IBM Lotus Notes

IBM Lotus Notes
Lotus Notes
Lotus Notes 8 icon.png
Lotus Notes 8 home.png
IBM Lotus Notes 8 default home screen
Developer(s) IBM
Initial release 1989
Stable release 8.5.3  (October 3, 2011; 51 days ago (2011-10-03)) [+/−]
Preview release 8.5.3 CD5 [+/−]
Development status Active
Written in Java/Eclipse (8.x Standard) & C++ (8.x Basic and previous versions)
Operating system Microsoft Windows, Mac OS, Linux, and formerly OS/2
Available in 28 user-interface and mail template languages, 64 variants available for spelling dictionary
Type Collaborative software, Personal information manager, Email client
License Proprietary
Website IBM Lotus Notes

Lotus Notes is the client of a collaborative platform originally created by Lotus Development Corp. in 1989. In 1995 Lotus was acquired by IBM and became known as the Lotus Development division of IBM and is now part of the IBM Software Group. IBM describes the software as an "integrated desktop client option for accessing business e-mail, calendars and applications on [an] IBM Lotus Domino server."[1] Prior to release 4.5, the term Lotus Notes referred to both the client and server applications.[2]



Lotus Notes is a multi-user client-server cross-platform application runtime environment, it is the primary user-interface or client of the Lotus Domino/Notes suite. It can be used as an email client without a Lotus Domino server, though this is unusual.[citation needed]

Lotus Domino/Notes provides a broad range of integrated functionality including email, calendaring, instant messaging (with additional IBM software voice&video conferencing and/or web-collaboration), discussions/forums, blogs, an inbuilt personnel/user directory and IBM Lotus Symphony, a full office productivity suite. In addition to these standard applications the organization may use the IBM Lotus Domino Designer development environment and other tools to rapidly develop additional integrated applications such as request approval / workflow and document management.

Lotus Notes has no single direct competitor which offers a similar wide range of features. It competes with a suite of products from other vendors such as Microsoft.

Because of the application development abilities, Lotus Notes is often compared to products like Microsoft Sharepoint.[3][4] The database in Notes/Domino can be replicated between servers and between server and client, thereby allowing clients offline capabilities. It is often classified as a NoSQL database, as it is document centric and not relational.

The Lotus Notes product consists of several components:

  • Lotus Notes client application (since version 8, this is based on Eclipse)
  • Lotus Notes legacy client (still available in version 8 onwards)
  • Lotus Domino server, a cross platform application server which supports data replication to other servers and clients for offline access.
  • Lotus Domino Administration Client
  • Lotus Domino Designer (Eclipse-based integrated development environment) for creating client-server applications that run within the Notes framework.

Whereas typical email applications such as Microsoft Outlook are programmed to be an email client, Lotus Notes is an application platform, where mail is just one of many possible applications. Lotus Notes may be used to access a document management system, discussion forums, document libraries, and numerous other applications. Lotus Notes is similar to a web-browser in that it may run any compatible application that the user has permission for.

The Lotus Notes framework provides applications with functionality to access, store & present information through a user-interface, enforce security and replicate (that is, allow many different servers to contain the same information and have many users work with that data). Although Lotus Notes may access relational databases (usually through an additional server called a Lotus Enterprise Integration server) Notes standard storage mechanism is a document database format, the Notes Storage Format or NSF which may store both the application and associated data.

As Lotus Notes is an application runtime environment, email and calendering is an application within Lotus Notes, albeit one that IBM provides with the product, but one that can be changed or completely replaced by a Domino application developer.[5] IBM have released the base templates as open source as well.[6]

Applications for Lotus Notes are developed in a variety of development languages including a Visual Basic-like language called LotusScript, and Java. Applications may be developed to run within the Lotus Notes application runtime environment and/or through a web server for use in a web browser, although the application interface would need to be developed separately for each. IBM is attempting to resolve this with a new development solution called xPages, where the application is consistently displayed using web-technologies.

Related software

Lotus Notes can be used for many applications as well as for internal communication collaborative applications, including e-mails, calendaring, PIM, instant messaging, Web browsing, and a variety of feature-rich custom applications. It can be used to access both local- and server-based applications and data. The current version of Lotus Notes is 8.5.2. (See for more details).

In early days of the product, the most common applications were threaded discussions and simple contact management databases. Today, Notes also provide blogs, wikis, RSS aggregators, CRM and Help Desk systems, and organizations can build a variety of custom applications for Notes using Domino Designer.

Lotus Notes can be used as an IMAP and POP e-mail client with non-Domino mail servers. Recipient addresses can be retrieved from any LDAP server, including Active Directory. The client also does web browsing, although it can be configured to launch the default browser instead.

