Lotus' latest worth taking note of

IBM's just-released Notes and Domino 6.0 are the first major releases since 1999, when release 5 came out. The new release follows a 12-month beta testing programme and includes so many changes it would take pages to detail them.

IBM’s just-released Notes and Domino 6.0 are the first major releases since 1999, when release 5 came out. The new release follows a 12-month beta testing programme and includes so many changes it would take pages to detail them.

The Lotus Notes and Domino family consists of the Domino server, Notes client, Domino Designer and Domino Administration clients, and iNotes components, which offer Notes-client-like functionality inside a web browser. Each undergoes revision in the new release.

Much of the work on the Notes client has gone into tidying up the interface introduced in R5. The R5 welcome page and bookmarks were clunky and many users preferred to stick with the old R3-style “workspace” with its tabbed folders and database icons.

R6 is cleaner and more configurable, and the welcome page more user-friendly than in R5. System administrators can create organisation-wide welcome pages, which can be locked down at the server. The user interface gets colour-coded views, drag-and-drop toolbars and pop-up/pop-down panes, making the client nicer to use.

Database templates have had a thorough makeover too, particularly the mail template. New features in the mail client include colour-coding for in-bound mail, proper internet mail-style quoting (finally) and automatic copying or forwarding of in-bound mail to another mail account.

There are a host of new configuration options available, which ought to satisfy users who like to tweak their mail options to suit individual requirements. And calendaring and scheduling has also come in for a large number of improvements.

Possibly most attention has been lavished on the Notes Designer client, both in improvements to the user interface, and in substantial functionality changes.

The Designer client has always been well behind state-of-the-art application development tools such as Borland’s JBuilder or Microsoft’s Visual Studio. This release of the Designer client closes the gap somewhat, introducing features such as code-completion and colour-coding, and improved debugging options.

But functionality is where the R6 Designer client really gains. The formula language has been rewritten, providing a large number of new formula commands, including looping. The Java environment has been updated to support JDK 1.3; and the client now supports version 1.4 of Javascript, and WebDAV (distributed authoring and versioning), to aid in multi-user Notes/Domino development.

Lotus has also done a great deal of work on the XML support in R6, and introduced new LotusScript classes to support XML and XSL. Programmers can now call Java classes from within LotusScript and programmatically pull apart rich-text fields — a much missed feature in previous versions of the Designer client.

The R6 server has had a host of performance, reliability and scalability enhancements; new network compression improves performance for mobile users, the search engine has been overhauled, and there are a number of new features to support better centralised user management. The formula engine has also been rewritten from the ground up to support the new formula commands, and to improve performance.

There has also been a focus on improving the administration of Domino servers. New user policies allow administrators to control user settings centrally, and allow the pushing of automatic software updates.

All in all, this is a release Notes/Domino shops should check out.

Evans is IDG NZ’s online business manager.

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