Andrew Pollack's Blog

Technology, Family, Entertainment, Politics, and Random Noise

Quit trying to turn your Notes Client apps into imitations of MDI or Dialog Box based applications. That's not where the value is.

By Andrew Pollack on 06/14/2006 at 11:06 PM EDT

This is adapted from a response I wrote to someone in a private forum about the Notes client UI and its value. I realized when I re-read it that it would make a good blog topic, so here goes....

Notes 7 gives you power to do UI things in the Notes client. You will not, however, turn it into a Visual Studio dialog box driven MDI application. The further you go toward trying to do that, the bigger hole you're digging yourself from a scale, support, and stability perspective.

Notes is Notes. It is not or a web browser. The paradigm of a FORM and a stack of DOCUMENTS which are FILLED OUT FORMS is still, after all these years, where the value is to be found. Every step you take away from that paradigm is wasted from an ROI perspective. Sure, some steps are necessary or the user base won't adopt the tool. The less, however, you attempt to make Notes into something it isn't the more time and money you spend on what is not the core purpose of the project and thus the more likely you are to have a major project failure.

If you don't like the paradigm and look of "NOTES" you have other choices. You can use the Domino back-end with a web browser and spend your time creating user interfaces suited to the web. Most suck, but that's just lowering the bar you have to meet. You can use the Domino back end with its web services component as a really first rate SOA back end to a front end developed in VS.NET if you want a really slick looking "windows type" application. These are both valid choices, and are excellent in what they do. If, however, you find the Notes client is an excellent tool to work with - as I do, and many of my clients do - then don't try to turn it into something that LOOKS like a completely different tool.

Learn the strengths of the UI as they are -- and they are formidable. I recently heard about a discussion forum that's been in continuous use since the early 1990's and is written as a Notes application without frames, graphics, or other flash being called "lame" looking. If you look at it as a tool on its own, however, and quit trying to make it fit into the Microsoft MDI & Dialog box driven windows model, you'll see that its field level help, keywords, free flowing text, response hierarchy, and other features actually make it the very best in its class at what it does -- which is of course, why it's had continuous use as a popular tool that its user base will fight to keep.

There are  - loading -  comments....

notes uiBy Wayne on 06/14/2006 at 11:31 PM EDT
is quite fantastic..brilliant for collaboration. The View is a valuable piece
of real estate. you can navigate, sort, categorize and ...almost endless.

the problem is most developers aren't aware of the potential it offers. if they
are in tune, how many users are trained to take advantage of it?
Can you expand...By Andy Broyles on 06/15/2006 at 11:25 AM EDT
I have just begun to build a fair complex application that is a mix of
traditional Notes (I have been build Notes apps since r2) and modern
application architecture for small/medium P&C insurance companies.

The processes I am currently modelling can benefit heavily from the
collaborative nature of the Notes environments; but there are instances in the
nature of the data that demand a more MDI style interface.

I am addressing these needs through the use of embedded views and ws.dialogbox
built documents that are contained by those embedded views. I also heavily
rely upon hidden computed when composed fields that use @prompt type dialogs
for controlled categorization of documents that users call the 'document
building wizards' that set the foundation for a typical application document.

If this is the type of development you are warning against, I guess I don't see
the danger and would like for you to expand upon your concerns.
This is a very valid statementBy Jens on 06/15/2006 at 12:43 PM EDT
and one, that we should have given users for a long time. Unfortunately, almost
nobody has seen it from that angle. If you want to have these "sexy" MDI
windows, use dotNet or Delphi or ....... whatever, you may still use notes in
the background, either through WebServices or through API/COM/DDE whatever. The
flexibility is there, take it if you like.
My own thoughts on this are...By Andy Broyles on 06/19/2006 at 10:42 AM EDT
Just noticed that I posted my inquiry as a response to another comment rather
then directly against the main topic, so I'll restate it in the proper place.

I may be a touch out of the loop on current development 'trends' and not really
understand what you are complaining about. Heck, I might even be in agreement
with you. I have been isolated from other Notes developers since I run a
'corporate IT shop' compared to my previous life as a contracting developer,
so I don't really have a sense of what horific things are being done to the
Notes client.