Features include group calendaring and scheduling, SMTP/MIME-based e-mail, NNTP-based news support, and automatic HTML conversion of all documents by the Domino HTTP task.

Notes integration with IBM's Sametime instant messaging allows users to see other users online and chat with one or more of them at the same time. Beginning with Release 6.5 this functionality is built into Notes and presence awareness is available in email and other Notes applications for users in organizations that use both Notes and Sametime.

Since version 7, Notes has provided a web services interface. Domino can be a web server for HTML files too; authentication of access to Domino databases or HTML files uses Domino's own user directory and external systems such as Microsoft's Active Directory.

A design client is available to allow rapid development of databases consisting of forms, which allow users to create documents; and views, which display selected document fields in columns.

In addition to being a groupware system (e-mail, calendaring, shared documents and discussions), Notes/Domino is also a platform for developing customized client–server and web applications. Its use of design constructs and code allows easier construction of "workflow"-type applications, which typically have complex approval processes and routing of data.

Since Release 5, Lotus server clustering has been able to provide geographic redundancy for servers.

Later in its product lifecycle, Lotus Notes adopted leading design techniques and prevailing user interface and navigation paradigms first popularized by Microsoft, Apple, Mozilla and others. Features Lotus Notes may have first included were GUI tabs for multiple pages, searches and functions, and squared-off workspace chiclets which are now used on the iPhone.[citation needed]

Lotus 8.5 is the newest release, providing more advancements in building custom software applications.


Lotus Notes and Lotus Domino is a true client/server database environment and the servers themselves can be virtually independent of the hardware and software. The server software is called Lotus Domino and the client software is Lotus Notes. The Domino software can run on Windows, Unix, Linux, AIX, and even IBM midrange systems such as the iSeries (previously known as AS/400), and can scale to tens of thousands of users per server. There are different supported versions of the Domino server that are supported on the various levels of server operating systems, mostly corresponding to the latest server operating systems only being officially supported by a version of Domino that is released at about the same time as that OS.

Domino has security capabilities on a variety of levels. The authorizations can be granular, down to the field level in specific records all the way up to 10 different parameters that can be set up at a database level, with intermediate options in between. Users can also assign access for other users to their personal calendar and email on a more generic reader, editor, edit with delete and manage my calendar levels. All of the security in Domino/Notes is independent of the server OS or Active Directory, another flexibility not available with Exchange. Optionally, the Notes client can be configured to have the user use their Active Directory identity, but after starting the client the standard records (called documents in Notes) between databases (called Applications in Notes 8.0 and later.) This includes individual memos from a mail file. Databases/Applications can be designed to handle virtually any kind of data with extremely flexible security parameters including workflow features within the standard Notes client application environment without having to write actual code. Dozens of application templates are included at no charge with the software and there are numerous forums and other resources with custom databases available.

Data replication

The first release of Notes included a generalized replication facility. The generalized nature of this feature set it apart from predecessors like Usenet and continues to differentiate Notes from many other systems that now offer some form of synchronization or replication. The facility in Notes and Domino is not limited to email, calendar, and contacts. It works for any data in any application that uses Notes Storage Facility (.nsf) files, which are the standard container for data in the Notes architecture, for its storage. No special programming, tagging, or other configuration is required to enable replication.

Domino servers and Notes clients identify NSF files by their Replica IDs, and keep replicate files synchronized by bidirectionally exchanging data, metadata, and application logic and design. Replication between two servers, or between a client and a server, can occur over a network or a point-to-point[disambiguation needed ] modem connection. Replication between servers may occur at intervals according to a defined schedule, in near-real-time when triggered by data changes in server clusters, or when triggered by an administrator or program.

Creation of a local replica of an NSF file on the hard disk of a Notes client enables the user to fully use Notes databases while working off-line; the client synchronizes any changes when client and server next connect. Local replicas are also sometimes maintained for use while connected to the network in order to reduce network latency. Replication between a Notes client and Domino server can run automatically according to a schedule, or manually in response to a user or programmatic request. Since Notes 6, local replicas maintain all security features programmed into the applications. Earlier releases of Notes did not always do so. Early releases also did not offer a way to encrypt NSF files, raising concerns that local replicas might expose too much confidential data on laptops or insecure home office computers. But more recent releases offer encryption, and as ofthe default setting for newly created local replicas.


Notes was the first widely adopted software product to use public key cryptography for client–server and server–server authentication and for encryption of data; it remains the product with the largest installed base of PKI users.[citation needed] Until US laws regulating encryption were changed in 2000, Lotus was prohibited from exporting versions of Notes that supported symmetric encryption keys that were longer than 40 bits. In 1997, Lotus negotiated an agreement with the NSA that allowed export of a version that supported stronger keys with 64 bits, but 24 of the bits were encrypted with a special key and included in the message to provide a "workload reduction factor" for the NSA. This strengthened the protection for users of Notes outside the US against private-sector industrial espionage, but not against spying by the US government.[7] This implementation was widely announced, but with some justification many people did consider it to be a backdoor. Some governments objected to being put at a disadvantage to the NSA, and as a result Lotus continued to support the 40-bit version for export to those countries.

