My thoughts on Lotus Notes

Moved to Gmail

At the beginning of this series of posts, I wrote that I’d attempt to find some things that I like about Notes. I’ve looked high and low and have finally found one redeeming quality: I can set up a server-side rule and forward all my email to Gmail.

Three weeks ago, I started forwarding all my mail to Gmail. I haven’t looked back. Gmail is a delight to use in so many different ways. But the biggest benefit is that I’m now far more productive than I used to be.

Moving to Gmail started off as an experiment because I’d heard that someone else had done it. I was almost at the point of switching back to Thunderbird and do all my email via IMAP, but I had been hesitating because of some of the weird behaviour I’d noticed while using IMAP. IMAP is really a second-class citizen in Notes and it seems to have a few quirks (e.g. folders created via IMAP don’t show up in Notes). So, I thought I’d give Gmail a go, initially intending to use it to quickly check email at home or on the go. I didn’t realise how intuitive, fast and delightful the whole webmail interface would be.

I’m constantly amazed at how fast Gmail is considering it’s a web app. It’s far faster than Notes in reading and managing my email, and now that I reflect on it, faster than any desktop application I’ve used with the exception of perhaps Apple Mail. The keyboard shortcuts make sense and I can whip through a lot of emails with ease.

By far the best feature of Gmail is the way it handles and displays conversations. In one fell swoop, Gmail has solved the top-posting/bottom-posting debate, virtually eliminated the need for replies to quote the original email, and resolved the artificial separation of incoming messages vs. outgoing messages.

I usually have 3-5 active threads going at the same time and I was going batty trying to keep track of things in Notes. It turns out to be a very draining mental exercise to keep track of what messages relate to other messages. Now I spend virtually no time thinking of what relates to what as Gmail does it for me.

Conversations also keeps my Inbox tidy as it only displays one line for the entire conversation. I currently have one conversation with 8 messages. Every other mail client would display 8 lines, taking up quite a lot of screen space.

The next best feature is Labels. I love how I can tag messages while keeping them in my Inbox. This means I can easily keep track of which project an email belongs to. I’ve set up a couple filters to automatically tag some messages, so they’re already “pre-filed” when they arrive in my Inbox and they’re visually distinguishable. I can even create some special tags to indicate the status of a message. I’ve currently got two: “Waiting” and “Deferred”, which I use to push emails out of my Inbox into a spot where I can find them quickly.

Of course, I can’t talk about Gmail without talking about search. Searching is very fast and accurate as we’ve all come to expect from Google. It even highlights your search terms in yellow in the body of each email.

Amazingly, in the process of moving to Gmail, I found one more redeeming quality of Notes. Notes’ calendar invites can be understood by Google Calendar (gCal). Gmail recognises the .ics attachment and offers to add the invite to gCal. It’s not perfect, as gCal gets a little bit confused about repeating events (I’m not sure whose fault this is), but they’re easy to fix. It’s great having my calendar in gCal, because I can sync it to iCal, which I can then use to sync to my Nokia 6120 classic. It’s only a one-way sync to my phone, but I’m OK with that as I only need to occasionally view entries on it.

This may be my last post about Notes because I feel that I’ve vented enough on the topic. And now that I’m almost exclusively using Gmail, I’ve simply run out of material. Using Notes has been a soul-sucking experience and I can’t express how happy I am that I switched to Gmail.