Training Hassles Ahead as Notes Update Introduces Browser Feel

Longtime Lotus Notes users and developers are in for a shock -- and additional training -- when they see Version 5.0, which ditches the familiar desktop icons and workspace. The good news is that the new interface is similar to a Web browser, which should make it easier for newcomers to learn Lotus Notes.

Lotus Development Corp.'s decision to adopt a browser design for Notes 5.0 wasn't an accident: More than 29 million people know how to use Notes, but hundreds of millions know how to use a browser, Lotus officials said. A beta version of Notes 5.0 has been out for a few weeks; the commercial release is due by year's end. Version 5.0 will have real-time messaging and new search capabilities built in. Notes' familiar icon-based workspace will be replaced with an opening page that looks more like a Web page -- including a navigator bar, a series of bookmark folders and forward, backward and refresh buttons. End users will, however, have the option of reverting to the old workspace.

Nina Burns, president and CEO of Creative Networks Inc., a consultancy in Palo Alto, California, said the installed base of Notes users upgrading to 5.0 will require a significant amount of retraining because of the real-time messaging and other new functions -- but not as much as if the new user interface weren't like a Web browser.

First-time Notes users may need less training with the new version because of the familiar Web interface, she said, "so it's probably a wash."

Corporate information technology executives seem concerned about the effect on their employees. "We have beta copies of Notes 5.0, but I just hope it doesn't get too complicated. We have some part-time developers, and I don't want to see them get overwhelmed," said Steve Eldenschenk, a Notes administrator and developer at American Family InsuranceGroup in Madison, Wisconsin.

But from a Web application development side, the user interface will make Notes more fun, he said. The retraining will be significant for the hundreds of Web developers at KeyCorp, said Charlie Lougheed, an intranet/Internet Web developer at Key Services Corp., the bank's IT arm in Cleveland.

That's because Notes has a revised management console, among other features.

Developers who are familiar with current versions of Notes and Domino will have to retool a bit, Lougheed acknowledged. But, ultimately, the simpler interface will make it easier for a new developer to adapt to the system and start coding immediately, he said.

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