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Database vs. Application

What is the real difference 
between an IBM Lotus Notes Domino Database and an Application? I thought I would kickoff Monday morning with a simple question: What is the real difference between an IBM Lotus Notes Domino Database and an Application?

This, of course, is not a matter of nomenclature specific to IBM Lotus Notes Domino releases, but rather an attempt to get to the true meaning of each term.

As I see it, a Notes Database is -- simply put -- a NotesData storage facility with (or without) a specific-to-function UI.

A Notes Application however is a re-usable, configurable, customizable, and portable solution that can be used to address business needs across the enterprise.

Using these definitions, the Discussion and Document Library templates are Notes Applications where the Database Catalog is a Database. A blog? Total Application. The Domino Directory? A Database.

Most IBM Lotus Notes Domino Developers don't realize that you can build enterprise Applications, but rather spend their time building Database after Database -- most, sadly, with near-identical functionality.

And while both Databases and Applications have their place, the architectures and UI/UX possible with XPages, SSJS, and Scoped Variables should have every "Notes Developer" considering an initial investment of time and resources to create Applications when and where appropriate.

I think that's what it takes, to be honest: an initial investment of time and resources before the Domino Designer Client is even launched to sit back and architect an Application. If done right, you should be able to Ctrl+N your way to another solution with minimal development needs.

Otherwise, you have an entire Domino Server filled with Databases...

About the author: Chris Toohey

Thought Leadership, Web & Mobile Application Development, Solutions Integration, Technical Writing & Mentoring

A published developer and webmaster of, Chris Toohey specializes in platform application development, solutions integration, and evangelism of platform capabilities and best practices.

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