Lotus Component Designer, RIP

by Volker Weber

Don't expect a press release about this, but Lotus Component Designer (LCD) has been put into maintenance mode, read: will die a slow and horrible death. A few weeks ago the development team was dismembered and reassigned.

LCD is the artist formerly known as Workplace Designer. Parts of it were originally developed by Trilog and it was designed to bring document centric applications to Websphere. At IBM it was meant to open portlet development to Notes class developers. Lotus tried several things to get developers interested, with entitlements for instance, but apparently not too many people were interested. Those who were, are now SOL. IBM is still trying to figure out how to migrate data stored in the LCD XML document store.

If you want to do Portal development, you are now stuck with Rational Application Developer or Portlet Factory, originally developed by Bowstreet. IBM's spin on this is that Portlet Factory and LCD are development tools with significant overlap in functionality. Well, yes, they both build portlets. But that's about it.

Comments

And yet, very recently, I hinted that all Domino developers (not Portal developers, Domino developers) should look into LCD. And all I can say is that I stand by my hint. I do wonder where those LCD developers were reassigned, since I know for a fact that Maureen Leland is back on the Domino Designer team.

Rob McDonagh, 2007-10-06

Was zu erwarten war. Der Umstieg von Notes auf Java geht eben nur mal auf die harte Tour.

Als Aufmunterung hab ich noch ein Hübschen dabei.

Roland Leißl, 2007-10-06

A discussion on bobzblog pointed in this direction a few months ago. Considering that so few developers deployed anything with it I expect the impact to be fairly minimal. Merging the functionality into Domino Designer, though... that's f'ing HUGE! And yes, it's pure speculation that that is where this is headed. :-)

Charles Robinson, 2007-10-06

Makes sense to merge the functionality into Domino Designer to me: there’s significant cross-over, and you really don’t want too many IDEs for the same kind of platforms, i.e. some day RAD and DD should be enough to cover all Notes 8 / Expeditor / portal requirements I think.

Ben Poole, 2007-10-06

Why does something that did not work suddenly become huge when being morphed into Domino Designer (serious question)?
And what is the hard way for moving from Notes to Java as mentioned by Roland?
I would prefer stuff that worked going to Notes/Domino. I hope that this gets at least a critical review.

Henning Heinz, 2007-10-06

Why does something that did not work suddenly become huge when being morphed into Domino Designer (serious question)?

The technology in LCD is just fine. It’s more a question of positioning—LCD only makes sense to me as something incorporated into RAD or Domino Designer. As a separate client, I don’t understand how it fits in with the bigger Lotus / IBM picture—it just seems to be a hang-over from the Workplace era, and with Workplace as a platform gone, why have LCD?

Ben Poole, 2007-10-06

Paradigm and platform of Lotus Notes do not match with the Java architecture in any aspect. Every approach to merge these two worlds has became a complete mess right now. They will just never match!

The natural born Notes developer has more urgent business issues to bother with these days, than catching the Java train. But if you got to, or you already are, on the Java side of live, you will not bother about the concept of document centric design anymore. From developers perspective, LCD looked like a bloody bastard, no one is eager to adopt. So ugly, it had even been orphaned by his own mother.

Make a clear business decision to refactor processes in Java or stick with Notes until the end of time.

Roland Leißl, 2007-10-06

or...

Is Lotus Domino Designer Being Reborn?

At the upcoming LotuSphere 2008 in Orlando, you just might be hearing some very exciting news about the future of Domino Designer and Domino application development. read: could both be getting some incredible new features and have new life breathed into them, providing Lotus developers many of the things they have wished for in the past, and some new things they've not yet imagined? A few weeks ago some members of the development team that had previously been working on Lotus Component Designer (LCD) were refocused back to Domino Designer, perhaps where they belonged all along.

LCD was originally designed as the client for building applications that would run in the Lotus Workplace family. Lotus Workplace did not resonate well with long time Lotus customers, and hence IBM has refocused back to "Lotus". So now, instead of Domino developers having to learn about WebSphere Application Server or WebSphere Portal, exciting new possibilities might be available to them natively in Domino, and many of the best features from LCD might find their way into a new Domino Designer client.

With the introduction of composite applications which can take advantage of NSF based and Java based components, Lotus Notes 8 opens a whole new world of possibilities to the Lotus developers and the ISV community. Kudos to folks like Maureen Lealand and Bob Balaban, as well as all the others developers/product managers that have been working on this, and are creating a very positive situation for customers and business partners.

