Time for another review ... IBM Lotus Notes and Domino 8.5.1

January 31 2010

So like many of the other bloggers in the Lotus Community, I was asked to check out the new "IBM Lotus Notes and Domino 8.5.1" book from Packt Publishing. I got thru the book today and here are a few thoughts on it.

First and foremost, the book is designed to be an overview of the product and an update on what is new. In many ways, it feels like the content you would get from a super duper "What's New in Notes" help file or something from Lotus Education to take the new certifications. I do not think that is a bad thing. If you were expecting a really detailed book on Xpages, this is not that book. I will get to the Xpages issue in a bit, but first - lets talk about what is good in the book.

  • I found the chapters on the Domino Server, Deployment, Upgrading, and Coexistence to be very good, even if there are two chapters about Domino (Chapters 4 and 10) which should have been consolidated into one. I thought for anyone who was a beginner to mid level IT professional would learn something from all of these chapters.
  • The chapters about the Notes client, Notes & SOA, Integration with other Lotus/IBM Products, and third-party applications were very detailed.
  • There is some great code to export Domino Configuration Tuner reports - a feature I have asked IBM to implement specifically. Nice addition - but would be even better if the code was made available for download.
  • The details about the Lotus Quickr Connectors is very detailed and great for any end user who has never used them.
  • The iNotes sections are very very detailed. Outside of presentations at Lotusphere and the documentation in the product, this might be the most extensive writing on iNotes I have ever seen.

Now on to some of the issues I have found:
  • There is a mix of 8.0.X, 8.5, and 8.5.1 in this book. And the book reads as its all supposed to be current. My guess is that they took the 8 or 8.5 content that was already there and updated pieces of it. The problem is that they did not update enough. You can find a picture from the Notes 8.0.X client on page 7 with pictures from Notes 8.5.0 with message recall on pages 23 and 24. When you get to the Lotus Notes 8.5 section on page 35, the book finally starts to cover modern features. But why not just write an entire chapter about the Notes client from the 8.5.1 perspective. There was no mention of the new 8.5.1 features like making unread mail red instead of bold. Just a lost opportunity to really hit home on the new features
  • Chapter 3 covers "Productivity Tools" - 8 pages on the editors that ship with the Lotus Notes client. But they use pictures from 8.0.2 - and don't talk about any of the integration pieces that tie Notes and Symphony together with 8.5 and Symphony 1.2 and 8.5.1 and Symphony 1.3. As the technical reviewer of "Lotus Symphony for Dummies" - this chapter does not serve anyone who reads it
  • There is a couple mentions of DB2NSF - and it has been known for at least 6 months that this functionality was sunsetted. The book shouldn't even mention it.
  • Chapter 8 talks about what is new in Notes/Domino 8.5 Development. The chapter goes 29 pages before it mentions Domino Designer for Eclipse (DDE) or Xpages. Sure, cover what's new otherwise - but this is very much a bolt on to an existing chapter from Notes 8.X. No screen shots of the new LotusScript editor. 1 page on Xpages. This book will not serve anyone who wants to be an Xpages developer.
  • Chapter 9 covers integration with other IBM/Lotus products - with products that have been out for over a year. Obviously they are using Quickr and Sametime 7.5.1 - could they not have used Sametime 8 and Quickr 8.2? One of the screen shots even shows the IBM version of the Lotus Sametime Connect client. I know the majority of the authors of the books work for IBM, but they should be using the out of the box software.
  • The Third Party Section could have been an amazing section for IBM to highlight great business partner solutions. The problem - they don't mention any alternatives to the tools they have. For instance, they have a section on reporting on Notes data but only offer one solution to the problem. They should have listed a bunch of products and then dived into the one's as they did.

It's great that there are books on Lotus Notes & Domino coming out - but we really need them to be accurate and up to date. If you are reading PlanetLotus.org on a regular basis - this book is not going to offer you new content. New administrators who find the book will find great info on upgrading and coexistence. As for end users, it may be a great book for some of your users - at least pieces of it. Personally, I would suggest they pull the "8.5.1" number off the cover.

If you are looking for a written resource about Notes 8.5.X, you should check out the book for yourself. These are just my opinions, and you might find the book useful for your purposes. In that vein, Packt has provided a free downloadable version of Chapter 8: What's New in Notes/Domino 8.5 Development - please, download; read; and make your own decision. If you would like to purchase the book, you can get it directly from here. You can get the physical copy or the pdf - and it does look good on my Kindle 2 DX :-)