Why I do not like Lotus Notes


Recently I have been forced to make use of the Lotus Notes Groupware software in a corporate environment. After using mutt and mozilla as e-mail clients ("MUA") it did not take long for me to grow "slightly unhappy" with Notes. A list of deficiencies follows.

Notes Client does not generate E-Mail but "Notes Messages"

As an unprivileged user of Notes you are in a uncomfortable position when communicating by E-Mail as you have no idea what the recipient will receive.

You'll compose a wonderfully formatted Notes message, the client hands it on to your corporate server which will convert the whole thing to the e-mail your correspondent will receive. This conversion will often badly mangle messages (introducing newlines, et.al) but as Notes user you have no way to see that as the conversion happens later on the server. (I used to work around this by using a free webmail I sent ccs to, however corporate policy has since forbidden any usage of webmail.)

The e-mail/messaging part is missing basic features

Ever wondered why these corporate guys always send along the complete correspondence at the bottom of the new message (including Megabytes of attachments) with every single message? The reason's simple - their mail clients suck.

Yes, Notes does not support threading. So instead of a nice short list of conversations you get a bulky, neverending, unstructured list of unconnected messages.

On top of that some parts of Notes are slow, searching the subject of an open mailbox containing 40000 messages should not take more than parts of seconds, Notes takes tens of seconds for me. (Yes, I chose the correct search method.) I do not know why, I guess it is offloading the search on the busy server instead of doing this cheap and fast operation itself. (It has already gotten all the necessary information, the mailbox is open, the list of message-subjects is known.)

Or have you ever wondered why these inpolite people send mail with "To: your@addr.ess" instead of addressing you with your name as in "To: Foo Bar <your@addr.ess>"? That is the client's fault too. If you add "given name: Foo, surname: Bar, mail address: your@addr.ess" to the adddressbook and use "Foo Bar" in the list of recipients Notes will replace the name with the address, instead of generating a proper "To:".

Filtering and sorting cannot be done at the same time. Imagine a mailbox containing 10000 messages and you searching for the message containing frobnicate and written in January or February 2005. The straightforward way to find it would be to search for frobnicate to limit the number of messages to 400 and sort the search results by date. However that is not possible. You cannot sort search results in anyway. Have fun scanning through 400 message titles seaching for messages written in January.

On a sidenote Notes' addressbook is also unable to sort by surname.

The program is localized, the online help is not.

Menus, buttons, dialogues, etc. are translated (to German, in my version), but the corresponding help file is not.

Notes does not follow basic UI conventions

Notes has some very funny ideas on what which user-action triggers:

Attachment viewing is painful

Attachments to a Notes document are shown with their corresponding icon. Double-clicking on this icon pops up a window containing buttons for selecting the different viewing options (display, open, modify, delete). This window is permanent, i.e. you end up with this:

  1. double-click on attachmnent icon
  2. select action
  3. viewer launched and terminate
  4. manually close the popup-window

There are no shortcuts (e.g. Ctrl-klick for "View") and it is not possible to get rid of this popup window, re-configuring Notes to select e.g. "View" on double-click. There is no reason for the popup-window to be sticky by default in the first place as running to different actions on the same attachment is the exception, and not the rule. Actually there is no reason for the existance of popup-window as the same functionality is also available from the context menu.

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© 2005 Andreas Metzler <ametzler at bebt.de>
Last modified: Mar 12 2006