Under current US export laws, Lotus Notes supports only one version of the Notes PKI with 128-bit symmetric keys, 1024-bit public keys, and no workload reduction factor. The Domino server includes security tools support S/MIME, SSL 3.0 with industry standard key muchsizes for HTTP and other Internet protocols, X.509 client certificates, and an integrated certificate authority.

Notes and Domino also uses a code-signature framework that controls the security context, runtime, and rights of custom code developed and introduced into the environment. Notes 5 introduced execution control lists (ECLs) at the client level.[clarification needed] Notes/Domino 6 allowed ECLs to be managed centrally by server administrators through the implementation of Policies. Since release 4.5, the code signatures listed in properly configured ECLs prevent code from being executed by external sources, to avoid virus propagation through Notes/Domino environments. Administrators can centrally control whether each mailbox user can add exceptions to, and thus override, the ECL.

Database security

Every database has an access control list (ACL) that specifies the level of access a user or a server can have to that database. A user's access level determines what tasks he or she can perform in the database; A server's access level determines what information the user can replicate. (The names of access levels are the same for users and servers.) Only a user or administrator with Manager access can create or modify the ACL. To set an ACL, the Manager selects the access level, user type, and access level privileges for each user or group in a database. Default entries in the ACL can be set when the Manager creates the database. The manager can also assign roles if the database designer determines this level of access refinement is needed by the application.


Notes/Domino is a cross-platform, secure, distributed document-oriented database and messaging framework and rapid application development environment that includes pre-built applications like email, calendar, etc. This sets it apart from its major commercial competitors, such as Microsoft Exchange or Novell GroupWise, which are generally purpose-built applications for mail and calendaring that offer APIs for extensibility.

Lotus Domino databases are built using the Domino Designer client, available only for Microsoft Windows; standard user clients are available for Windows, Linux, and Mac OS.[8] A key feature of Notes is that many replicas of the same database can exist at the same time on different servers and clients, across dissimilar platforms; the same storage architecture is used for both client and server replicas. Originally, replication in Notes happened at document (i.e. record) level. With release of Notes 4 in 1996, replication was changed so that it now occurs at field level.

A database is a Notes Storage Facility (.nsf) file, containing basic units of storage known as a "note". Every note has a UniqueID that is shared by all its replicas. Every replica also has a UniqueID that uniquely identifies it within any cluster of servers, a domain of servers, or even across domains belonging to many organizations that are all hosting replicas of the same database. Each note also stores its creation and modification dates, and one or more Items.

There are several classes of notes, including design notes and document notes. Design notes are created and modified with the Domino Designer client, and represent programmable elements, such as the GUI layout of forms for displaying and editing data, or formulas and scripts for manipulating data. Document notes represent user data, and are created and modified with the Lotus Notes client, via a web browser, via mail routing and delivery, or via programmed code.

Document notes can have parent-child relationships, but Notes should not be considered a hierarchical database in the classic sense of information management systems. Notes databases are also not relational, although there is a SQL driver that can be used with Notes, and it does have some features that can be used to develop applications that mimic relational features. Notes does not support atomic transactions, and its file locking is rudimentary. Notes is a document-oriented database (document-based, schema-less, loosely structured) with support for rich content and powerful indexing facilities. This structure closely mimics paper-based work flows that Notes is typically used to automate.

Items represent the content of a note. Every item has a name, a type, and may have some flags set. A note can have more than one item with the same name. Item types include Number, Number List, Text, Text List, Date-Time, Date-Time List, and Rich Text. Flags are used for managing attributes associated with the item, such as read or write security. Items in design notes represent the programmed elements of a database. For example, the layout of an entry form is stored in the rich text Body item within a form design note. This means that the design of the database can replicate to users' desktops just like the data itself, making it extremely easy to deploy updated applications.

Items in document notes represent user-entered or computed data. An item named "Form" in a document note can be used to bind a document to a form design note, which directs the Lotus Notes client to merge the content of the document note items with the GUI information and code represented in the given form design note for display and editing purposes. The resulting loose binding of documents to design information is one of the cornerstones of the power of Lotus Notes. Traditional database developers used to working with rigidly enforced schemas, on the other hand, may consider the power of this feature to be a double-edged sword.

Notes applications development uses several programming languages. Formula and LotusScript are the two main ones. LotusScript is similar to, and may even be considered a specialized implementation of, Visual Basic, but with the addition of many powerful native classes that model the Notes environment, whereas Formula is similar to Lotus 1-2-3 formula language but is unique to Notes.

