Working with Microsoft: You don’t know what you’re missing.

Yes, you don’t know what you’re missing.  I’m not talking about what it’s like working at Microsoft.  I am enjoying it.  I’m just talking about using the software.  Whether you’re a Lotus groupie or a Microsoft fanatic, you’re missing something either way.  I always knew this, but now I’m getting the deep dive with a perspective like no one else in the Lotus community has.  Here is a taste of some of the differences I have identified after using Microsoft tools the way the experts use them.

First, for the Lotus professionals who may not know Microsoft software.  Here are some of the technology features you are missing that stand out to me.  Check out these cool features I have now that I didn’t have using Lotus software:

  • I can use the mouse wheel to scroll a region on mouse-over – I don’t have to click on a message or in a view to put focus there for scrolling via the mouse scroll wheel. (a feature requested on ideajam long ago.)
  • I can manually run mail rules at any time.  (another feature I have long requested in Notes)
  • I can categorize messages in Outlook.  This is effectively their way of tagging..  Yes, the categories can be renamed to something meaningful.
    Outlook Categories
  • Cleanup – Conversation: OK, now we’re talking.  This is a cool feature!  It gets rid of all the previous messages in a conversation so you just have the latest one that contains all the history in it. You can run it on a specific message, a folder, or a folder and all its subfolders.  This feature was created by someone who got tired of dealing with all the ‘Reply to All’ messages that quickly filled their inbox.  Yes, the philosophy is send your message to everyone you know and then always use ‘Reply to All’.  The idea is to be sure everyone knows what’s going on.  Personally, I would use discussion forums.
  • I can click an option to Ignore a conversation which sends all future responses to the selected message to the Deleted Items folder.  Handy for those conversations I mentioned that you somehow find your name was added to the thread that don’t really interest you.  But  dangerous because you never know when that conversation will have been directed at you and you will miss it.
  • OneNote:  Like the Journal in Notes.  I haven’t explored this much yet.  I like my Lotus Notes Journal since it is synchronized with my BlackBerry.
  • I can have it read my email to me (like NotesBuddy did many years ago, but for some typical, senseless reason, IBM dropped it)
  • OCS (instant meeting and unified communications) has a great feature that shows the entire chain of command for a person so you can see where they are in relation to you in the company.
    OCS Organizational tab
  • Search: To clarify my response to Mat’s comments, I have added these screen shots.  Search in Outlook now can search all of your mail including attachments.  I don’t know when this was added, but it is now matching the basic full text search function of Notes, though without any of the advanced settings. (click to view)search all documents in Outlook

Outlook Search Settings

Next, for Microsoft professionals who may not know Lotus software, here are some of the technology features you are missing, or at least I’m missing them:

