Lotus Notes Tribunal, Exhibit 001-J: “Folder Tree”

Lotus Notes is a crime against humanity. In exhibit 001-I we see evidence that perhaps Notes maliciousness may in fact be the result of psychosis.

Notes loves to mix-metaphors.  It loves it so much that it will often mix them multiple times on the same element.  Consider the folder tree.  This is the most fundamental, most basic navigation tool provided by Notes.  And it gets things horribly wrong.

Note that most items represent a physical metaphor: folders, toolbox, trash can, etc.  Many of these items carry that metaphor forward into the usage of the element.  Click on “Tools” item and the little toolbox opens.  Click on a folder and the folder opens?  Well, most of the time.  Notes confuses and distracts us in this case by only “opening” folders which contain other folders.  Folders that contain only memos are left closed even when clicked.  Why?

Furthermore note that the icon for “Views” represents a windows preferences dialog.  Note also that when selected it opens like a folder  Dialog boxes don’t open like folders in the real world, do they?  However other physical items like the trash can never open.

The only logical excuse for getting something so basic so fundamentally wrong is pure malicious intent or mental illness.

A Depressed Press SeriesPrevious:
Lotus Notes Tribunal, Exhibit 001-I: “Notes Confirming Things that don’t Need Confirmation” 
Lotus Notes Tribunal, Exhibit 001-K: “Notes Takes a Moment to Go Pants-crapping Crazy” 


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  1. Seems consistent to me or maybe it is just a matter of taste …. as usual. As soon as the tree item has an + or – icon on it, its shows as closed or open …. pretty logical to me. Trash can doesn’t have that neither does the last folder you use in your example ……. aka, no open / close icon.

    You are a Troll sir. You use all your time to find the smallest things in whatever you don’t like and you pick on that, even when others can prove you wrong …… that is called trolling.

  2. To quote Jeff Atwood:

    “We’ve all had bad software experiences. However, at one of my jobs, our corporate email client of choice was Lotus Notes. And until you’ve used Lotus Notes, you haven’t truly experienced bad software. It is death by a thousand tiny annoyances — the digital equivalent of being kicked in the groin upon arrival at work every day.”

    Cleary he and I agree, while you and I don’t (and I won’t even you call you names because of it!) So – completely disregarding the ridiculous and self-defeating ad hominem that you end with – I’ll defend my stance:

    The “plus/minus” indicator only works because it does not represent a physical metaphor: the definition is completely determined by the context (Notes). However physical metaphors are different (and because of this have been on the decline for well over a decade). With a physical metaphor (a folder, a notepad, a rolodex, whatever) you’re including the usage expectations of the object in the equation.

    To see what’s in a toolbox you much open it (Notes gets this correct) – but to see what’s inside a folder (or trash can) you must open it as well. Notes gets this wrong. It also forces an “open/close” state on a dialog box – which is just plain silly.

    You did hit on the reason it get’s it wrong: it’s incorrectly tying the icon for the container to the tree state – a state ALREADY indicated by the plus-minus indicator. By tying this virtual metaphor directly (and needlessly) to the physical ones it creates confusion. In other words Notes forces these icons to both represent a container within the hiearchy AND it’s relative location in the hiearchy (the former via expectations of the phyical objects they represent, the latter through the behavior forced on them).

    This position is easy enough to defend: look at any other modern program with a tree view – none of them make this mistake. (All that I’ve found also abandon the dated “plus/minus” iconography for more meaningful directional arrows.) Even Notes itself, in some of the views available in v8.5, replace the ridiculous “Tools” and “Views” icons with just as useless but more appropriate directional indicators.

    I can end with some good news for you however: I won’t be updating this particular column much longer as my enteprise (and it’s 90,000 associates) will finally be abandoning Notes at the end of the year. But until then I must admit that the few articles I’ve posted here barely scratch the surface of the pain Notes has caused me and those I love.

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