000 employee) just decided to stop the investigations in sharepoint... we went back to Lotus Notes + Quickr + Connections. Good or bad luck? Who knows...

      • avatar
      • Alam
      • Sun 8 Jul 2012 01:23 PM

      Domino Xpages is faster than other application, any body develop the application witout writing any code, it is also use a agent base application that can be automate your application flow.

      its use XML, JAJA Script, DHTML, HTML, it can be use for both Lotus client as wel web broswe with changing the code

    • avatar
    • John
    • Sun 17 Apr 2011 09:15 AM

    Everyone is talking like xpages is saving notes. Honestly, I cannot develop anything as sophisticated as I've been doing without it. Sure, I can quickly develop applications with it, but not applications I would feel comfortable presenting as my work.

    My sites are designed first, focused on the user experience. Those designs do not line up with xpages capabilities, without such heavy manipulation. I might as well have done it with jQuery and traditional domino web dev.

    Even if you think xpages is the bomb, I need to understand how you develop in 8.5.2? It is crazy with freeze-ups and crashes. Exclipse was a bad decision. It has always been a shitty platform. It's free and still has dismal market share. My company tried to use eclipse designer for 6 months. We just went back to 8.0.1 . Sadly, I think it will be that last version of designer I install.

    My only hope is IBM will pull a db2nsf. "Starting Q3 2011, lotus will not be supporting the eclipse platform"..

      • avatar
      • Jake Howlett
      • Sun 17 Apr 2011 03:03 PM

      That's pretty much exactly how I feel.

    1. Re: how do people develop in 8.5.2? From what I've observed, they are either running a 64 bit dual or quad core system with 6 GB or RAM or running in a Macbook Pro in Parallels. You can pretty much forget a reasonably productive and stable development experience on Win 32 with only 2 or 3 GB of RAM.

      Sort of the same thing has happened to PC gaming - to go off topic a bit. My game rig for the past few years has been a 2.8 GHz Pentium IV with 2 GB of ram and a NVidia 6800 GTX something. Picked up a game recently that said, no joke, minimum requirements: 2.0 Ghz Dual Core among other astronomical hardware requirements.

      The root of both of these issues (really one in the same) is an increasing dependence on bloated frameworks and less reliance on coding skill and efficient memory management. This has been the same failing among most commercial software offerings for the past 15 years.

      Solution: quit using computers, get a journeyman brick-layer card. Ok, maybe not just yet... it's still easier to put up with crap software than to pitch mortar for even a day.

      • avatar
      • alam
      • Sun 8 Jul 2012 01:28 PM

      eclipse platform is supporting Domino 8.5.3 version, note desingner are alos supproting eclipse platform.

    • avatar
    • Fabrice
    • Tue 19 Apr 2011 11:04 AM

    As I had said several times on this blog, same in France.

    Several of my customers have moved to Outlook and new domino application developments are frozen.

    Convert Lotus app in other technology is however not easily done...

    So there is still work for domino developer but very few new projets, only maintenance.

    10 years of experience just to do maintenance work, what a pity!

    • avatar
    • Alam
    • Sun 8 Jul 2012 01:43 PM

    Top 5 Things to Know About the New Domino Designer

    Eclipse-based IDE

    1. You can arrange your work area to be the way you like it. Just drag and drop!

    And if you change your mind - no problem. Just remember these menu commands:

    Window - Reset Perspective puts back the default layout

    Window - Show Eclipse View lets you show or hide a panel (called an Eclipse view)

    2. Minimize or maximize any Eclipse view if you want more space to work.

    3. Double-click in the Navigator to open lists of design elements, such as forms. Single-click to see an element's properties in the Properties panel.

    4. Working sets let you group your databases and show or hide the groups. Manage working sets via this icon in the Navigator:

    5. Design element properties and read-only database properties are now in the Properties panel.

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