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This just in -- New information about Workplace Designer!

By Andrew Pollack on 01/19/2005 at 05:07 PM EST

Special thanks to Brandon Smith, Chris Reckling, and others who helped make it possible to get special permission to publish the following.

Please keep in mind, it was written two days after I got the information, but permission to publish was held until more information was public and it was closer to Lotusphere. Of course, that means a few things in this document may be slightly outdated -- I'll try to follow up later tonight with any public information that's come out since I originally wrote this document which has an impact on it.

To keep carefully to my agreements, I'm taking the chicken way out, and publishing what was approved without further edit:



The soon to be seen, IBM Workplace Designer:



I’m going to talk about things from an architectural viewpoint rather than focusing on a “feature set” for two reasons. The architecture is the important part. The architecture limits what can be done with the Domino Designer. Keep in mind also, that this preview I saw was an early preview of what will become a 1.0 product and it would hardly be fair or accurate to compare feature lists. That said it was pretty feature rich already.

The base framework of Eclipse has provided a ready made platform that is stable, responsive, and user-accepted right from the word go. The new designer takes full advantage of this right down to using the existing JavaScript editor and other tools. That means right away the editor has full code completion, help, formatting, object browsing, and all the other features developers have come to expect.

It would not be a Lotus designer however, if it was all about the code editor. The drag and drop interface to building design elements will be familiar to users of other environments. The goal with the product is clearly to provide a layered approach to building applications. At the top are pre-built modules of code that could be stitched together into reasonable – if simple – applications. Of course, you can create your own, or drill deeper into those and start picking apart and modifying the elements of them. Go deeper and you can create elements of your own. It’s all open. If you have the skills and time, you can go as deep as you want.

ITS ABOUT THE DATA

What makes Domino Designer so cool, however, is the way the design and data interact. The data store gets created as you go, you can use it, change it, and put just about anything into it or out of it. You work with larger, courser grained items (notes) which contain finer grained objects (items/fields). Workplace Designer too will have similar concepts, however greatly enhanced and opened.

The concept in Workplace Designer that most closely matches the Domino form is split into two distinct components. The “Form” is now the layout and objects that you work with, and the elements on the form are mapped to where they put their data through a “schema”. In simple terms, dragging a “text” element onto a form would be the equivalent in Domino Designer of creating a new Field – however in Workplace designer another step happens. The text control gets mapped to an element in the schema that defines where the data from that element will be stored. This can happen for you automatically if you like – design the form layout and choose to have the schema created and it will be. That’s just like what Domino Designer does for you. It can ALSO happen in reverse. You could take a schema – which is just XML, by the way – and have Workplace Designer create the basic form for manipulating that data – and even a grid element (the equivalent of a Domino “View”) for displaying instances of data stored in that schema.

THE “NOTE” GETS RELATED

Here’s where it gets REALLY interesting. A single one of these forms could have elements (fields, grids, etc.) that are mapped to more than one schema, and thus the form naturally ties the different parts of a document together in a manner similar to relational data – it’s like naturally relational Notes forms, if such a thing could be created. Also, the schema may not be set up to store data in raw XML; it may be set up to store data in an RDB, or in many other formats – maybe the Domino server. Think of the wasted hours spent making Notes do similar things.

There are many things to talk about with respect to this new tool, but I’ve shared a few of my favorites with special permission from the folks in charge at IBM so thank them for allowing me to write this at all.

WHAT DOES IT ALL MEAN

Overall, despite all the products out there that have tried for years, the first tool I’ve seen that over the long term has the capability to give developers the kind of power they have with Domino but with the integration, open access, and integration strength of other platforms is growing out of – you guessed it, Lotus.

As this tool emerges and matures, Workplace looks more and more like a modernized, pumped up, opened up, extensible Lotus Notes. Workplace will have little in common with the little email custom application we’ve seen to date. IBM will say there’s much more too it, but I don’t agree. The additional power of the Workplace Server that comes from its underpinnings as a true J2EE server and Portal Server don’t make it something different, they make it something more extensible. If anything, the work on simplifying the install path will continue and ultimately we’ll see what is for all intents and purposes a single “server” in the same sense that Domino is considered a single server and not a database server, an SMTP server, an LDAP server, a POP3 server, and HTTP server, an NNTP server, etc. etc. etc. The big advantage Workplace will have over Domino in the future, will be that if you want to or need to, you can get as deep under the covers as you want to take as fine grained a control of things as you want. The API in Domino allows some of that, but not at the front end, and there is nothing in between pure API low level “do it from scratch” and high level designer work.

