Notes and Outlook

This post has come from a discussion with my collegues who work on the Microsoft Collaborative side of my employer.  They sit about 3 feet away and outnumber me greatly (so we have some interesting discussions).  One regular is the “I hate notes”.  It generally starts as a dig at me after a client crash or little niggle that annoys them.  I’m not good at conflict so tend to hide quite quickly so this post is my response:

What I like about Notes that Outlook doesn’t do as well:

  • Local replication of a multitude of applications, not simply email.
  • Views
  • Presence awareness within the application with no need for additional software.
  • Presence awareness in views (not just within documents) and at name fields in all applications.
  • Full text indexing and searching (especially from all documents view)

What I like about Outlook that that Notes doesn’t do as well:

  • The UI is cleaner and slicker (in my opinion)
  • The ability to seperate out faourite folders
  • The organise functions
  • It is much better at dealing with local directories
  • Configuration is simpler for the end user (especially when moving from server to server etc)

However Notes has some good reasons behind having a more complex UI.  The client isn’t simply an email client but a mechanism for displaying Notes Applications, which like them or loath them can be very powerful.  I do think Notes gets some bad press which is unjustified.  I also think IBM and Lotus could do more to sing the client’s advantages. 

I’d like to give one example of where Notes helped a customer, and where outlook couldn’t help.  My old employer developed a Notes application which would store mental health records.  The problem with such records is their complexity and the need for various organisations to be able to see only various elements of data.  So in one example, and this is hypothetical:

Police are called to a disturbance at a house.  The disturbance turns into a seige.  They know who the occupant is and searching their systems it links to the mental health records and shows the person has psychiatric problems.  They know no more than that.  They call in the social worker who turns his laptop and with no connectivity and can bring up more information on the patient. If necessary the social worker can call the on-call phsychiatrist who has full access to the patients records.

This system is a proven and trusted tool implemented and used by several National Health trusts within the UK.

OK so where does Notes differentiate from Outlook here?  The power of Notes is much wider than email.  It is the power to use your applications and email when you have no connectivity – and this is important in many sectors of industry and public service.  The UI could be improved and I hope to see a step change with Hannover.  Heres to the future.


  1. So one of the other things that you have forgotten Stu, is that all the information you store on the machine for offline use is also very secure. It can be encrypted and would need the highly secure Notes ID file to access it.

    Tim Clark (IBM)


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