Installing Notes - a reality check

by Volker Weber

My Notes 8.5.1 upgrade failed. So I removed it, all its data and preferences for a clean slate. Since I wanted to attempt a fresh start, I went down an unusual route: install without a Domino server.

One of the popular ideas of the Lotus Knows IdeaJam was to provide a free Notes client for private use. This has been done before, with the Notes R5 Private Edition in Germany. The world has changed since, but Notes hasn't. Here are the steps to setup Google Mail on the Mac. I spare you the "wizard" that Notes uses to ask you all the technicalities of Google Mail. IMAP or POP3, which ingoing server, use SSL, which account name, the password twice, the outgoing server, never asked for a password or SSL here. This is the result:


Just imagine for a second it had worked, and I would have opened the mail file. Or clicked on calendar. Or attempted to send a mail.

If you want to find new Notes users, you have to do it through the CEO, not the end user. They would kill you.


One step at a time. We agree that this is a use case that needs more work. It wasn't on the 8.5.1 to-do list. We know how popular it was in IdeaJam and in community discussion for a long time. Still 8.5.1 had other priorities and local IMAP wasn't one of them.

I continue to feel like local POP/IMAP is not necessarily the strongest use case for demonstrating all that Notes can do to a novice end-user. The migration in end-user email has been away from installed clients towards web UIs and mobile devices. I want the stand-alone experience to be meaningful, but meaningful in a 2010 kind of way.

Ed Brill, 2009-10-12

Some things have be done right by Microsoft without doubt. One of them: Put Outlook on every CEO's wife desktop, because it works great with T-Online and other pop3/imap provider solutions...

Also you will find a lot more new developers interested in your platform, if they also get a free mail app on their Desktop coming NOT from Microsoft.

Missed chance?

Peter Meuser, 2009-10-12

At one point I thought a home Notes client would be useful, but I've quickly done a 180 degree turn. I've realized that as much as I would like it, I'm in the minority. I'm the guy that still runs a local mail client (Thunderbird) because I like my mail to be completely under my control.

I think most users these days would just give a global shrug at the idea of installing a huge Eclipse-based Notes client for personal use. Sure, it wouldn't hurt to give away a home license, but I wouldn't put much effort into any development to that end.

I'd now be trying to make good widgets that a workplace user can easily install to bring some of their home-life to work. A Facebook widget, an MP3 Widget, that kinda stuff. I can't imagine that would be terribly costly from a development side, and it's the type of useful fluff that people at work would be thrilled over, and would help add further distinction between Notes and Outlook. Instead of hearing how they love to use Outlook at home, I want people to tell em how they love the things Notes does for them at work.

Mike McPoyle, 2009-10-12

I do not get the point of this exercise, other than having an opportunity to speak bad about Notes.

There were so many points on the todo list for Notes 8, 8.5 and 8.5.1. And from my point of view, all of them are more important than making Notes accessible for home users with an IMAP account.

Let's be honest: even *if* Notes would work with an home IMAP account, even if IBM would invest development power into that topic - how would use it? Who would install a 500+MB client *only to read mail*?
Who even uses local mail clients for their personal mail?

No, Lotus Notes is not for the average Joe User at home. And I doubt this will change ever. And I doubt it should change. It's a worthless battle.

Better way: make it a joy to use Notes at work. Provide world class webmail solutions. Convince existing Notes customers to upgrade to the latest, so that their users starting to enjoy using Notes again, so that they will tell it other people.

And: block private users from trying to use Notes as home mail program.

Julian Buss, 2009-10-12

Julian, it was a popular idea in the Lotus Knows IdeaJam. I told you to make a backup.

Volker Weber, 2009-10-12

@Julian: Your suggestion sounds to me as if you'd like to create a great product 'Notes' for companies with a rich variety of possible uses. Good. You also say 'block private users from trying to use Notes as a home mail program'.
It total it looks to me like building a castle with stunning halls, great towers - and no doors to get in.

Steffen Pelz, 2009-10-12

@Vowe: it may have been a popular idea in the Lotus Knows IdeaJam. But where is the counter-argument against my points? I see why it would be nice to have Notes a good choice for home users. Nevertheless, it is not possible.

Notes 8 have so many features, and the majority of them are great - for company users. To make Notes nice for home users, it would mean to strip 90% of all features. How many development power would that cost? And what about all other items on the todo list, which would have to wait then?

Popular ideas are one thing. Checking if it's realistic to implement them is another.

@Steffen: I did not say that. I said: if you cannot do a thing right, then don't do it. Meaning: if Notes cannot be a good choice for home users - see above - then strip that option. Or there will always be users complaining that Notes sucks because it's a bad home mail client.

Julian Buss, 2009-10-12

@Julian, I'm another for whom a 'Home' version of Notes makes no sense whatsover...

However, I see many many SMBs (startups with maybe 1-5 users) for whom right now the natural place to go get email and collaboration services is either Google or Microsoft. They are the organisations that could turn into the Lotus customers of the next decade, but right now to get any value from Notes/Domino they have to deploy a Domino server and route all their mail into this new Domino infrastructure that they have little knowledge or experience of.

If Lotus could make the Notes client work well with IMAP (preferably IMAP IDLE) services then this will open up the use of Notes to these millions of organisations, whether for individual users or for the organisation as a whole. This should not be difficult to achieve - after all every other mail client that exists plays nicely with IMAP and SMTP right? And the benefits (in the medium to long term) could be huge for the Lotus business.

