Domino Designer 8.5 first impressions – Oh Dear

Like the rest of the Domino Community I’m sure, I spent yesterday morning downloading the new beta software for Notes and Domino 8.5. This release has been a long time coming, developers are pretty much the last area of the Notes community to have been dealt with trying to bring Domino up to date, and web developers especially. As things stand currently, the skill of developing a Domino app for the web comes from knowing all of the hacks to make the Domino server do what you want it to. The hope with 8.5 is that we get an up to date development environment that makes using today’s development techniques possible.

I haven’t yet had time to install the server (although Paul did on the live ILUG box), so my initial impressions are using the 8.5 client against an 8.0.1 server. I will come back to this once I’ve had more time to play, but with ILUG coming up next week it won’t be for a couple of weeks now.

This is just stream of conciousness stuff from the notes I was taking as I went along…

– I like the new start up process where you get the password prompt a lot earlier on in the proceedings, even if it is not faster, perception is reality for many users.
– The Designer client looks nice on my high resolution screen (1900*1200), there is good use of the screen real estate, not sure how it will look on smaller screens but that is a common problem with Eclipse.
– When frames get resized, design element trees (if that’s what they’re called) get closed, but I’m assuming this is due to beta code.
– The agent editor is still using the classic C interface, not a new Eclipse script editor even for Java, I wonder why this is? Hopefully it just wasn’t fully baked by the time of the first beta.
– Where is the LotusScript class browser that we were promised?
– Context sensitive toolbars don’t seem to be set up correctly, for example when I’m designing a form I don’t get the toolbars for controlling tables or inserting new fields, what’s worse is that it’s not immediately obvious how to actually make the toolbars show up.
– Editing fields etc on a form is still controlled with the properties dialog, I thought the point of switching to Eclipse would be that we could use the different views to edit properties.
– Why has help moved out of the NSF and into the Eclipse format? Seems crazy to me when Notes is a perfect client for this sort of document database. Apart from anything else, I have just had to wait 30 minutes for the help database to be indexed with the Eclipse help tool so that I can search about XPages.
– I’m not going to comment on XPages until I’ve spent some time on them

Of course this is just first impression stuff, so I hope things get better, but overall I am really rather disappointed. This is a huge and one time only opportunity to make Notes and Domino a kick ass application development platform for the next ten years but what I am seeing so far looks rushed (for nothing other than some seemingly self imposed deadline) and worse than that, badly thought through. Why, for example, would you continue to provide the crappy Java editor that we’ve had to deal with (or ignore in my case) for the last ten years when you have the market leading Java editor right there in the same application framework? It simply boggles my mind that this decision has been made.

Let me make this clear, I love Notes and Domino, it has provided my living for the last 13 years and I had hoped that it would continue to do so for another 10 or more years. I want the new release to be a great success, because if it is then it makes my living easier to earn. But if this is the way that things are going then I am seriously going to have to consider where I invest my time in future. Some of these design decisions are simply wrong.