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Mailbag: Readers on Lotus, More

Here are more of your thoughts on how Lotus Notes stacks up against Microsoft products:

We have been a Lotus Notes shop from the get-go and currently have no plans to switch. The primary reason for us is the support from IBM. IBM support cannot be matched by anyone! I used to spend hours on the phone with IBM until I got someone who knew what I needed. But in the past five to 10 years that has all changed. Now when I call I usually have an expert on the phone within minutes, and they guide me step by step to resolve the problem. I cannot think of a time in recent years that my problem was not resolved within 30 minutes or less.

Notes does have some issues which I hope are fixed in upcomming releases. The biggest problem is the time that it takes to open an e-mail with a large attachment. For some reason it takes a long time when you first click to open the e-mail, and then again about the same amount of time to open the attachment. It is as if the client is having to download the attachment twice!

I work for a Fortune 100 in Salt Lake City. We use Lotus Notes, which many internally call "Bloated Goats." Every time I do ANYTHING in Notes, messages are displayed on the status bar indicating what's happening. These messages go something like: "Looking up address of server. Checking that the server is there. Checking for new e-mail." Have IBM programmers ever heard of local caching? Why not cache the address of the server, then look it up only if it isn't there? And why does Notes have to check for new e-mail when I attempt to look up a contact in the address book? This slows everything down and is a huge loss of productivity.

Before version 8 (the current release), Notes didn't even support standard Windows Ctrl+Click and Shift+Click to multi-select. And Windows has been around long now? Version 8 had a major UI overhaul that ALMOST makes Notes usable. Outlook is just plain faster and easier to use. No question about it.

Our company is not an IBM shop, but we do use Lotus Notes heavily as a collaboration tool and file store. We have several thousand databases connected with our Notes servers, and any one of those databases can connect to any other through Notes. This allows us to create an e-mail package that contains all the information for a project (even though that project info may come from many different regions around the world) and pass the e-mail from person to person. There's basically only formatted text in the e-mails, and instead of having attachments in the message, there are links to the files in the databases. When clicked, Notes will open up the associated file, no matter where it resides. This really stands out when projects are updated frequently since clicking the links will open the current revision of any given file. (Of course, if a message leaves our Notes environment, the e-mail functions like Exchange/Outlook where the files are attached inside the message, and no further updates are received unless manually sent to the recipient.)

The real downside to Notes is that it still feels like e-mail was an afterthought. I first used Notes in the mid-1990s, and I thought the same thing about Notes mail back then. I much prefer the Outlook interface, but for our business processes, Notes is the better product.

Way back in the early 1990s, Lotus products came with the computers we purchased and they were easy to use. We were able to learn how to use them in-house without going to a class (plus, they were Editor's Choice winners at the time). Lotus had better collaboration than Microsoft as well as better security. Lotus' downfall was that the transition from AmiPro to Word Pro happened when Microsoft's operating system was unstable and caused many crashes compared to older products. We had employees that liked the products, but got frustrated due to the crashes. But Lotus' direction and concepts were ahead of Microsoft's.

I am now so frustrated at Microsoft Word, it isn't funny. Changing numbering and bullets has always been a breeze with Word Pro. Now, I find myself banging my keyboard because Word does something irrational because I changed something that works logically and easily in Word Pro. I like Excel better than 1-2-3, but still use Word Pro because it does everything that we have thrown at it.

It's probably better to compare Lotus to a combo Exchange/SharePoint. Comparing Lotus to just Exchange by itself is comparing an apple to an orange. Lotus is a development platform in addition to the usual e-mail, calendaring/scheduling, etc.

We develop our own Lotus apps. Sure, eventually we'll end up with Exchange/SharePoint. We just migrated from Novell and one migration per year is enough for me. However, unlike the Novell vs. MS war, Lotus is backed by IBM and we all know that IBM isn't going away any time soon. I think Lotus will be around for a bit, unless IBM dumps it to some other company.

And another reader shares his opinion on the government's role during a bad economy:

As many have stated, in times of dire need, we need government. I don't believe in the "research and development" line, but rather in providing additional resources to assist companies in their development and revitalization.

What I believe needs to be said to the some 200 million sheep out there is that government, especially our officials, need to lead by example. Why should a senator earn $250,000 a year when the average American earns a mere $30,000 to $40,000 a year and can still manage to pay their mortgage, utilities, debt, etc.? Why doesn't our new president, if he really wants to back his promise of change, lower his salary from $400,000 a year to $100,000 a year instead of ceasing raises for employees and cabinet members? This is the biggest misspending in our government and yet no voter has the guts to stand up and scream about it.

Tell us what you think! Leave a comment below or send an e-mail to [email protected].z

Posted by Doug Barney on January 28, 2009