  • Classic pulldown menus – I hate this ribbon thing in Office.  I would even live with that stupid animated paper clip if I could just get the classic pulldown menus back.
  • Swiftfile – That great, free add-on that determines the 3 folders you will most likely want to file a message, then puts a link for each of them at the top of the message so filing the message is one click away.  Outlook has a Move feature in the ribbon that let’s me pick from a list of 10 recently-used folders, but there is no other intelligence built into the folders offered and it’s not one click.
  • Send and file – In Outlook, you can’t organize your sent messages into folders when you send them.  For that matter, if you move them to a folder, they are removed from the sent folder (unless you copy of it to another folder, which means you then have 2 copies of the message.)
  • Reply and include the attachment for editing – There is no way to include an attachment in a reply and edit the attachment before sending.  Attachments must be saved from the original message, edited, and then re-attached to the reply.
  • There is no way to put attachments in a specific location within the body of the email for contextual relevance.
  • How can I customize the mail file design?
  • Widgets.  I want to build my widgets and use the Google widgets again.  I expect there is a way to do this if I wanted to write some C# code.
  • Doclinks – Oh, how I miss doclinks!  The Microsoft way is to use URLs.  But URLs don’t work for everything.  It can’t create and send a link to something in Visual Studio or Product Studio or other software.  Only things that are reachable with a browser can be hyperlinked.  I find myself doing a lot of copy/pasting.  Not to mention Notes doclinks will go to a replica of a database if you don’t have access to the specific location referenced when it was created.  Oh, how I miss doclinks!
  • Spell checking in Lync (instant messaging).
  • I can’t view messages in the Deleted Items folder sorted by date/time deleted.  So if you just deleted a message by mistake, you have to go hunt for it.  Good luck.
  • The selection tray like in Notes views and folders.  The column on the left of every view where you can click to select a document or click and drag to select many.  In Outlook you have to hold Ctrl or Shift when adding to a selection and if you slip on holding the Ctrl or Shift, you have to start over because the selection  is lost.
  • Message encryption.  I can’t encrypt messages.  That’s’ bad considering I have to email passwords on occasion.  I know there are tools to do this, but encryption should be an intrinsic part of messaging.
  • Tabbed windows.  If you open a message in Outlook, it creates a separate window.  I like the tabs in Notes better.
  • Being able to add recipients by clicking Reply to All after first clicking Reply without having to go back and start over from the original message.
  • Consistent applications all stored on one server using one client to access them. (Don’t say web browsers could replace it.  Every app has different browser brand and version requirements.) Instead, I have a collection of applications installed on my computer.  In some cases I have to remote control into the server to do my work.  Visual Studio, Product Studio, Sharepoint websites, Exchange Management Console, Active Directory, SQL Server, …
  • Being able to scroll through the directory to browse a list of groups or people (without having to bring up an address dialog).
  • Ctrl-Break to interrupt processing.  Outlook hangs as much as Notes does.  At least in Notes I could usually type Ctrl-Break to get focus back.  Not so in any Microsoft software.
  • All Documents view.  There is no one place to go and see all of your messages.  This means you have to search or scan through each folder separately.  Suddenly filing messages into folders becomes a liability for remembering where you filed it!
  • Ability to add a message to multiple folders (without making multiple copies of the message)
  • Save as Draft button.  In Outlook, you close the message.  Then it prompts if you want to keep the message in drafts.  NOT intuitive.
  • Ability to reorder folders to put them in the order you want, not only limited to alphabetical order.  I find myself naming folders to affect their sort order rather than to make sense.
  • Right double-clicking to close windows.  Notes does this and I wish all software would pick up this standard.  Another reason why browser apps are inferior to Notes apps.  Brilliant! (unless you have a Mac)
  • Left double-click to edit a document (or message or  other file in Microsoft world).
  • Discussion and teamroom databases.  Yeah.  How basic is that?  Get all this email out of my Inbox!  Don’t reply to all.  Just post a response to a msg in the discussion where I can see the entire thread.
  • Doclinks in the message header linking to the previous message within an email thread.
  • Quickr Connectors to get the attachments out of my mail file and into a common place to share them.  We do have Sharepoint, but it doesn’t work that way at all.  Also, if you are looking at one of your files in Sharepoint and copy the URL to share with someone else, it probably won’t work for them.
  • The ability to make an app quickly.  OK, eventually I will learn the other software tools, but I need an app that was very simple to create and deploy in Notes.  I have asked around and no one really knows how to do that using Microsoft software. One suggestion was to use InfoPath and Sharepoint.
  • Did I mention doclinks?  Wow, I never realized just how much I used them before.  It really is all about the apps, isn’t it?

I have much to learn about the Microsoft software suite and I am sure I will find more things I like about it.  But my personal preference is still Lotus Notes, Domino, Traveler, Sametime and Connections both from the system administration and development perspectives as well as the end user perspective.  The cool thing is I’m getting to experience Microsoft software as implemented by the experts.  Time will tell how that will influence me.  And the reality is as long as I want to live and work in the beautiful Pacific Northwest, I have to accept the fact that Microsoft is my only choice at work these days.  IBM doesn’t sell those products around here any more.


Posted on July 20, 2011, in Software and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 11 Comments.

  1. Dave,

    Nice post, you might want to check a few things though (in Order)…

    * Scrolling: You can scroll over views, navigators, previews, etc without first having to click in the area to scroll, this was ‘fixed’ a while ago,

    * Rules: Outlook obviously missed something the first time (although this feature is coming to Notes … scratches head!!)

    * Categorize: You CAN categorise messages in Notes (your comment on customising the mail file), why IBM EVER took it out of the standard template back in Notes 6 though is completely beyond me! It just requires a “By Category” view to be put back in the mail file, and the “Categorize” action to be turned back on.

