Why choosing Eclipse for Notes 8 was the right choice

It’s been quiet around the blog the last few months because I have been neck deep in work getting a new product ready. I’m slowly resurfacing and as blogged about the last few days we (OnTime) are now shipping the latest release of the group calendar product called OnTime Group Calendar 2011. We showed of the UI’s at Lotusphere 2011 but now we’re shipping and are ready to go.

Besides having a brand new backend with it’s own interesting features and performance improvements (see here) the product also ships with a brand new, all Java, Notes UI that runs full screen inside the Notes client. The client is called OnTime Group Calendar 2011 – Notes (or Notes 2011) and is a good showcase of what’s possible inside the Notes client and why choosing Eclipse as the platform for Notes 8 was important. We no longer have to use separate clients for our UI but can run it inside Notes where it belongs. The below screenshot shows the UI running inside Notes 8.5.2.



(click the image for a larger version)

The

Since the group calendar now runs full screen (a perspective in Eclipse Java parlance) it’s launched from the Open menu in Notes. Once opened it adds its own top level OnTime menu and loads data using the new OnTime Group Calendar API. One of the cool things about the UI being in Java is that it does away with the traditional Notes view limitations (for instance one document per row) and allows for some super cool, pixel level, UI drawing. It also allows us to read from an API layer that abstracts the actual reading and providing of data from the application itself and allows us to reuse the API in all our UI’s (Notes 2011, Discovery 2011, Web 2011, Mobile 2011 and Team-At-A-Glance 2011 (sidebar)).

The UI allows the user to switch between a day view (see above) where the user may choose to see from 1 to 7 days to a week view to a month view. The week view for instance gives a very nice overview of the calendar of the people you work with.

In all the views you may filter the people shown using groups and legends. Legends are what we call the types of appointments/meetings being shown. On the server you configure what makes an appointment be put in what legend and may be based on category, type or a formula you specify. Once you select one or more legends the viewer is filtered to highlight the appointments/meetings that match the legend. Below I have chosen to only see external meetings.



(click the image for larger version)

Besides the cool and slick UI (if I have to say so myself) we also provide some nice new functionality. If you have write to a calendar (your own or a colleagues) you may drag’n’drop appointments in the group calendar. The below screen shot shows me dragging an appointment from Susanne to Saiful.

The Notes 2011 also allows for full Lotus Sametime integration and customization using Eclipse based extension points but that’s a topic for another day.

If you like to try out OnTime Group Calendar 2011 you may obtain an unrestricted, 30 day, trial. Simply drop us an e-mail at sales@intravision.dk. We’ll even be happy to offer you 20% discount for all new licenses purchased in May or June as an introductory offer. Just tell us that you learned about OnTime on lekkimworld.com and we’ll discount your purchase.

Amazing OnTime Group Calendar performance gains

As I have been tweeting recently I have finished coding the new OnTime Group Calendar Notes UI and we are now shipping it (OnTime Group Calendar 2011 ). This release is a brand new, completely rewritten, product and it’s shipping with some very cool features and UI’s. Currently we’re shipping a standalone UI (Discovery 2011) and the Notes UI (Notes 2011) with a mobile and web UI coming soon (Web 2011 and Mobile 2011). My main contribution is the OnTime Group Calendar Notes 2011 client which is a full Java based group calendar UI that runs inside the Notes 8.5 Standard client. More in a separate post about the Notes 2011 client.

Part of the OnTime Group Calendar is the backend that runs on the server. Previously we easily scaled to 100.000+ users but you normally had to run multiple group calendar databases to control access and visibility of calendar data within your organization.

This “restriction” has now been is now lifted with the new release of OnTime Group Calendar 2011. Now all customers will run a single group calendar database and the OnTime backend takes care of controlling access and visibility either based on custom configuration or based on mail database ACL’s.

To get ready for the new release we have done a number of pilot installs and there we found some very interesting performance numbers at a customer which I’ll share below.

