Wednesday, February 03, 2010

Book Review: IBM Lotus notes and Domino 8.5.1 - The Upgrader's Guide

by Tim Speed, Barry Rosen, Joseph Anderson, Dick McCarrick, Bennie Gibson, Brad Schauf and David Byrd

Published by PACKT Publishing.

This book clocks in at about 336 pages which is nowhere near enough to be a complete administrator's guide to the gigantic field that IBM Lotus Notes and Domino has become. Fortunately, it identifies its market well and restricts itself firmly to its stated objectives.

The book aims to introduce Lotus Notes and Domino 8.5.1 to people who are already familiar with earlier versions of Notes/Domino. It's not a dummies guide and it's not an administrators handbook. It's purely and simply an upgrader's guide.

As someone who never actually bothers to read the "what's new" section of the help files which ship with IBM products, and who instead relies solely on the blogging community (and Lotus-Comes-To-You) to highlight the main interest points, this was always going to be a difficult review.

In introducing the new features of Notes/Domino 8.5.1, the book leaves no stone unturned. It covered everything I could think of - and much, much more.

The book starts off with a review of the new Lotus Notes 8.5.1 client features. I found this particularly interesting because there were a few features I'd missed. The illustrations are relevant and the text is easy to read. In fact, the first chapter is crying out to be given to a group of users as a mini-book in it's own right.

I have read some comments from people suggesting that this isn't a great idea simply because it will get your users excited about Notes and have them demanding that the features be made available immediately. I'm not so sure that this is a bad thing - it's a great chapter and one that should be read by pretty much everyone using Notes and Domino.

One thing that I noticed is that the book doesn't generally give tips for the best settings and doesn't always highlight potential pitfalls. At first I was a little bit confused by this but then I realized it isn't a best practices guide it's an upgrader's guide. Ultimately these omissions actually make the chapter more presentable to end-users. They just want to know "what's new" not details.

The second chapter focuses on Service Orientated Architecture. This was very high level and included links to an external resource which I didn't check out. The book provides quite a number of these links, they allow the authors to provide more information without increasing the page count. You won't be able to build SOA applications merely as a result of reading this chapter but at least you'll have a fair idea of what it's about and you may begin to formulate business plans which involve it.

The chapter on productivity tools is generally about Symphony. I got the feeling that perhaps a little too much marketing Kool-Aid had been swallowed, particularly with the phrase; "No matter what the complexity of the documents that you are creating or editing, this productivity tool can handle the job." but the chapter does give a lot of information on the products.

In particular, there is some great information that I haven't seen elsewhere such as information about where to store the templates for IBM Lotus Presentations and how to use policies to decide whether or not macros can be run.

Chapter 4 deals with changes to the Lotus Domino server. In particular, it looks at message recall, the out-of-office agent and mail threading. In these cases, it delivers more than simply "What's new" information and often shows you where exactly the settings can be changed.

Chapters five to seven deal with deployment enhancements and the actual upgrade itself. It was quite interesting to read Chapter 6 because it focuses on the migration strategy more than the migration itself. In our company, our users are lucky to even get warning other than an outage notice when we do an upgrade. The migration strategy talks about getting CEO/CIO support, user training and making decisions about individual component upgrades. Chapter 7 covers coexistence between various Domino releases.

Chapter 8 deals with the changes to domino designer and the new methods and facilities available. I think I was expecting a whole chapter on xpages here, and little else but I was quite surprised. The chapter covers composite applications, DB/2 integration and the changes to designer. Xpages only gets a single introductory page but it is enough to whet your appetite.

Once again, the authors have looked at the big picture. I was surprised to find that they covered, JavaScript controls, HTML generation and even the ID Vault. Most impressively, they even included a few formula language additions which I would've otherwise missed. My favorites being; @Command([CopySelectedAsTable]) and @Command([OpenInNewWindow]). I have been waiting for these for a long time and was totally unaware that they were now available. It's not the sort of thing that gets covered on the channels I usually visit.

The chapter concludes with coverage of Lotus component designer, a quite detailed explanation of how to setup RSS feeds, coverage of the blog template and some information on expeditor. All of this is very good and very useful stuff. It was very tempting to put the book down there and then and go enable all my RSS feeds.

Chapter 9 covers integration with other Lotus/IBM products, in particular, Quickr, Sametime and Lotus Connections. Chapter 11 looks at some third party add-ons; Pistolstar, Intelliprint, IONET Incremental Archiver and CMT Inspector.

Chapter ten looks at the enhancements to Domino 8.5.1 and includes a lot of detail on DAOS, the Domino Attachment and Object Service. It also covers the Notes Shared Login, Domino Configuration Tuner and overlaying Google Calendars - another exciting prospect.

Overall, "IBM Lotus Notes and Domino 8.5.1: The Upgrader's Guide" is a great book for a specific purpose. It won't replace your "dummies book" or your "administrators guides" but it does cover a suprising amount of ground and is recommended for people who are upgrading from older versions of domino.

The book is available from PACKT Publishing as both a physical and an Acrobat PDF eBook.