    * Clean-up conversations – SHOW button on the action Bar, CONVERSATIONS, get messages from ANY view or folder (including Sent!), press delete, or drag anywhere, does the same thing,

    * Ignore conversation – no equivalent, except for a rule (possible, but messy and no single click – but then again, as you said there’s no alternative – is there?)

    * OneNote – Microsoft’s attempt at a Notes Journal/Notebook, talk about counter-intuitive, why give Outlook the ability to categorise, but OneNote has tabs and sections??? Another good example of Microsoft not giving their products a consistent user experience! Oh, and you have to launch a separate application, rather than just clicking a link like Mail/Calendar/Tasks/Journal within Outlook, hmmmmm…

    * Audible: You can have your email read to you on any machine that has accessibility options turned on, Outlook just does this with an option.

    * Hierarchy: Possible in Notes/Domino/SameTime if the directory has been populated correctly, although not as obvious as the OCS implementation.

    You also missed the single biggest differentiator between Notes/MS Apps.


    I can get search results back in Notes from a 13 GIGABYTE mail database, including the content of attachments in mere seconds.

    You still can’t do that natively in Outlook.

    BTW – There are 28 items in your What Outlook “Doesn’t do” list, and only 8 in your Notes list, which I think – based on the above – we can whittle down to 3.

    Oh – and you forgot my favourite! In Outlook , while you are in mail, press CTRL+N for a new message, but if you are in Calendar, Contacts, Tasks or Journal, you must press CTRL+SHIFT+M. At least Notes is consistent!

    At least M$ put the ‘Escape’ key in as a short-cut to close all those extra windows a couple of versions ago…

    Sorry you have to put up with working in that environment mate. Here’s hoping you can come back from the ‘Dark Side’ sometime soon 🙂



    • Please Please Please tell me how the scrolling was fixed a while ago as I have two clients who used to have this feature on 8.5.1 but since upgrade to 8.5.2 cannot scroll on mouse over, only on clicking.. .please help!

  2. Good post. I presume MS, like IBM, has enhancements on the inside that do not exist on the outside for the client.

    Mat, I hate that you are up first, I was going to comment about the items Dave was “missing”.

    You can categorize emails, but right now, as Mat pointed out it isn’t there the same way. I have mail categorized by if I am in to/cc/bcc or by color to represent certain people and some other ways like by priority. It’s a perspective of usage I think, not an omission.

    About Encryption. What ou are not thinkign about is the totally different perspectives that MS has compared to Lotus/IBM. Microsoft thinks everyone logs into one pc and that is it for the day and everything runs off AD and we are all one big happy silo of a family.
    IBM sees it as a security breach if you leave your pc open to anyone that is walking by your desk and thus the screen saver password, time to engage password screen options.
    So encryption is just an after thought to MS because if you really needed that you would get the higher level server versions for government, etc..

    Just my 2 cents.

  3. Yes Keith, I also have access to unreleased on some software. I’m only talking about things I am certain are released. I could tell you about the other stuff, but then I’d have to kill you. 😉

    Regarding securing your PC when you walk away from your desk, You don’t dare leave your computer unlocked when you walk away, even if it’s just for a moment. If you do, it is very likely you will return to find you just sent an email to everyone announcing your fondness of sheep. 😉 Security is a very big deal here. All the more reason to expect data encryption.

    Cleanup conversations: Yes Mat, Notes can do that, but this utility goes a bit further than that. It can be run on all messages in one shot, automatically. And it recognizes if a message replied without history and keeps the previous one too. It’s just surprising I would need such a feature.

    Audible: I should have clarified. I can call on the phone and have it read me my email. Not a feature I would use much. I get several pages of emails every day. NotesBuddy with IBM’s ViaVoice was amazing and it irritates me they dropped what was a big hit with the Outlook fans at a previous company that I worked. Product management surely missed the mark there when they dropped it.

    Search: Sorry Mat. I just tried searching on some text in an attachment and it displayed the right message. I also discovered that I can search all mail items, but only after searching the current folder and only if the search yields no results. Or I can change a setting and it will always search all folders. I added screen shots above.

