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Email Clients: Lotus Notes Vs Sensible One

The following are the NASTY things I found about Lotus Notes email client:

1. When you click "Reply" you have to choose what kind of reply you want; whether with history, to all users with history, or just the reply...well thats stupid. When the user clicks Reply, simply open up a window with the history. If he wants to keep it he'll keep it, else delete it.

2. When you are composing a new mail, and hit Enter key, the mouse cursor is placed at the beginning of the new line where you want to start typing from. Imagine, how irritating it is that every time you move it to the bottom of the screen, you hit enter and its back at the point where you're typing.

3. You want to close a mail. You click on the X icon...Well, first make a choice from 4 selections...and its not the obvious choice. You have to think...HARD!!! do you want to (1) send and save a copy, (2) send only, (3) save only, (4) discard changes.
If the user wanted to send the mail, he would have hit Send button. Not the X button. If he did it by mistake? Well yeah, thats possible. In that event give him a dialog box asking whether to save the changes or not. If yes, save and close...if not just close. But please forget about sending the mail. The user is NOT stupid.
Further, suppose you don't enter any email in the To box. Choose option 1 or 2. You get a dialog box saying No Names entered to send the mail, and when you click OK the dialog box closes AND the options box also closes. So you need to click the X again...and REMEMBER TO MAKE THE RIGHT CHOICE!!!

4. How do you delete a mail. Well you click Delete and...and nothing happens. The mail is still there, just a trash-bin kind of sign placed before it. You wanted to delete it and its still there!!! At the bottom something is mentioned [1 doc marked for deletion. Press F9 to refresh]. Hell, I wanted to delete it. Not MARK IT TO DELETE. Maybe its something like soft delete and hard delete. Well, there sure is a folder called Trash. So when a user clicks delete, why not just move the mail there?
Later when the user opens the trash folder and clicks delete, delete it permanently. Simple! Well, Lotus is not for Simple users you see.

5. You click on the left margin along the mails. You see a check sign. And at the bottom it writes "1 document selected". For what? That I still can't figure out. Maybe its for deleting the mail...WOW! I hit delete button. Woosh...the checked sign goes away, and the little trash bin icon appears alongside...:) same point 4 story again...But wait!!! I hit the delete key, and this time even the  trash-icon goes away!!!
What to do then with the selection? Can't still figure out.

6. You right click on a folder to create sub-folder under it. But there is no option to create a sub-folder. To create it,
you select the main folder, go to the folder options, click it and choose the Create Folder option. Hardly worth it.

7. By chance you create a new folder? Oops you misspelt it! Well, never bother. Your words are divine. They live forever as you typed them in first instance. No option to rename a folder.

8. You right click a folder you see options like Cut, Copy, Paste. Click on any of them and you get: "Cannot execute the specifed command". Then why the hell they're there? Can't it be just disabled. Something is there called Context Sensitive Menu, remember????

9. For some reason you like your mails to be filtered on date (or by Sent By, or other). You set the filter by clicking the date tab, and next time you open the Lotus Notes...woosh! it resets to the default! Further, when you click on the Date tab to set the filtering, the small arrowhead pointing downwards just changes color. So the direction of filtering is based on the color of arrowhead and
not on its direction. Isn't it more intuitive for the user to recognize that an upword pointing arrowhead means something and a downward pointing arrowhead means something totally opposite, rather than judging it by the color of arrowhead.

10. When a new mail arrives, the whole text is in red. Alongwith this, there is an asterisk sign on the left tab. When you reply to the mail, the color of the text changes to black AND the asterisk sign disappears. Whats the use of two indications for the same thing?

At the end of all this, I've started to like Microsoft a little more. Though they do have their share of stupid things (more on that later) but atleast they err on the positive side. Remember, the best definition of GUI I read on Joel's site (if you haven't read articles on this site, perhaps you're too busy coding to shapen the saw), it says that a GUI of an application is good when the application behaves EXACTLY the same way as the user thought it would. So
you see, a good GUI design has to be a lot, lot intuitive.
I hear someone say that there is Help button. Well to all such people who think that a normal user reads Help files, I'd like to mention that I've used other email clients like Outlook Express, and trust me...I never had to read Help there. So if I had to read it for Lotus Notes, either Lotus Notes is something close to rocket science...or perhaps its missing something. And chances of it being former are vanishingly small.

Ritesh Mangal
Thursday, January 15, 2004

Whipping on Notes as an email client is old hat.

If corporations are buying Notes just for email -- that's a mistake.  But if you're using Notes as a document control facility, and happen to use email as a side benefit, then you get used to the warts - because all the document functions are similarly obtuse.

Thursday, January 15, 2004

Yeah old news - the Lotus Notes client really sucks

After five years, our company finally got rid of it. Now we are using Outlook/Exchange. Thank goodness.

No rants about security issues, please.

Thursday, January 15, 2004


I have the "joy" of working as a Lotus Notes Software developer and system administrator.

The problem with Notes is : It's not an e-mail package. It is a complete document-oriented development platform.The e-mail functionality is just a small part of that and much of the UI problems with the e-mail are caused by limitations in the Lotus Notes environment itself (still, that's no excuse ofcourse).

