Lotus Notes

Lotus Notes (now owned by IBM, http://www.lotus.com/) is a mature, proprietary GroupWare product.

Notes has had a new lease on life in its incarnation as "Domino" (http://www.lotus.com/home.nsf/tabs/domino), in which Notes databases can be accessed via the Web.

A Wiki-like site could fairly easily be implemented with a Notes database.

However I'm not sure this would be of much interest except to hardcore Notes devotees... -- KaiCarver

See also: InterfaceHallOfShame (only last updated 5 years ago)

If they're so cool, why do they call their conference LotusFear?? -- RonJeffries (It's actually LotuSphere?)

I'm guessing they call their conference LotusFear? because the product has a slick interface and is easy to use. This assumption is based on my never having used the product. However, I am thankful for this! http://digilander.libero.it/chiediloapippo/Engineering/iarchitect/lotus.htm

While that page makes some good points, a lot of it is totally misdirected, perhaps due to this major misconception:

This is not the login window for a weapons targeting system; it is an e-mail application

No, it's much more than an email system, and is used in areas where security matters. The view that it's just a simple email system pervades that review. Which is a pity, because there is much to criticize in the Notes UI anyway :-)

-- PaulHudson

I've heard a lot about Lotus Notes and precious little about similar products. Do they have any serious competition? and how does it compare technically?

At our (LotusNotes development) department, we have a saying: LotusNotes is, sadly, the best software available in the GroupWare market

Which of course means that you quickly learn to hate it, but no software available seems to achieve the same goals better.

-- ClaesWallin

Compare technically to what? Its major competitor is probably Exchange. It competes for some applications with various Web application development environments.

In my view, Lotus Notes's strength is the integration of a replicating, secure, object based database with a reasonable application development environment and user client. In particular, the way the application is distributed (in a "made available to users" sense, not the client-server sense of distribution, although it does that too) along with the data it works on was a major win for us in a previous life. Just make the change in your local system, "press one button", and the changes make their way to all your servers, your (sporadically connected) sales forces, and so on.

The integration is the key part. There are better databases, IDEs, languages, client interfaces etc. There's still not a lot to touch it as a whole. Personally I think Lotus are relying on this too much - and need to do work to make sure it keeps its lead. In particular, the client UI is pretty poor by modern standards.

-- PaulHudson again.

I've given a Notes wiki[http://www.electricmemo.com/pilotwiki] a go on R5.. surprisingly tricky getting it not to do stuff.

-- MarkLawson

What happened to your site?

It died - luckily the code lives on in it's Java Agent form at http://www.emconnect.com We actually used this as part of an FE system called Learning Circles for Croydon College in the UK.

-- MarkLawson

I also tried to create a NotesWiki. It is working both on R4 and R5 and written in LotusScript. A first version has been released to the unsuspecting public.

-- JensChristianFischer

Article: A very good description of the inner workings of Notes can be found at: http://www.notes.net/today.nsf/lookup/inside_notes

Basically, the replication scheme just looks for changes in a sequence number, as I understand it. The number is incremented each time it's modified, and Notes records which sequence number it saw last from each site ("server", in Notes terminology). Sequence numbers in early versions were per-note (document, record, whatever). Now they're per field (record, whatever).

OO: It's not. They don't claim to be (Object store seems to be the phrase used). Notes documents are a slef-describing collection of fields of a number of types (text, number, text list, number list, dates, rich text etc). Each record can have a different set of fields. Typically a database consists of a number of sets of records where the documents in each set have the same fields, and the SQL interfaces reflect this. That isn't enforced, though.

So, it's not a relational db either although it typically looks enough like one to cause much confusion to people with a relational database mindset.

-- PaulHudson

I concur with Paul. However, it's possible to build a Notes front-end for a relational DB (same philosophy as using cgi scripts for websites). -- RjLesch

LotusNotes is a nice product; I've used it at several customer sites.

I like to say that LotusNotes is a strong "lazy update distributed database" that also happens to have email functionality slapped on the side. (IE: I don't think it does such a great job at email. It's good, but not great.)

MicrosoftExchange? is a very powerful email system, with distributed discussion databases "tacked on the side." (Same problems, in reverse.)

-- JeffGrigg

To answer the question above... LotusNotes handles replication conflicts by making both copies of the document visible to all users and relying on some user to go in and fix it. (The user would manually look at the differences and take appropriate action.) This works great for people-intensive discussion or workflow databases, but may not be such a great idea if you're heavily into fully automated procedures. -- JeffGrigg

From a dyed in the wool Noteshead...

Iris' Notes history [http://www.notes.net/history.nsf] (starts with PLATO NOTES in 76).

