The real story about “Lotus Notes” – not what myth makers tell you..

This is what IBM Notes 9.0 Social Edition is all about, presented by Maarga Systems.

– Lotus Notes is dead! I hate Lotus Notes! Heard it before? I have. Many, many times. Mostly from people who do not have a clue about what the product is all about. They may be Microsoft-employees, they may be Microsoft-fanboys, they may be end users who have used very old versions, badly installed and not upgraded for years. Well, go to this link and get some updated facts about IBM Notes 9.0 Social Edition.

There are a lot of myth makers, and FUD makers (Fear, Uncertainty and Doubt) walking around. Most of them, at least the ones I have met, do not have a clue about what IBM Notes and Domino is. They build their perception on what they have heard or read. Myths news spread fast and seems to glue themselves to braincells. Some of them, a few, has used some old fashioned versions of Lotus Notes working for companies that has not upgraded their solutions to newer and more modern versions. In my opinion the reason for bad user experience is not due to the solutions capabilities, but to bad IT management. (I may insult some of my customers here..).

Neither Lotus Notes or IBM Notes is an email system only. Notes is a client used for many purposes like applications, databases, documents, sharing files, communication, calendaring, activities management – and email, of course. A lot of IT journalists does not seem to get this fact. They go for the “I hate Lotus” stories because that gives them more salable headlines. And if you invite them to test the solutions in practical use, they say no thanks. And I know why. I used to be a journalist and chief editor for many years. One of the sayings was: Do not spoil a good headline by bringing objective facts!

It seems, among some IT-journalists, to be political correct to say “I hate Lotus Notes”! As a matter of fact I have heard a well renowned Norwegian IT-journalist say that out loud in a meeting. His “hate” was based on low user knowledge, not on facts. I solved his problem in one second by showing him how to do.

Another journalist wrote an article about “Lotus Notes” even though the solutions does not have the brand name “Lotus” anymore. Even if he new that he still called IBM Notes “Lotus Notes”. And when I tried to correct him, he blamed it on the spelling correction (!!). I have also shown journalists new functions that they do not believe is true – even if they saw it with their own eyes. To them, seeing is not believing. But they believe what others tell them. What about some source critic, folks?

Why do I not experience any IT-journalists that i seriously interested in fact, in functions, in seeing, in touching and testing? Why is it they seem to “put their fingers into their ears and start humming on some false tune” when I try to present them some facts? Are they afraid to be confronted with the truth? Are they afraid to learn something new, to differ from the rest of the pack? Do they feel uncertainty about having and open mind and get to know an alternative to what they believe is “what everybody else use”?

I just ask. Do you have the answer?

To download the poster – click here!


  1. Myths thend to stick, even if they’re false. No journalist will ever want to fight against a “universal truth”, even if is completely wrong; too risky, better play it safe and go with the choir.
    Once when Bill Gates was here in Italy, I read several articles about “the man who invented Internet” !!!! Can you imagine something more false ? But who cares ?
    The first time I read “Notes is dead” was circa 1994, when I just started working for Lotus, and I hear it again 19 years later. Well, is a painfully long agony, don’t you think ?


  2. young journalist, How could anyone still be using software developed twenty years ago?, they hated it in 1994, still hate it now so why doesn’t it just go away. The only trouble with this perception is that forward compatibility aside comparing Lotus Notes from 1994 to today makes about as much sense as comparing the Boeing Dreamliner with the the 707. It hasn’t died because it has continued to evolve to meet the needs of its customers, helped in part by a community that love it for what it does. Its not perfect but my biggest problem is keeping up with the new features that IBM keep putting in. Its a remarkable platform for developing software which I have no plans to abandon anytime soon.


  3. From your article “In my opinion the reason for bad user experience is not due to the solutions capabilities, but to bad IT management.”

    This sums up everything about IBM’s and Lotus Notes supporters opinion on the product, i.e. it is never the product’s fault it is always the user / admin’s. Why is it not possible to have a product that works out of the box? Why is good IT management required to get the best out of it when it is not required by the competition?

    In 1953 workers in East Berlin rose up against the state. The poet Bertolt Brecht suggested in this poem that it was not the government that needed to be changed but the people 🙂

    After the uprising of the 17th of June
    The Secretary of the Writers Union
    Had leaflets distributed in the Stalinallee
    Stating that the people
    Had forfeited the confidence of the government
    And could win it back only
    By redoubled efforts.

