Thursday, January 31, 2008

Business Partner Development Day Presentation Slides?

In previous Lotuspheres, Business Partners who signed up for Business Development Day were able to download the BDD presentation slides. During many BDD sessions at Lotusphere 2008, we were told that the slides would be available. However, if you go to Lotusphere Online there is a message in the Help section that tells you that the slides are not available. Does anyone know what happened?

XPages for Lotus Notes Client

At Lotusphere 2008, there was discussions about XPages and how it would change how Notes applications are created. Since I was so busy with booth duty and other events I did not attend any of the sessions that involved XPages. However, Rob Burton from my group did attend a session that talked about XPages. Yesterday, he asked if I attended any of the sessions that talked about XPages and I said no. I did briefly hear someone talk about it, but did not pay attention. Surprising he said from what he has learned XPages does a similar thing we having been do for over a year in our Integrated Business Framework system by removing the data from the form. Similar to the concept of XPages, in the Integrated Business Framework design when you open a document you are really opening up a form that can collects data from many databases. The form is automatically populated based on a set of XML configuration data. During the save process the data is stored not as a single document, but the data is store in the corresponding databases. The technique we develop was design for use in the Notes client but could be extended to the Web.

We mentioned this approach in one of the BOF in Lotusphere 2007 and some at the BOF thought it was not a good idea. Interesting that is now the big new thing. XPages will probability do much more than what we have created, but I am glad that IBM is move towards this approach. It will be a good thing when XPages comes to the Notes client.

When I have time, I will create a demo database showing this technique and that it can be done using existing Notes clients. However, I will only be able to give you a demo but not provide the source code since the code is proprietary.

Monday, January 28, 2008

Recovering from Lotusphere 2008

I am finally recovered from Lotusphere 2008. Standing at the booth for 8 to 12 hours a day for three days plus waking up at 5:30 AM to get to the BOFs and breakfast at 7:00 AM and ending at 11:00 PM is very tiring. However, it was worth it. As an exhibitor I believe this was one of our best shows ever. I am very happy with the number and quality leads that we got. Of course, I would not mind even more leads. Our crew did a great job. Our two newbies held together well.

The blogger dinner at ESPN was great. I finally had a chance to meet others that I blog with. I hope we get even more to attend next year.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Great Lotusphere 2008 Closing Session

The closing session for Lotusphere 2008 was great. That had the chef from one of the Food Network present and he was a blast. Since I do not have cable or satellite, I do not know who he was, but he was very funny. Does anyone know the final attendance for Lotusphere? I thought they would announce it at the closing session, but there was not any mention of it. From what I observed it was very good. I was so busy at our booth that I missed a number of sessions that I wanted to go to. Today was the first day I had a chance to go to the sessions that I wanted.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

Sad Lotusphere Day

Each year at Lotusphere, we look forward to the afternoon coffee break on Tuesdays because there will be either Dove bars Haagen-Daz bars. Rob, my partner was crushed to find out that there was no Dove or Haagen-Daz ice cream bar. Instead, we had healthy italian ice. What is the world coming to?

Sunday, January 20, 2008

Lotusphere 2008 Day 1

Our team got to Lotusphere in one piece yesterday. The plane ride was the second worst that I have ever had. I do not think I will need to ride the roller coasters at Universal Studios on Wednesday. The turbulence on the plane ride through the thunderstorm was more exciting than any roller coaster.

I believe the attendance is much higher this year considering that auxiliary parking is now back at Blizzard Beach. It is cooler than yesterday, but it sure beat the -10 F back in Chicago.

Saturday, January 12, 2008

Creating Composite Applications for Classic Lotus Notes Clients – Part 2

This is part 2 of my creating composite application for classic Lotus Notes clients. In part 2, I will cover how a new event in Lotus Notes 8 can used to simplify the process of creating a composite application. You can download the demo code from the sidebar or download it from here.

This new event is "onSelect" and is found in Notes View. This event works not only for regular views but also for embedded views and even embedded views within a dialog box. This event is triggered whenever a document is selected in a view. It hold true even when the view is display for the first time. As a Notes developer, I feel this one single event is more than enough reason to upgrade to at least the Lotus Notes 8 Basic client. It makes a number of UI issues simply go away.

Just like in the previous Lotus Notes clients we need to create a launch document in our composite application that will be used to trigger the population of the frames in the composite application. However, rather than using the hidden frame method that was presented in part 1, we can use the "onSelect" event to directly run our code to populate each frame in our composite application. This method has a number of key advantages over the hidden frame method. First, there is no need to create a hidden frame to launch the launching document. Second, you do not need to write code to initially populate the frames when information appears for the first time. The onSelect event occurs automatically when the view first appears regardless of whether you selected a document. By default, the onSelect event will trigger on the first document that appears in your view. As a results, you can essentially daisy chain a series of embedded views to create your composite application.

The code to populate the individual frames in the composite application is the still same but the trigger is now "onSelect." In our demo, I have combined the two triggering methods to create a composite application that would run both for the pre Notes 8 and Notes 8 clients. In the onLoad event of the launching document, I check to determine which version of the Lotus Notes client I am running. If it is Notes 7 or earlier than the onLoad event is active. If not, the onLoad event process never occurs, and we rely on the onSelect of the launching view to trigger the process.

You can extend the concept and create libraries of event triggers to populate the individual frames so that the onLoad and onSelect is triggering the same code. In our Integrated Business Framework environment we create a set of WSDL like XML to populate the individual frames, but the triggering process is the same as I have described here. Have fun and see everyone at Lotusphere. I will be at booth #533, ReCor, if you have any questions.

