Help me learn to love (or at least tolerate) Lotus Notes.
July 21, 2011 10:00 PM   Subscribe

Help me learn to love (or at least tolerate) Lotus Notes. Are there any features as a user or administrator you like?

What's something to like about Notes? Either for a user (me) or an administrator (my comrades in IT), what are the features that might keep a company using it? I'm willing to suffer a little inconvenience if there are reasons truly for the greater good.

Work uses Lotus Notes 8.4. I've been automatically forwarding emails to a gmail account so I don't have to deal with Notes and can integrate work emails and calendar into my other digital workflows. This may be coming to an end, because:

- Notes autofills my gmail address when other folks at work sends me messages;
- recipients see that I send messages from gmail; and
- a coming new work policy might prevent forwarding.

I like using gmail because I can share calendars with folks outside work and sync to Outlook (and Apple Mail and WebOS and others) pretty painlessly. Is this coming to an end by switching to Notes?

(Or, the hope against hope--based on my research--is that I could find a way to continue forwarding, use the gmail interface, AND have no one I communicate with have any evidence that I'm using gmail.)

Help me not grumble too much as I learn to work with Notes.
posted by GPF to Computers & Internet (20 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
I love the feature that shows me if the email is sent solely to me, cced to me and few others, or part of a mass mail by showing a circle beside the note in my inbox either full-filled, half-filled or not filled at all. It's called recipient icons.

I like sections in emails quite a lot.

We use a plug-in called My Attachments that automatically detaches older attachments in my email and saves to my hard drive. I love it because I never get capped mail any more. :)

Those are my three favourites.

Disclaimer: I work for IBM, but my job has literally nothing to do with the Software group, etc etc etc. I, too, have my problems with Notes.
posted by smoke at 10:38 PM on July 21, 2011

I administered it for a Major Bank for a while as part of my job. I did everything possible to avoid the admin tickets, because a lot of them were 'I didn't use it for a while and now my password isn't working'.

The number of things worse than password resets in Notes 6.5 usually involves some kind of surgical procedure in terms of how unpleasant dealing with it is. Also the fact that we'd get people not giving their notes domain... and we had a dozen. I'd rather administer Exchange servers for a month than a day of Notes admin work.

The bright side is that it's entirely possible you can find the admins and push them into a dumpster, at which point no one will be able to fix problems and you can go about your business.

I hated it from the admin and the user side with firey passion.
posted by mephron at 11:36 PM on July 21, 2011 [1 favorite]

What's good about Lotus Notes is that you can accidentally delete the whole thing, because people don't realize that deleting a view deletes the data along with it. Unfortunately, minimally competent people also have backup copies for occasions like that, so it would be up and running again within an hour.

Another good thing about Lotus Notes is that whoever assigned you to it is probably setting you up to fail, so you'll most likely get fired soon and go on to a better job where nobody would touch Lotus Notes with a ten-foot pole if they were wearing an environment suit in a clean room.
posted by tel3path at 1:05 AM on July 22, 2011 [3 favorites]

There is lots not to like about LN.

What I do like is having it open simultaneously at work, at home and on my iPhone, and any action taken on any one of them updates the others.
posted by Short Attention Sp at 3:13 AM on July 22, 2011

Think of it not as an email program, but as an application/database platform, with email tacked on? You should be able to develop your own workflow in Notes pretty easily. You can also use excel or another worksheet (Crystal Reports) as a reporting tool for it.

I have not worked with Lotus Notes since 6.5. The above could be totally gone now, and I would be blissfully unaware. Ex-IT admin of Notes.
posted by kellyblah at 4:21 AM on July 22, 2011

I like the "All Documents" view which lets you view, sort and search all your messages, (sent, received and in folders) in the one list.

I like how you can easily set up a new form or database in about a day or so, and easily roll it out to users because they already have the client installed.

Otherwise... Sorry, not much.
posted by dave99 at 4:26 AM on July 22, 2011

As a 6-year user, the only thing I've loved about Notes is the Ultralight mode. It's actually a really nice mobile interface for email.

Of course, my Notes admins claim that the version they have suffers from "a security flaw," so they cut access to it after about 2 months, more than a year ago. Oh well.
posted by god hates math at 4:53 AM on July 22, 2011

This is my complete, exhaustive list of things I like about Notes, as someone who just started using it (8.5) in January:

1. links to external Web sites open in the Notes client and not an external browser.

So yep, that's about it. Notes is suboptimal as an enterprise email client - which isn't surprising as that's not what it's designed to be, yet large companies (mine's ~100k people) insist on using it as such anyway. I wish you luck.
posted by pdb at 7:01 AM on July 22, 2011

My office used Notes up until about a year or so ago (So I spent 6+ years using it).

Going from Notes to Outlook I thought everything would be awesome. We all hated and always complained about Notes. I feel like the complaints have changed but the level of frustration has stayed about the same.

For example, I miss GREATLY the "Send and File" button when composing an email in Notes. I miss it so much. In Outlook for Windows there is some buried menu option that you can use to file sent messages as you send them. In Outlook for Mac, which I use now, it doesn't even exist. If I want to file sent items I have to go into my sent folder after sending and move it to the folder.
posted by misskaz at 7:20 AM on July 22, 2011

Response by poster: Thanks for the answers so far. I've spent the last couple of hours twiddling with what seems like way too many bits.

The thought of thinking of it as a database instead of an email client might help me get my head around it. Thus, extending its functionality to things perhaps I haven't thought of? Can I migrate my (rather small) Microsoft Access databases and forms there? Hmmm...

