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Notes R5 vs MS Outlook
Aug 07, 2003 04:07 PM 7536 Views
(Updated Oct 03, 2003 12:36 PM)

Help Functionality:

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To misquote Mark Twain,

There are 3 kinds of people in this world:


Damned Liars, and

Notes email users!

I have had to use Notes email for the past 18 months and since I had used MS Outlook for 3 years before that, I have a reasonable basis for comparison.

I'm not going to comment on Domino, workflow, or any other 'advanced' features of Notes which would require distinct reviews themselves since they are so huge and varied.

This is a plain and simple head to head of the email functionality which I (and many other employees at large companies that I personally know) use 90-95% of the time.

The Notes users can also be further divided into 3 types:

1. Don't know what they are missing

These types have not really used any other major (e.g., MS) email clients so they are happy/content with Notes email.

2. Vested interests

These are either employees, stockholders, vendors, or consultants of IBM/Lotus and have a stake in the widespread adoption of this platform across businesses.

3. Clueless drones

These people actually prefer complexity and convolutions and would love key combinations like Ctrl-Alt-Del!

They are either from a technical background or have been working with punched cards or mainframes so long, that the fact that they can have a windows (GUI) based program to work with is lightyears ahead of where they were.

They would either not care or simple be unware of usability issues, simplicity, or intuitiveness of software from the client's perspective (end-user).

Now I come from a technical background as a software developer (which I've happily abandoned after 7 years in pursuit of the business side) so I know what can and cannot be done in such large and complex platforms.

But that should not at all be relevant for my review as a user of the email module.

Virtually anyone I've spoken to prefers MS Outlook for email over Notes.

Its a lot easier and faster to work with.

Many of the features I'm discussing below are possible in Notes also with some admin settings on the server and additional customisation but come as default on MS.

I have used Notes in 100-1,000 people organisations and not a single one of them is able to configure to use it as easily as Outlook out of the box.

So for the Notes fans who keep saying its also possible after some acrobatics by the admin, my point is that Outlook does not require these.

Its the out of the box functionality we should focus on since very few organisations seem to be getting to the point of configuring it to where they can get more out of it than Outlook.

Its like SAP in that way:

Very expensive, time consuming, and rewarding if you can dedicate a small army of consultants and in-house people to it full time for 1-2 years to work all the kinks out.

But worthless if you want to (god forbid) focus on your business instead and ask for faster ROI!

Everyone together now:

The business does not serve the system,

the system serves the business!

So lets start the Notes bashing!

Email sizes

Don't laugh you spoilt Outlook users, this is a serious issue for those of us who want to manage the tiny 50-100 Mb of server space we get for all our emails.

Yes we can archive them but for those of us who work from home (laptop), office and client (desktop) sites, its best to have all important stuff on the server for immediate access.

The Sent Items folder does not display the sizes of the emails like the Inbox does.

This is apparently a simple view configuration for the server admin who are too busy with other important issues to allow us the ability to do this for ourselves.

Outlook defaults to letting users decide what attributes they want to see in each folder but ALWAYS has email size as one of them to begin with.


Yes, due to some bug, the admin have disabled sorting by Subject!

You can sort by Sender, Date, Size but not Subject.

Outlook does this without even blinking...

I stumbled across a workaround in Notes and have put it in the Comments for this review.

New emails in Folders

Now while Notes also has rules/filters like Outlook to sort incoming mail into different folders, I've forgotten how to do it since it was so complicated and buried deep in the menus.

Outlook has a little Rules Wizard button that just walks you through the rule creation process in 1-2 min.

The big problem is that Notes does not highlight the folder which has unread msgs in it unlike Outlook which not only makes them bold but also displays the number in parens.

So I have to click the folder to see if there are any new emails there.


At least Outlook has the sense to check your system Locale settings for date/time formats etc.

Notes imposes the American formats AND spelling without giving us any easy way to switch to alternates like British spelling etc.

The consultants who install Notes internationally should be more sensitive to such localisation issues since clearly Microsoft is.

Menu driven (to distraction!)

Some simple tasks are buried so far in the menus that its almost like the developers did not want the users to be able to get at them!

To check my all important disk quota, I have to click:

File -> Database -> Properties, then click the 2nd tab that has 'i' for Info to get the Mb and % used!

Unless you have done this a few times before and remember it, there is no way any sane person would be able to find this!

This is so often used it should be 1-2 clicks away.

To make it remember your column sorting for each folder, you have to:

File -> Preferences -> User Preferences, and then click 'Retain View Col Sorting'

There is so much space across the top menu bar, why not have an 'Options' menu right there instead like with so many products.

To change your password, try this for fun:

File -> Tools -> User ID!

That surely makes a lot of sense - change password is under the tools menu!

Signatures is the best one:

Actions -> Tools -> Preferences, then click the Signature tab.

Of course, why didn't I think of it before!

How obvious!!

Change password sounds like more of an 'Action' to me than a Signature ...

I had to have someone explain each of these to me as if I was a moron (and then had to write them down for reference).

I figured all of them out on Outlook by myself!

Options (or lack thereof)

Outlook's spell checker is smarter and more customisable.

It allows the user the options of ignoring words in UPPERCASE, starting or containing numbers, URLs, and about half a dozen others that avoid throwing up errors that do not exist.

Notes does not even recognise URLs or words like '1st', '2nd', etc!

I end up having to ignore them each time or just add them to the dictionary out of frustration.

'3pm' is another example of a time format accepted by Outlook spellcheck but not Notes.

The Outlook signature also has the handy options of allowing the user to decide if they want to add them for all Replies or FWD emails also.

I prefer not to have them added since it just starts making the emails very long (sign after sign).

No such ability on Notes of course.

It will do the dumbest thing by default to make you curse it!

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