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IBM Notes

IBM Notes
Developer(s) IBM
Initial release 1989 (1989)
Development status Active
Written in Java/Eclipse (9.x Standard) & C++ (9.x Basic and previous versions)
Operating system Windows, OS X, Linux
Available in 28 user-interface and mail template languages, 64 variants available for spelling dictionary
Type Collaborative software, Personal information manager, Email client
License Proprietary

IBM Notes (formerly Lotus Notes; see branding, below) and IBM Domino (formerly Lotus Domino[1]) are the client and server, respectively, of a collaborative client-server software platform from IBM.

IBM Notes provides business collaboration functionality, including email, calendars, to do lists, contacts management, teamrooms, discussion forums, file sharing, microblogging, instant messaging, blogs, and user directories. IBM Notes also provides access to and integration with other IBM Domino applications and databases. IBM Notes 9 Social Edition removed integration with the office productivity suite IBM Lotus Symphony, which had been integrated with the IBM Lotus Notes client in versions 8.x.

IBM Notes was originally created by Lotus Development Corp. in 1989. In 1995, Lotus was acquired by IBM and became known as the Lotus Development division of IBM. It is now part of the IBM Software and Systems Group, under the name IBM Collaboration Solutions. IBM describes the software as "an easy-to-use, single point of access to everything you need to get your work done quickly, including business applications, email, calendars, feeds, and more."[2]

IBM Notes is an e-mail application client that is one of many applications that can be developed and deployed on the IBM Domino messaging and application server. IBM Notes and Domino supports IBM and third-party (Independent Software Developer) software, including independent applications, add-ins, add-ons, widgets, and plug-ins. Examples of applications can be found on the IBM Collaboration Solutions Catalog.


  • Design 1
  • Integration 2
  • Overview 3
    • Client/server 3.1
    • Data replication 3.2
    • Security 3.3
    • Database security 3.4
    • Programming 3.5
    • Database 3.6
    • Configuration 3.7
  • Use as an email client 4
    • Comparison with other email clients 4.1
  • Reception 5
  • Related software 6
    • Related IBM Lotus products 6.1
    • Related software from other vendors 6.2
  • History 7
    • Branding 7.1
  • Release history 8
    • Future 8.1
  • See also 9
  • References 10
  • External links 11
    • IBM resources 11.1
    • General resources 11.2


IBM Notes provides a client-server cross-platform application runtime environment; it represents the primary user-interface or client of the IBM Notes and Domino software. Users can employ IBM Notes as an email client without an IBM Domino server, for example, as an IMAP client.

IBM Notes and Domino provides integrated collaboration capabilities including email, calendaring, IBM Domino Designer development environment and other tools to develop additional integrated applications such as request approval / workflow and document management.

The IBM Notes and Domino product consists of several components:

  • IBM Notes client application (since version 8, this is based on Eclipse)
  • IBM Notes client, either:
  • IBM Domino server or the IBM XWorks server, a cross platform application server which supports data replication to other servers and clients for offline access
  • IBM Domino Administration Client
  • IBM Domino Designer (Eclipse-based integrated development environment) for creating client-server applications that run within the Notes framework.

IBM Notes and Domino compete with suites of products from other vendors such as Microsoft, Google, Zimbra and others. Because of the application development abilities, IBM Notes and Domino is often compared to products like Microsoft Sharepoint.[3][4] The database in IBM Notes and Domino can be replicated between servers and between server and client, thereby allowing clients offline capabilities.

IBM Notes is only one application that runs on IBM Domino, a business application as well as a messaging server. IBM Notes (and since IBM Domino 9, the Notes Browser Plugin) may be used to access any IBM Domino application, such as discussion forums, document libraries, and numerous other applications. IBM Notes resembles a web-browser in that it may run any compatible application that the user has permission for.

The IBM Notes framework provides applications with functionality to:

  • access, store and present information through a user interface
  • enforce security
  • replicate, that is, allow many different servers to contain the same information and have many users work with that data

The standard storage mechanism in IBM Domino is a NoSQL document-database format, the "Notes Storage Facility" (.nsf). The .nsf file will normally contain both an application design and its associated data. IBM Notes can also access relational databases, either through an additional server called Lotus Enterprise Integration for Domino, through ODBC calls or through the use of XPages.

As IBM Notes and Domino is an application runtime environment, email and calendaring operate as an application within IBM Notes, which IBM provides with the product. A Domino application-developer can change or completely replace that application.[5] IBM has released the base templates as open source as well.[6]

Programmers can develop applications for IBM Notes in a variety of development languages including:

The client supports a formula language as well as JavaScript. Software developers can build applications to run either within the IBM Notes application runtime environment or through a web server for use in a web browser, although the interface would need to be developed separately unless XPages is used.


End-users can leverage IBM Notes for many applications as well as for internal communication collaborative applications: the product offers (for example) emailing, calendaring, PIM, instant messaging, Web browsing, and a variety of feature-rich custom applications. Notes can access both local- and server-based applications and data.

IBM Notes can function as an IMAP and POP email client with non-Domino mail servers. The system can retrieve recipient addresses from any LDAP server, including Active Directory. The client also does web browsing using an integrated web browser, although it can be configured to launch a default browser instead.

Features include group calendaring and scheduling, SMTP/MIME-based email, NNTP-based news support, and automatic HTML conversion of all documents by the Domino HTTP task.

IBM Notes integration with IBM Sametime instant-messaging allows users to see other users online and chat with one or more of them at the same time. Beginning with Release 6.5, IBM built this functionality into IBM Notes as a no-cost entitlement. Presence awareness is available in email and other IBM Domino applications for users in organizations that use both IBM Notes and IBM Sametime.