A proprietary Wiki sort of thing Lotus has brought out is called QuickPlace. It's a slick group webspace server based on domino. The websites it produces are a little slow, likely because lousy with JavaScript. I have a QuickPlace set up on their dime. http://www.quickplace.com/QuickPlace/chez_chuck/Main.nsf?OpenDatabase They just released their 2.0 beta, for NT only as far as I know. Beta at http://www.quickplace.com/qp2/Home.htm

I have the software but not yet able to set it up in a non-intrusive way at our test server at work. So far as "the competition," make sure to check out Frontier/Manila - it's very impressive. http://www.editthispage.com

Charlie Ross, CLP, http://www.clug.org/cgi/wiki.cgi?CharlesRoss

try http://www.ilovelotusnotes.net for more info on Lotus Notes

Interface Hall of Shame - Been there. What they say is true and funny but BFD. Their review was based on a kludged custom email interface at a client site using a Notes R4 client, not on Domino/Notes in general. Email is simply one of the facilities built into Notes, which is a many-headed hydra and a cult, it's true.

They (the iarchitect folks) are fanatics as are most UI folks, bless their hearts. Sic 'em on GNOME and we'd not hear back for years... O the howling and gnashing of teeth - the humanity! How about EMACS? Hah! Still Notes has some WikiNature though it's often hidden by sites that implement it. Notes has the ability to be a Memex as shipped (if you set it up yourself of course) and only recently is there good competition, like Frontier and LifeStreams.

-- CharlesRoss?

InterfaceHallOfShame deserves a WikiPage of its own so we can gripe at their stupidity and see how they like it! Apparently its a terrible thing that "With gimmicks like this... Word now consumes 120 MegaBytes? of disk space." With disk space at something like 5$ per GB, that works out at 50 cents worth of hard drive. I'm comfortable with that!

On the other hand, regarding Notes, those weird double-click buttons are standard features on the front page of ''any' typical Notes application, and I think they are unforgivably stupid. -- DanielEarwicker.

Watch out guys! Exchange 2000 has the inklings of Workflow that was till now Notes' USP. An IDC report states that Exchange will "mature" by 2004 to the level of Domino/Notes as a groupware product and pose a serious market threat. ("mature" = "rip off all features of Domino/Notes and actually do them better and with a better-looking Windows GUI"). -- vijucat (at) rocket_mail.com

Well, it's 2005, and no sign of Exchange turning into real groupware...

While I'm sure that Exchange would like to be better at WorkFlow and be better GroupWare than LotusNotes I don't believe that it will happen in the seeable future. Lotus has just too far a lead where it actually counts SECURITY. They actuall understand working with more than 30 users at a time (the Enterprise Customers - Microsoft still doesn't understand them), have an exceedingly good position with and within the Fortune 500. Having played with the latest 6.0 version I can say that microsoft better hire some more staff.

IMHO, where it will really come to a head to head confrontation is that using LotusNotes vs Exchange you can develop the same WorkFlow or GroupWare application in about one third of the time with Notes.

-- Al Brown

QuickPlace seems to be described now at this address http://www.lotus.com/products/qplace.nsf/homepage/$first.

-- MartinWillitts

I went to http://tethys.croydon.ac.uk/emconnect/site.nsf/singlecategory!openview&restricttocategory=lotusnotes following the link on this page. Now I understand Mark Lawson has combined a Wiki and Lotus Notes or Lotus Domino. Is that it? The name is BeeWiki?.

BeeWiki? is now hosted at openNTF.org http://openntf.org/Projects/pmt.nsf/ProjectHome?ReadForm&Query=BeeWiki

See WikiWikiVsLotusNotes

(this page could use a RefactorParty?, no?)

Whatever the technical abilities of the software (which I do not, and do not pretend to, understand) in my experience Lotus Notes is mainly used, by most of the people, most of the time, as an e-mail/calendar application (a la Outlook). From the point of view of the user experience, Notes is very very poor in comparison. I do not know one person who would choose Notes over Outlook as their e-mail application.

Slightly to my surprise (even though I quite like Notes) I do know of one such person! We just changed from LotusNotes to Outlook at work, and if you're the kind of person like one of my colleagues who prefers not to use lots of folders and has a multi-gigabyte folder, LotusNotes handles this a lot better than Outlook

I am currently using Lotus Notes 6.5 as my email/calendar client, as it is the standard at my place of employment. A worse, less performant, less intuitive, less buggy PIM/email client I have *never* used, not even bleeding edge development versions of half-baked clients tossed together as proof of concepts for concepts that can't possibly work.

The problem is that when people use Notes as an email/calendar client, they're not exercising the merest fraction of what it can do. I used it as a platform to build a collaborative PIM that is nicer to use than Exchange/Outlook. Add to that -- at no charge -- available templates for data stores, document libraries, discussion groups, project management, and even a DominoWiki? (which the greenest admin can install in under 5 minutes) and you've got both instantly available tools and for ~real~ collaboration and a secure development platform that can't be touched by Outlook/Exchange. Hell, Notes databases are web enabled with miniscule effort... many can just be dropped on a Domino server. These days Gmail is all the rage for its full-text indexing and the use of categories rather than folders. Notes has been doing that stuff and more for years.

If IBM's marketing were even half as good as their product, then people would know what it is they were buying. I can't count the number of times I've seen a customer start a project to create a new web tool for which they already had a Notes template.


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