Thanks for the glimmers of hope. I'm happy to have more.
posted by GPF at 7:34 AM on July 22, 2011

Best answer: OK, I'll be the dissenter. What kellyblah said. If your company is using Notes only for email then they are doing it wrong. The point of Notes is that it's an object database with a hugely flexible UI built in, it does document management, workflow, application templating, relational data management (backed by DB2, last time I looked), simple client-side reporting, discussions can be associated with any document, data can be replicated to a desktop for people who work in the field (not as much of an issue anymore with ubiquitous wireless, but bandwidth still costs $), lots of other stuff.

Notes has been doing this for almost two decades, and gradually everyone else is starting to catch up, but other solutions consist of disparate pieces, both internal and "cloud-based" that require lots of integration and security config rather than a single product (admittedly a PITA to administer) that pretty much handles all of it. 12 years later, AFAIK there's still nothing else out there that does what Notes does.

I haven't worked with Notes in over 10 years, but as a developer who has to manage requirements docs, specs, technical documentation with multiple signoffs, multiple versions of things, I miss the heck out of Notes. The company I worked at had built a project workflow application that templated everything -- from requirements gathering to production support, and it was possible to view all the disparate documents associated with all phases of a project in one place, sorted, filtered any which way, and to be sure that anyone else involved in the project had access to the same information at the same time. It was relatively simple to figure out the history, the project status, who was involved. If your project was ready to go to production, you filled out the production support request form, which was visible in a queue, with a status that would change as soon as it got handled, and that status got replicated back to the same document in anyone's desktop so you didn't have to pester anyone to know what happened.

Where I am now, we're back using email for signoffs, Word docs for specs and documentation, email and phone calls for dba and other production support requests. My coworkers think I'm nuts but I very often wish we had the use of a few well-written Notes apps.
posted by mneekadon at 7:35 AM on July 22, 2011 [1 favorite]

GPF, you most certainly can migrate your Access apps there.
posted by mneekadon at 7:36 AM on July 22, 2011

Response by poster: GPF, you most certainly can migrate your Access apps there.

That is something that does give me greater confidence in my travels through this learning curve.

I think things are clicking now. mneekadon, what you describe might be some serious overkill for our work (well, my department anyway). I'll hold off my instant specific questions for another askme when I'm more up to speed.
posted by GPF at 7:47 AM on July 22, 2011

You might want to try to the web interface for your email. The client has always been Notes weakest point, but they did a pretty good job with the webmail interface.
posted by Eddie Mars at 8:08 AM on July 22, 2011

Just to mention that if you want to replicate the Send and File functionality from Notes in Microsoft Outlook - there is a macro that can do this.
posted by Disco Moo at 9:47 AM on July 22, 2011

I'm a sad, sad LN (8.5) user, and I have to say that the one thing that makes me happy about it, possibly purely for ICQ-related nostalgia reasons, is Sametime Chat. It's fun to find emoticons on the web for it to make the whole Notes experience less terrible.

Colour-coding of senders is also endlessly useful, in addition to the recipient icons mentioned above. I use mine to colour-code my own team, different working groups I'm on, etc.

There are 3rd-party add-ons you can use covertly to sync LN's calendar with Google Calendar. I've used one that I cannot remember the name of and it seemed to work okay, I guess, if kind of clunkily. I don't think that the one "built in" (that you can only get to through a specific menu obstacle course that I cannot remember) allows you to do a two-way automatic sync, just a one time export of events - totally not useful at all!

That's all I can come up with; I hate Lotus Notes. I'm sure it has more capability than what we are using, but I don't think that the IT at work has any intention to expand that.
posted by urbanlenny at 9:52 AM on July 22, 2011

I'm a Notes 8.5 user - not an IT professional.

I like the integrated RSS feeds. It has been hugely helpful in getting colleagues to use RSS - it's right with their email and very easy to use.

We did a pilot to switch to Outlook and it was a big problem with the server. With Notes - if the email server is having issues, it sucks. With Outlook, if it was even a bit slow, every other Microsoft product would freeze up/ or slow down with it. So I would be waiting for email to load, and my Word docs would be unusable- so, it sucked more. I was very surprised that I enjoyed switching back.

One issue I have with Notes email is that there is often only one way to do something and it can be tricky to find it. I do rely on our IT helpdesk to do things that should be simple that I feel I should be able to figure out myself- like change my homepage.

Finally, I know from talking with IT that they like it because it is a big database platform thingy that allows them flexibility. We have a number of internal workflow applications that replace paper workflow. They may be ugly but our IT team loves to be able to control everything themselves.
posted by Gor-ella at 10:03 AM on July 22, 2011

Response by poster: After a day of intermittent reflection, poking around at resources y'all have talked about, and reminders that all software has weaknesses -- I'm on my way to acceptance.
posted by GPF at 2:10 PM on July 22, 2011

There is nothing to love about Lotus Notes. I just encountered it for the first time this summer (at a large, well-known international nonprofit) and the idea that everyone has just been going along with it for all these years boggles my mind. It is, as far as I'm concerned (and I used to hate Outlook until I encountered LN), the devil.
posted by naoko at 10:11 AM on July 24, 2011

mnnekadon's comment above is spot on. Notes strength is not in email, it is in custom applications with workflow and security and flexible data structures. In fact, Notes mail is simply an application built in Notes. It is almost an afterthought. But.....the All Documents view in Notes is something that I sorely miss in Outlook. The thing is, Outlook sucks too. It has gotten a lot better in 2010, but it still sucks almost as much as Notes. Its just shinier and has sparkles and better icons.
posted by jasondigitized at 6:06 PM on May 12, 2012

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