Since version 7, Notes has provided a web services interface. Domino can be a web server for HTML files; authentication of access to Domino databases or HTML files uses the IBM Domino user directory and external systems such as Microsoft Active Directory.

A design client, IBM Domino Designer, can allow rapid development of database applications consisting of forms (which allow users to create documents) and views (which display selected document fields in columns).

In addition to its role as a groupware system (email, calendaring, shared documents and discussions), IBM Notes and Domino also provide a platform for developing customized client–server and web applications. Its use of design constructs and code allows construction of "workflow"-type applications, particularly those which require approval processes and routing of data.

Since Release 5, server clustering has had the ability to provide geographic redundancy for servers.

Later in its product lifecycle, IBM Notes adopted leading design techniques and prevailing user-interface and navigation paradigms first popularized by Microsoft, Apple, Mozilla and others. IBM Notes was first to include UI elements like GUI tabs for multiple pages (in version 1.0 in 1989) and squared-off workspace chiclets, which are now used on the iPhone (starting in version 2.0 in 1991) and Windows 8.

Notes System Diagnostic (NSD) gathers information about the running of a Notes workstation or of a Domino server.[7]

On March 13, 2013, IBM released IBM Notes 9.0 Social Edition as the latest release.



IBM Notes and Domino is a NoSQL client/server database environment. The server software is called IBM Domino and the client software is IBM Notes. IBM Domino software can run on Windows, Unix, Linux, AIX, and IBM mid-range systems such as the IBM System i (previously known as AS/400), and can scale to tens of thousands of users per server. There are different supported versions of the IBM Domino server that are supported on the various levels of server operating systems. Usually the latest server operating system is only officially supported by a version of IBM Domino that is released at about the same time as that OS.

IBM Domino has security capabilities on a variety of levels. The authorizations can be granular, down to the field level in specific records all the way up to 10 different parameters that can be set up at a database level, with intermediate options in between. Users can also assign access for other users to their personal calendar and email on a more generic reader, editor, edit with delete and manage my calendar levels. All of the security in IBM Notes and Domino is independent of the server OS or Active Directory. Optionally, the IBM Notes client can be configured to have the user use their Active Directory identity.

Data replication

The first release of IBM Notes included a generalized replication facility. The generalized nature of this feature set it apart from predecessors like Usenet and continues to differentiate IBM Notes from many other systems that now offer some form of synchronization or replication. The replication facility in IBM Notes and Domino is not limited to email, calendar, and contacts. It is available for any data in any application that uses Notes Storage Facility (.nsf) files. No special programming, tagging, or other configuration is required to enable replication.

IBM Domino servers and Notes clients identify NSF files by their Replica IDs, and keep replicate files synchronized by bi-directionally exchanging data, metadata, and application logic and design. There are options available to define what meta-data replicate, or specifically exclude certain meta data from replicating. Replication between two servers, or between a client and a server, can occur over a network or a point-to-point modem connection. Replication between servers may occur at intervals according to a defined schedule, in near-real-time when triggered by data changes in server clusters, or when triggered by an administrator or program.

Creation of a local replica of an NSF file on the hard disk of an IBM Notes client enables the user to fully use IBM Notes and Domino databases while working off-line. The client synchronizes any changes when client and server next connect. Local replicas are also sometimes maintained for use while connected to the network in order to reduce network latency. Replication between an IBM Notes client and Domino server can run automatically according to a schedule, or manually in response to a user or programmatic request. Since Notes 6, local replicas maintain all security features programmed into the applications. Earlier releases of Notes did not always do so. Early releases also did not offer a way to encrypt NSF files, raising concerns that local replicas might expose too much confidential data on laptops or insecure home office computers, but more recent releases offer encryption, and as of the default setting for newly created local replicas.


IBM Notes was the first widely adopted software product to use public key cryptography for client–server and server–server authentication and for encryption of data. Until US laws regulating encryption were changed in 2000, IBM and Lotus were prohibited from exporting versions of Notes that supported symmetric encryption keys that were longer than 40 bits. In 1997, Lotus negotiated an agreement with the NSA that allowed export of a version that supported stronger keys with 64 bits, but 24 of the bits were encrypted with a special key and included in the message to provide a "workload reduction factor" for the NSA. This strengthened the protection for users of Notes outside the US against private-sector industrial espionage, but not against spying by the US government.[8][9] This implementation was widely announced, but with some justification many people did consider it to be a backdoor. Some governments objected to being put at a disadvantage to the NSA, and as a result Lotus continued to support the 40-bit version for export to those countries.

Under current US export laws, IBM Notes supports only one version of the Notes PKI with 128-bit symmetric keys, 1024-bit public keys, and no workload reduction factor. The Domino server includes security tools support S/MIME, SSL 3.0 with industry standard key sizes for HTTP and other Internet protocols, X.509 client certificates, and an integrated certificate authority.

IBM Notes and Domino also uses a code-signature framework that controls the security context, runtime, and rights of custom code developed and introduced into the environment. Notes 5 introduced execution control lists (ECLs) at the client level. Notes and Domino 6 allowed ECLs to be managed centrally by server administrators through the implementation of Policies. Since release 4.5, the code signatures listed in properly configured ECLs prevent code from being executed by external sources, to avoid virus propagation through Notes/Domino environments. Administrators can centrally control whether each mailbox user can add exceptions to, and thus override, the ECL.