Text OnTime 9.x OnTime 2011 % of previous
Users 8.900 8.900
Storage need 17 GB 170 MB 1%
Number of views required 300 20 6.6%
Document count 300.000 27.000 9%

At another customer we went from a group calendar database of 1.3 GB to 22 MB. That’s also a reduction to a little less than 2% of the previous disk usage (1.6%).

As you can see from the above the disk savings are massive. Smaller databases leads to less I/O which leads to major improvements in performance. Domino as a backend screams for this kind of solution. So cool.

Oh and best of all – it’s still a pure Domino solution.

On language vs. regional settings

At the office we’re doing a brand new version of our OnTime Group Calendar (more on that later) and for that we’re revamping our entire settings system. Both to make it more flexible and to make it easier for users. Where ever possible we’re opting for sensible defaults instead of asking the user.

With sensible defaults and revamping the settings system also comes taking a long hard look at the way settings are set and what they mean. What is a setting? What is a global setting? What is an application setting? What constitutes a language setting? What constitutes a regional setting? Are the two last ones actually the same?

For OnTime 2011 we’ve opted to split the setting system into two parts:

  • Global settings that applies across the OnTime Suite (Sametime enabled/disabled (due to license restrictions on API usage), language, region, …)
  • Application settings (i.e. how did the application look when I used it last)

The two most important settings from the global settings in regard to this post is the language code and the region code. We’ve chosen to let the user select the user interface language independently of the region they’re using. So what does that mean? I might choose to use US English as the user interface language but that doesn’t mean that I want dates in m/d/y format and times in 12 hour format. That’s why it makes sense.

Our regional settings contains all date/time related formats but also specifies two calendar related settings. These are first day of the week (Monday vs. Sunday) and minimum number of days in first week of the year (4 (ISO8601) vs. 1). This means that if you use the Danish regional settings we automatically apply the way we calculate week numbers.

LotusLive and Lotus Connections are examples of applications that does it the other way around (and the wrong way if you ask me). It sets the region (date/time formats) based on the language chosen so the only way to get correct (for me) date/time formats is to choose Danish as the language (although I prefer English user interfaces). As you probably guessed I think that’s wrong 🙂

Meeting Manager finally out

OnTime Meeting Manager is done! When I joined IntraVision in October Meeting Manager was almost ready, but not completely. Now the product is done and out the door – kudos to the team for putting in the extra hours to get the product done and out the door.

Warning – product plug comming up… 🙂

The product is called OnTime Meeting Manager and is an extension of the Rooms and Resouces feature of Notes/Domino. Meeting Manager extends R&R by handling booking multiple rooms at once, across time zones, booking catering (coffee, tea, lunch etc.) and by giving you fine grained control over calendar invites. MM even lets you invite invitees based on geography which is nice to reduce travel. Below is a small snippet from the release newsletter.

“Managing meetings and facilities can be time consuming. It involves a number of people and processes within your organisation. OnTime Meeting Manager is your one-stop meeting organiser – your personal electronic assistant – dedicated to making the process of organising meetings quick and efficient, leaving you free to concentrate on what’s central to your business.

OnTime Meeting Manager focuses on streamlining the process of making invitations, booking meeting rooms, ordering catering and reserving resources. At the same time, Management gains a clear overview of all the meetings within the organisation.”

Winds of change

I’m happy to announce that as of today I’m employed by IntraVision makers of the Ontime Calendar Suite for Lotus Notes, Microsoft Exchange and Novell Groupwise. It has been final for some time now but as of today it is public. After 8 years of being self-employed time had come for me to try out something new and I’m happy to join IntraVision. In my new job I’ll continue working with Notes/Domino and to service existing customers. I will also continue to be an active part of the Notes/Domino community.

Apart from the Ontime Calendar Suite some of you might recall the IntraVision from Lotusphere 2007 where they won a Lotus Award in the “Best Messaging and Collaboration Solution” category.

Feel the winds…