Java was integrated into Lotus Notes beginning with Release 4.5. With Release 5, Java support was greatly enhanced and expanded, and JavaScript was added. LotusScript is the primary tool in developing applications for the Notes client, as well as server-based processing. Java and JavaScript are the primary tools for developing applications for browser access, allowing browsers to emulate the functionality of the Notes client. The Notes client can now natively process Java and JavaScript code, although applications development usually requires at least some code specific to only Notes or only a browser.

As of version 6, Lotus established an XML programming interface in addition to the options already available. The Domino XML Language (DXL) provides XML representations of all data and design resources in the Notes model, allowing any XML processing tool to create and modify Notes/Domino data.

Since Release 8.5, XPages were also integrated into Lotus Notes.

External to the Lotus Notes application, IBM provides toolkits in C, C++, and Java to connect to the Domino database and perform a wide variety of tasks. The C toolkit is the most mature, and the C++ toolkit is an objectized version of the C toolkit, lacking many functions the C toolkit provides. The Java toolkit is the least mature of the three and can be used for basic application needs.


Notes includes a database management system but Notes files are different from relational or object databases because they are document-centric. Document-oriented databases such as Notes allow multiple values in items (fields), do not require a schema, come with built-in document-level access control, and store RichText data. Some object-relational features are being developed, and Domino 7 to 8.5.x supports the use of IBM's DB2 database as an alternative store for Notes databases. (According to IBM, this NSFDB2 feature, however, is now in maintenance mode with no further development planned.) A Notes database can be mapped to a relational database using tools like DECS, [LEI], JDBCSql for Domino or NotesSQL.[9]

It could be argued that Notes is a multi-value database system like PICK, or that it is an object system like Zope, but it is in fact unique. Whereas the temptation for relational database programmers is to normalize databases, Notes databases must be denormalized. RDBMS developers often find it difficult to conceptualize the difference. It may be useful to think of a Notes document (a 'note') as analogous to an XML document natively stored in a database (although with limitations on the data types and structures available).

Since Lotus Notes 8.5 IBM started to change the term Database to Application, because of the reason that these files aren´t really object databases as mentioned above.

The benefits of this data structure are:

  1. No need to define size of fields, or datatype;
  2. Attributes (Notes fields) that are null take up no space in a database;
  3. Built-in full text searching.


The IBM Lotus Domino server or the IBM Lotus Notes client store their configuration in their own databases / application files (*.nsf). No relevant configuration settings are saved in the Windows Registry if the operation system is Windows. Some other configuration options (primary the start configuration) is stored in the notes.ini (there are currently over 2000 known options available [10]).

Use as an email client

Lotus Notes is commonly deployed as an end-user email client in larger organizations, with IBM claiming a cumulative 145 million[citation needed] licenses sold to date. (IBM does not release the number of licenses on current maintenance, nor does it track number of licenses in current use.)[citation needed]

When an organization employs a Lotus Domino server, it usually also deploys the supplied Lotus Notes client for accessing the IBM supplied Lotus Notes application for email and calendaring but also to use document management and workflow applications. As Lotus Notes is a runtime environment, and the email and calendaring functions in Lotus Notes are simply an application provided by IBM the administrators are free to develop alternate email and calendaring applications. It is also possible to alter, amend or extend the IBM supplied email and calendaring application.

The Domino server also supports POP3 and IMAP mail clients, and through an extension product (Domino Access for Microsoft Outlook) supports native access for Microsoft Outlook clients (now with limited support).[11]

Lotus also provides iNotes (in Notes 6.5 renamed to "Domino Web Access" but in version 8.0 reverted back to iNotes), to allow the use of email and calendaring features through Internet Explorer and Firefox web browsers on Windows, Mac and Linux. There are several spam filtering programs available, and a rules engine allowing user-defined mail processing to be performed by the server.

Comparison with other email clients

The designers of Lotus Notes aimed to build a collaborative application platform where email was just one of numerous applications that ran in the Notes client software. Lotus lore has it that the first mail inbox application written by Lotus was a proof-of-concept for a sales presentation[citation needed]. The Notes client was also designed to run on multiple platforms including Windows, OS/2, Mac, SCO Open Desktop UNIX, and Linux. These two factors have resulted in the user interface containing some differences from applications that only run on Windows. Furthermore these differences have often remained in the product to retain backward compatibility with earlier releases, instead of conforming to Windows UI standards. The following are some of these differences.