Database security

Every database has an access control list (ACL) that specifies the level of access a user or a server can have to that database. A user's access level determines what tasks he or she can perform in the database. A server's access level determines what information the server can replicate. The names of access levels are the same for users and servers. Only a user with Manager access can create or modify the ACL. To set an ACL, the Manager selects the access level, user type, and access level privileges for each user or group in a database. Default entries in the ACL can be set when the Manager creates the database. The manager can also assign roles if the database designer determines this level of access refinement is needed by the application; for instance, when users within the same group must be provided different levels of access.


IBM Notes and Domino is a cross-platform, distributed document-oriented NoSQL database and messaging framework and rapid application development environment that includes pre-built applications like email, calendar, etc. This sets it apart from its major commercial competitors, such as Microsoft Exchange or Novell GroupWise, which are purpose-built applications for mail and calendaring that offer APIs for extensibility.

IBM Domino databases are built using the IBM Domino Designer client, available only for Microsoft Windows; standard user clients are available for Windows, Linux, and OS X.[10] A key feature of IBM Notes is that many replicas of the same database can exist at the same time on different servers and clients, across dissimilar platforms; the same storage architecture is used for both client and server replicas. Originally, replication in Notes happened at document (i.e., record) level. With release of Notes 4 in 1996, replication was changed so that it now occurs at field level.

A database is a Notes Storage Facility (.nsf) file, containing basic units of storage known as a "note". Every note has a UniqueID that is shared by all its replicas. Every replica also has a UniqueID that uniquely identifies it within any cluster of servers, a domain of servers, or even across domains belonging to many organizations that are all hosting replicas of the same database. Each note also stores its creation and modification dates, and one or more Items.

There are several classes of notes, including design notes and document notes. Design notes are created and modified with the Domino Designer client, and represent programmable elements, such as the GUI layout of forms for displaying and editing data, or formulas and scripts for manipulating data. Document notes represent user data, and are created and modified with the Lotus Notes client, via a web browser, via mail routing and delivery, or via programmed code.

Document notes can have parent-child relationships, but IBM Notes should not be considered a hierarchical database in the classic sense of information management systems. Notes databases are also not relational, although there is a SQL driver that can be used with Notes, and it does have some features that can be used to develop applications that mimic relational features. IBM Notes does not support atomic transactions, and its file locking is rudimentary. IBM Notes is a document-oriented database (document-based, schema-less, loosely structured) with support for rich content and powerful indexing facilities. This structure closely mimics paper-based work flows that IBM Notes is typically used to automate.

Items represent the content of a note. Every item has a name, a type, and may have some flags set. A note can have more than one item with the same name. Item types include Number, Number List, Text, Text List, Date-Time, Date-Time List, and Rich Text. Flags are used for managing attributes associated with the item, such as read or write security. Items in design notes represent the programmed elements of a database. For example, the layout of an entry form is stored in the rich text Body item within a form design note. This means that the design of the database can replicate to users' desktops just like the data itself, making it extremely easy to deploy updated applications.

Items in document notes represent user-entered or computed data. An item named "Form" in a document note can be used to bind a document to a form design note, which directs the IBM Notes client to merge the content of the document note items with the GUI information and code represented in the given form design note for display and editing purposes. However, other methods can be used to override this binding of a document to a form note. The resulting loose binding of documents to design information is one of the cornerstones of the power of IBM Notes. Traditional database developers used to working with rigidly enforced schemas, on the other hand, may consider the power of this feature to be a double-edged sword.

IBM Notes applications development uses several programming languages. Formula and LotusScript are the two original ones. LotusScript is similar to, and may even be considered a specialized implementation of, Visual Basic, but with the addition of many native classes that model the IBM Notes environment, whereas Formula is similar to Lotus 1-2-3 formula language but is unique to Notes.

Java was integrated into IBM Notes beginning with Release 4.5. With Release 5, Java support was greatly enhanced and expanded, and JavaScript was added. While LotusScript remains a primary tool in developing applications for the Lotus Notes client, Java and JavaScript are the primary tools for server-based processing, developing applications for browser access, and allowing browsers to emulate the functionality of the IBM Notes client. With XPages, the IBM Notes client can now natively process Java and JavaScript code, although applications development usually requires at least some code specific to only IBM Notes or only a browser.

As of version 6, Lotus established an XML programming interface in addition to the options already available. The Domino XML Language (DXL) provides XML representations of all data and design resources in the Notes model, allowing any XML processing tool to create and modify IBM Notes and Domino data.

Since Release 8.5, XPages were also integrated into IBM Notes.

External to the IBM Notes application, IBM provides toolkits in C, C++, and Java to connect to the IBM Domino database and perform a wide variety of tasks. The C toolkit is the most mature, and the C++ toolkit is an objectized version of the C toolkit, lacking many functions the C toolkit provides. The Java toolkit is the least mature of the three and can be used for basic application needs.


IBM Notes includes a database management system but IBM Notes files are different from relational or object databases because they are document-centric. Document-oriented databases such as IBM Notes allow multiple values in items (fields), do not require a schema, come with built-in document-level access control, and store rich text data. IBM Domino 7 to 8.5.x supports the use of IBM DB2 database as an alternative store for IBM Notes databases. This NSFDB2 feature, however, is now in maintenance mode with no further development planned. An IBM Notes database can be mapped to a relational database using tools like DECS, [LEI], JDBCSql for Domino or NotesSQL.[11]

It could be argued that IBM Notes and Domino is a multi-value database system like PICK, or that it is an object system like Zope, but it is in fact unique. Whereas the temptation for relational database programmers is to normalize databases, Notes databases must be denormalized. RDBMS developers often find it difficult to conceptualize the difference. It may be useful to think of an IBM Notes document (a 'note') as analogous to an XML document natively stored in a database (although with limitations on the data types and structures available).

