My thoughts on Lotus Notes


One of Notes' oft-touted features is full-text searching. Allow me to detail its many flaws...

First, as a full-text search engine, it needs to index your emails. There's nothing strange about that; fast searching usually requires some kind of index. I believe Notes has been configured here to update the index "immediately", but I usually notice that it takes several minutes before my new messages are indexed. And while they are waiting to be indexed, those new messages won't appear in any searches. This is not my definition of "immediate". Most egregiously, the "Indexed" indicator on the "Search in view" bar remains green, so there's no visual indicator (other than poking around in the database properties panel) that there are a few messages still to be indexed.

The second problem is that search results are by default limited to 500 results. Again, this by itself isn't really a problem, but the problem lies in the way Notes collects those 500 results. I usually have my message lists sorted by date, so I naturally assumed that Notes will return the latest 500 messages that match the search criteria. Instead Notes collects 500 results by some internal logic (perhaps what it thinks is "relevant") and then displays them in a sorted list. So, if I receive an email about a particular topic and I do a quick search to see if I can find the other related messages in a folder (or usually "All Documents"), there's no guarantee that that newly received email will show up in the search results. To me it just appears to be returning completely random results. In other words, I can't trust the search results.

I found where to change the search result limit and reset it to 10,000. That helped enormously, but then I noticed that there appears to be a server limit of 5,000. So whenever I see that 5,000 results are returned, I immediately mistrust the search results. Notes should be collecting results based on the current folder's sort settings, or better yet, it should have an "unlimited" results option.

Third, Notes indexes the full email headers. This is simply brain-dead. Let me explain what effect this has. I had been sending a few emails back and forth with the Notes change management team. I wanted to refer to one of those emails, so I clicked on "All Documents" and typed "lotus" in the search box. Thousands of results were returned! I only remember sending a handful of emails about "lotus". There was no way I had sent or received thousands of emails on the topic! I had a look at a few of the messages and they were clearly unrelated messages. On a hunch, I fired up Thunderbird and had a look at the email headers (as I can't see headers in Notes for any messages sent from another Notes client). I saw the following header:

X-Mailer: Lotus Notes Release 8.0.1 February 07, 2008

So, when I was searching for "lotus", it was finding every single message that had been sent from a Lotus Notes client. As it turns out, Notes searched through any email header, so searching for words like "lotus", "notes", "release", "february", "curly" (the name of one of our mail servers) and "java" tend to return far more results than they should. Yes, I know I can construct a query to only look for words within the subject line or body of an email, but why should I have to do a clunky work-around for something that should be the default? If there is a legitimate reason to search through the full email headers (I'm guessing email administrators may be interested in doing that), then it should be an option, but it should in no way be the default.

Fourth, according to the search help, Notes has the ability to do wildcard searches using "*". I tried it, but it didn't work. After some fiddling, I found out that the "Fuzzy search" option must be disabled for wildcards to work. This is not documented anywhere I could find.

Fifth and finally, it doesn't appear that Contacts are automatically indexed. My guess is that the Contacts application needs to be open for indexing to occur, but I rarely keep it open as the autocomplete feature works relatively well. Ironically, the handful of times I do open Contacts is to search for a particular email address that I can't find via autocomplete.