I’m actually now using a beta of IBM Lotus Notes 8.5.1, but that’s not important. I thought I’d update you on a couple of cool things I’ve done with some of the new (and existing) capabilities.

Firstly, Notes 8.5 has the ability to ‘show-through’ calendars from other sources onto your own personal calendar. This could be another user’s calendar, a calendar from a Teamroom, a calendar from a custom Notes application, a Google calendar, an iCalendar feed, or to-dos from IBM Lotus Activities. This is not only very useful for seeing when my colleagues are busy, but it also creates a great demo. You can create a .ics file in Mozilla Sunbird and then show that on your own calendar… and of course you have control over the appointments so you can get the demo you want.

However, we have got a couple of real-life use cases for this feature. My frolleague Baiju has set up a Notes calendar for tracking visiting Lotus executives – one mouse-click shows when they’re in town and available (or unavailable) for customer visits. The second is my legendary Briefing Agendas application. The raison d’être for this application is being able to deal with changes to agendas and to share them. If you type your agenda out in a word processor, as soon as the start time changes – or someone wants more time, or an agenda item gets canned, or two things need to swap round – you have to manually track through the agenda and make the changes. Probably a few times. The Briefing Agendas application takes care of all this, adjusts times, allows you to swap, delete and add agenda items.

So, we have this application full of agendas, and it has it’s own calendar… but wouldn’t it be great if you could show the agendas from that application into your own calendar? And then double-click on the agenda to open it and see the details (directly from your own personal calendar)? Of course it would be… and it is.

Notes 8.5 calendar

The second cool thing also relates to the Briefing Agendas application. Although I recently gave it a face-lift to make it look more Notes 8-like, it still wasn’t quite there. And then I discovered a DeveloperWorks article by another frolleague, Steve Castledine, and User Interface Designer Margo Ezekiel. The article de-mystifies the process of converting an existing Notes application to take advantage of the Notes 8.x composite application model and to get that Notes 8 look-and-feel. So, following Steve and Margo’s instructions, I gave the Briefing Agendas application a Notes 8-style blue rinse… and after just 15 minutes it came out looking very nice…

Briefing agendas

Steve and Margo have posted another associated article which covers some of the advanced properties and handy tips for controlling Notes 8.x Java views – some good things here to further embellish the application.