Since Lotus Notes 8.5, IBM started to change the term Database to Application, because of the reason that these files are not really object databases as mentioned above.

The benefits of this data structure are:

  1. No need to define size of fields, or datatype;
  2. Attributes (Notes fields) that are null take up no space in a database;
  3. Built-in full text searching.


The IBM Domino server or the IBM Notes client store their configuration in their own databases / application files (*.nsf). No relevant configuration settings are saved in the Windows Registry if the operating system is Windows. Some other configuration options (primary the start configuration) is stored in the notes.ini (there are currently over 2000 known options available[12]).

Use as an email client

IBM Notes is commonly deployed as an end-user email client in larger organizations, with IBM claiming a cumulative 145 million licenses sold to date. (IBM does not release the number of licenses on current maintenance, nor does it track number of licenses in current use.)

When an organization employs an IBM Domino server, it usually also deploys the supplied IBM Notes client for accessing the IBM Notes application for email and calendaring but also to use document management and workflow applications. As IBM Notes is a runtime environment, and the email and calendaring functions in IBM Notes are simply an application provided by IBM, the administrators are free to develop alternate email and calendaring applications. It is also possible to alter, amend or extend the IBM supplied email and calendaring application.

The IBM Domino server also supports POP3 and IMAP mail clients, and through an extension product (Domino Access for Microsoft Outlook) supports native access for Microsoft Outlook clients (now with limited support).[13]

IBM also provides IBM iNotes (in Notes 6.5 renamed to "Domino Web Access" but in version 8.0 reverted to iNotes), to allow the use of email and calendaring features through web browsers on Windows, Mac and Linux, such as Internet Explorer and Firefox. There are several spam filtering programs available (including IBM Lotus Protector), and a rules engine allowing user-defined mail processing to be performed by the server.

Comparison with other email clients

IBM Notes was designed as a collaborative application platform where email was just one of numerous applications that ran in the Notes client software. The Notes client was also designed to run on multiple platforms including Windows, OS/2, Mac, SCO Open Desktop UNIX, and Linux. These two factors have resulted in the user interface containing some differences from applications that only run on Windows. Furthermore these differences have often remained in the product to retain backward compatibility with earlier releases, instead of conforming to updated Windows UI standards. The following are some of these differences.

  • Properties dialog boxes for formatting text, hyperlinks and other rich-text information can remain open after a user makes changes to selected text. This provides flexibility to select new text and apply other formatting without closing the dialog box, selecting new text and opening a new format dialog box. Almost all other Windows applications require the user to close the dialog box, select new text, then open a new dialog box for formatting/changes.
  • Properties dialog boxes also automatically recognize the type of text selected and display appropriate selections (for instance, a hyperlink properties box).
  • Users can format tables as tabbed interfaces as part of form design (for applications) or within mail messages (or in rich-text fields in applications). This provides users the ability to provide tab-style organization to documents, similar to popular tab navigation in most web portals, etc.
  • End-users can readily insert links to IBM Notes applications, IBM Notes views or other IBM Notes documents into IBM Notes documents.
  • Deleting a document (or email) will delete it from every folder in which it appears, since the folders simply contain links to the same back-end document. Some other email clients only delete the email from the current folder; if the email appears in other folders it is left alone, requiring the user to hunt through multiple folders in order to completely delete a message. In IBM Notes, clicking on "Remove from Folder" will remove the document only from that folder leaving all other instances intact.
  • The All Documents and Sent "views" differ from other collections of documents known as "folders" and exhibit different behaviors. Specifically, mail cannot be dragged out of them, and so removed from those views; the email can only be "copied" from them. This is because these are views, and their membership indexes are maintained according to characteristics of the documents contained in them, rather than based on user interaction as is the case for a folder). This technical difference can be baffling to users, in environments where no training is given. All Documents contain all of the documents in a mailbox, no matter which folder it is in. The only way to remove something from All Documents is to delete it outright.

Lotus Notes 7 and older versions had more differences, which were removed from subsequent releases:

  • Users select a "New Memo" to send an email, rather than "New Mail" or "New Message". (Notes 8 calls the command "New Message")
  • To select multiple documents in a Notes view, one drags one's mouse next to the documents to select, rather than using ⇧ Shift+single click. (Notes 8 uses keypress conventions.)
  • The searching function offers a "phrase search", rather than the more common "or search", and Notes requires users to spell out boolean conditions in search-strings. As a result, users must search for "delete AND folder" in order to find help text that contains the phrase "delete a folder". Searching for "delete folder" does not yield the desired result. (Notes 8 uses or-search conventions.)

Lotus Notes 8.0 (released in 2007) became the first version to employ a dedicated user-experience team,[14] resulting in a greatly improved IBM Notes client experience in the primary and new notes user interface. This new interface runs in the open source Eclipse Framework, which is a project started by IBM, opening up more application development opportunities through the use of Eclipse plug-ins. The new interface provides many new user interface features and the ability to include user-selected applications/applets in small panes in the interface. Lotus Notes 8.0 also included a new email interface / design to match the new Lotus Notes 8.0 eclipse based interface. Eclipse is a Java framework and allows IBM to port Notes to other platforms rapidly. An issue with Eclipse and therefore Notes 8.0 is the applications start-up and user-interaction speed. Lotus Notes 8.5 sped up the application and the increase in general specification of PCs means this is less of an issue. IBM Notes 9 continued the evolution of the user interface to more closely align with modern application interfaces found in many commercial packaged or web-based software.

