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Inside Mobile Design and User Experience

Thoughts on mobile and social business applications, design, and user experience, by Chris Reckling.

Continuing the 8 things about Notes 8 series, here is the final installment. While most of the focus for Notes 8 has been on the Mail, Calendar, and Contacts experience, there's also a whole lot more to the client than that. In fact, there are many features that have nothing to do with the PIM apps, but just make your life easier.

1. Window options – group tabs, open in new window - In Preferences, there are 2 additional options for how you want windows to work for you. One lets you group the window tabs under one tab. So, if you are the type that keeps many, many windows open all the time and the tabs scroll off to the right, then this option might help arrange things better for you (see pic below). The second option tells Notes to open every document in a new window. If you are an alt-tabber, this is handy (that's my personal favorite). Yes, we know about the "Open in New Window" missing feature on individual tabs (and Open in Designer).
screenshot using the new grouped tabs feature
2. Integrated Sametime client - In Notes 8, the full Sametime client is included when you install. That means you get the same user experience throughout Notes as you do with standalone Sametime. Frankly, I didn't ever use the embedded ST in Notes 7 because it was so different and had less features, but now I use it exclusively in Notes 8.
3. Composite applications - Composite applications are just starting to get some traction in Notes. This is the ability to take multiple "components" - NSFs or Eclipse - and put them together on the same user interface. More on composite apps is found in their blog - they are publishing a lot of useful information and examples. There's a danger here that your components won't match from a UI perspective and the ugliness will be exacerbated. (Over on Ed's blog he shows an app he is using in real life, but orange???) People - hire a designer! By the way, Mary Beth is hard at work finishing a style guide for applications so that you can use the same colors and fonts that we do. Hopefully, that will drive some consistency into the apps you build. And while I'm on the topic of app dev, a key benefit of using Eclipse under the covers is that now Notes has a standard extension model in place. This fact alone is huge for developers who could never before modify the Notes client to this extent (pun intended). Imagine building your own UI that accesses NSF or other data through a web service! The possibilities are only limited by your creativity.
4. Sidebar applications - The sidebar lives in your peripheral vision on the right. It's a handy place to put useful little miniapps. We start you out with 4 for free - Sametime, Activities, Day-at-a-Glance, and Feeds. I've heard from some people that their "can't live without it now" app is the Day-at-a-Glance (one day calendar). I find that having Activities in the sidebar allows me to check on them from within Notes and keeps me from going to a browser to log in, etc. This is also another opportunity for developers to add their own apps to the client via the sidebar. Sidebar apps can be opened in their own window if you want (see pic below) or hidden completely.
5. Activities - While you don't get Activities with Notes (it is part of Lotus Connections), it is integrated via the sidebar. You can also do handy things like drag a document over to an Activity to bookmark it and work with them inside the Notes client.
6. Feeds - Another sidebar application, Feeds is a little RSS reader that is fully integrated into Notes. It has a little slide-out box that provides the content of the post so you can get a quick look at what is going on "out there" in the blogosphere.
screenshot of integrated feed reader
7. Open List, especially search and synch with Workspace - The Open List is a replacement for the beloved bookmark bar. Since Notes is more than email, we had to come up with a good way to launch not only NSF apps, but also other types - like composite apps and productivity editors. My "can't live without it" feature is the search in the Open List. No longer do I have to go searching thru folders to find an app. I hit Alt-B and start typing - the list is narrowed for me as I type. I really miss this when I go back to classic Notes for some reason or other. For workspace users, the list is kept in synch with things you add to the workspace. You can also dock it to the left side by right-clicking on the button.
8. Documents, Spreadsheets, and Presentations - Notes 8 now includes the Open Office based editors. We did a lot of work on them to make them accessible and added the handy properties sheet so you can see what's going on. As announced this week, IBM will be contributing code to and that can only be a good thing for both Open Office and Notes. The document editor screen is below. In my job today, the only thing I use heavily is presentations, so the included spreadsheet and document editors are fine for me. I'm still transitioning from Powerpoint, but will get there eventually.
screenshot of document editor

That concludes my series on 8 about Notes 8. I would love to see your list, too!
Here's a summary of the posts in this series.
8 Things to Like About Notes 8, Part 1: Mail
8 Things to Like About Notes 8, Part 2: Calendar
8 Things to Like About Notes 8, Part 3: Contacts
8 Things that work in any Notes 8 application Part 4,

Chris Reckling
Program Director, MA UX Design Studio, Lotus Software

Chris Reckling | 7 September 2007 01:50:57 PM ET | Westford, MA

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