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Where should we focus? Client development sounds like the answer!
08/22/2006 07:55 AM by Chris Toohey
Twelve (12) comments and countless emails and IMs later, it appears as though the vast majority of the Notes Shops out there are working in the Lotus Notes client! Makes sense, as the Lotus Notes client offers many built-in functionality and certain capabilities that other clients (web browser and mobile clients) either don't exactly offer or offer at the cost of a large development undertaking. So, from what I got out of my little poll (wonder if I should build a simple poll widget on this site - I enjoyed the feedback but the offline comments were much more interesting; maybe people just don't want to publically comment?!) was that the Lotus Notes client is delivering more than the slight majority of solutions. And while Domino Web Development is a great thing, and AJAX-infused DHTML-based UIs are not only good investments but also really really cool... it still doesn't resolve what I feel is the biggest crutch for the Lotus Notes client - it's struggle to integrate the very technologies that would make the Lotus Notes client appear far less archiac that it currently does.
So how can we, the quick-to-adopt "innovative" developers truly provide innovative solutions for our Lotus Notes client development projects?
While furthering a module in our Revolution CRM solution (Dashboard - a portal-like central hub for our various modules), I was tasked with the need to provide users with various meta-data reporting capabilities. With ND7, while I was given certain built-in functionality, nothing really jumped out at me as a fully functional widget-izable solution - I needing something that would visually display a large amount of representative data from our various solutions while doing so with small-footstep requirements in mind. If this was for a Web browser client application, I would use something like Flash or SVG... but this was the Lotus Notes client! Could I get a solution, such as Flash, to not only work within the Lotus Notes client, but provide interaction capabilities? Could I feed it data from my various sources? Could I allow the user to interact with said data?!
The fact that I'm currently writing an article that showcases exactly what I did (with the help of Mark) should tell you that I was successful in integrating Mark's solution along with my own and some 3rd-party XML-fed Flash charts and graphs.
This was pretty darned "innovative" if you ask me. Mark's solution is an excellent example of taking Lotus Notes client development to the next level. It's simple approach allowed me to create a widget-ized, XML-fed, configurable and thus totally dynamic and interactive Flash-based charting and graphing engine for Dashboard. Unlike some Lotus Notes client-based CRM solutions that show a picture of a static chart (ahem!), Revolution CRM now has the fully-functional solution in code-review!
Now, aside from what may appear to be a commercial for our products, it leads me to my main point of this entry: I think that while AJAX is a cool thing, 50 websites with top-level Domino developers showcasing their spin on it's implementation does not help the everyday, Lotus Notes client-focused "Notes shop" developers (especially since IBM won't send them a non-Sales SWAT team as per my recommendations - ahem! x 2 ). We need to further Lotus Notes client development efforts to reach these people.
So it's with that said that I'll not only deliver my next article, which outlines step-by-step instructions to show you how I adopted Mark's excellent solution and rolled it into an integrated, interactive Flash-based reporting engine... but I will also make every effort to showcase more Lotus Notes client development innovations either as I come across them or (with all humility foresaken) as we make them ourselves!
Oh... and one last thing: While the above linked article "is an excellent example of taking Lotus Notes client development to the next level" - Mark's utilization of the embedded Flash Reader control is also an excellent example of the lack of documentation that really hurts the Lotus Notes client developer that wants to use the tools that are available to them! If there's documentation on all of the properties, attributes, and their usage out there that I'm missing... please correct me and point me in that direction!