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The Gift and Curse of IBM Lotus Notes and Domino Applications

Eric Mack wrote recently, on his post titled "YOU CANNOT KNOW HOW TRULY HORRIBLE LOTUS NOTES IS UNTIL YOU’VE BEEN FORCED TO USE IT" (VIA TWITTER), about the frustrated tweet of an IBM employee complaining about -- you guessed it -- Lotus Notes.

I submitted the following comment:

Playing devil's advocate here...

I get it. Or, at least, I think I get it. IBM is a huge organization, and I'm *certain* that there are business units using applications that were written in 4.6 that are still not only in-production but being used *daily* with nothing but new feature add-ons and duct tape tweaks.

That's the major issue sometimes with IBM Lotus Notes Domino apps, since they don't require rip-and-replace every 2 years the design and overall UX tends to get dated rather quickly.

The problem with users, even "Technology Strategy Consultants", is that they see the "database" and think the platform is crap.

It's like limiting your web browsing to websites from the early 90s. Sure, you might have Chrome or Firefox, but the UX is crap! If that's all you understand, you assume Chrome and Firefox are crap. As for someone from a company whose loyalties to a platform are called into question *every day* publically bashing said platform... well, that just looks *really* bad, and only helps fuel FUD.

I wanted to take a few minutes to elaborate, and instead of taking up more space on Eric's blog thought I'd babble on my own...

How many applications databases do you see in production, being used by possibly hundreds of people, that -- as a developer -- just make you cringe. These apps work, or they wouldn't be in-use today, but they all but scream to the user "You're working on something old".

In 1993, I 
was in 8th grade...

It's not a matter of bad UI design... most of these apps are just old. Yet they still work. Even when you upgrade the server. Even when you upgrade the client. It's the gift and curse of using IBM Lotus Notes Domino as an application platform. You get such a long life out of your applications, that they show their age well before they need to be re-written (if they're ever re-written at all...).

Click here to see a hi-res version of this IBM Lotus Notes Client 
Application using 'traditional' Design Elements Take, for example, my Spread app. It's written for the Lotus Notes Client, but due to community and customer projects, I needed to back-burner it. You can see a full-res screen capture of Spread here... and take note that this uses traditional Design Elements (FrameSets, Forms, Views, etc.).

Months later, and with the release of Lotus Notes Client 8.5.1, I want to re-write the whole thing in XPages. The gift however, is that I don't have to, and it speaks volumes for IBM Lotus Notes Domino as an application platform.

The curse, of course, is that -- provided IBM maintains the backwards compatibility that they've successfully held for years now -- this version of Spread could be in-production when 3D augmented reality UIs are implemented in Lotus Notes 15.2

... y'know, if I can actually get this app out sometime before then.

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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