Mat Newman October 26 2010 05:13:06I had another Notes class today, the first in the new office. As usual, we discussed the Notes client, how to use Notes databases, and then finished off by exploring the specific features of the Notes Mail database: Mail, Calendar and To-Do.
At the beginning of the session all of the participants identified that they had already discovered how to create a message, reply, forward and file. On the surface - if they had these skills - why did they need training in the operation of Lotus Notes mail?
Besides all the additional features that the Notes client has compared to the alternatives, the answer can be explained in two words: "All Documents".
The All Documents view within the Notes mail database is the single feature of the Notes mail experience that so obviously identifies that Notes mail is different.
To an Outlook user, the fact that you can see all of your email messages in one place is conceptually alien from their accepted reality of how to view email. Show the Outlook user that an email can exist - at one time - in multiple folders, and you blow them away every time.
It's for this reason that I always introduce Notes the same way;
- Notes is NOT an email application, Notes is a database
- Notes is secure,
- Notes can access information from virtually anywhere
It's simple to reinforce the first point. Open the All Documents view in mail, and then do a search, just like any other 'Database' software.
It's this feature of the Notes mail database that, in my opinion, makes Notes mail better than any of the alternatives.
Whether it's Outlook (Express), Apple Mail, or Evolution, the native messaging client included with an operating system has the same basic features. New, Reply, Forward, Flag (Label), File. But none of the alternatives have that sweet feature of Notes mail: All Documents.
The ability - with just a click (or two) - to review everything in one list, whether it's been sent, received or filed is the power of the All Documents view. To be able to sort and search this one list so easily is the biggest difference between Notes and any other 'email client'.
It's the power of All Documents combined with Full-Text search that means that I don't need to put messages into folders. For me, spending the time to build and organise a file structure within an electronic system seems anachronistic. Of course, I do have a couple of folders in my mail file. These exist to automatically remove certain messages from my In-box so that it is less cluttered. Explain that to an Outlook user and you are met with consternation almost every time.
Edit: No, I don't keep any email in my Inbox once I have dealt with it. I use the "Folder -> Remove from folder" action on the mail Action Bar. This keeps my Inbox size down and ensures my Mail database opens quickly.
Of course, the other reason that I go to such lengths to explain the power of the All Documents feature to users is so that they don't mistakenly delete email messages from that view. There has been more than one user who confuses All Documents as 'just another folder' and deletes the messages thinking they will remain in the folder the user has manually filed them in to. Quite simply, a message is always available in All Documents, regardless of where else it 'appears' in your mail database.
Compare the functionality of any other Mail client, and there is nothing that you can not do in Notes, especially considering you have the ability to change the design of the mail database by writing your own features and functionality so easily.
But in the end there's All Documents.
And that one feature marks Notes mail as different, and better than any other mail client.