  • Properties dialog boxes for formatting text, hyperlinks and other rich-text information can remain open after a user makes changes to selected text. This provides great flexibility to select new text and apply other formatting without closing the dialog box, selecting new text and opening a new format dialog box. Almost all other Windows applications require the user to close the dialog box, select new text, then open a new dialog box for formatting/changes.
  • Properties dialog boxes also automatically recognize the type of text selected and display appropriate selections (for instance, a hyperlink properties box).
  • Users can format tables as tabbed interfaces as part of form design (for applications) or within mail messages (or in rich-text fields in applications). This provides users the ability to provide tab-style organization to documents, similar to popular tab navigation in most web portals, etc.
  • End-users can readily insert links to Notes applications, Notes views or other Notes documents into Notes documents.
  • Lotus Notes made near-instantaneous full-text searching available before other email applications, including Microsoft Outlook.[citation needed]
  • Deleting a document (or email) will delete it from every folder in which it appears, since the folders simply contain links to the same back-end document. Some other email clients only delete the email from the current folder; if the email appears in other folders it is left alone, requiring the user to hunt through multiple folders in order to completely delete a message. In Notes, clicking on "Remove from Folder" will remove the document only from that folder leaving all other instances intact.
  • The All Documents and Sent "views" differ from other collections of documents known as "folders" and exhibit different behaviors. Specifically, mail cannot be dragged out of them, and so removed from those views; the email can only be "copied" from them. This is because these are views, and their membership indexes are maintained according to characteristics of the documents contained in them, rather than based on user actions interaction as is the case for a folder). This technical difference can be baffling to users, in environments where no training is given. All Documents contain all of the documents in a mailbox, no matter which folder it is in. The only way to remove something from All Documents is to delete it outright.

Lotus Notes 7 and older versions had more differences:

  • Users select a "New Memo" to send an email, rather than "New Mail" or "New Message". (Notes 8 calls the command "New Message")
  • To select multiple documents in a Notes view, one drags one's mouse next to the documents to select, rather than using ⇧ Shift+single click. (Notes 8 uses keypress conventions.)
  • The searching function offers a "phrase search", rather than the more common "or search", and Notes requires users to spell out boolean conditions in search-strings. As a result, users must search for "delete AND folder" in order to find help text that contains the phrase "delete a folder". Searching for "delete folder" does not yield the desired result. (Notes 8 uses or-search conventions.)

Notes 8.0 (released in 2007) became the first version to employ a dedicated user-experience team,[12] resulting in a greatly improved[citation needed] Notes client experience in the primary and new notes user interface. This new interface runs in the open source Eclipse Framework, which is a project started by IBM, opening up more application development opportunities through the use of Eclipse plug-ins. The new interface provides many new user interface features and the ability to include user-selected applications/applets in small panes in the interface. Notes 8.0 also included a new email interface / design to match the new Notes 8.0 eclipse based interface. Eclipse is a Java framework and allows IBM to port Notes to other platforms rapidly. An issue with Eclipse and therefore Notes 8.0 is the applications start-up and user-interaction speed. Notes 8.5 speeded up the application and the increase in general specification of PCs means this is less of an issue.

For lower spec PCs a new version of the old interface is still provided albeit as it is the old interface many of the new features are not available and the email user interface reverts to the Notes 7.x style.

This new and improved user experience builds on Notes 6.5 (released in 2003), which upgraded the e-mail client, previously regarded by many as the product's Achilles heel. Features added at that time included:

  • drag and drop of folders
  • replication of unread marks between servers
  • follow-up flags
  • reply and forward indicators on emails
  • ability to edit an attachment and save the changes back to an e-mail


Publications such as The Guardian in 2006 have criticized Lotus Notes for having an "unintuitive [user] interface" and cite widespread dissatisfaction with the usability of the client software. The Guardian indicates that Notes has not necessarily suffered as a result of this dissatisfaction due to the fact that "the people who choose [enterprise software] tend not to be the ones who use it."[13] Lotus violates an important usability law that dictates that a consistent UI is often better than a new and improved alternative. Since Microsoft is perceived to set the standard for Windows applications, Lotus's differences (F9 versus F5, New Memo versus New Mail, etc.) are perceived to be 'wrong' by some users. Since Notes release 8, F5 is now used to refresh the mail inbox (and other views as well) and the "New Memo" button text has also changed to "New Message".

If it serves of any proof, the Lotus Notes client is remarkable for being delivered with a shortcut called "ZapNotes" which is assigned the task of removing any hung up Lotus process from memory. Not only the interface is awkward for not following Windows generally accepted standards, but the fact that a User Experience was brought on board on version 8 really shows.

Related software

Related IBM Lotus products

Over the 20-year history of Notes, Lotus and later IBM, have developed many other software products that are based on or integrated with Notes. The most prominent of these is the IBM Lotus Domino server software, which was originally known as the Lotus Notes Server and gained a separate name with the release of version 4.5. The server platform also became the foundation for products such as IBM Lotus Quickr, for document management, and IBM Lotus Sametime for instant messaging and web conferencing.

