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Lotus Notes R8 Technical Brief

by Darren Duke



UPDATE 07/10/2007: Once you have read this be sure to check out the Lotus Notes R8 Technical Brief Update for updates and screenshots.

IBM Lotus Notes/Domino R8 has finally gone into public beta, and the naysayers should prepare to eat their words. It’s simple, easy to use, intuitive, integrated and most important: the user interface is polished to a degree that will make Microsoft jealous. However, this is still a beta version and you should not run production environments on it or install it for users. This technical preview is for the R8Beta2 client only. We have not yet run the R8 server. WARNING: You cannot run R8 concurrently with a prior version (R6 or R7) without some serious registry hacking. If you do install it may overwrite your existing client install.

Pros for end users:
It looks great. The new mail client looks like Outlook, and you can change the location of the preview pane. The UI is very “button” oriented to shield end users from some of the options that might confuse them.
OpenOffice is integrated (called Lotus Productivity Tools), allowing you to open and create Word, Excel and PowerPoint files without installing any other programs (or buying any other licenses).
The client runs on Windows, Mac and Linux.
It has a built-in RSS reader.
The day-at-a-glance allows you to have you calendar open all the time, similar to the “Follow Up” and “To Do” sections in R6 & 7.
It offers real-time spell checker that highlights incorrect spelling (haven’t seen an autocorrect option yet, nor a right click to get suggestions)
The type ahead feature allows you pick from a suitable list of names as you type (a la Outlook)
There are Lotus Business Partners that can hook in to VOIP telephone services directly from within applications.

Pros for developers:
The Composite applications feature allows applications to interact with each other at the UI level. For example, click on a contact document and have the application change a frame to show all time sheets for the contacts company. It can even be wired into Eclipse SWT components.
It is built on the Eclipse platform so it should be very extensible.

OpenOffice functionality will take some getting used to if you have used the full blown implementation. Some things have been moved around due to “eye-candy”.
It would be nice if the OpenOffice documents could be saved in a database, rather than the file system. That way replication could be used and I could have my docs available wherever I used Notes (although Quickr may take care of this).

IBM has done a fantastic job. Lotus Notes/Domino R8 is easier to use, it looks good and has some great features. My only concern is that IBM is trying to do everything – and I do mean everything – in the client (RSS, office docs, email, web browser, etc) and that they are trying to “Workplace” us all without selling us Workplace. Maybe I’m complaining about getting too much functionality?

As a long suffering Lotus Notes advocate, this is the single most important release ever – superior even to R3-R4 and the LotuScript addition. Finally, it offers a viable alternative for normal, everyday folk who make up the SMB community, and it should cut down on the number of “I want Outlook” support calls for the large enterprises. This release should continue the current surge in Domino installs as outlined recently by IBM.

Suggestion to IBM: With the addition of a server side OpenOffice component there would be no use for SharePoint or Office licenses. Domino.DOOOc anyone?

UPDATE: 05/03/2007: Having just watched the Quickr demo on the Lotus site (requires IBM user ID which you can create for free) the "Connectors" look fascinating. No word on a public beta yet though.

Bottom Line: Upgrade about a month after 8.0.1 is made available. If you’re contemplating the switch from Domino to Exchange give this a whirl first. It could save you a ton of cash, time and training. Should your organization require resources to help with any aspect of you design, development, testing, training or implementation please don't hesitate to contact STS for a quote.

2007 All Rights Reserved, Simplified Technology Solutions, Inc

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