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Book Review: IBM Lotus Notes 8.5 User Guide

September 16th, 2010 by Corey Davis

Continuing their much appreciated streak of Lotus Notes and Domino related book titles, Pack Publishing has just released the “IBM Lotus Notes 8.5 User Guide”. As the title conveys, this book contains no information on Domino administration or application development; it is intended for the end-user audience. While Notes comes with a complete and well written help database that can be read like a book, author Karen Hooper takes it a step further detailing every nuance of the Lotus Notes client in a clear, concise, hand-holding manner that makes it a must-read for any Lotus Notes end-user.

The book begins with an overview of the Lotus Notes client interface. In Chapter One Karen describes the password prompt, the Open button, tabs, the homepage, shortcuts, the sidebar, and how to close Notes. I was struck by the attention to detail — I cannot recall reading about the password prompt in any other Notes user guide before. It is this level of painstaking detail that will leave even the newest of Lotus Notes users with little to no questions about how to accomplish their day-to-day tasks in Notes.

She moves on in Chapter Two to discuss Sametime. From availability status to multi-way chats and chat history, Sametime will hold little mystery after reading this chapter. (Note: the publisher has made chapter two available as a free download.)

Chapter Three is a short but complete overview of the Feeds feature in Notes. Chapter Four discusses Widgets along with multiple examples of how to add widgets from both the IBM Greenhouse and from the web in general.

And then comes Chapter Five, “Mastering Lotus Notes Mail”. This chapter is a must-read for any Notes user. Covered are the very basics of which many users seem to lack a full grasp. Creating and replying to messages, addressing messages, basic formatting, attachments, folders, spell check and more. If taught in a classroom, this is usually a multi-hour course all covered here in amazing detail with plenty of screenshots, all in about 30 pages. This chapter alone could cut down on help desk calls by frustrated users. But it gets better because Chapter Six sticks with this theme by covering slightly more advanced, yet immediately relevant topics such as the follow up feature, stationery, message recall, out of office, junk mail, rules, mail size indicators, archiving, etc. Karen goes to great lengths to point out when features can be affected by administrative policies. For instance, when discussing preferences she alerts the reader when a feature may be locked down or not present if the reader’s administrators have set a policy thus easing the user’s mind if their settings do not look or work exactly the way she is showing them in the book.

Chapter Seven is all about contacts. From adding, importing, exporting, and printing, to the often confusing topic of recent contacts.

Chapter Eight is another meaty chapter, this time covering calendar and scheduling. She begins with a very well placed tour of the calendar and different filtering options, before moving into creating calendar entries, repeating meetings, the options available to the chair, rooms and resources, group calendars, and to dos. It is all covered here and, again, this is another must-read for any end-user.

Chapter Nine explains what Notes applications are and how to work with them in a very general manner including instructions on how to create an application with a template and application security.

Chapter Ten was another surprising entry for me. Focusing on working remotely, I do not recall seeing such a well written, end-user focused discussion on what replication is and why it is important. Also discussed is how to take an application offline, mobile directories, and connection & location documents.

The book is finished in Chapter Eleven with a nice outline of Lotus Symphony and its components.

When all is said and done, the IBM Lotus Notes 8.5 User Guide is a truly amazing book. Never before I seen a user guide for Lotus Notes that covers nearly every aspect of the client in an easy-to-read manner complete with a wide array of screenshots. This is the manual that IBM forgot to give to the end-user. Unlike most technical education books, Karen Hooper somehow manages to squeeze an enormous amount of information into just under 300 pages. This is very important because end-users will not feel daunted by the task of reading it. Ed Brill sums up my feelings about this book best in the forward when he states “you are in possession of a valuable resource – Karen Hoopers IBM Lotus Notes 8.5 User Guide.”

The book is available for purchase now from the following vendors:
Packt Publishing
The Conxsys Bookstore on Amazon

Disclaimer: Packt Publishing provided a free review copy of the e-book for the purpose of this review.

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