    Would it not be easier
    In that case for the government
    To dissolve the people
    And elect another?


    1. 1. Everything I write on this blog are my own opinions and can not be credited my employer.
      2. If IT management never do any updates from older to newer versions, then it is bad IT management.In my opinion.


      1. Thanks for your reply.

        1. I was not suggesting they are credited to your employer, just that they follow a common thread for Lotus Notes supporters and IBM.
        2. You are missing the point. The competition does not suffer from such a large negative user experience as Lotus Notes irrespective of version. Compare a Lotus Notes version to the competition’s version from the same year and LN still comes off worse.

        The main point I’m trying to get across is that many people have a negative user experience with LN. That is a fact that you cannot dispute (and is the basis of your article). You can argue this is due to user’s ignorance, lack or training or poor configuration by the IT Admin… it does not really matter, the fact is many people hate LN. IBM should look at changing the software and not the users…


        1. What versions are we talking about? What versions do you know? Have you any experience with IBM Notes 9.0 Social Edition?

          And by the way; The name of the software is IBM Notes – not Lotus Notes.


          1. No experience of Notes 9, but most versions before that unfortunately. Does that mean all previous versions sucked but not this one?

            IBM do not give the impression of paying attention to user experiences and changing the software accordingly, they want the users to change!


            1. I respect your right to have an opinion, even though I read from your comments that your arguments seems to be based more on feelings than facts. From what you write I guess you see IBM Notes – or Lotus Notes as you call it – as an email client only and nothing more. So I guess you compare IBM Notes with other clients that are email only, like Microsoft Outlook, Apple Mail and such. If so, such a comparison will not be fare to those email clients, as IBM Notes is so much more than email only.

              As you know, IBM Domino which is the server that runs in the background for IBM Notes, is much more than a pure email server like Microsoft Exchange. It is a database server, an application server, an intranet server and an extranet server. And the difference between IBM Notes and those other email only clients I mentioned, is that IBM Notes is a framework on which you can run all those functions on – even when not connected to the IBM Domino server. It even runs on more than one OS.

              As I see IBM Notes it is not an email client only – with the standard functions that all other email clients (both those paid for and those free of charge). IBM Notes is a collaboration and application client that does so much more than ordinary email clients.

              So, what do I use IBM Notes 9.0 Social Edition for on my two Mac’s? Off course I use it for all the standard stuff that any email client is able to, like Email, Adress Book, Calendar, To-Do’s and so on. But, if that was the only things I wanted it to do I would choose the standard email client that comes with the Mac.

              But I have other and more advanced needs for integrated functionalities through plugins:
              – I want to publish directly to Twitter, FaceBook, LinkedIn and IBM Connections – all integrated in the IBM Notes Client.
              – I want to chat, call, talk and have web meetings with both colleagues and external partners – all integrated in the IBM Notes client.
              – I want to send SMS to anyone – integrated in the IBM Notes client.
              – I want to be able to call any phone in the world and let them call me directly from and into my IBM Notes client.
              – I want to share files both inside and outside the company and keep track of access, versions and who downloaded what and when – directly and integrated in my IBM Notes client.
              – I want to access all my projects and Activities, collaborate and share them with anyone – directly and fully integrated in my IBM Notes client.
              – I want to do all my status updates on my social intranet, IBM Connections, directly from my IBM Notes client.
              – I want to follow all my business travels by having the free travel tracking, TripIt, directly integrated in my IBM Notes client.
              – I want to book my travels with my favourite airline through a plugin in my IBM Notes Client.
              – I want to use my private DropBox account as a plugin in my IBM Notes Client.

              And a lot of other stuff like internal databases and business applications that I can use even when I am offline because IBM Notes is also a Database and Application Client. All this I can do because IBM Notes is not only an email client, but a collaboration client where you can integrate almost everything, even Microsoft Sharepoint. And this is possible because IBM Notes is built on Open Social Standard and does not bond you to IBM as the only application vendor.

              So, that was some updated facts on what you can do with the help of simple standard plugins, widgets, applets or what you prefer to call them using a modern version of IBM Notes.

              And so a few other facts:

              It is not true as you say that IBM does not care about what their customers and users think about the functionalities and user interface. IBM has through the years, and especially since version 8.0, worked closely with both business partners and customers on the development and roadmap for future IBM Notes versions. They even opened a public blog where anybody – I repeat anybody – was able to – and did – participate creatively, bringing ideas, wishes and proposals for improvements. Even on such a detailed level so that the customers and end users could vote on what icons to use!

