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Understanding Lotus Notes Data

Lotus Notes is an application suite consisting of various components, including email, calendaring, address books, scheduling, databases, programming and more. In contrast to software like Microsoft Office, which separates all of these applications into distinct products, Lotus Notes displays all of these functions on a unified user interface. However, Lotus Notes email works quite differently to the Office email client, Microsoft Outlook. In order to view Lotus Notes emails in Outlook, you would need to convert NSF to PST — NSF being the Notes Storage Format and PST (which stands for Personal Storage Table) being the file format for storing Microsoft Outlook emails.

The Lotus Notes databases

As already mentioned, Lotus Notes is not just an email system, though it could be argued that this is its most well-known feature. Whereas an application like Microsoft Outlook is purely dedicated to email, on Lotus Notes, email is just one of many applications that are possible. Lotus Notes is an application platform. And everything in Notes is a database. For example, users will each have their own unique email databases. At the same time, various groups of users can share application databases. Additionally, databases may hold programming code modules capable of carrying out background, scheduled or on-demand tasks.

Differentiating Lotus Notes and Lotus Domino

In order to understand Lotus Notes, it pays to contrast it to Lotus Domino. Essentially, Lotus Notes is the application software that is installed on your PC; it is the user interface through which users can access their databases. This type of application is commonly referred to as a “client”. Lotus Domino, on the other hand, is the software that the client connects to; this type of program is commonly referred to as a “server”.

For a simpler analogy, think about what happens every time you open a web page. You do this by opening your preferred web browser, such as Internet Explorer or Mozilla Firefox, and connecting to the website. In this scenario, the web browser is the client; it is the application through which you’re accessing the website. The websites you connect to, however, are on servers. The client has to connect to the server to access the website.

Online and offline capabilities

Lotus Notes data has a very cool feature: it can be replicated between servers and, indeed, between server and client, which gives users the ability to access the database even when offline. That is to say, the physical database files may be located at the user’s workstation or on a remote server. When the user opens Lotus Notes, the databases generally each have their own icons; because of this, at the front end, the distinction between local and remote data is irrelevant.

Lotus Notes for developers

Another great benefit of Lotus Notes is that the databases can be customised by Lotus Notes developers. With this in mind, businesses are able to use the Lotus Domino Designer to add additional applications that can be integrated with business functions and workflow. Developers simply embed code throughout the databases, allowing certain organisational actions to be automated.

How is Lotus Notes used?

The most common examples of Notes applications include email, discussion forums, web-based request systems, and document repositories. These days, it is also capable of providing web 2.0 functionality such as blogs, wikis, RSS feeds, and customer relationship management (CRM) capabilities. With so much potential built in, it’s plain to see that Lotus Notes is capable of achieving a great deal. However, with much of the world using Microsoft products, it still may be necessary to convert NSF to PST occasionally.

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