Notes 8 Beta 2 - First Impressions

Well, I've been running the Beta 2 client for two days now and am generally very impressed. It has certainly come on in leaps and bounds to the prior versions which I managed to sneak peaks at over the last few months.

I have raised a few (minor) issues in the beta discussion forum but they are most definitely not of the show stopper variety. There are some problems running a 7.0.2 client and the 8 client at the same time but I'm not even bothering to report those as they are not what you'd call a "real world" issue.

So what do I like...
- The UI is great, as we've been saying for a long time. I did worry that the initial mocked up vision wouldn't translate to working software but my fears are pretty much unfounded. The new tab bar, colour scheme and general look and feel is very "now" but is also neutral enough that it's not going to age quickly.
- The mail and calendar templates are very impressive, instantly usable and positively comparable to the dreaded Outlook equivalent.
- The calendar and Sametime sidebars will really make a difference for anyone who lives in their Notes client.
- And of course the ODF document editors are the true differentiator. Honestly, in my view they are a masterstroke because they can replace Office for 80% of users meaning a saving of perhaps hundreds of pounds per seat. If there's one thing which will scare MS it will be these editors.

There are of course some areas that are less positive.
- As Chris has already pointed out the Feed reader is less than perfect, but I suspect the target audience is not me. I currently have about 250 feeds in NetNewsWire and trying to manage them from the little sidebar is not really practical. What may turn out to be good though is if you use RSS to track application faults, it will mean I can separate out my reading from my intranet error tracking.
- In the mail template I haven't yet found how to enable the twistie which was demo'd at Lotusphere to show an entire mail thread from any document in the thread. I'm guessing / hoping that this is a server feature.
- We've lost the right click "Open In Designer" option on the database tabs in the client. A minor annoyance.
- This is just a personal bug-bear but the Eclipse preferences pane is just too cluttered. I can't see any normal user trolling through all of the options and there are some useful things you would want them to find.
- Talking of which, the "Mark documents as read when opened in preview pane" option is disabled at install but the mail template is set to preview documents by default. I would have expected that to function in the same way as Outlook.

I'm trying to be deliberately picky, if Notes is to survive we have to give it a real pounding of real world usage to iron out the defects before it goes gold. This design upgrade is a one chance deal, any mistakes will be nigh on impossible to recover from, so I am certainly going to spend as much time as I can spare testing this thing to destruction so that my users get the benefit from it.

In the end my livelihood depends on Notes 8 being a resounding success, so far it looks like the mortgage is safe!