Stuart McIntyre, 2009-10-12

@Julian: The day-by-day problems of people organizing their home business and those trying to organize their personal desktop at work are not that different.

You have contacts, you want to write mails and letters (still true!) to those contacts, schedule meetings and dates, find all of these information at your fingertips (sorry Bill for this thievery), carry them with you whereever you are, be aware if other people in your community are reachable and contact and so on.

Of course you can choose best of breed to solve this tasks one by one. But at least you want to have an integrated, task connected solution to do this. Time learning things is short and not everybody (like us) is willing to dive into new applications in a short interval.

I am not saying, that Notes is bad, because it's not able today to be the answer for somebody who is looking to do all these things. Rather I see a big opportunity for Notes developing in this direction. Now with Symphony we have integrated office applications (for free!), a mature application framework (Eclipse) to realize much advanced user interfaces and an integrated fulltext search for using your information treasures. And you even may choose between your preferred OS Windows, MacOS or Linux.

What is missing? Still the Notes development is based too much on "history" and not on the needs of the people looking to solve their day-by-day tasks.

If you won't be able to make your wife happy doing her information and communication work with Notes, you won't be able to get your colleagues demanding it at work. If you can't convince a php or Java developer to use Notes as his personal communication platform, you will never get him to spent his time diving into a new programming paradigm.

You may win them or loose them. Using Notes also for personal mail accounts is a start...

Peter Meuser, 2009-10-12

Well it is up to IBM to limit or increase the resources for Notes and Domino. For a product that wins every day against the competition it probably could be more.

Henning Heinz, 2009-10-12

@Ed: What mail client is your wife using? (I hope this is not a too personal question :-)

Peter Meuser, 2009-10-12

Yahoo mail via browser and iPhone. Who cares? We have four computers in this household, I don't think she would benefit from an installed client.

Ed Brill, 2009-10-12

Portal, anyone?

Volker Weber, 2009-10-12

I care about my wife. ;-) She don't care about technology at all, but: She loves her BBB synchronizing mail and calendar with her Domino account everywhere she is (BBs are evolving rapidly in the companies I am working for) and she loves her Macbook, too (Macbooks are more and more demanded, too, in the businesses I am related to). Mere chance?

Peter Meuser, 2009-10-12

Peter, you seem to be making an argument for Domino in the home, not Notes.

Ed Brill, 2009-10-12

While I agree the IMAP online db is in serious need of an overhaul, IMAP offline has the full ND 8.5 experience.


Kevin Mort, 2009-10-13

Ed, my argument is about successful technologies evolving from home to work. If the Notes client would be better addressing her needs to organize the daily work, she would use it more often (and she has the chance to, because Notes is lurking around on her Macbook). In this particular case, we don't need IMAP @Home, because we have "Domino for two" (I know - another atypical Notes use ;-).

Peter Meuser, 2009-10-13

Interesting discussion.

Peter, I think "Domino at home" is not a viable proposition. I agree with Julian that Notes currently would not be a useful contribution to a home desktop because it relies on Domino. That is actually quite different to Outlook, which works well with Exchange but also without it.

I am not getting into the "500+MB client" argument. That applies to Symphony as well. Who would need it if they might as well do it in Google Docs? I have used a couple of spreadsheets there, also I do have a local Office install.

What I think we need to realize is:

Notes would not win new users, if they only had access to it at home.
Notes does not have to fail without Domino.

Lotus has all the components it needs to make a standalone client, complementing Symphony. Lotus knows how to speak IMAP, they know how to use syndicated iCal calendars, and I am pretty sure Lotus also knows how to store addresses into vCard address books.

Lotus has all the components it needs to build a good standalone client, based on Eclipse, and make it work well with Symphony. It could look like Notes, it could act like Notes, and it probably would not need anything based on Notes. If IBM can brand Outblaze as iNotes, why not a kick-ass client, where they already own all the parts. Why would they do this? Well, to win new customers for Notes.

I am also open to the argument, that "nobody uses Outlook at home". In that case we are all going to use Google Mail in the future, or IBM better start competing for home users there.

Volker Weber, 2009-10-13

Volker, don't get me wrong. My point is not to push Domino@Home (my case is indeed a special one). I tend in the same direction: Notes needs a brighter base of acceptance in the home and smb area. If a small business (less than 10 people) would ask me for a adequate Groupware solution, I would not recommend Notes today. To come back to my first proposition in this thread: If a CEO is able to use Notes for his home tasks, it would be a far easier decision for him to introduce Notes in his company, too. Life is sometimes that predictable.

Peter Meuser, 2009-10-13

Well, this discussion kicks me…

Notes definitely lost due to the everyone "knows" Outlook argument. I'm using Notes at home as a pop/smpt client.
Since I went out of that business I kept using Notes, due to it's elegance of upgrades - an area where Notes and Domino shines! As well as the long term quality and stability of the Notes db container over all these versions! I'm thinking with a shiver to my Entourage data store which kept failing and deleting "nodes" fro the db during recover…

I still buy the home user argument! So many assets are in Notes, a lot of them would only need a bit of caring to make Notes shine:
• the installer
• the setup wizard(s) – Notes works perfectly on pop/smtp once it's set up!
• the Designer could be on a way to be multi platform…
last but not least all the mentioned KMUs could profit from Domino as a Mac server, this port must be an easy piece to accomplish. It's "only" the support cost to it. But runs easy, stable, easy upgradable etc. etc. could be a stragegy for reach AND acceptance.


How big the pieces on my machines are isn't important anymore – how much they nag me very much so ;-)

Michael Renner, 2009-10-13

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