              In 2012 more than 2.000 customers came back to IBM Notes after seeing the new developments and future roadmaps for IBM Notes. Even Gartner did a research where they concluded that IBM Notes was the future of email clients. They said that this open strategy was the right way to go – to become a lot more than an ordinary email client.

              So, why not do a search on YouTube and get some demo’s of IBM Notes 9.0 and get some updated facts with an open mind regarding what you believe IBM Notes is.

              Finally and just for fun regarding the “hate” factor – a search on Google gave me these results:

              ” I hate Lotus Notes” – 317.000 hits
              ” I hate Microsoft Outlook” – 1.830.000 hits

              Have a nice day!


              1. Hi Arne,

                Many thanks for taking the time to reply with such detail (and allowing me to post an alternative view point in the first place). I did find the functionality you mentioned interesting and useful.

                Just in case I’m causing any offence, I want to say that in no way do my comments have any reflection on your good self.

                The product certainly does have a lot of functionality, however the majority of users will only use the email and calendar (and possibly instant messaging) within a corporate environment. They do not care about anything else the product does no matter how good it does it.

                Indeed, looking at the home page for IBM Notes the second sentence states it is an email tool (or it is how IBM wish to market it):

                “IBM® Notes® is a desktop client for social business. This email software includes messaging, applications and social collaboration.”

                The email client is difficult to use. Things that take one action in Outlook etc take several more in Notes. For example, right click menus that are not context sensitive (the same options are given whatever you click on) and not being able to right click on a Notes email address and find the external email address. These are just two examples of how Notes was such a painful user experience and made things difficult.

                I’m not sure if these examples have been improved in Notes 9 but if so that is many years and versions to improve basic functionality.

                Many people feel bad after using Notes (for email), obviously this relates to feelings but it also a fact. IBM have ignored this for many years without addressing it.

                With regards to google hits, many more people use Outlook than Notes so basic statistics would expect more hits for Outlook.

                Please, please listen to users and improve the email (if it has not already been done in version 9)


                1. Hi Ricky;

                  Off course using IBM Notes is differently from using Microsoft Outlook. It is a different product where also functions are different. Like any products are different from competitive products.

                  You say that users will only use email and calendar. That is not what happens among those customers and prospects I work with. Companies that buys IBM Notes does so for a lot of other reasons than only email and calendar.

                  In my daily work I experience that customers want more functionality than email only. They feel that email is overwhelming them and is a slow and ineffective way to collaborate. They want to reduce the amount of email. Some of them even close down the use of internal email and start using social tools internally.

                  New generations of employees coming into the workplace are used to other social collaboration tools and want to bring their new collaborating habits into their jobs.

                  I just read a couple of reports from analyst companies like Ovum and MDW Advisors the other day. They were quite happy with the «new» IBM Notes strategy. I will publish a separate blogpost quoting them.


                  1. Hi Arne,

                    Many users argue that Notes not only does things differently but also does it badly, shown by my two examples in previous post. It is a very poorly designed GUI.

                    If you seriously think that email and calendar are not two of the most commonly used IT functions within the corporate world then please re-think that! The majority of people who have Notes installed on their desktop will only use it for email and calendar. IBM markets Notes as such:

                    “IBM® Notes® is a desktop client for social business. This email software includes messaging, applications and social collaboration.”

                    Notes may well have great functionality but if the email GUI sucks (and it does) then it does not matter.


                    1. Ricky;

                      Well, you are in your right to have your opinions on the GUI. But I am not convinced that you have the full info and experience on what have happened to the IBM Notes GUI the last three- four years. Anyway, you have your taste, I have mine.

                      Off course email and calendar are of the most important functionalities within the corporate world. I do not disagree there. But I think IBM Notes does that better than Outlook, i.e. when you want to se many employees calendars in the same view. As far as I have experienced Outlook is doing that by showing all the employees calendars in paralell, while Notes do that in your calendar – showing where you “collide”.

                      I think this discussion is more about “religion” and taste than about comparative facts. So let us leave it at that, in respect of our rights to have our own opinions, and close this discussion.



  4. Arne,

    Still don’t agree with your last comments, but heh lets agree to disagree 🙂

    Take it easy and all the best… 🙂


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