I'd imagine exciting news about this will be shared with everyone in Orlando at LotuSphere, but for now, I suggest keeping up with the following blogs for possible hints:
Bob Balaban
Lotus Composite Application Team
Maureen Lealand

Alan Lepofsky, 2007-10-06

Well.

I guess this leak means I can stop worrying about how the market would react to hearing one piece of the story without the rest of it :-0

If you want to do Portal development, you are now stuck with Rational Application Developer or Portlet Factory"Stuck with" seems like pretty strong language considering that these are indeed the tools that have been used for the vast majority of WebSphere Portal development. I think it's normally a criticism of IBM that IBM provides too many options for accomplishing something, not that two toolsets are not enough. Even so, this isn't the whole story on Portal tools going forward.


As Rob McD, Charles, and Ben Poole imply, there is more to the LCD story than a stand-alone product SKU. There's no prize to the first person who gets an IBMer or someone under NDA to leak it in not-quite-finished form, though.

Ed Brill, 2007-10-06

LOL - I like what Alan said better.

Ed Brill, 2007-10-06

What did Alan say exactly? Wait! There will be exciting news at the next LotuSphere in Orlando! Haven't they all been there, done that?

Roland Leißl, 2007-10-06

Paradigm and platform of Lotus Notes do not match with the Java architecture in any aspect.


Explain please? A pretty bold statement; personally, I can‘t see where the disconnect is at all, so I‘m mystified.

Ben Poole, 2007-10-06

> Explain please? A pretty bold statement; personally, I can‘t see where the disconnect is at > all, so I‘m mystified.

Ben, come on. You kiddin'? WebSphere Application Server shares even more common ground with Windows Server than with Domino Server, regarding concepts and implementation.

Would a written essay on the fundamental irreconcilabilities really clear the fog?

Roland Leißl, 2007-10-06

Roland, you seem pretty fired-up, and frankly, rude. So I’ll pass on continuing this discussion thanks.

Ben Poole, 2007-10-06

> WebSphere Application Server shares even more common ground with Windows Server than with Domino Server, regarding concepts and implementation.


Sooo, you have the impression, that the OS/2 architects have been constructing WAS?


:-D

Jens-B. Augustiny, 2007-10-06

> Sooo, you have the impression, that the OS/2 architects have been constructing WAS?

Not literally ; ) but in coincidence there also is a similar community movement towards open source stacks.

Roland Leißl, 2007-10-06

Why does something that did not work suddenly become huge when being morphed into Domino Designer (serious question)?

Henning, that is indeed an interesting question. I'd imagine IBM to try and put some of LCD into Domino Designer Eclipse version. Problem is, it's completely different from the rest of Domino Designer in user interface and in approach.

with Workplace as a platform gone, why have LCD?

Ben, the name may be gone, but not the software. Lotus sells parts of Workplace under new names. Quickr for instance comes in a Domino flavor and in Workplace Portal flavor. The Portal version needed LCD for customization.

I'd imagine exciting news

Alan, I'm sure somebody said this when LCD was announced. :-)

"Stuck with" seems like pretty strong language considering that these are indeed the tools that have been used for the vast majority of WebSphere Portal development.

Ed, I was referring to Domino developers. Both RAD and Portal Factory are beyond the reach of even an above average Domino developer.

Roland, you seem pretty fired-up, and frankly, rude.

Roland, I have to side with Ben on this one.

Volker Weber, 2007-10-06


>> Roland, you seem pretty fired-up, and frankly, rude.
> Roland, I have to side with Ben on this one.

Volker, that's me, not some over-polite boy. Do have to regret that?

Roland Leißl, 2007-10-06

Yes, you should. Frankly, over-polite is better than under-polite. It would serve your case better.

Volker Weber, 2007-10-06

I copy that!

