Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Using a Google Gadget to get a Productivity Boost from Notes 8

Improving Productivity
It's all great news that Lotus Notes 8.0.1 and above support Google Gadgets. A brilliant move IBM.

The problem is that most of the demonstrations show you how to add really useful things, like personal fish-tanks to the Notes client. (Thanks Alan Lepofsky - a brilliant demo btw) rather than business productivity applications. It was hard to see the immediate business value of gadgets and even harder to sell it to the business.

Thankfully now, I've got a good and simple example.

I'm not sure if my behaviour is unique but somehow I expect that it's not. I often find that when I am working in Lotus Notes and other applications that I am constantly copying data to notepad and making notes around it. On other occasions, I am following a particular list of requirements (again, usually part of a document pasted into notepad).

Not too long ago I got myself a 22 inch wide-screen monitor. This has proved to be fantastic because I have been using notes in a normal square screen and having notepad arranged down the right-hand side. As I went to set this arrangement up yet again this morning, I thought to myself, why don't I get a pre-existing Google Gadget to do this for me?

I went to add a Google Gadget to do this but I'd already forgotten how to do it and when I looked at Alan's excellent instructions, I couldn't even find the icon. This is because I have completely reinstalled Notes 8.5 on my machine and the default is to have Google gadgets off.

Turning Google Gadget functionality on
From the Lotus Notes menu select file and then preferences. In the left-hand column select widgets and then in the right-hand panel click the checkbox marked [X] Show widget Toolbar and the my widgets sidebar panel. Click on apply and ok.

The Widget toolbar should now display.

Adding a suitable Widget
Next, we have to find a suitable widget. Click on the getting started with widgets (jigsaw puzzle) icon. This will bring up a dialogue box.

In the first dialogue box, choose Google gadgets and click next. In the second dialogue box, choose browse the Google Gadget directory and click finish.

Lotus Notes will now display a webpage, the Google gadgets directory. My Web browser is set to Firefox but notes was smart enough to know that I needed to displayed in the notes client. Well done IBM.

It took a few goes to find a suitable Gadget and at first I was using the word notepad to search. When I changed this to "text editor" I found a good online text editor called edit pad. I clicked on this gadget to read more about it.

The last step is so simple that I kept missing it and wondering what I was doing wrong. With the webpage displayed, all you need to do is click on the Add to Sidebar icon on the widgets icon bar.

So now, I have a notepad embedded in the Notes client that I can use.

I'm sure that someone is bound to suggest that I could have written a notes app to do this but I'm sure it would have taken longer and in any case, I haven't yet tried to write a sidebar app.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Getting Started with IBM Lotus Notes 8.5

IBM Lotus Notes 8.5 got released last week and I eagerly downloaded it on Friday for a quick play. Fortunately IBM seem to have made a few changes to their download site in the last few months and I had no trouble at all finding the software (well done IBM).

I downloaded the Windows 32 bit version, the Mac OSX version and the Debian Linux version.

Ubuntu Linux
Normally I can wait for software releases to become accepted but in this case, I was keen to get my hands on the Linux version. My earlier attempt at installing Notes on Linux had ended in failure and I'd heard that IBM had improved things with 8.5.

I was not wrong. I'm truly a beginner on Linux. I don't even know the commands properly and I've deliberately not read any books or technotes on the subject. How else am I going to figure out how "people friendly" the OS is?

I put my downloaded CD in and proceeded to klutz my way though, simply double-clicking on things. Nothing much seemed to be happening from CD but when I copied the file from IBM onto the desktop, suddenly it all just worked. The installation from this point onwards was smoother than any Windows installation of Notes I've ever had.

I logged in, accessed my work server remotely and started playing with databases. The interface was brilliant. I coudn't see any real differences between the linux and windows versions of the product and my notes applications (some written quite literally under version 3 of the product more than 15 years ago) worked like a charm.

Is there any other product which can run applications written 15+ years ago on not just an older operating system but an entirely different platform entirely. I doubt it. Lotus Notes is unique.

I'll probably do a few more linux installations (and try something using the new Google version of the OS). After that, I'll see if I can post some instructions.

One last comment about the linux install. The laptop I used was very old. It takes 5 minutes to boot into Windows XP and I really didn't expect Notes 8 to work at all. I was surprised. Not only does it work but it runs at a decent speed too. Brilliant. I'm not quite sure why I'd pay money for an OS again.

My windows install of Notes 8.5 went well too. Well, actually it failed a couple of times but that was because I was so eager that I burnt the EXE to the CD before it was finished downloading. Using the finished file made a big difference.

Sadly, I don't have a mac to test this on but I've got a few colleagues at work who do. I'll be trying to get them to test it for me over the next week.

Tuesday, January 06, 2009

Starting the Year with a Clean Notes Inbox

I was reading my daily blogs this morning when I saw an article on Matt Cutt's blog about starting the year with a clean Gmail Inbox and I thought.. Why not do that for Notes?

So... here's the procedure.

  1. Open Your Lotus Notes Mail to the Inbox.

  2. From the Menu, select Folder then Create Folder...

  3. When the Dialog box appears, type a name for your folder like "Old Inbox" or if you're really obsessive compulsive like me, 2008 Inbox. Then click Ok.

  4. Next, tag all of your old mail in Notes by dragging the mouse down the left hand side. If you've got a lot of mail, you can do this step in chunks or you can choose Select all (Ctrl+A) and simply deselect the new stuff (the 2009 mails).

  5. Finally, click on the action bar menu and choose the new folder you created and click Move.

  6. Your old mail will move to the new location (where you can easily access it - it's only one click away) and you'll be left with a nice clean inbox ready for the year ahead.

How to Get the Notes Bookmark Bar back in Notes 8

One of my biggest gripes about the Notes 8 client was the fact that they'd removed the bookmark bar and replaced it with the "start-menu wannabe", the Open Menu. I figured that eventually I'd work out how to get my bar back but in the meantime I was too busy to bother hunting.

This morning, while trying to find a different feature, I noticed an option called "Dock the Open List" under the View Menu. I clicked it and my faithful bookmark bar returned.

This is so simple and so usable that I figured it was worth sharing. It made my week.