A Lot From A Little

As may well become apparent over time, I’m not too enthusiastic about Lotus Notes. It’s fair to say that, had I remembered that my current employer is a corporate Notes user, I would have tried to negotiate a higher salary by way of compensation.

Be that as it may, for a developer Notes is a glorious nugget-laden river of blogging opportunities. The client software on my work PC was recently upgraded to version 8.0.1, which seems pretty current. I think, therefore, that it’s fair game.

Let’s look at one aspect that I noticed and delve a bit. In a mail folder, there are columns, as you would expect, some of which use small graphics to provide information. It’s a common UI metaphor. These are the column headings I see:

Lotus Notes message list headers

Lotus Notes message list headers

Nothing surprising there, I think we’d all agree. Look at the paperclip toward the right side. What would you expect it to denote? If you muttered “attachment” then award yourself a small non-monetary prize.

A slightly harder question, now: what would you expect to see when a message has an attachment? A paperclip? Another prize. Moving swiftly on, and for the hat-trick, what do you expect to see if you hover your mouse pointer over such a paperclip icon? Something like “1 attachment(s)” or “114K attachment enclosed” or some such? Whoops, hit the bar.

What you get is this:

Perfectly accurate and perfectly useless


…which, I trust we can all agree, is exactly what it is. Perfectly accurate and utterly useless.

What can we glean, in a sort of software-archaeological sense, from this? I’m thinking we can make the following predictions, in vaguely ascending order of likelihood:

  1. Within the Notes team at IBM there’s a standard that says non-textual elements should have tool-tips (or whatever the Eclipse/Java name for such things is).
  2. If there was a formal specification for this element of the program, it was incomplete. Or worse, the spec’s author thought “Paperclip Icon” was appropriate and nobody thought to question it.
  3. QA within Notes is non-existent or pitifully understaffed.
  4. The Notes development team is woefully inexperienced and/or has very little interest in delivering a quality product, choosing instead to ship a (bad) copy of Outlook (which has its own flaws, let’s not deny it) to institutions who have yet to acquire the corporate gumption to obliterate it.
  5. The Notes team don’t eat their own dogfood, for email at least. Let’s face it, who would?

Which is quite a lot for one funny little tooltip.