In early releases of Notes, there was considerable emphasis on client-side integration with the IBM Lotus SmartSuite environment. With Microsoft's increasing predominance in office productivity software, the desktop integration focus switched for a time to Microsoft Office. With the release of version 8.0 in 2007, based on the Eclipse framework, IBM has again added integration with its own office-productivity suite, this time the IBM Lotus Symphony. IBM Lotus Expeditor is a framework for developing Eclipse-based applications.

Other IBM products and technologies have also been built to integrate with Notes. For mobile-device synchronization, this previously included the client-side IBM Lotus Easysync Pro product (no longer in development) and IBM Lotus Notes Traveler, a newer no-charge server-side add-on for mail, calendar and contact sync. A recent addition to IBM's portfolio are two IBM Lotus Protector products for mail security and encryption, which have been built to integrate with Lotus Notes.

Related software from other vendors

With a long market history and large installed base, Notes and Domino have spawned a great deal of third-party software. Such products can be divided into three broad, and somewhat overlapping classes:

  • Notes and Domino applications are software programs written in the form of one or more Lotus Notes databases, and often supplied as NTF templates. This type of software typically is focused on providing business benefit from Lotus Notes's core collaboration, workflow and messaging capabilities. Examples include CRM, human resources and project tracking systems, such as Tracker Suite for Lotus Notes. Some applications of this sort may offer a browser interface in addition to Notes client access. The code within these programs typically uses the same languages available to an in-house Domino developer: Notes formula language, LotusScript, Java and Javascript.
  • Notes and Domino add-ons, tools and extensions are generally executable programs written in C, C++ or another compiled language that are designed specifically to integrate with Notes and Domino. This class of software may include both client- and server-side executable components. In some cases, Notes databases may be used for configuration and reporting. Since the advent of the Eclipse-based Notes 8 Standard client, client-side add-ons may also include Eclipse plug-ins and XML-based widgets. The typical role for this type of software is to support or extend core Notes functionality. Examples include spam and anti-virus products (e.g. Spam Sentinel), server administration and monitoring tools (e.g. GSX Monitor), messaging and storage management products (e.g. ReduceMail Pro Suite), policy-based tools (e.g. Crossware Mail Signature), data synchronization tools (e.g. Integra For Notes) and developer tools (e.g. Teamstudio tools, Ytria Lotus Notes Tools, NotesTracker).
  • Notes- and Domino-aware adds-ins and agents are also executable programs, but they are designed to extend the reach of a general networked software product to Notes and Domino data. This class includes server and client backup software, anti-spam and anti-virus products, and e-discovery and archiving systems. It also includes add-ins to integrate Notes with third-party offerings such as Cisco's WebEx conferencing service or the CRM platform.


Lotus Notes has a history spanning more than 20 years.[14] Its chief inspiration was PLATO Notes, created by David Woolley at the University of Illinois in 1973. In today's terminology, PLATO Notes was a message board, and it was part of the foundation for an online community which thrived for more than 20 years on the PLATO system. Ray Ozzie worked with PLATO while attending the University of Illinois in the 1970s. When PC network technology began to emerge, Ozzie made a deal with Mitch Kapor, the founder of Lotus Development Corporation, that resulted in the formation of Iris Associates in 1984 to develop products that would combine the capabilities of PCs with the collaborative tools pioneered in PLATO. The agreement put control of product development under Ozzie and Iris, and sales and marketing under Lotus. In 1994, after the release and marketplace success of Notes R3, Lotus purchased Iris. In 1995 IBM purchased Lotus.

When Lotus Notes was initially released, the name "Notes" referred to both the client and server components. In 1996, Lotus released an HTTP server add-on for the Notes 4 server called "Domino". This add-on allowed Notes documents to be rendered as web pages in real time. Later that year, the Domino web server was integrated into release 4.5 of the core Notes server and the entire server program was re-branded, taking on the name "Domino". Only the client program officially retained the "Lotus Notes" name, however end users are generally unaware of this differentiation, so even though more than ten years have passed since the re-branding, references to the "Lotus Notes Server" are still fairly common.