For lower spec PCs, a new version of the old interface is still provided albeit as it is the old interface many of the new features are not available and the email user interface reverts to the Notes 7.x style.

This new and improved user experience builds on Notes 6.5 (released in 2003), which upgraded the email client, previously regarded by many as the product's Achilles heel. Features added at that time included:

  • drag and drop of folders
  • replication of unread marks between servers
  • follow-up flags
  • reply and forward indicators on emails
  • ability to edit an attachment and save the changes back to an email id


Publications such as The Guardian in 2006 have criticized earlier versions of Lotus Notes for having an "unintuitive [user] interface" and cite widespread dissatisfaction with the usability of the client software. The Guardian indicated that Notes has not necessarily suffered as a result of this dissatisfaction due to the fact that "the people who choose [enterprise software] tend not to be the ones who use it."[15]

Earlier versions of Lotus Notes have also been criticized for violating an important usability best practice that suggests a consistent UI is often better than custom alternative. Software written for a particular operating system should follow that particular OS's user interface style guide. Not following those style guides can confuse users. A notable example is F5 keyboard shortcut, which is used to refresh window contents in Microsoft Windows Explorer, Microsoft Outlook 2007 and Microsoft Internet Explorer. Pressing F5 in Lotus Notes before release 8.0 caused it to lock screen. Since this was a major point of criticism this was changed in release 8.0. Old versions did not support proportional scrollbars (which give the user an idea of how long the document is, relative to the portion being viewed).[16] Proportional scroll bars were only introduced in Notes 8.[17]

Older versions of Lotus Notes also suffered from similar user interaction choices, many of which were also corrected in subsequent releases. One example that was corrected in Release 8.5: In earlier versions the out-of-office agent needed to be manually enabled when leaving and disabled when coming back, even if start and end date have been set. As of Release 8.5 the out-of-office notification now automatically shuts off without a need for a manual disable.

Unlike some other e-mail client software programs, IBM Notes developers made a choice to not allow individual users to determine whether a return receipt is sent when they open an e-mail; rather, that option is configured at the server level. IBM developers believe "Allowing individual cancellation of return receipt violates the intent of a return receipt function within an organization". So, depending on system settings, users will have no choice in return receipts going back to spammers or other senders of unwanted e-mail. This has led tech sites to publish ways to get around this feature of Notes. For IBM Notes 9.0 and IBM iNotes 9.0, the IBM Domino server's .INI file can now contain an entry to control return receipt in a manner that's more aligned with community expectations (IBM Notes 9 Product Documentation).[18][19][20]

When Lotus Notes crashes, some processes may continue running and prevent the application from being restarted until they are killed.[21]

Related software

Related IBM Lotus products

Over the 20-year history of IBM Notes, Lotus Development Corporation and later IBM have developed many other software products that are based on or integrated with IBM Notes. The most prominent of these is the IBM Lotus Domino server software, which was originally known as the Lotus Notes Server and gained a separate name with the release of version 4.5. The server platform also became the foundation for products such as IBM Lotus Quickr for Domino, for document management, and IBM Sametime for instant messaging, audio and video communication, and web conferencing, and with Release 8.5, IBM Connections.

In early releases of IBM Notes, there was considerable emphasis on client-side integration with the IBM Lotus Symphony. IBM Lotus Expeditor is a framework for developing Eclipse-based applications.

Other IBM products and technologies have also been built to integrate with IBM Notes. For mobile-device synchronization, this previously included the client-side IBM Lotus Easysync Pro product (no longer in development) and IBM Lotus Notes Traveler, a newer no-charge server-side add-on for mail, calendar and contact sync. A recent addition to IBM's portfolio are two IBM Lotus Protector products for mail security and encryption, which have been built to integrate with Lotus Notes.

Related software from other vendors

With a long market history and large installed base, IBM Notes and Domino have spawned a large third-party software ecosystem. Such products can be divided into four broad, and somewhat overlapping classes:

  • IBM Notes and Domino applications are software programs written in the form of one or more IBM Notes databases, and often supplied as NTF templates. This type of software typically is focused on providing business benefit from IBM Notes' core collaboration, workflow and messaging capabilities. Examples include customer relationship management (CRM), human resources, and project tracking systems, such as Tracker Suite and eProductivity for IBM Notes. Some applications of this sort may offer a browser interface in addition to Notes client access. The code within these programs typically uses the same languages available to an in-house IBM Domino developer: IBM Notes formula language, LotusScript, Java and Javascript.
  • IBM Notes and Domino add-ons, tools and extensions are generally executable programs written in C, C++ or another compiled language that are designed specifically to integrate with IBM Notes and Domino. This class of software may include both client- and server-side executable components. In some cases, IBM Notes databases may be used for configuration and reporting. Since the advent of the Eclipse-based Notes 8 Standard client, client-side add-ons may also include Eclipse plug-ins and XML-based widgets. The typical role for this type of software is to support or extend core IBM Notes functionality. Examples include spam and anti-virus products (e.g. Spam Sentinel), server administration and monitoring tools (e.g. RPRWyatt's VitalSigns, ACL Dominator, GSX Monitor), messaging and storage management products (e.g. AttachZIP, TOTAL Recall, ReduceMail Pro Suite), policy-based tools (e.g. Crossware Mail Signature), data synchronization tools (e.g. Print Merge Reporter, Integra For Notes) and developer tools (e.g. Lotus Notes Tools, Teamstudio tools, Ytria Lotus Notes Tools, NotesTracker).
  • IBM Notes and Domino-aware adds-ins and agents are also executable programs, but they are designed to extend the reach of a general networked software product to IBM Notes and Lotus Domino data. This class includes server and client backup software, anti-spam and anti-virus products, and e-discovery and archiving systems. It also includes add-ins to integrate IBM Notes with third-party offerings such as Cisco WebEx conferencing service or the CRM platform.


