Goodbye, Lotus Notes

Notes logo tombstoneToday is my last day as a Lotus Notes user. Assuming all goes well, I’ll be accessing my work email and calendar using Outlook starting tomorrow.

For the most part, I’m not sad to see Notes go, but I have to say that I thought it was an intriguing product when I first saw it in the 1990’s. At that time, I was working for a firm that provided outsourced technical support for off-the-shelf software products and I somehow assumed responsibility for Notes end-user and developer support.

As many proponents are quick to point out, Notes is an application development platform and a document-centric database, not just an email program. It provides a forms tool for viewing and editing documents, a view system for displaying and sorting lists of documents, and an access control security system.

Built on top of this architecture are several applications that ship with Notes like the directory, email and calendaring applications. Developers or power users can create their own databases or implement any of several database templates that come with Notes like the discussion board or document library.

This could all be very powerful if an organization actually took advantage of it. While there were some units within my employer that used custom Notes applications, for the most part we only ever used Notes for email and calendar functionality. And when it came to these features, Notes was abysmal.

I’m hardly the only person to express this opinion. There are dozens of blogs and sites dedicated to griping about Notes. You can start at I Hate Lotus Notes if you want to read a litany of complaints. For posterity’s sake, I’ll just share a few screencaps of my own.

What are we doing about those custom Notes applications? Frighteningly enough, they are supposed to be ported to SharePoint. It will be interesting to see whether SharePoint really gets used. If past practice with Notes is any predictor, people will ignore document libraries and continue to share documents via email attachment. This, despite the fact that in Outlook, like in Notes, there will be mail database size quotas which led to hours spent combing local archive databases looking for old messages. Plus ca change.

There’s always the chance that Notes may find it’s way back into my work life. For now though, I bid it a grudging tip of the hat, if not a fond farewell.

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