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Review: IBM Lotus Notes and Domino 8.5.1 from Packt Publishing (and Special Giveaway Contest)

IBM Lotus Notes and 
Domino 8.5.1 from Packt Publishing IBM Lotus Notes and Domino 8.5.1 from Packt Publishing, published in January 2010 by co-authors Barry Rosen, Bennie Gibson, Brad Schauf, David Byrd, Dick McCarrick, Joseph Anderson, and Tim Speed, covers topics including Lotus product portfolio, the Lotus Notes Domino 8.5.1 integration capabilities with other IBM products and services, and the platforms integration with Service-Oriented Architectures.

Notice I said platform and not product, as that's an important distinction with IBM Lotus Notes Domino 8.5.1 that I'm happy to see the authors make: Lotus Notes Domino has evolved into an application and services platform. But I'm getting ahead of myself here...


From the foreward -- written by Mark J. Guerinot, Director (Americas) Software Services for Lotus (ISSL) -- this book pushes the message the majority of you already get:

[IBM Lotus Notes Domino] is no longer just an e-mail tool, but a basis to extend business communications to a new level.

Unlike the Lotus Notes Domino 8: Upgrader's Guide, this books skips the history of IBM Lotus Notes Domino and jumps into an overview of the latest enhancements of IBM Lotus Notes Domino 8.5.1.

Chapter 1: Overview of New Lotus Notes 8.5 Client Features

This chapter actually starts off with the New Lotus Notes Client Features of release 8.0 and builds to the latest features of release 8.5.1. Fair enough, as the release 8.0 content that is covered in this chapter is absolutely transferable to 8.5.1 and -- quite frankly -- if they didn't review the user interface enhancements, this chapter would be lacking.

Reading like a punchlist of things you should show your project champions to sell them on why they need to upgrade to release 8.5.1, we review the latest improvements in the functional layout of the client. The Open List, Thumbnail Viewer, Grouped Tabs, the enhanced Search, improved Out of Office engine, federated calendars, and more are discussed via a brief description and (most importantly) screen captures showing off these features.

If you have no plans on upgrading to Lotus Notes Domino 8.5.1, I'd keep Chapter 1 as far away from your user community as possible. It highlights every feature that - when demo'ed to customers - I'm immediately asked "so when can I do all this?".

Chapter 2: Lotus Notes 8.5 and SOA

What Chapter 1 did for users, Chapter 2 promises to do for developers!

After giving you a crash course on SOA, this chapter pretty thoroughly covers Composite Application Development, shows an example of Lotus Notes Domino Web Services, and explains that Lotus Notes Domino 8.5.1 supports open technologies such as OASIS/ODF (the Open Document Format) and the Eclipse Rich Client Platform.

This discussion of Lotus Notes Domino 8.5.1 transitions quite nicely into the next chapter...

Chapter 3: Productivity Tools

Here, we discuss Lotus Symphony, IBM Lotus Documents, IBM Lotus Presentations, and IBM Lotus Spreadsheets.

And while the introduction to the chapter actually discusses Total Cost of Ownership, a turn of the page reassures you that you didn't accidentally start reading IBM sales and marketing copy.

This chapter not only reviews the productivity tools in detail, but also discusses their integration with the IBM Lotus Notes 8.5.1 Client and their management and deployment via Domino policies.

... which leads us to the Domino server.

Chapter 4: Lotus Domino 8.5 Server Features

Here we learn more about Message Recall, the enhanced Out-of-Office functionality, Mail Inbox Maintenance, enhancements to AdminP, Domino Domain Monitoring (DDM), Domino Configuration Tuner (DCT), and many more things that you admins would drool over.

I, as a developer, tend to ignore the improved server administration features and functionality in IBM Lotus Notes Domino 8.5.1. All I know is that my code runs smoothly and the Domino servers never. go. down.. I digress...

This chapter briefly dives into all of the reasons that a Lotus Notes Domino Administrator would want to upgrade their environment. Like Chapter 1 with your user community, if you don't want your admins to upgrade your environment: don't let them read this chapter!

Chapter 5: Deployment Enhancements in Notes/Domino 8.5

Covering Domino Smart Upgrade client provisioning and the various Domino server facilities for managing things like client replication settings and even sidebar widget policies, this chapter screams Admins read me. It's a decent overview of the administration aids that will allow you to maintain your environment and alleviate the need to sneakernet your way through client upgrades.

Speaking of upgrades...

Chapter 6: Upgrading to Notes and Domino 8.5

As the previous chapter gave you an overview of the various administration tools designed to help with upgrading and maintaining an IBM Lotus Domino environment, this chapter puts them to use... combined with environment health checks and a high-level upgrade plan.

This chapter surprisingly contains code for a LotusScript-based Agent to export the Domino Configuration Tuner reports. I'm not going to critique the code... seriously, I won't - it's simple enough that it works, and it's not like you have to code for scalability on a run-seldom Agent...

The chapter continues with the basic upgrade path. If you're planning an upgrade and your IT Manager/Director needs a project plan... you could pretty much copy/paste this entire section. The only real changes you would make would be the addition of dates and names of responsible IT staff.

And speaking of templates, we conclude this chapter with a Use Case Document example. I don't see the need for such a thing, but then again I'm not an admin...

Chapter 7: Coexistence between Notes/Domino Releases

I have a few customers that could benefit from this chapter. One in particular, I know a poor overwhelmed IT Manager (who doubles as the Notes Admin) who has 3 laptops at their desk. Each laptop has a different OS. Each laptop has a different version of the Lotus Notes Client installed.

