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.

Notes 8.5 Beta IdeaJam

Well if the rumours prove to be true then we should be seeing the Notes Domino 8.5 Beta released fairly soon, so we have decided to create an IdeaJam site to try and help gather feedback during the beta phase. will be available throughout the beta process. This is a completely unofficial site, so make sure to log issues at the official site as well, but hopefully this will add something to the beta process, if a particular issue proves to affect lots of people maybe we can show that through voting.

The site uses your existing IdeaJam username and password, so no need to register again.

Improving my home office setup

My flat isn’t really big enough to have a seperate office, so I am going to be spending a lot of time working at my dining table. So I decided to upgrade the kit that I am using around the laptop, last night my new wireless keyboard and laptop stand arrived which have already made a big difference. And then tomorrow my new office chair should be turning up. These sorts of things always seem to cost a fortune but for the sake of comfort while sitting down for ten hours a day I think it’s a price worth paying.

So this is now the view out of my “office” window…
My new office

Back home

The journey home was harder work that the trip out as there was a huge delay due to “fuel supply problems”. Earlier in the day on Friday there were stories in the news about SilverJet runing out of money. The working theory in the lounge was that the fuel company wouldn’t supply without cash up front, but luckily it must have been sorted pretty quickly as we were only delayed by three hours in the end. Again I can’t praise the actual experience highly enough, so if they are still in business and you need to get to New York, check them out.

The week itself was brilliant, a real battery recharge with good food, lots of wandering around just enjoying the city and very little else. Much needed before the next couple of weeks of ILUG. Talking of which Bruce, Julian, Paul and I did a quick podcast today which can be downloaded here.

New York

The journey over yesterday was incredibly easy. I can highly recommend Silver Jet. Their terminal at Luton Airport is the way flying should work. Turn up, as you walk in someone takes your bags, asks you to sit down in a comfy chair, have some breakfast. Then while you’re waking up, an agent comes and takes your passport, goes and checks you in and brings you back all the paperwork. You only go through security as you’re boarding the plane. The plane itself is a 767 with a good compromise solution, not quite flat beds bet pretty comfortable, decent video screens are handed out and then you’re pretty much left alone. And then Newark airport is a lot better than I remember from the last time I arrived there, I was on the road 20 minutes after touching down.

My hotel on 43rd Street is excellent so far, with a Shula’s restaurant like the one in the Dolphin so after a wander yesterday afternoon I went there for some dinner. And then I stupidly thought I’d go upstairs and watch some TV, next thing I know it’s 3am and I’m wide awake. Oh well there are worse ways of spending a Sunday morning I guess.

The plan for this week is to have no plan, I’ll catch a few movies, check out the Apple store(s), just be a general tourist and relax. I haven’t actually had a proper holiday since last May, so I am really planning to do very little.

Last Day

Well it’s my last day at the contract I’ve been in for two years now. It’s been a really good time, great people and interesting work, but with IdeaJam taking off, LinkJam coming and the offer of some other consulting work it seems like a good time to try life out in the big wide world. So if you think I can help with any projects you have on the go then please feel free to contact me to have a chat!

I had tried to avoid any big leaving presentations but much as everyone promised not to do anything there was just a massive contingent of people around my desk with two great pressies and some very kind words. I always get terribly tongue tied in those sorts of situations, but I hope that everyone knows how appreciative I am of having worked with them and their generosity.

So tomorrow morning I’m flying off to New York for a few days break before the ramp up to ILUG begins. Overall, life is good, very good.

Catch Up

It was great catching up with everyone this evening. From my point of view there was a really eclectic mix of friends going back over ten years. From the Domino community point of view, Warren, Julian, Kerr Rainey, Mike Smith, Ben Poole, Andy Harris, Marke Myers and others were there. All will be attending ILUG and it just makes me look forward to it even more. Only three weeks to go, so if you haven’t registered yet, make sure to get in there quickly.

Now off to bed to nurse the hangover that I am sure is due tomorrow.