Release Date Lotus Notes
1.0 1989
1.1 1990
2 1991
3 May 1993 Added support for hierarchical naming
4 January 1996 Removed support for Netware servers
4.5 December 1996 Server renamed to "Domino", added native HTTP server, POP3 (POP) server, added Calendaring & Scheduling, and introduced Java support. Also included SMTP MTA "in the box", but not installed by default.
4.6 Added IMAP support. OS/2 and Unix client support dropped. No Mac client for this particular release.
5 1999 Moved SMTP functionality from a separate MTA task to become a native ability of the mail routing task, improving performance and fidelity of internet email. Major improvements to HTTP server. Notes client had a major interface overhaul. Java support greatly expanded and enhanced.
5.0.8 Added a new webmail interface, called iNotes (later changed to Domino Web Access in Release 6).
6.0 September 2002 Added Domino Web Access (formerly iNotes Web Access) support. Dropped OS/2 server support.
6.0.1 February 2003
6.0.2 (Japan Only) June 2003
6.5 / 6.0.3 September 2003 Added Lotus SameTime Instant Messaging integration to the Notes client (Windows only).
6.5.4 / 6.0.5 March 2005
5.x 30 September 2005 Support Ended for Lotus Notes 5.x IBM End of Support Reference
6.5.5 December 2005
6.5.6 March 2006 Release 6.5.6 is the last Maintenance Release for the 6.5.x code stream
7.0 August 2005 Added DB2 support as database storage (see also IBM Support Statement for NSFDB2)
7.0.1 July 2006 Added native Linux client, with initial release certified for Red Hat Enterprise Linux.
7.0.2 September 2006 Added blog template, rss feed support, iCal support, SAP integration and "Nomad" which allows you to take your Notes client with you on a USB device.
7.0.3 October 2007 Current server versions available: All Platforms — Windows, Linux (Red Hat, SuSE x86 and zSeries), i5OS, z/OS, Solaris 9 & 10.
Current client versions available: Windows, Mac OS X, Linux/x86 (Red Hat & SuSE initially).
Various versions of the client have been run under Wine on Linux, but with varying degrees of success and no official support. The Notes 7 client and Domino Designer 7 are known to install and run well under version 0.9.19.[15] Domino servers can also translate most databases into HTML for browser based users.
7.0.4 April 2009 Support for the 7.0.x line ended 30 Apr 2011 IBM Software Support product lifecycle dates
8.0 August 2007 Current server versions available: Windows, Linux, Solaris, AIX.
Current client versions available: Linux and Windows XP/Vista English.
The first version based on IBM Workplace technology (which is in turn based on the Eclipse Rich Client Platform).
8.0.1 February 2008 IBM added support for Widgets and Google Gadgets.
8.0.2 August 2008 Integrated viewers for Microsoft Office 2007 documents (Office Open XML). Number of performance improvements.
8.5 December 2008 ID Vault, New Roaming Features, xPages, DAOS (disk space savings range from 40% to 60%), ... Some performance improvements. Domino Designer ported to Eclipse. Windows 2008 Support[16]
8.5.1 12 October 2009 Several Improvements to performance and UI. Significant improvements to functionality (including within the xPages application language, performance and stability of Eclipse-based Designer client)
8.5.1 FP1 12 December 2009 Added support for Windows 7 and Snow Leopard (Mac OS X 10.6.2)
8.5.1 FP2 26 March 2010 This is mainly a fix release.
8.5.1 FP3 31 May 2010 This is mainly a fix release.
8.5.1 FP4 4 August 2010 9 reported keyview attachment viewer security vulnerabilities and fixes to Dojo component
8.5.1 FP5 19 October 2010
8.5.2 24 August 2010 Focused on Reliability, further changes to xPages
8.5.2 FP1 17 December 2010 This is mainly a fix release.
8.5.2 FP2 25 March 2011 This is mainly a fix release.
8.5.2 FP3 18 July 2011 This is mainly a fix release.
8.5.3 4 October 2011 Focused on reliability and fixes.
8.5.4 Est Q3 2012 Scheduled maintenance release, containing several bug fixes and some new features.

Lotus Notes donated parts of code to[17] on September 12, 2007.


Since the IBM acquisition of Lotus, some industry analysts and mainstream business press writers, along with IBM competitors, have made predictions of the impending demise of Lotus Notes. One noted example of this was an article published in Forbes magazine entitled "The decline and fall of Lotus", published in April 1998. Since then, IBM claims that the installed base of Lotus Notes has increased from an estimated 42 million seats in September 1998[citation needed] to approximately 145 million cumulative licenses sold through 2008.[18] (IBM does not publish the number of licenses on current maintenance. Additionally, Lotus users who no longer pay maintenance are permitted to keep using the software—they are simply not permitted to install subsequent releases.)

Speculation about the decline of Notes was fueled by lingering market confusion emanating from IBM placing marketing emphasis on Websphere and IBM Workplace in 2003 and 2004. IBM Workplace, however, has been discontinued,[19] thus this source of confusion about the future of Notes and Domino has been rendered moot. While the future of any product in the technology sector cannot be predicted, IBM has made announcements that indicate that it continues to invest heavily in research and development on the Lotus Notes product line.

