Saturday, March 24, 2007

NotesTracker v5.0 -- works well under Notes Domino 8 Beta2

Over this weekend I've had the opportunity to install the just-released public Beta #2 of IBM Lotus Notes and Domino 8 (or ND8 for short).

I installed Domino 8 over a Microsoft Virtual PC 2007 image of Domino 7.0.2 and it went without a hitch -- up and running inside ten minutes.


Unfortunately the Notes 8 installer file turned out to be corrupt. But apart from having to download the 635 MB file again, the Notes 8 Client ("Standard" or Eclipse-based) also installed without a hitch.


One observation is that the Notes 8 installation considerably longer than the five minutes that I'm used to. While I didn't measure how long it took (I was multitasking, so didn't really care one way or the other), it seemed to be twenty to thirty minutes. My suspicion is that the bulk of this time is spent installing the Lotus Productivity Tools (IBM's implementation of the OpenOffice tools from, which I reckon in themselves are rather slow to install). Maybe I'm off target here, I'll have to investigate this later.

Anyhow, upon opening the Notes 8 client, I was presented with the jazzy new workspace (see illustration) and within a mere five or ten minutes felt perfectly comfortable with its new features.
One thing that's good is the terminology change, for "databases" now being called "applications" which is as it should be. ... Maybe I'm oversensitive about this. I mention it because, in another blog post, I bemoan the fact that the IBM Application System/400 (or AS/400), with its original emphasis on being an application-focused platform, had its name changed later to "IBM iSeries" and later again to "System i" as part of an IBM branding campaign, which in my mind is a loss of an important part of its identity. (During my decades at IBM, I spent many years supporting the predecessor IBM System/38, then the AS/400, with some intervening assignments on IBM mainframe networking systems, the real-time sensor-based IBM System/7, and the IBM RT System with AIX Version 1.0.)

So now we have moved on to using the term "applications" for Notes databases, and I like it! I reckon that far too much discussion about Notes -- and especially about Notes versus the rest (Outlook, Exchange, etc) -- centers on e-mail topics. There are many, many, many other sorts of applications out there, much loved and still widely used by IBM's customers. Sure, e-mail is still a very important application (the original "killer app"), but let's move the focus back on to applications. I think we'll see that happening with ND8, what with the great capability of integrated "composite applications" -- and not a moment too soon, I say!
My initial interest is to test NotesTracker (in fact, the very latest Version 5.0 Beta 1) databases, as well as the next versions of SDMS and CAPTURE (which, when released, will have NotesTracker Version 5.0 built into them).
Then I played around for a short while with various features, including the Sidebar, added some RSS feeds including this blog's feed NotesTracker news and tips and it looked like this:

(Click to view a larger image)(Click to view a larger image)

Preliminary testing indicates that all of the NotesTracker Version 5.0 features work without problems under this slick new Notes 8 Client.

This is good news all round, because NotesTracker has some fairly intense LotusScript routines, and they all seem to work just like they do in Notes/Domino 7.0.2.

I say this with a feeling of relief, because I had an unsettling experience with Notes 6.0. NotesTracker uses two Rich Text fields to store the before and after values of user database fields that have been updated, and the code worked fine for Notes R4 and R5. However the code "broke" with Notes 6, due to an "undocumented feature" that erroneously created duplicate Rich Text fields. I would call this a bug, but I suppose that Lotus would regard as an "undocumented feature change" added when Rich Text support was significantly enhanced in Notes 6. Luckily I found a way to bypass this bug, so that feature of NotesTracker got back on track for Notes 6 and Notes 7. You will understand, then, why it was one of the first things I tested for Notes Domino 8, and all went well.


I rather like the Sidebar's standard RSS feeds capability, particularly in view of the fact that NotesTracker v5.0 has made it even easier (with some code tweaking and examples) for you to automatically generate data for Notes views that form the building blocks or your own RSS feeds! (Refer to the NotesTracker Guide to find out more about this, in a section near the end.)

Further reports on NotesTracker and Notes Domino 8 will surely follow.

Friday, March 23, 2007

NotesTracker Version 5.0 Beta1 - Customer DB ready for public testing

The NotesTracker Customer Database referred to frequently in the NotesTracker Version 5.0 Guide is now available for download and public testing.

We think that Version 5.0 rounds out NotesTracker with lots of new features, including: e-mail alerting whenever database actions occur (even down to specific database fields being changed), the ability to define and track "special" documents (Particular documents in a database that are of importance to you for any reason), tracking of pastes and mail-ins, the ability to limit tracking to specific users of a database, enhanced RSS-style "Breaking News" view options, plus tons of usability enhancements.

These (and lots more) are fully described in the latest draft of the NotesTracker Guide, which itself has been significantly reworked to be more productive to use. See

It will give you the opportunity to try out virtually all of the new features in NotesTracker Version 5.0 ... Not quite all of them, since there are some things that are restricted to the NotesTracker Repository database (but these are only technical features for using the repository itself rather than usage tracking functions).

As with earlier NotesTracker evaluation databases, the database's design is hidden. If you are evaluating this from a developer's perspective, please read the Developer Topics section of the guide for to see how the new features affect the design change tasks. While doing this, you should also refer to the related discussions in the Administration Topics section.

Get the Beta1 Customer Database from either of these sites:

The full set of NotesTracker databases (the Repository, plus extra example databases) will be available soon. And the two free applications SDMS and CAPTURE will be enhanced to have NotesTracker Version 5.0 built in (currently they use Version 4.6).

TIP: when testing this beta version of the NotesTracker Customer example database, be sure to set usage tracking as "Internal" to the database. (You could set it as external to another copy of the same Customer database, which has the necessary enhanced views and Usage Log form designs. This works, although you don't gain much from doing it this way.) Also, set the new e-mail alerting feature to be "Immediate" (because the agent needed for "Scheduled" alerting is not yet part of the Customer database).