IBM Notes has a history spanning more than 20 years.[22] Its chief inspiration was PLATO Notes, created by David R. Woolley at the University of Illinois in 1973. In today's terminology, PLATO Notes was a message board, and it was part of the foundation for an online community which thrived for more than 20 years on the PLATO system. Ray Ozzie worked with PLATO while attending the University of Illinois in the 1970s. When PC network technology began to emerge, Ozzie made a deal with Mitch Kapor, the founder of Lotus Development Corporation, that resulted in the formation of Iris Associates in 1984 to develop products that would combine the capabilities of PCs with the collaborative tools pioneered in PLATO. The agreement put control of product development under Ozzie and Iris, and sales and marketing under Lotus. In 1994, after the release and marketplace success of Notes R3, Lotus purchased Iris. In 1995 IBM purchased Lotus.

In 2008, IBM released XPages technology, allowing Lotus Notes data to be displayed to browser clients on any platform supporting standard web standards, as opposed to non-standard standards. This includes PC web browsers, smartphones, tablet computers and more.

In 2008, IBM released XPages technology, based on JavaServer Faces. This allows IBM Notes applications to be displayed to browser clients and in the Notes client with no change of the code. Previously, IBM Domino applications could be accessed through browsers, but required web specific modifications to get full functionality in browsers. XPages also give the application new capabilities that are not possible with the classic IBM Notes client. The IBM Domino 9 Social Edition included the IBM Notes Browser Plugin, allowing most IBM Domino applications to display unmodified through a web browser without requiring the IBM Notes rich desktop client.


When Lotus Notes was initially released, the name "Notes" referred to both the client and server components. Prior to release 4.5, the term Lotus Notes referred to both the client and server applications.[23] In 1996, Lotus released an HTTP server add-on for the Notes 4 server called "Domino". This add-on allowed Notes documents to be rendered as web pages in real time. Later that year, the Domino web server was integrated into release 4.5 of the core Notes server and the entire server program was re-branded, taking on the name "Domino". Only the client program officially retained the "Lotus Notes" name.

In November 2012, IBM announced it would be dropping the Lotus brand and moving forward with the IBM brand only to identify products, including Notes and Domino.[24] On March 13, 2013, IBM announced the availability of IBM Notes 9 Social Edition, the replacement name and latest version for the updated client software.[25] As of March 21, 2013 IBM Notes was in release 9.0, with the official name IBM Notes 9 Social Edition.

Release history

Release Date Lotus Notes
1.0 1989
1.1 1990
2 1991
3 May 1993 Added support for hierarchical naming, added the ability to place buttons on Forms.
4 January 1996 Removed support for Netware servers
4.5 December 1996 Server renamed to "Domino", added native HTTP server, POP3 (POP) server, added Calendaring & Scheduling, and introduced Java support. Also included SMTP MTA "in the box", but not installed by default.
4.6 Added IMAP support. OS/2 and Unix client support dropped. No Mac client for this particular release.
5 1999 Moved SMTP functionality from a separate MTA task to become a native ability of the mail routing task, improving performance and fidelity of internet email. Major improvements to HTTP server. Notes client had a major interface overhaul. Java support greatly expanded and enhanced.
5.0.8 Added a new webmail interface, called iNotes (later changed to Domino Web Access in Release 6).
6.0 September 2002 Added Domino Web Access (formerly iNotes Web Access) support. Dropped OS/2 server support.
6.0.1 February 2003
6.0.2 (Japan Only) June 2003
6.5 / 6.0.3 September 2003 Added Lotus SameTime Instant Messaging integration to the Notes client (Windows only).
6.5.4 / 6.0.5 March 2005
5.x 30 September 2005 Support Ended for Lotus Notes 5.x IBM End of Support Reference
6.5.5 December 2005
6.5.6 March 2006 Release 6.5.6 is the last Maintenance Release for the 6.5.x code stream
7.0 August 2005 Added DB2 support as database storage (see also IBM Support Statement for NSFDB2)
7.0.1 July 2006 Added native Linux client, with initial release certified for Red Hat Enterprise Linux.
7.0.2 September 2006 Added blog template, rss feed support, iCal support, SAP integration and "Nomad" which allows you to take your Notes client with you on a USB device.
7.0.3 October 2007 Current server versions available: All Platforms — Windows, Linux (Red Hat, SuSE x86 and zSeries), i5OS, z/OS, Solaris 9 & 10.
Current client versions available: Windows, Mac OS X, Linux/x86 (Red Hat & SuSE initially).
Various versions of the client have been run under Wine on Linux, but with varying degrees of success and no official support. The Notes 7 client and Domino Designer 7 are known to install and run well under version 0.9.19.[26] Domino servers can also translate most databases into HTML for browser based users.
7.0.4 April 2009 Support for the 7.0.x line ended 30 Apr 2011 IBM Software Support product lifecycle dates
8.0 August 2007 Current server versions available: Windows, Linux, Solaris, AIX.
Current client versions available: Linux and Windows XP/Vista English.
The first version based on IBM Workplace technology (which is in turn based on the Eclipse Rich Client Platform).
8.0.1 February 2008 IBM added support for Widgets and Google Gadgets.
8.0.2 August 2008 Integrated viewers for Microsoft Office 2007 documents (Office Open XML). Number of performance improvements.
8.5 December 2008 ID Vault, New Roaming Features, XPages, DAOS (disk space savings range from 40% to 60%), ... Some performance improvements. Domino Designer ported to Eclipse. Windows 2008 Support[27]
8.5.1 12 October 2009 Several Improvements to performance and UI. Significant improvements to functionality (including within the XPages application language, performance and stability of Eclipse-based Designer client)
8.5.1 FP1 12 December 2009 Added support for Windows 7 and Snow Leopard (Mac OS X 10.6.2)
8.5.1 FP2 26 March 2010 This is mainly a fix release.
8.5.1 FP3 31 May 2010 This is mainly a fix release.
8.5.1 FP4 4 August 2010 9 reported keyview attachment viewer security vulnerabilities and fixes to Dojo component
8.5.1 FP5 19 October 2010
8.5.2 24 August 2010 Focused on Reliability, further changes to XPages
8.5.2 FP1 17 December 2010 This is mainly a fix release.
8.5.2 FP2 25 March 2011 This is mainly a fix release.
8.5.2 FP3 18 July 2011 This is mainly a fix release.
8.5.2 FP4 2 December 2011
8.5.3 4 October 2011 Focused on reliability and fixes.
8.5.3 FP1 23 March 2012 This is mainly a fix release.
8.5.3 FP2 13 July 2012 This is mainly a fix release.
8.5.3 FP3 26 November 2012 This is mainly a fix release.
8.5.3 FP4 16 April 2013 This is mainly a fix release.
8.5.3 FP5 8 August 2013 This is mainly a fix release.
8.5.3 FP6 9 December 2013 Fixes an error with Notes on the web in Firefox 26
9.0 21 March 2013 9.0 Notes/Domino Social Edition delivers on the "Project Vulcan" (OneUI) vision, including the updated GUI, embedded application experiences, a significant update to iNotes to bring near-parity to the rich client, an incremental set of IBM Notes features, and the IBM Notes Browser Plug-in. IBM was internally facing a few decisions about the new releases in 2012. Two versions, 8.5.4 and 9.0, were developing simultaneously in 2012, but IBM has rebranded the 8.5.4 release as a full version release 9.0 in a middle 2012. At the end of 2012 and in 2013, IBM decided to launch 8.5.4 Maintenance Release and 9.0 Social Edition as two separated products.