What version of Lotus Notes do you use ? R6 looks pretty good compared with R4 and R5.

Here are some screenshots for an internal bug-tracking tool that I'm developing for the company I work for (maybe one day I will do web-based version. Lotus can do web-apps too).

Greetings from Belgium,


Jeroen Jacobs
Thursday, January 15, 2004

Well, let me join in beating the dead horse.  There's a web site devoted to this, although it's a bit out of date (not the most recent Notes client):

Interface Hall of Shame

I worked for a major government agency that "upgraded" to Lotus Notes as an email client (version R5 I think) two years ago, from ccMail.  It was the most wretched program that I've ever used.  Even ccMail was better.  When I asked the IT guys about why they weren't just migrating to Outlook, the only response was that Lotus Notes was "more secure."

The Lotus developers (or their PHBes) seemed to be completely clueless when it came to following basic Microsoft Windows conventions.  My favorite "feature" was the password entry box -- when you type in your password, the box shows some blinky icons and displays a random number of "x" characters for the password characters.  (There's a good demonstration of this on the "hall of shame" website.)  Supposedly this was to prevent someone who was looking over your shoulder from counting the number of characters in your password, just in case a hacker sneaks into your office unobserved.

Robert Jacobson
Thursday, January 15, 2004

Chalk up a vote for Eudora.  I use Outlook XP at home and it is LEAPS AND BOUNDS more usable than Eudora 6. 

**Multiple POP/IMAP Account Handling is Poor**
Outlook handles multiple email accounts with ease.  All the accounts are treated the same and are consistently edited/created from the same location. 

Eudora assumes (maybe correctly for most of their users) that you’ll only be using one account.  In order to access and set up different account types you have to go into the personalities tab on their ‘all in one’ toolbar (which contains email boxes, stationary, etc.).  The tools -> options menu shows account information but only for the ‘Primary’ account.

**Goofy (and poor) Anti-Spam Tool**
There is no clear way to disable their built-in anti-spam tool.  Certainly you can tell Eudora not to move spam messages to the Junk mailbox but there is no global option to say “Don’t touch my emails”.  Even though I have it set to not move spams it still changes the priority of messages it thinks is spam and appends some goofy info to the bottom.

Of course, Outlook XP does not contain any anti-spam features and you must purchase a package (I think SpamInspector is great… AND it works with Eudora), but considering Eudora’s is so bad I ended up installing SpamInspector and using that.

**Inconsistent UI on the Tool Bar**
The main tool bar which contains all the mailboxes, personalities, etc. has a right-click context menu that is only half context-sensitive.  When you right click a folder, you’re presented with four or five context-specific options and then three which pertain to the toolbar itself: Allow Docking, Hide, and Float in Main Window – given Eudora’s MDI interface all three of which could conceivably pertain to the mailboxes themselves.

**Sorting is Inconsistent with Most Windows Applications**
In Outlook, Excel, heck virtually any application that provides a grid interface allows you to click on the column heading to sort the entire collection by that column.  Eudora, however, assume that you’ll only sort by ‘None’ or ‘Ascending’.  By default there is no arrow.  When you click the bar once, an upward pointing arrow appears. Clicking it again removes the arrow.  In order to sort descending you have to *right click* the column heading and then click ‘Sort Descending’.  Also in this menu is ‘Group By Subject’ which although neat appears on *each* column’s context menu, which doesn’t make any sense.

**Cutesy UI Icons are Confusing/Make No Sense**
Why do so many developers throw away years of Windows-related, comfortable, UI elements in favor of cutesy, unfamiliar, and ultimately confusing icons?

The first icon you see when you open Eudora is a trashcan with a right-pointing green arrow pointing to it.  This means ‘Move selected message(s) to the trash.’  Immediately next to the trash can icons are three more:
A desk-style ‘in’ box with a green arrow pointing down and toward
A desk-style ‘out’ box with a green arrow pointing up and away
A desk-style, unlabeled box with a green arrow pointing down toward but overlaying a piece of postal mail

Any ideas of what those are supposed to do?  In order they are:
Open Inbox, Open Outbox, Check Email
Of course, using the same color and style of icon would indicate, at least to me, that the trash feature should work like the other three and vice versa.  Either I can move my email to the trash *and* the in/out boxes or I can open the trashcan and the in/out boxes as well.  This is, of course, not the case.

The compose new message, reply, reply to all, and forward email buttons are also confusing and make no sense unless you’ve memorized the buttons.

The only icon that makes any sense at all is the one that looks like an Epson printer – unsurprisingly (for once) it prints the currently selected email, although I wouldn’t have been surprised if it opened the stationary edit page.

After several years of using Eudora I still find myself occasionally clicking the wrong toolbar button, or wondering where to get my address book (hint: it’s the one that looks like a dictionary) – and I’m not what anyone would consider ‘stupid’.