    Mat, you mentioned my 28 points. Technically it’s only 27, but the doclink thing is much bigger than I ever realized until I didn’t have them, so it’s worth counting twice. In the end, Notes still has the upper hand on technology. I miss the integrated apps with my email most. But I am getting a chance to experience Microsoft software at its best and I am digging deep into the software so ultimately I will be as well versed in the Microsoft suite as I am with the Lotus suite. Only then will I be able to make a fair and fully informed assessment, So far Notes still appears to be the better integrated solution.

  4. Dave good list. I’ve had to dive deep also (well for like 5 years now).

    I will add one thing for each side. Outlook Calendar mgmt, especially reoccurring meetings are infinitely better in Outlook than Notes.

    Notes- In Notes, the fact that everything is a document (mail,calendar,contact, app docs) makes program ability very nice, although MS has a very well documented mail items object model so manipulating this stuff isn’t to bad.

  5. Good list although I think some of those points can easily go the other direction. For instance, Replying All with Attachment. I have seen customers in Domino countless times complain about this feature and glad it is not in Outlook. A simply message with an attachment of 5 MB is replied with the attachment over and over again and is not necessary for the audience. A mail system should NOT be a file system.

    Eclipse in the Notes client was a BAD direction. It causes your entire system to slow down and you really need to run the client in BASIC mode for any real performance gain. Their is a reason that an application called “Kill Notes” existed.

    Recent Contacts templates. For the life of me, I cannot understand the 8.x template. Why when you have a recent contact that is later an alias in a Domino address book with a different domain or sub domain that the template refuses to look up the alias in the Domino address book and resolve it. Instead, it shoots the message to the internet with an invalid domain in which it should have stayed internal.

    Integration with iPad and iPhones and Androids. Yes you have an ADD-ON called IBM Traveler but it is clumsy and not native for the OS like ActiveSync is.

    IBM has missed something with the client. When I migrate a user from Notes 8.x to Outlook and they are from a department that is not technical, they love the switch to Outlook. Very few times have I seen push back with the fair exception of conference room reservations, I think Notes still has a leg up on that one.

  6. Mark, there is no doubt the reply with attachments feature can be abused, but I think the revision that was made somewhere in 8.x that set the default to be reply without attachments addressed that issue perfectly. Also, the fact that it is available as an option allows the user to make the decision rather than be limited by the software. There are times where it is appropriate. If you have worked with the Quickr Connectors, you have seen how that add-on software goes one step further and warns you that you are sending an attachment and offers to store it in a Quickr website and just send a link to the file instead. THAT’s the way it SHOULD work.

    Eclipse was the right call. It enabled many cool features and flexibility. I don’t find Notes any slower to read email than Outlook. I haven’t had a need to use Kill Notes in a very long time, somewhere shortly after 8 was released, like 8.0.2. I found most people who use Kill Notes don’t know about Ctrl-Break. There is no such option in any Microsoft software. Ctrl-C went away with the end of DOS.

    Recent Contacts. It’s got its good points, but it definitely has issues.

    Another feature that is more powerful in Outlook is the options available for mail rules. I may add screen shots later to show a comparison.

    As I said from the start, there are unique features on both sides. But the apps are without a doubt the differentiators favoring Notes.

  7. A few comments on the above…

    Placement of file attachments – you can, Notes-style, add attachments into the body of a message in a specific place if the message is rich-text. If it’s HTML it sticks all of the attachments in the area at the top.

    Can’t view messages in the Deleted Items folder sorted by date / time deleted – really? I can. It’s sorted by date and then newest on top. Ah, but it that the date of the e-mail or deleted date? Quick test… you’re right, it’s the date of the e-mail.

    Message encryption – it’s there, but it’s buried (unlike the simple check-box in Notes) in the options tab. However, it does depend on a PKI being deployed.

  8. Darren, thanks for the tip on rich text! Regarding message encryption, after a bit of searching, the steps are quite involved, but here is what I found:

    step 1: Have the recipient get a digital ID
    step 2: Well, first they have to go buy it:
    step 3: Share their digital ID (public key) with me: (The recipient can also go through steps to publish it to the GAL.)
    step 4: I add their digital ID to my contacts.
    step 5: I encrypt the message.

    In other words, I can’t encrypt messages.

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