Thursday, March 22, 2007

Securing Views

As within any Notes applications, a good Notes programmer tries to minimize the number of views in a database. Regardless of the database there will be views and some are hidden. However, hidden view are really not hidden and an experience Notes user can use the Goto Shift Control and all the hidden views can be listed and accessed which is really no security at all. We wanted to prevent users or any other unwanted individuals to open the document or even right click on the document to open the document properties box and look at the content of the field. We decided to research want we could do to prevent unwanted individuals to access the information. We tried hiding the columns, but you could still right click and get the document properties box. If you place continue=false in the queryopendocument in the view that would prevent users from double clicking to open the document but users could still right click and get the document properties. However, if you place continue=false in the queryopen of the view, the view itself can never be open and users can never see the document. You can use this method to determine who can have access to the view. This method seems to work well. If anybody have an comments on how secure this is let me know.

Thursday, March 15, 2007

Initial Review of Notes 8 Beta 2

I spent the past few days playing with the Notes 8 beta 2 both the Standard version (eclipse) and the Basic version (w32 C++). My review here is based only on the UI and not the other features that are available in the new version of Notes 8. In addition, this is the my first review. My review was done on a Thinkpad T41 with 1Gbytes of memory with Windows XP SP1. The Domino server that I used to make this review is an Domino 6.53 server.

Notes 8 Standard client:
As I understand it, the standard version is an Eclipse wrapper around the Notes Basic client. If I am wrong, please correct me. Even with the much larger footprint, the standard version perform pretty well on a machine that is not dual-core. The interface looks very good, though there are a number of quirks that I assume will be fixed in the final release. I did discovered and reported a number of bugs, but that is normal since this is a beta. I was disappointed to discover that there is no storage of the productivity documents into Notes out of the box. I guess that will be coming with Quickr. However there are a few things that I do not like about Notes 8 Standard. I do not like in particular the Open button. What appears on the list should be programmed either by the administrator or set by the user. Every single bookmark seems to show up in the list. Since I upgraded from a Notes 6.5 client, I have over 300 items listed in various folders. This is annoying. Our applications and probably many others have a primary launching application from which other applications start from. I only want a icon for the launching application.

Application launched from the sidebar like the RSS reader as a separate window should remain like the info box in front of the Notes 8 client. It was a pain in the butt to have to switch back and forward between the window and Notes client. In the RSS reader, when you open the feed it should appear in the same window instead of being in a new Notes tab.

Notes 8 Basic client:
The basic client looks and feels like Notes 7 with the exception of inline spell checking, nicer icons, and changes to the menu arrangement to match the standard client menu. I was disappointed to see that a number of UI improvements that are in the standard client was not in this client. Technically, I do not know why it could not have been in this client. Since this client is smaller and lighter it does run faster. Though it looks like Notes 7, there are still a few bugs in this client when it comes to UI specially with javascript and Notes windows.

These are my initial comments for the Notes 8 beta 2 standard and basic client. I will be setting up Domino 8 in the next few weeks and report back to you.

Monday, March 12, 2007

Lotus Notes 8 Beta

I finally was able to download Notes and Domino 8. You definitely need to have a download manager. I tried a number of times, but the servers were so busy. Now I have to build a Windows 2003 server for it.

Sunday, March 11, 2007

Industrial Design and Notes UI Design

I am writing this for the second time. Just as I was about to finish editing this, Windows XP crashed on me and I lost everything!!! After pounding on the bed for a few times, I am rewriting this again but clicking on the save button about every minute.

Yesterday, my son turned 18. It seems like it was only yesterday that I graduated from college and now my son is attending college this fall. Oh do I feel old. He got accepted to three of the top industrial design schools and my wife and I have spent the past few months visiting and evaluating with him the different schools. Finally, last week he made a decision on which school he is attending this fall. The field of industrial design combines art, visual form, understanding of the manufacturing process, user interaction, and human psychology to create a product. His skills of drawing and painting combined with his good skills in math and science with give him a good chance to success in this very tough field.

As I worked with my son on learning more about industrial design, I realized that being an industrial designer is very similar to being Notes UI designer. An industrial designer needs to bring together the visual beauty of art and form to create a product while understanding the limitations of the manufacturing process and the needs of users. If the industrial designer just focuses on creating a product based on art and form and not take into account whether it can be built or if users want it, then the product is just fantasy.

As a Notes UI designer if we had all the UI design tools that Web developers have we can design and build great and beautiful interfaces. However, like industrial designers that need to consider the manufacturing process and materials, we are too limited in what we can do in Lotus Notes given all the restrictions of Notes and UI functionalities that are limited or broken.

But like a good industrial designer, a good Notes UI designer needs to think out of the box in order to create an interface that no one thought could be done. If you missed Chris Blatnick and Nathan T. Freeman's talk at Lotusphere on UI design and user interaction, I encourage you to go to their blog, Interface Matters and Escape Velocity to learn more about user interface design techniques for Lotus Notes.

Our Domino-based application products that we develop "Integrated Business Framework" are marketed primarily to the small business market. In this market, the biggest competitor is Microsoft whom makes significant investments in the development of their UI. Therefore, we could not provide the standard Notes interface to be competitive. We needed to develop a user interface that was much more functional and simpler for the user. As the market shifts for IBM more towards the SMB, the standard Notes interfaces that were useable in the enterprise market will not make the cut in the SMB market where competition is much more fierce and visual appearance and functionality is very important.

Since my son finally made his college decision, I can now spend more time blogging. I will start presenting a number of techniques that we have developed for our products that other can use in their applications. Nathan had presented one of many techniques that we have developed, link. One point I would like to make is that when designing Notes UI interfaces it is not just about the look and feel of the front end, the way you store data in your application at the back end is just as critical. Until next time.

Friday, March 9, 2007

Lotusphere Comes to You - Chicago

Lotusphere Comes To You - Chicago was very well attended. I believed that there was over 200 attendees at this show. However, traffic at the Partner Showcase was very limited. I wish that there was a sign telling the attendees where the Partner Showcase was that would have helped. I am glad to see all the interest in Lotus Notes. I hope this translates to increase awareness in the non-Notes community that Notes is not only alive but is growing. A direct advertisement of Lotus Notes on network TV would squash any Microsoft BS about Notes being dead.

I was glad to see that there was more interest in the SMB market from IBM. Let's hope this translates to more support in the whitespace area.