Roland Leißl, 2007-10-06

If I recall correctly (was it in Maureen's session?) there was a statement at Lotusphere 2007 that LCD and Domino Designer are set on a common trajectory. There are several features in LCD that were are better thought through than Domino Designer:

The ability to link your form to an XML schemaBetter handling of forms/pages/viewsEvery property is scriptable (in Domino Designer: why can I script e.g. the background image of a form but not the background color)Design and data can be better separated (but are closely linked)More in line with other IDE (Eclipse, Dreamweaver etc.)Putting an end to LCD as a product on its own and getting the people with that experience working on Domino Designer in Eclipse (presuming this is where they went) sounds like good news to me.
The future Domino Designer should preserve the key Domino concepts (what one counts as "key" is pretty much subject to discussion), merge in the cool parts of LCD (again discussion) and present a solid degree of "eclipsiness" to ease the transition between tools. This will fulfill a bold promise.

Stephan H. Wissel, 2007-10-07

>>Both RAD and Portal Factory are beyond the reach of even an above average Domino developer.
I agree with RAD, but not Portlet Factory from my own experience as a long time Domino developer and Portlet Factory developer for more than a year now.

After a 3 day class, you're able to assemble already quite sophisticated portlets without coding a single line of Java. Of course, knowing Java helps, but if that is a problem, then a more advanced Portlet Factory developer could create a "builder" (=building block in Portlet Factory) for you that you can re-use over and over.

In other words: if somebody was able to understand Domino Designer and has a solid grasp on traditional web-based development (HTML, CSS, etc.), then they can also understand creating applications with Portlet Factory.

Gerald Mengisen, 2007-10-07

I find the layout of LCD (and what I’ve seen of Domino Designer in Eclipse) far more usable and pleasant than the current incarnation of Domino Designer. So whilst LCD “as is” would not translate to Domino Designer “as is”, assuming the DD on Eclipse thing is still coming, then I see a good fit (as Stephan points out).

IBM seem to be simplifying the product line (whether that’s intentional or not is another matter ;o) ) which can only be a good thing. Paring down Domino Designer / LCD / the various flavours of RAD to perhaps one or two consistent Eclipse-based IDEs makes sense to me, and I welcome it.

With regards the average Domino developer and his / her ability to code portlets etc., point taken. But maybe it’s time they upped the ante eh!

Ben Poole, 2007-10-07

@Gerald, thank you. I was going to try to post a response to this comment, but now someone with in-the-field experience has said it better than my vendor-speak :-)

Ed Brill, 2007-10-07

Volker,

Could you please clarify what you mean by "Both RAD and Portal Factory are beyond the reach of even an above average Domino developer."

Are you suggesting that these technologies are too difficult to understand for domino developers? I find that good domino developers are pretty scarce, and that it does take a good chunk of time for even quite clever developers coming from the "other side" of Java, ASPs, C#, and relational databases to get Notes - and in particular its document-centric Object Model. It takes me generally a year to get them to make nice Domino developments, mostly time taken beating into their heads that Notes is NOT a relational database. In particular, the notion of a front end and a back end is crucial in this. Time after time I have noticed these "relational" programmers" overload the design with reams of code which try, generally clumsily, to recreate relationality (and fail).

I would even go further and argue that good notes developers have to learn a lot, and are subjected to a large amount of annoyances, bugs, undocumented features, and that one develops over time a feeling of what works and what does not work in notes. So, I am arguing, it is difficult to be a good domino developer. Ha!

What I notice around me is that we all look longingly at the "other" side, and long for things like a cool IDE, and being able to hone our skills on Java, but we never get beyond the point where we have coded a couple of background agents - usually WebQuerySave or WebQueryOpen agents - partly because we do not seem to be getting a lot of demand for these things?

The point I am trying to make here, apart from "don't bash us domino developers, we're not that stupid", is that the cleft between "Notes" work and "Java/Eclipse/Rest of the World" work is due IMHO to different customers, not through different skills of developers. The customers for Notes work generally have a small budget, and want a works-but-no-frills solution which is made to measure, whereas the other camps gets customers with a far larger budget, who generally have a pretty well defined idea of what they want. Do you agree?

[OT] @Roland: As an Englishman working in German-speaking countries, I can see both sides: Please don't forget that the tight cultural linking between *honesty* and *directness* which happens in German countries just does not work in English-speaking countries. It took me 2 years of living in Germany to understand that these germans being so brutally frank were not being rude to me, but were just being honest to me. In England, rudeness is almost inexcusable - people will just assume your directness is an insult, and just stop the conversation. (as Ben just did). You need to adapt your register. When speaking to Englishmen, and even worse to Americans, you need to upgrade your politeness to what will seem for your german ears as intolerable obsequiousness. (Es klingt erst normal für uns Engländer, wenn es für Deutcher übertrieben schleimig klingt). To our ears, Germans speak like Klingons, with no attention to the niceties. It works both ways: to Germans, Englishmen seem to pepper their sentences with polite formulaes with no specific content. "It's been a pleasure..." "I was delighted to hear that..." The first time I did this in Germany, people were shocked by the sliminess of my sentences. I had to learn to klingonize my statements. "This is wrong! You made a mistake! I do not have time to meet you tonight!"