According to roadmaps, 9.0 Social Edition is a new major release in a new release stream and 8.5.4 provides status for a point release for the 8.5.x stream. [28][29]

9.0.1 FP1 16 April 2014 This is mainly a fix release
9.0.1 FP2 20 August 2014 This is mainly a fix release

IBM donated parts of the IBM Notes and Domino code to[30] on September 12, 2007 and since 2008 has been regularly donating code to[31]


Since the IBM acquisition of Lotus in 1995, some industry analysts and mainstream business press writers, along with IBM competitors, have made repeated predictions of the decline or impending demise of IBM Notes and Domino. One noted example of this was an article published in Forbes magazine entitled "The decline and fall of Lotus", published in April 1998. Since then, IBM claims that the installed base of Lotus Notes has increased from an estimated 42 million seats in September 1998 to approximately 145 million cumulative licenses sold through 2008.[32] (IBM does not publish the number of licenses on current maintenance. Additionally, IBM Notes and Domino users who no longer pay maintenance are permitted to keep using the software—they are simply not permitted to install subsequent releases.)

Speculation about the decline of IBM Notes was fueled by lingering market confusion emanating from IBM placing marketing emphasis on Websphere and IBM Workplace in 2003 and 2004. IBM Workplace, however, has been discontinued,[33] thus this source of confusion about the future of IBM Notes and Domino has been rendered moot. While the future of any product in the technology sector cannot be predicted, IBM has made announcements that indicate that it continues to invest heavily in research and development on the IBM Notes and Domino product line. Public roadmaps have shown a commitment by IBM to continue research and development of IBM Notes and Domino through 2016.

In 2005, some analysts concluded that IBM Notes and Domino was losing market share to Microsoft Exchange.[34] There is no general agreement, however, about methods of accurately calculating share in the messaging and collaboration market.[35] Figures based on seat count may be skewed by the presence of unused seats that are counted as a result of "bundled CALs", and figures based on customer count may be skewed by difference in typical customer organization sizes. IBM has asserted that growth shown in the revenue figures for the IBM Collaboration Solutions (formerly “Lotus”) brand, as published in their audited annual financial report, purportedly show the continuing strength of the IBM Notes and Domino product line in the market. According to these figures, the IBM Notes and Domino product line has sustained double-digit growth since late 2004 and continuing through 2006, including 30% year-to-year growth in Q4 of 2006.

IBM contributed some of the code it had developed for the integration of the IBM Lotus Symphony.[37]

IBM Lotus Notes and Lotus Domino 8.0.1 shipped in February 2008,[38] and 8.0.2 came in the summer.

Lotus Notes and Lotus Domino 8.5, which includes a MacOS client, support for Ubuntu in addition to Red Hat Linux and SUSE Linux, as well as an Eclipse-based Domino Designer, shipped in December 2008. Version 8.5 also offers a new Ajax-enabled web programming paradigm called XPages.[39] Since then, additional refreshes have been released including Lotus Notes 8.5.1,[40] Lotus Notes 8.5.2,[41] and Lotus Notes 8.5.3.[42]

IBM Notes and Domino 9 Social Edition shipped on March 21, 2013.[43] Improvements include significantly updated user interface, near-parity of IBM Notes and IBM iNotes functionality, the IBM Notes Browser Plugin, new XPages controls added to IBM Domino, refreshed IBM Domino Designer user interface, added support for To Dos on Android mobile devices, and additional server functionality as detailed in the Announcement Letter.

