How I started with Notes

Theo Heselmans blogged about how he got into Notes back in 1993, so I thought it would be fun to share my story.

In 1993 I worked for IDG in Sweden as a journalist. The company used Lotus cc:Mail, but made a company-wide descision to use Lotus Notes. I believe it was in late 1994 that Notes 3 was started to be used at the Swedish subsidary , and in 1995 it was widely used there, despite some complaints, mainly from one editor-in-cheif/business unit leader who tended to give his staff older, slower computers with too little memory… Everybody else liked it, especially since IDG centrally had several good databases that replicated from Boston to publications all over the world with the latest news. This service, IDG News Service, was extremely useful for us journalists.

I was of course writing about Notes, as well as about Microsoft products. I went to the predecessor of Lotusphere Europe in 1996, which took place in Holland. I was still not a Notes developer. I had worked for Microsoft earlier, and were developing some internal applications in VB and MS Word for the other journalists. I also played around with HTML and developed the first homepage for Computer Sweden, the publication I worked at.

We upgraded to Notes 4.0 and then 4.5. Some users started playing around, developing Notes applications. One of the guys in accounting developed a purchase order system for us in his spare time, for example.

In early 1997, the owner of a small PR agency, who did PR for Lotus, Sun, Adobe, Epson and a number of other companies, asked me if I knew HTML. He needed some help with the HTML for some homepages he worked on. After getting approval from my employer, I spent some evenings at his office helping him putting HTML code into his Notes applications he was web-enabeling. During this time I started groking Notes development. We also upgraded to Notes 4.6, where I as a developer got a number of new features.

It was during the summer of 1996 I started developing actual Notes applications myself. The first big one was an archive of all articles published by Computer Sweden in the last few years. They had the articles (in several different formats) on a file server. I built the archive, then parsed and imported about 20,000 documents with different control codes (some even plan text files lacking control codes so I had to write code to analyze what was what in the files).

I continued playing around with Notes, and after I got married to an american girl in 1997, I got a job with IDG News Service in Boston as a Notes developer.

When I told the editor-in-chief that I was moving, he ordered me to develop an editorial system in Lotus Notes before I left. In 3 weeks, while I was also trying to pack up my apartment (alone, my wife had already went ahead to the US to prepare things), I developed the editorial system. As of last summer, it was still in use after almost 10 years with no major modifications! Several times attempts were made to replace it with (expensive and complicated) commercial solutions, but they all failed for different reasons, mostly because this application was perfectly suited for their needs. The development cost was probably (counting my salary) about 1800 dollar, which over 10 years make a yearly cost of 180 dollar, or perhaps 6 dollar per user and year for the about 30 users… Not a bad ROI…

At IDG News Service I built a number of applications, did more advanced solutions and started working on Notes R5 when it was rolled out. In 2002 I moved to the Dallas area to work for an insurance company as a Notes developer, and here I still am. And still on Notes 5(!), even if we now (finally) are moving to Notes 7. Notes 8 is not an option, most of the computers in use only have 256 MB of RAM, 512 MB in a few and 1 GB only in the newest ones.


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