eProductivity and GTD

Ok, I’ve never been a big fan of Lotus Notes, especially since we were stuck on version 6 for so long.  For a couple years, I took an Outlook break, and I’m also hooked on Gmail.

The upgrade to version 8 is a huge relief.

My good friend Toby put me onto the book by David Allen, “Getting Things Done”, which is a productivity system that really seems to work.  During my stint with Outlook, I started using the GTD add-in, and loved it so much that the idea of giving it up when I moved back into the Lotus world was a real bummer.

Then I found eProductivity, the GTD solution for Lotus Notes.  It is a replacement of the standard mail template.  I have installed it on my company laptop, without having any special privileges (or permission), and I have had no problems at all with replication or interaction with other corporate applications.  This is a significant statement considering the standard of our IT deparment, and the quality of our internal applications.

Luckily for me, I was an early Beta tester of the 1.x version, and just recently was selected for the 2.x Beta program.

Anyone who is interested should check out the Getting Started Video, and then download the trial template.  They have done a very good job of the trial template – it will copy a sample of your inbox, and guide you through the GTD process of emptying it.

Lotus Notes Fail: Importing ICS files

This is supposed to easy, and I guess it is with v8, but it doesn’t seem to work for me. In fact, this kind of thing typifies my entire Lotus Notes experience. ICS files are common file format for calender entries, and have been around since forever, and Notes can’t import them, which is doubly weird since Lotus was involved in defining the standard.

When you use the “Import…” option, you get this dialogue:

Import Document Dialog
Import Document Dialog

Not a good start really. Nothing in the “Files of type” selection that make sense, so stick with the default “Structured Text”.

Then, you get this dialogue, with a selection list in the middle with about 200 entries in it.

Import Dialog - Select Form
Import Dialog - Select Form

Most of these entries have helpful names like:

  • R5 Compatibility Form
  • Setup MiniView
  • Switcher Form for Calender
  • Switcher Form for Folders
  • Switcher Form for To Do
  • To Do

(Ahh! That looks familiar, we must be getting close to real options, oh wait, what’s this….)

  • $$View Template for Calender
  • $$View Template for Threads
  • $$View Template for TodoByCategory

Anyway, you get the idea.  After about 80 mouse clicks, I found an option “Calender Entry” which seems the obvious choice.

Hit OK, and a the screen flickers, and …. nothing.  Ok, check the date that the calender entry was for, and …. nothing.

Oh well, write off the last 5 minutes as a total waste of time, try to not curse this confounded software, and add the entry manually, which deep down, you knew you should have done in the first place, because lets face it, nothing works like it should with Notes.

(Someone pointed out this link (via this one), but it only talks about sending calendering information via email.  It doesn’t help my import an ICS file.)

Lotus Notes: Wasting screen real estate

Screen real estate is precious.  If I want to see my calender for the week, on a 1280×800 screen, I expect to be able to see all the appointments for the week.

Lotus Notes somehow manages to not be able to show me more than about the first 10 characters of my appointments, and wastes all sorts of space in the process!

Re-united with desktop after 6 months

Useful links I’ve used in the last few days to revive the desktop machine after the 6 month hiatis.

  • How to disable Outlook 2003 add-ins. Or indeed, just see them.
  • How to uninstall Trend Micro Virus Checker without admin password. Although in my case, the reg key was a little different, it worked like a charm.
    • Replaced it with AVG
  • Google Desktop Search
    • I installed the Enterprise version on the laptop, and I have it indexing my Lotus Notes databases. This allows me to search my current inbox, and all my archives at once, which is something you cannot do otherwise. You can configure it to index any database you like, so the corporate phone list is next….
  • Tiny DHCP Server[1]. Using this to do internet sharing with the orange USB modem thingy. Since I want to use WiFi to share the internet with, and since I cannot configure what my WiFi access point gives out as a gateway address, and because windows wants to default to use the 192.168.x.x addressing (which I don’t) I had to install my own DHCP server. This one acts as a DNS server too, so I should be able to completely blacklist certain sites (*cough* doubleclick *cough*). Of course, I could just get a proper firewall setup, but frankly, who has the time for that anymore?
  • ViceVersa. One of the best file syncronisation tools I’ve come across. Very configurable. I use a several profiles, each with their own exclusion rules, and tracking databases. After 4 months living out of an external harddrive, the task of re-syncing 400 gig of files is not something for cut-and-paste.

[1] Not freeware.

Lotus Notes can’t deal with screen sizes changing

It appears that Lotus Notes doesn’t obey the screen geometry being managed by Windows.
If I unplug the external monitor, and adjust the display settings, all running applications get plonked onto the remaining screen. However, Notes will still pop-up dialog boxes on the non-existent screen.
Worse, when I do have the external monitor connected, because they are different sizes, Notes will pop-up dialog boxes in the non-existent area of the other screen.
Even more randomly, it wont always pop-up dialogs onto the screen in which the application was started, but will swap around at random.
Very, very lame.

Lotus Notes: Background Database Compaction not so background.

Problem: Can't send emails.
Reason: Inbox too full.
Solution: Empty Inbox and compact.

Result: This message:

Ok, so it doesn't explicitly say that the compaction is going on the background, but this status bar is where all the other background tasks are reported. The assumption is fair I think.

Unfortunately, trying to then open the inbox, results in this:

More Lotus Notes Gripes

  • When searching emails, you can't sort the returned results, which are presented in a (seemingly) random order.
  • When searching emails, the fastest way to search all emails is to search inside the “All Documents” view, but the results give no indication as to where the email is. So if you are searching “All Documents” because you cant find an email that should have been in a folder, and you find it, you have no idea where it is. Usually, I then select all the emails in the search results, and re-file them to make sure they are where they should be.
  • There is no easy way to modify the default stationary used when sending an email. I can create a new stationary, but to use it, would need to make 2 mouse clicks (new memo -> new memo using stationary) and in most cases, I don't even have that option, instead I just see a “new memo” button.
  • Ctl-backspace works (delete word to the left of cursor) but CTL-delete doesn't (delete word to the right of cursor). This tiny little thing is a huge frustration for me.

Previously. Some one else has a dedicated page here.

More Lotus Notes Gripes

I'm slowing down a bit, not getting as many new gripes these days.

  • You cant change an item in your calender from a time based event to an all day event. You must first delete the time based event and recreate the all day event.
  • When you have forwarded an email, that email is marked as such. When you open that email again in (say) 3 months time, it has a handy little icon to tell you that you forwarded it. No clue as to when or to whom.