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.
- 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.
- 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)
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.