But I am worried about my own development techniques and I value your opinion,
since I know you have been around the Notes development community for quite

So, could you please expand on the topic at hand and if possible give some
concrete examples of what you think should be avoided versus what should be

I have always used 'guided' composition for my Notes forms based on hidden
calculated when composed fields that 'pop up' @prompt dialogs and have recently
begun using uiworkspace.dialogbox scripts that generate subordinate documents
to 'main' documents in my applications.

I agree with the other commenter that the Notes view is a valuable tool in the
right developer's hands. It can provide tons of near instantaneous feedback
that is truly lacking in other development platforms and can perform handedily
if not abused.

In a final note, I would comment that the majority of my recent Notes/Domino
work has been two sided: Notes client work for my internal users and Macromedia
Flex development accessing Domino web services for the web facing side of the
same applications. My internal users find the Notes client much stronger than
any web application they have been exposed to; and the Flex/Flash client is a
great 'looking' tool for the external users.
Ok, I'll try to expand a bit.By Andrew Pollack on 06/19/2006 at 03:55 PM EDT
Here are some rules:

1. There is nothing wrong with doing everything you can to make an application
in Notes look good.

2. There is nothing wrong with a bit of advanced code to take care of a key
feature -- even in the UI.


When you start trying to take too much control over the UI -- like limiting
field sizes as people type, screen refresh updates and so on -- you break the
NOTE model. This is what you have to avoid doing.

Your work sounds like the Microsoft "wizzard" style approach. It can be good,
but its very limiting. It doesn't let you explore. It doesn't let you step
outside the preset pattern. It does, however, give you a good place to spend
time in the UI. Using these kinds of "modal" dialog boxes at least limits the
random directions and methods people can use to get at your buttons. That
should help reduce support time.

Notes is about NOT controlling the users. Views are powerful not because they
let you find what you're looking for, but because you see it in context and
that lets you spot trends and anomolies as part of your work process. Those
are very powerful concepts.

Other Recent Stories...

  1. 01/26/2023Better Running VirtualBox or VMWARE Virtual Machines on Windows 10+ Forgive me, Reader, for I have sinned. I has been nearly 3 years since my last blog entry. The truth is, I haven't had much to say that was worthy of more than a basic social media post -- until today. For my current work, I was assigned a new laptop. It's a real powerhouse machine with 14 processor cores and 64 gigs of ram. It should be perfect for running my development environment in a virtual machine, but it wasn't. VirtualBox was barely starting, and no matter how many features I turned off, it could ...... 
  2. 04/04/2020How many Ventilators for the price of those tanks the Pentagon didn't even want?This goes WAY beyond Trump or Obama. This is decades of poor planning and poor use of funds. Certainly it should have been addressed in the Trump, Obama, Bush, Clinton, Bush, and Reagan administrations -- all of which were well aware of the implications of a pandemic. I want a military prepared to help us, not just hurt other people. As an American I expect that with the ridiculous funding of our military might, we are prepared for damn near everything. Not just killing people and breaking things, but ...... 
  3. 01/28/2020Copyright Troll WarningThere's a copyright troll firm that has automated reverse-image searches and goes around looking for any posted images that they can make a quick copyright claim on. This is not quite a scam because it's technically legal, but it's run very much like a scam. This company works with a few "clients" that have vast repositories of copyrighted images. The trolls do a reverse web search on those images looking for hits. When they find one on a site that looks like someone they can scare, they work it like ...... 
  4. 03/26/2019Undestanding how OAUTH scopes will bring the concept of APPS to your Domino server 
  5. 02/05/2019Toro Yard Equipment - Not really a premium brand as far as I am concerned 
  6. 10/08/2018Will you be at the NYC Launch Event for HCL Domino v10 -- Find me! 
  7. 09/04/2018With two big projects on hold, I suddenly find myself very available for new short and long term projects.  
  8. 07/13/2018Who is HCL and why is it a good thing that they are now the ones behind Notes and Domino? 
  9. 03/21/2018Domino Apps on IOS is a Game Changer. Quit holding back. 
  10. 02/15/2018Andrew’s Proposed Gun Laws 
Click here for more articles.....

pen icon Comment Entry
Your Name
*Your Email
* Your email address is required, but not displayed.
Your thoughts....
Remember Me  

Please wait while your document is saved.