This chapter starts off walking you through the process of installing multiple releases of the Lotus Notes Client on the same workstation. They stress it's unsupported, but Rome wasn't built in a day, and the authors of this book understand that larger environments won't be completely upgraded in one sitting.

The subsequent sections of this chapter discuss - a few paragraphs per topic - the various coexistence things you need to know. The big ones are covered here: Calendaring, Rooms and Reservation databases, Policies, the Domino Directory, and the On-Disk Structure just to name a few.

Chapter 8: What's New in Notes/Domino 8.5 Development

I'm reminded of a comedian from the late 80s who remarked when talking about Top Gun, and typical guy's reaction to the romantic plot:

When're they gonna get back in the plane?!

I was really excited to jump into this chapter as my people -- the developers -- were finally getting the spotlight after a 6 chapter leave.

This chapter covers Composite Applications, Web service consumers, Domino IBM DB/2 integration, several View and Form design enhancements, and a list of new Formula and LotusScript with the Lotus Notes Domino 8.5 release.

The new Eclipse-based GUI is covered by documenting Perspectives, and -- most important -- how to Reset the perspective once you've completely killed the GUI.

I'm shocked that XPages is covered (as per this book) in 5 paragraphs on a single page.

A few pages later, a new section titled New method related to ID Vault: ResetUserPassword felt so out of place in this section that I assumed that pages had stuck together. It's seems even more out of place after seeing the next section, Changes to web services...

A look ahead takes us to the Lotus Component Designer (the new version of Workplace Designer), New Web 2.0 features like RSS and ATOM, the included Domino Web Log (or Blog) template, and Lotus Expeditor.

Perhaps it was because I was looking forward to it so much... but I was disappointed by this chapter. I mean, one page for XPages -- seriously?! I didn't expect a deep dive given the length and subject of this book, but no mention of Themes while the RSS Feed Reader got four page coverage. Most of that was screen captures, but still!

Chapter 9: Integration with Other Lotus/IBM Products

This chapter covers Lotus Quickr, Lotus Sametime, and Lotus Connections. Each are covered in their respective sections enough to get you interested in learning more about the given product family.

In the New integration features in Lotus Notes and Domino 8.5 section, we hear more about XPages. While most of the content here is a more concise repeat of the content covered in the XPages section of Chapter 8, there is a paragraph dedicated to Themes:

Themes in 8.5 for XPages: Also with 8.5 are themes available for XPages. These are used for server-side customization of HTML. Themes can be set globally and applied to all applications or a single application on a server.


Chapter 10: Domino 8.5 Enhancements

This chapter starts off pretty strong with the Domino Attachment Object Service (or DAOS), and the Domino Configuration Tuner (DCT).

DOAS is covered at length in this chapter, which is a really good thing since DAOS is one of the biggest value-adds of Lotus Domino 8.5.

Notes Shared Login (or NSL) is also covered in this chapter, as well as the ID Vault, and -- oh yeah -- GNU Zip (or Gzip) for the Domino Web Server.

The Domino Configuration Tuner and iNotes enhancements complete the chapter, as well as the book proper.

Appendix: Third-Party Products

I'll quote myself from my earlier review of Lotus Notes Domino 8 from Packt Publishing:

PistolStar, IntelliPRINT, IONET, and CMT Inspector get some page-time in this chapter. To be honest, I didn't read the multi-page overviews of the vendor products.

To be fair, an overview of vendor/3rd-party solutions that address functionality gap in Lotus Notes/Domino could be useful to the target demographic for this book... but it didn't do it for me!


On the back cover of this book, we find the Who this book is written for:

This book is for Lotus notes power users, administrators, and developers working with any version of Lotus Notes/Domino, who want to upgrade to Lotus Notes/Domino 8.5.1.

... and I'll disagree. After reading this book...

I would recommend this book to the following people:

  • Lotus Notes Administrators looking to upgrade to Lotus Notes/Domino 8.5.1
  • Lotus Notes hybrid/generalists who need to maintain Lotus products and services as well as do light development.
  • Notes professionals planning an upgrade from release 7 or less.

I would not recommend this book to the following people:

  • Hard Core Developers
  • IT Managers
  • Power Users
  • Chuckalicious

I mention Chuckalicious specifically, as he won my review copy of Packt Publishing's Lotus Notes 8 Upgrader's Guide.

While this book is valuable to the above recommended audience, I can't recommend it to anyone who has a copy of the Lotus Notes 8 Upgrader's Guide.

It's way too Admin-heavy for a developer recommend, but that works out great for Lotus Administrators.

But as LeVar Burton would say, "Don't take my word for it!"

You can enter to win my review copy of IBM Lotus Notes and Domino 8.5.1 from Packt Publishing and judge for yourself!

Contest Rules

Instead of just commenting on this post, I figured we'd make a little game out of it. I posted a screencast'ed demo of Zephyr.

In the screencast, I mention that you'll want to pay special attention during a particular part. While not obvious, there is something special about what's on-screen during the screencast.

The first person to respond via comment to this review with an explanation of whatever the hell I'm talking about wins my review copy of IBM Lotus notes Domino 8.5.1 from Packt Publishing!

(Just in case, I'll give clues each following day if it hasn't been discovered...)

And for those of you who can't wait... you may be able to get a jumpstart on the competition if you're resourceful enough!

Good luck!

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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