The past few days I’ve been stuck in the deep end with Lotus Notes and Lotus Domino Doc – and I’ve been less than impressed with the layer of slime it left on me.
In theory, Lotus SHOULD have an amazing product on it’s hand. Lotus Domino is an extremely scalable, hugely extensible database application and collaboration server. It has fantastic abilities to work both online and offline. It’s just too bad that the product is less than amazing in practice.
Tuesday was my first day of Domino.DOC training. I’ve worked with other document management solutions and know Microsoft Exchange Server, so I figured I should be in good shape. When the instructor’s first words are “forget everything you know, it’s useless here”, you know you should be worried.
Domino.Doc, and the Lotus architecture, seems to forgo good sense and design standards in exchange of their own nearly-incomprehensible eccentricities. The word “document” is strewn about, refering to everything from a guid (sorry, UNID), to a “note”, to an attachment with very little logic applied. Forget terminology, based on what the instructor explained, even the abstractions don’t really seem that logical or well thought out. Many times I asked “why that way, why not just this way…” and there was no real answer. Granted, that may be the fault of the instructor, but I get the feeling that often there just isn’t a good answer.
The eccentricities grow to strangeness when we start working with the client interfaces. In the mail world, Outlook is king. Long live the King. There is NO worry of Lotus Notes taking over. Lotus pushes their product as a better collaboration solution, but they fall flat. Tasks that are logical and take a single click with Outlook take 10 steps and a backflip with Notes, if they’re possible at all.
Lotus Notes was installed at this client in “single user mode”, which is pretty ridiculous. Notes stores all its data in the “C:Program Filesnotesdata”, causing some scary issues if a different user logs on to the pc and tries to startup notes. Of course, you can’t change it to “multi user” mode without uninstalling and completely reinstalling the product. I had HUGE hassles (even with my notes support team on the phone) trying to make a “single user” install work with 2 users properly. In the end, it was a reinstall. Of course, it seems that Lotus doesn’t UNISTALL cleanly either. *SIGH*
The Dom.doc client forgoes the well understood folders/files analogy for its own “document room” / “libarary” analogy, with its own set of icons and terminology that doesn’t really translate to current file systems well. I don’t understand why they’ve chosen to do this, but they have.
One thing I have to give to Lotus – their PKI / and communication services are pretty well thought out. It’s too bad it’s reliant on having a single file resident on the computer. There should be a way get the key file from the server during the opening negotiations (or something like that).
Boy would I love to pull Notes from this client and put Exchange and ANY other document management system in place. But the investment is made – so we need to try to make the best of it.