Monday, January 7, 2008

Danger, Will Robinson! Danger!

Today, I finally have enough energy to get back to the computer. I was going to spend time this weekend to complete part 2 of creating composite applications for classic Lotus Notes clients, but starting Friday I came down with food poisoning. It was the worst food poisoning I have every had. I was pretty much in bed or laying on the couch for three days. I dranked a couple of gallons of Gatorade in order to keep my fluids in balance. This is the last time I buy sushi from a grocery store! Of course, my wife said, "I told you so."

Now that I have more energy, I will complete the composite application discussion in the next couple of days and provide everyone the source code.

Tuesday, January 1, 2008

Creating Composite Applications for Classic Lotus Notes Clients – Part 1

A new thing in Lotus Notes 8 is the ability to create composite applications using the Eclipse Lotus Notes 8 client. It is a powerful feature to aggregate visually information from different sources. It leads to a simpler looking interface with powerful results. Since I am an advocate of smaller lightweight clients, I wondered if composite applications could be created for the classic Lotus Notes clients including Notes 5, 6, 7, and the Notes 8 Basic client. The classic clients are much smaller that the Eclipse-based client and loads up much faster than its Eclipse counterpart. After experimenting for a few hours, I discovered that the answer is yes, “you can teach an old dog to do new tricks.” Though, it is possible with the Notes 5 client, it is buggy and I would not recommend it.

I have divided the presentation here into two parts, part 1 for Lotus Notes 7 and older clients and part 2 for the Lotus Notes 8 Basic client. The information that I am presenting here is an expansion of a talk that I did for the December 2007 GRANITE Lotus User Group.

You will be able to download the source code for the demo when I present part 2 of the presentation. If you would like to use this technique in your application, please go ahead and use it but please support your local Lotus Notes User Group by becoming a member and attending the meetings.

Why Composite Applications?
First, composite applications are not about Java, Eclipse, or Web 2.0. You can create composite applications using the oldest legacy system you can thing of. The concept of composite applications or mash up as some would call it allows you to aggregate information from many difference sources and tie them together visually into one single application. A casual relationship is created between data sources to deliver the information. Otherwise, you would need to hunt for the information either between screens or applications, thus reducing your productivity.

To create a composite application for the classic clients, we rely on the use of hidden frames, embedded views, the ability of Notes to preview a document from a view in a specific frame, and the “Note Developer's Savior,” NOTES.INI.

In our demo, we will aggregate data from four Notes databases and deliver it as one single composite application. If you are using Domino 8, this could include Web applications, but that is a discussion for another talk in the future. The four databases are contacts, sales, inventory, and shipping. Below is a screen shot of the demo. When you select a company in the list, the information for the company plus what they purchased will be displayed for customers. For manufacturers inventory, sales, and shipping information are displayed in addition to their contact information.

All information presented is this demo is fictitious. Any similarity is a coincidence.

Before we can display the information in our composite application we need to define the relationship between the four applications that we will be displaying in our composite application. So like a creating a relational database we need to define the primary and secondary index keys that we will use to tie the different database together. In our demo, our primary key is company_id, the unique identifier for a company.

There are primarily two types of information that we will be presenting, views and documents. All views are displayed as embedded views so that we only display information that we are looking for. The view is filtered based on the primary and secondary keys that we have defined above. For embedded views, the value that filters the single category view is determined by values stored in the Notes.ini which populate using the technique below. Similarity for documents, using either the primary or secondary index keys, we determine which document to display.

Next, we need to create a special Notes database that contains the framesets and frames that will display the content in a casual relationship. This database also contains a launch form that ties and displays the embedded views and documents associated with each company. Since the company_id is our primary key, we create a new launch document whenever we create a new company document by embedding code in the close and save button of the company form. The launch document includes all the information needed to reference the company document. The view that displays a list of company in our composite database is actually displaying a list of launch documents rather than the company documents.

On the onLoad event of the launch form, we perform two critical tasks. First we store the primary key in this case "company_id" into the environment variable, "company_id" which later will be read by the embedded views and documents to determine what is displayed. Second, we determine what information we want to populate in each of the frames and use "setTargetFrame" and open the different forms, documents, and frameset in each of the defined frames.

In the main frameset of the composite database, we include a hidden frame and set the launch form to autoframe in this hidden frame ("launchFrame"). As a result, each time you select a company in the frame "selectionFrame", a preview of the document will appear in the hidden frame. When the document opens as a preview in the hidden frame, the onLoad event of the launch document is triggered and our entire sequence of events defining what is populated in each of the frame is activated.

This approach can be further extend to the next level and display information that is filtered based on the secondary index keys. For example, after you have filtered an embedded view based on the primary key, company_id, a selection in the embedded view can be repeated to further display other information in another frame based on the secondary index key of the selected item in the embedded view.

Though you need to spend some time up front in laying out the composite application, this technique is simple to implement. In part 2 of this presentation, I will show how new features found in the Lotus Notes 8 client can simplify this process and give you more flexibility in creating composite applications using the classic Lotus Notes client. In addition, I will have the source code available for you to download.

Happy New Years Everyone

I predict that 2008 is going to be a great year for us in the Lotus Notes and Domino world. Many customers that we have talked to are planning to reinvest in Notes and Domino 8. Lotusphere 2008 looks to be bigger than last year and we are very excited to be back exhibiting at Lotusphere.

Later today, I will present part 1 of my two part discussion on creating composite applications for the classic Lotus Notes client. It only took me one day to create the applications and demo, but it has been a struggle to write it up because of other obligations. So far it has taken me a week.