Andrew Magerman, 2007-10-08

@Stephan - Maureen made statements like that at both Lotusphere 2006 and 2007. They were more strongly worded in 2007 and she showed a working prototype of how some of the functionality might merge. I think Andre Guirard or Marc Jourdain may have also mentioned it, but my memory is a little fuzzy on the details now. I do know I heard it from at least two sources.

I'm eagerly looking forward to Bob fulfilling his promise :-)

@Ben - I agree with regards to LCD being a nicer interface than Domino Designer. I still have these moments where I soundly curse Eclipse for being inscrutable and brain-bending, but I'm making progress.

Charles Robinson, 2007-10-08

@Andrew: thank you, that’s a good post! Volker knows that I usually “get” the German approach to communication (in fact, I ofte prefer its directness, vs. the “beating around the bush” that often goes on in the UK).

I just wanted Roland to explain his comments about Notes & Java, but he doesn’t seem to want to, and puts my mystification down to a foggy brain ;o)

Ben Poole, 2007-10-08

Andrew thanks a lot, perfect perception of you, but I'd rather be characterized a Wookie then : )

The Notes/Java issue is not about mental ability at all, because a weak Notes developer will perform as bad in Java. As i already pointed out before, it's just exceptional to gain the knowledge, experience and attitude among other duties.

Hi, Ben!

Roland Leißl, 2007-10-09

@Andrew,
Starting with the Domino (web) developer as a baseline skill set, learning these other tools and putting them to good use is not easy. It's a significant investment in time, money and a significant departure from several of the document/view-based lines of thinking and coding that made Domino development what it is. It's an art, it's professional, and in no way do I see Volker's comment detracting from the abilities of the Domino web developer.

But these other tools are so incredibly different with different assumptions and precepts that "beyond the reach" is a fair statement of their approachability and usability once you're accustomed to Domino Designer.

The same would apply in the reverse situation, by the way. A portlet developer would have a hard time getting used to Domino Designer for all the reasons you mention.

The point here is that something that was easy to approach, is apparently gone. It seems it may be replaced with options that are hard to approach - for portlet/component development - unless Domino Designer and any kind if merging of capabilities with LCD hinted at above could have portal as a development target. Now that would be interesting.

@Gerald,
I congratulate you on mastering portlet factory, hopefully this is a sign that it's possible for others. However it's not three days of class that makes you proficient (of course), it's the consistent use, just like any other IDE. I'm certified in all of them (Designer, LCD, Portlet Factory, Forms and RAD) and have found LCD to be the most intuitive, Designer next, then forms, then factory (once you do a little mental rewiring), then the beast.

I'd summarize with some opinions, that fewer choices is good (it can lead to best practices so much easier), that if LCD didn't have traction then it should be subsumed, that all this positioning is awkward, and that portal development is simply a different beast and requires a different skillset. I for one am happy about one thing here, that through this action (if it is indeed happening) IBM isn't continuing the "business users can easily build serious applications" approach that seemed to be prevalent for several years. In fact, you sometimes need developers. :-)

Rob Novak, 2007-10-09

@Rob,
Put that way, I understand Volker's statement. To tell you the truth, I am trying to get my Java/Eclipse skills up to date (and loving it), and I got kinda of peeved with Volker's "beyond the reach" - Ha! I can do it, just you look!

Andrew Magerman, 2007-10-10

@Rob
I understand that I was lucky to have a few projects right after my three day Portlet Factory class. Use it or lose it....

Somebody who has already proven to have the mental flexibility to deal with Domino Designer can certainly get his head also into Portlet Factory. Both tools are like nothing else out there :-) But seriously, after the Portlet Factory class, it felt to me similar as when I started out with Notes: a whole new adventure ahead, new possibilities and applications.

Gerald Mengisen, 2007-10-11

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