THE FUTURE OF NOTES

What about the future? What about the inevitable question, “Does this mean Notes is dead?” -- No, absolutely not. The Notes platform, the Domino Server, and the Domino Designer have years of life left. They’re still being enhanced, and in many ways the Workplace Designer tool will tie them together. We’re going to see some (many) shops who would not dream of adopting Domino at the stage go with Workplace. That means those users will likely have the Workplace Rich Client (IWCT-RE) at the desktop. Notes, as it moves to version 8 will also deploy using the Workplace Rich Client (IWCT-RE) which means that at some point it’s all one desktop and if you have an existing Domino environment and what to add some workplace functionality to the desktop, you can do so seamlessly and without a workstation migration effort. The same holds true for Workplace customers who want to take advantage of existing or new Domino server functionality – which will be more advanced in some respects for several years. The client already exists at the desktop.

THERE IS NO SUCH THING AS A NOTES TO WORKPLACE MIGRATION

There is no mass migration from Lotus Notes to Lotus Workplace. The whole idea is meaningless. The version 8 Notes client is a workplace client. The workplace client is a Notes client. Some shops will start without an existing Domino sever and choose to do the new development all in Workplace and some will have Domino servers and may never implement a Workplace server (there may be a “Workplace” server or some subset required to provision the Client, but that seems unlikely to me and if it does exist will be fairly transparent). I suspect that a few years from now most Domino shops will have at least one Workplace server and most Workplace shops will have at least one Domino server.

There are  - loading -  comments....

Thanks AndrewBy Steve Castledine on 01/19/2005 at 06:13 PM EST
Thanks Andrew for taking the time to write this up - real interesting stuff.

I can't wait for the day we are really using this stuff in day to day
development.
i heartily agreeBy jonvon on 01/20/2005 at 10:24 AM EST
you've done it again sir. fascinating stuff.
My own thoughts on this are...By Wolfgang Haderlein on 01/20/2005 at 01:23 PM EST
"required to provision the Client"
I hope it will be unlikely. If not it will be a reason to stop using Notes
Client.

Regards
Wolfgang
Workplace DesignerBy Ronan on 05/17/2005 at 11:26 AM EDT
Hi,
I'm a Domino Developper and I want to solve problems about performance
concerning my applications.

I thought at WebSphere but i don't want lose my Domino Designer skills !!!
So, workplace designer ?
Is it really right for my need ?
Integration of old application very easy ?

But, when will Workplace Designer be out more exactly then middle 2005 ?

Thanks a lot ...
My own thoughts on this are...By Axel on 01/21/2005 at 11:17 AM EST
Thanks for taking the time to write the interesting article :-)
just to throw in my 2 euro cents of cheap theory:
- I feared kind of an environment which mimics notes programming and compiles
that into J2EE. Nothing against notes-programming. nevertheless: THIS SOUNDS
MUCH BETTER. I was naive.
- sounds a bit like eclipse plug-in dev. You can exchange stuff at deeper
layers of the framework. As it is eclipse this might not be a big surprise.
Personally I find Eclipse plug-in framework confusing, but I am early starter
in this.
- a bit scary is this table-connection stuff on the client. It'll will have
great impact which tables you connect. So for my ears this sounds not very
notesy (which is not bad from my pov). If you have relational tables, you'll
have to design the tables in a relational way or you'll end in complete
confusion.
My own thoughts on this are...By Axel on 01/21/2005 at 11:47 AM EST
correction: schema for data is more xml than rdbms based, which is hirarchical
not relational. But the data schema seems to be far less semi-structured.
Its both. It allows you to use structured, semi-structured, and unstructured data stored in their native sources.By Andrew Pollack on 01/21/2005 at 01:32 PM EST
My own thoughts on this are...By Edwin Kanis on 03/06/2005 at 05:58 PM EST
Good story, i totally agree with you ans share you're opinion after the
Lotusphere sessions i saw and i would be happy to see our developers start
working with the WCS Designer.
domino to workplace migration servicesBy john on 05/30/2005 at 11:14 PM EDT
Came across at least one firm offering migration services from Domino to
Workplace.

http://www.maargasystems.com/lotus-notes-domino/offshore-outsourcing-india/movin
g-domino-apps-to-workplace.shtml


There's also been talk of third party migration tools, anyone heard of that?
Seems like domino to workplace migration is a reality right now, but will
probably disappear as the product paths become more integrated


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