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Lotus Notes Sucks

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To those who have sent me your comments...

I have received some very thoughtful comments about this site. I appreciate the feedback. Unfortunately, I don't feel comfortable responding to them personally. I have to use Lotus Notes at work and I don't need my employer knowing how much I hate using it. Getting my employer to change from Lotus Notes to something else will not happen. I have to remain as anonymous as I can until I work for some other organization that doesn't use this boat anchor.

As a result, this site is hosted by a company that provides some free space. They don't provide web scripting (PHP, for example), so there's no bulletin board.

I might post your comments that you send to me, but I will keep your identity anonymous.

Update: February 21, 2006

I've received many email messages from users relating their horror stories with Lotus Notes. I'll have them here soon.

Sorry about the crap that is at the very top of each page. None of it's mine—the web host puts it there. If you look at the web page source, you'll find that everything above the DOCTYPE declaration is garbage (which should give you a hint as to what the problem is).

In the meantime, let me explain what this website is not about.

This site is about what a lousy experience Lotus Notes is for users. There's a reason why people hate it. I am documenting why.

Update: January 11, 2006

I've added a What's New section.

I received another email message from Mary:

Hi again "lotus notes sucks dude,"

To do a good job re-designing Notes, we need to understand how people use it today. To that end, please post my request for end users to take the following survey about Bookmarks and the Notes Workspace.

Feel free to forward to any Notes users you know, and ask them to respond by Friday Feb 17 at midnight GMT.

Thanks very much.

http://www.ibm.com/survey/oid/wsb.dll/studies/BookmarksWorkspace6.htm

Go get 'em, Mary.

Update: January 9, 2006

I love fan mail. I even love the mail that you send me telling me I'm an idiot. If you write a coherent, grammatically correct insult, I'll publish it. I'll publish anything I can verify. And I'll cross off those things that are fixed. In fact, I just crossed off #12.

Please don't email me telling me that I don't understand that Lotus Notes is more than just an email client. It doesn't matter what it is. I shouldn't need to know. Secretaries, shipping clerks, CEOs and others shouldn't need to know what's under the hood. A basic understanding of email and what a calendar is should be enough to figure it out. This means no mention of databases, replication and error messages about "invalid replica IDs", etc. This means a program that behaves as a native application of the operating system that it is running on. Frankly, I don't trust Lotus Notes. It has destroyed data without my permission.

As far as extolling Lotus Notes' collaboration abilities, the most sophisticated collaboration I've ever seen is email messages with word processing file attachments. It's just easier to use a word processor. All that stuff about "security, reliability, managability, scalability, flexibility" and so on don't mean anything if users can't figure out how to use Lotus Notes. And I'm telling ya, there are some pretty intelligent people that are just mystified by it. Lotus Notes is the Rube Goldberg of software. All I've ever heard is "I can't figure how to {insert task here}" and "Notes is clunky" and "Notes is a piece of ****." So Lotus Notes ends up being an expensive container for word processing documents which you can't search. But so what? IBM has your money.

I think Jeff Atwater sums it up well:

[Lotus Notes] is death by a thousand tiny annoyances—the digital equivalent of being kicked in the groin upon arrival at work every day.

I also get some messages about my apparent affinity for Microsoft. Microsoft isn't perfect; I refer to them because they seem to try. They mess up alot (Clippy, anyone?), but I've seen little improvement in Lotus Notes. Now, I could see my rants being unfair if I were bashing Lotus Notes version 1.00—but we're talking about version 5 and 6 for God's sake!

Is this a little too much? Yeah, but I feel much better now.

The screenshot for version 7 looks nice, but are the difficulties in using Notes addressed? Will the problems in Notes be fixed, or will IBM just slap a new coat of digital paint on the interface?

Update: July 23, 2005

I am still getting comments and, as I find time, I read every single one of them and incorporate them into this site. Here's one I received today:

IBM wants your help in fixing Lotus Notes.

Dear Lotus Notes Hater,

IBM is working on a redesign of Lotus Notes, as described in the following link: http://www-306.ibm.com/software/swnews/swnews.nsf/n/nhan6dbjwg?OpenDocument&Site=default.

I, and others on the Notes design team, have been paying attention to your "Lotus Notes Sucks" website. On your home page you mention that one of your goals is to "embarrass [us] into fixing the egregious problems with the product."

I am writing to ask you to post this email, which is an invitation to participate in usability evaluations of the re-design, on your web site so that many others like yourself can participate in improving Lotus Notes.

Point your browser to http://www-10.lotus.com/ldd/usability to read descriptions about the usability studies and choose the Sign Up link to be contacted.

Thank you.

_________________________________________
Mary xxxxxxxxxxxxx, Ph.D.
Lead User Interaction Designer for Lotus Notes
Westford, MA, USA

My response is some advice: start with the examples on this web site. Ignore the vituperation. Use the examples to find other problems. Use other email programs and compare the user experience. Find companies willing to share their Lotus Notes databases with you. Learn what they use your product for. For example, Microsoft discovered that people were using Excel spreadsheets just for making lists. They were not doing financial analysis or anything "fancy." Thus, you now see commands such as Sort that weren't present many versions ago. Think like a user! Good luck, Mary; you have much work to do.

As the problems are fixed, you'll see the items in the list crossed off.

Why does this site exist? (Updated January, 14, 2006)

Originally, I listed one reason, but after some reflection, there are several more.

Why does Lotus Notes suck?

Except for security, the reasons include:

  1. The user interface is by far the worst there is for professionally written software. This doesn't mean every other email application is good, just that Lotus Notes is terrible. Having used about a dozen email applications over the years, I can authoritatively state that Lotus Notes is the worst.

    Which email applications have I used?

    • Unix mail
    • Zmail
    • Pine
    • Some ancient WordPerfect product from the early 1990s
    • Outlook
    • Outlook Express
    • cc:Mail
    • Thunderbird

    And others I can't remember.

  2. It displays useless and incomprehensible error messages.
  3. Lotus Notes is slow, ugly-looking and violates all sorts of GUI conventions.
  4. It deletes mail messages when you don't expect it to.
[Lotus Notes box cover]

It a confusing, horrible mess. It is truly awful.

I don't use Lotus Notes for anything but email—and only because I have to. I avoid using Lotus Notes as much as possible. Its scheduling, calendar, messaging, to do list—everything about it just sucks.

Don't take my word for how much it sucks. Go to the examples! The examples show flaws from Lotus Notes starting with version 5.0.8 and "better."

These opinions do not necessarily reflect that of my employer. Your experiences with Lotus Notes might be different than mine, but I doubt it.

Update

We were "upgraded" to Lotus Notes 6.5.2 recently. Lotus Notes still sucks.