**Closing the Outbox on the Footer Bar Closes Any In-Composition Email**
If you have a number of emails that you are composing open and then you close the outbox Eudora mysteriously closes all in-composition emails.  If they haven’t been saved it gives you a Y/N/C prompt, but why do that in the first place?  If I wanted to close the message I’d close it.  I sort of see a real-life metaphor between closing the ‘Out Box’ and then filing away any messages to be sent later, but when I do that at work I certainly don’t stick them in my actual outbox – for then they would be good as sent!

**Eudora has Tighter Reign on Add-In Components**
Depending on how you view end-user security issues this is a good thing.  However, considering I’ve used Outlook since Outlook 95 without ever contracting an Outlook-based virus/worm I think I can say that the extra automation Outlook offers is quite useful.  In Eudora if a plug-in wants to interact with a message you have to have the message *open* -- e.g. you can’t just be viewing it in the preview pane you have to actually double-click/open the message before your plug-in can interact with it.  This comes into play when you want to Junk a whole bunch of messages at once – of course you don’t use Eudora’s minimally-configurable, poor junk filter so you use a third party plug-in.  Guess what – you can’t click the ‘Is Junk’ icon on the toolbar because it can (according to the vendor) only be activated when an email is open.

There's more, but I think I've wasted enough of my time. :)

Thursday, January 15, 2004

---"Of course, Outlook XP does not contain any anti-spam features and you must purchase a package"----

Spam Bayes is both free and good.

Stephen Jones
Thursday, January 15, 2004

The Notes server supports smtp. Use any mail client you like. That assumes you have no draconian IT managemnt policies/systems that would prevent alternate mail client use. Never a good assumption in Notes shops.

fool for python
Thursday, January 15, 2004

"The Notes server supports smtp. Use any mail client you like. That assumes you have no draconian IT managemnt policies/systems that would prevent alternate mail client use. Never a good assumption in Notes shops."

  We use Notes and it blows.  But, we have *ZERO* virus problems.  When everyone else was getting creamed by MS Blaster and others, we never even noticed.

  Of course, some of that is not due to Notes being more secure, it's due to the fact that our mail servers block *ALL* incoming and outgoing executable attachments, no exceptions.

Common Sense Guy
Friday, January 16, 2004

Re #10:

Some users are color-blind.

The color is great for the rest of us; the asterisk is a lifesaver for the few.

Even today, is there an email client that is:

1. Fast (sorry, Netscape)
2. Secure (sorry, Outlook)
3. Easy-to-use (sorry, Notes)
4. Cross-platform (sorry, Eudora)

I am amazed that companies pay hundreds of $$$ per seat for something that worked reasonably well on Unix machines for free, but that's a failing of IT for you.

David Jones
Friday, January 16, 2004

The Mozilla Mail program and its faster-and-leaner derivative, Thunderbird, are nice mail programs.  Built-in spam filtering (that can be disabled if you don't want it), fast, multiple POP3/IMAP accounts, fairly easy to back up your profile and mailboxes.  Cross-platform as heck.

What it's lacking is the groupware/calendaring/document repository functions of something like Notes or Outlook.  Obviously that may or may not be of concern to you.  If you want something that Just Does Email Really Well(tm) I think Thunderbird 0.4 is a great choice.

John Rose
Friday, January 16, 2004

By the way, don't be fooled by the 0.4 version number on Thunderbird.  It's a stand-alone derivative of the Mozilla Mail client from the Mozilla Suite, which has been stable for a year or two now. 

John Rose
Friday, January 16, 2004

Man, I just laughed my head off. First poster does not have any clue that Lotus Notes client for.

Number one. Lotus Notes client is not for e-mail only!!! But for bunch out of the box and custom build application. E-mail is just one of the application. So some strange in e-mail behavior disappeared after you use product for a couple of days.

1. Reply. I HATE wiping out longgggggg reply history so I prefer to be able to chose in advance what type of reply I am using. I'll spend much more time cleaning reply history then selecting right choice

2. I do not have any clue that are you talking about. Never observe such behavior

3. Obvious feature if you ever worked on more than one email and then need to shutdown computer. This feature reminds you that you have some mail that you can save as draft, send if you want, discard changes. Same as you in MS Word working on multiple documents and closing application.

4. By popular demand soft and hard deletion available in R6 for about 2 years now. And do exactly that you described.

5. Selecting is selecting. You are selecting some document for further action like deleting them, copying, cutting, forwarding, running agent upon, etc.  the number at the bottom helps you to keep track how many documents have been already selected, since selections can span several pages.

6. Do not forget it is not e-mail only application. Creating a folder a little more involved in Lotus Notes.

7. Sorry. Go back and look again carefully. Rename folder is in the same place it was last 8 years. Under Folder Options

8. Works fine in R5 and R6.

9. RTFM. There is special setting to keep folder sorting. It is under user preferences.  Unlit arrow means - this column is user-sortable (by default columns are not user-sortable). Then it's lit means this user-sortable column is sorted. And if you notice this arrow could point up and down indicated incremental or decremental sorting.

10. You forgot this software targeted for big enterprises and government. This specific feature is for color-blind.

Thursday, May 20, 2004

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