See also


  1. ^ IBM Retires Lotus, Focuses on ‘Social Business’. (2012-11-19). Retrieved on 2013-07-17.
  2. ^ "IBM's home page for Lotus Notes" Definition of Lotus Notes
  3. ^ Adriaan Bloem (2009-12-03). "The Difference between SharePoint and Lotus Notes". Retrieved 2011-10-24. 
  4. ^ McAmis, David (2006-05-25). "Lotus Notes/Domino 7 vs SharePoint Portal Server 2003". ZDnet. Retrieved 2011-10-24. 
  5. ^ "Third party alters and extends the email and calendaring application supplied by IBM for Lotus Notes". Retrieved 2011-10-24. 
  6. ^ "Lotusphere 2010 presentation: AD113 - IBM Lotus Notes Discussion Template: Next Generation and Other OpenNTF Assets". 2009-06-18. Retrieved 2011-10-24. 
  7. ^ Speed, Tim (2006). Upgrading to Lotus Notes and Domino 7. From technologies to solutions. Packt Publishing Ltd.  
  8. ^ "The Swedes discover Lotus Notes has key escrow!" The Risks Digest, Volume 19, Issue 52, 1997-12-24
  9. ^ Only NSA can listen, so that's OK Heise, 1999.
  10. ^ Domino Designer clients available here
  11. ^ "NotesSQL". IBM. Retrieved 2011-10-24. 
  12. ^ notes.ini Reference - by alphabet
  13. ^ "IBM Statement regarding Domino Access for Microsoft Outlook - United States". IBM. 2011-09-09. Retrieved 2011-10-24. 
  14. ^ "Mary Beth Raven Blog". IBM. 2009-08-20. Retrieved 2011-10-24. 
  15. ^ Arthur, Charles (2006-02-09). "Survival of the unfittest". The Guardian (London). 
  16. ^ "Lotus Notes Sucks". 
  17. ^ "Updated Lotus Notes "Hannover" screenshots (comment)". 
  18. ^ "Is there a setting in Lotus Notes to control whether a return receipt is sent?". 
  19. ^ "Finding and disabling return receipts". 
  20. ^ "Techniques to Not Send a Return Receipt When Viewing Mail". 
  21. ^ "KillNotes". 
  22. ^ Official history of Lotus Notes IBM DeveloperWorks Web Site
  23. ^ "The History of Notes and Domino". IBM. Retrieved 2011-10-24. 
  24. ^ "IBM Drops Lotus Brand, Takes Notes and Domino Forward" Article published in November, 2012
  25. ^ "IBM United States Software Announcement 213-085" Article published on March 13, 2013
  26. ^ Support info for running Notes 7 on Wine The Official Wine Wiki
  27. ^ "What's new in IBM Lotus Notes 8.5". IBM. Retrieved 2011-10-24. 
  28. ^ Brill, Ed. "IBM Notes/Domino 9 Social Edition public beta planned for December 14". Retrieved 13 November 2012. 
  29. ^ Myers, Anthony. "IBM Notes/Domino 9 Social Edition Beta Goes Live December 14". CMS Wire. Retrieved 16 November 2012. 
  30. ^ Paul, Ryan (2007-09-10). "IBM to contribute Lotus Notes code to". ars technica. Retrieved 2009-06-21. 
  31. ^ "IBM's biggest Code Contribution to OpenNTF - The XPages Extension Library". Retrieved 2010-09-15. 
  32. ^ "Global Businesses Choosing Lotus Software" IBM Press Release January 15, 2009
  33. ^ "Software withdrawal and service discontinuance: IBM Workplace Messaging" IBM Press Release December 12, 2006
  34. ^ "IBM In Denial Over Lotus Notes" Article published in April 2005
  35. ^ "Response to Daniel Lyons: "IBM In Denial Over Lotus Notes"" Blogpost by Michael Sampson, Research Director at Shared Spaces
  36. ^ "IBM Joins Community"
  37. ^ "IBM Releases Office Desktop Software at No Charge to Foster Collaboration and Innovation"
  38. ^ Ed Brill. "Blog entry by Ed Brill at IBM about Notes 8.0.1". Retrieved 2011-10-24. 
  39. ^ "XPages Hello World sample application on 8.5 Public Beta Forum". 2010-02-04. Retrieved 2011-10-24. 
  40. ^ "IBM US Announcement Letter 209-343". Retrieved 2010-10-06. 
  41. ^ "IBM US Announcement Letter 210-237". Retrieved 2011-05-18. 
  42. ^ "IBM AP Announcement Letter AP11-0318". Retrieved 2011-10-04. 
  43. ^ "IBM US Announcement Letter 213-085". Retrieved 2013-03-12. 

External links

IBM resources

  • IBM Lotus Notes and Domino home page
  • IBM Lotus Notes and Domino Wiki
  • The History of Notes and Domino
  • Development and admin limits in Lotus Notes/Domino
  • Business Partner Link: Monitor the health of your Lotus Domino servers with VitalSigns

General resources

  • aggregator
  • resources, tips, tech notes, product news for IBM Lotus Professionals
  • LN-toolbox Lotus Notes & Domino notes.ini References (configuration options)
  • community for open source development on the Notes platform
  • technology blog for Lotus Notes evangelists, product news and problem solving
  • technology blog relating the truth about the horrors of the Lotus Notes experience
  • The global Lotus Notes support group Helpdesk – We are here to help you
  • Mobilize your IBM Lotus Domino files
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