Notes 8, which was previously code-named "Hannover" (after the location of the 22nd Deutsche Notes User Group meeting, where it was first shown to the public) incorporates Notes into a larger Eclipse framework and includes support for productivity editors based on the OpenDocument format.[20] (These editors have also been released in a standalone package called IBM Lotus Symphony.) In addition, IBM executive Ken Bisconti has made public comments on several occasions asserting that there will be releases 9 and 10 of Notes and Domino.[21]

In 2005, some analysts concluded that Lotus is losing market share to Microsoft Exchange.[22] There is no general agreement, however, about methods of accurately calculating share in the messaging and collaboration market.[23] Figures based on seat count may be skewed by the presence of unused seats that are counted as a result of "bundled CALs", and figures based on customer count may be skewed by difference in typical customer organization sizes. IBM has asserted that growth shown in the revenue figures for the Lotus brand, as published in their audited annual financial report, purportedly show the continuing strength of the Lotus Notes product in the market. According to these figures, the Notes and Domino product line has sustained double-digit growth since late 2004 and continuing through 2006, including 30% year-to-year growth in Q4 of 2006.

IBM contributed some of the code it had developed for the integration of the suite into Notes 8 to the project.[24] IBM also packaged its version of for free distribution as IBM Lotus Symphony.[25]

Notes/Domino 8.0.1 shipped in February 2008,[26] and 8.0.2 came in the summer. Notes 8.5, which includes a MacOS client, support for Ubuntu in addition to Red Hat Linux and SUSE Linux, as well as an Eclipse-based Domino Designer, shipped in December 2008. Version 8.5 also offers a new Ajax-enabled web programming paradigm called XPages.[27]

See also

Alternative software


  1. ^ "IBM's home page for Lotus Notes" Definition of Lotus Notes
  2. ^ "The History of Notes and Domino". IBM. Retrieved 2011-10-24. 
  3. ^ Adriaan Bloem (2009-12-03). "The Difference between SharePoint and Lotus Notes". Retrieved 2011-10-24. 
  4. ^ McAmis, David (2006-05-25). "Lotus Notes/Domino 7 vs SharePoint Portal Server 2003". ZDnet. Retrieved 2011-10-24. 
  5. ^ "Third party alters and extends the email and calendaring application supplied by IBM for Lotus Notes". Retrieved 2011-10-24. 
  6. ^ "Lotusphere 2010 presentation: AD113 - IBM Lotus Notes Discussion Template: Next Generation and Other OpenNTF Assets". 2009-06-18. Retrieved 2011-10-24. 
  7. ^ "The Swedes discover Lotus Notes has key escrow!" The Risks Digest, Volume 19, Issue 52, 1997-12-24
  8. ^ Domino Designer clients available here
  9. ^ "NotesSQL". IBM. Retrieved 2011-10-24. 
  10. ^ notes.ini Reference - by alphabet
  11. ^ "IBM Statement regarding Domino Access for Microsoft Outlook - United States". IBM. 2011-09-09. Retrieved 2011-10-24. 
  12. ^ "Mary Beth Raven Blog". IBM. 2009-08-20. Retrieved 2011-10-24. 
  13. ^ Arthur, Charles (2006-02-09). "Survival of the unfittest". The Guardian (London).,,1705106,00.html. 
  14. ^ Official history of Lotus Notes IBM DeveloperWorks Web Site
  15. ^ Support info for running Notes 7 on Wine The Official Wine Wiki
  16. ^ "What's new in IBM Lotus Notes 8.5". IBM. Retrieved 2011-10-24. 
  17. ^ Paul, Ryan (2007-09-10). "IBM to contribute Lotus Notes code to". ars technica. Retrieved 2009-06-21. 
  18. ^ "Global Businesses Choosing Lotus Software" IBM Press Release January 15, 2009
  19. ^ "Software withdrawal and service discontinuance: IBM Workplace Messaging" IBM Press Release December 12, 2006
  20. ^ "IBM backs OpenDocument in Lotus Notes" CNET, Article published in May, 2006
  21. ^ "Lotus set to uphold the future of Notes" Article published in January, 2006
  22. ^ "IBM In Denial Over Lotus Notes" Article published in April 2005
  23. ^ "Response to Daniel Lyons: "IBM In Denial Over Lotus Notes"" Blogpost by Michael Sampson, Research Director at Shared Spaces
  24. ^ "IBM Joins Community"
  25. ^ "IBM Releases Office Desktop Software at No Charge to Foster Collaboration and Innovation"
  26. ^ Ed Brill. "Blog entry by Ed Brill at IBM about Notes 8.0.1". Retrieved 2011-10-24. 
  27. ^ "XPages Hello World sample application on 8.5 Public Beta Forum". 2010-02-04. Retrieved 2011-10-24. 

External links

IBM resources

General resources

Related third-party software

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