Monday, May 1, 2000

Makeovers for tired R4 applications


By Jeffrey R. Burrows

One unfortunate side effect of upgrading your Lotus Notes clients to R5 is that, once people get used to the new mail database, document library, TeamRoom, and other revised templates, your old R4 applications will look dated and dowdy by comparison. If you're a browser user, you've probably felt this way for a long time, as you've compared your R4 based Web sites to the competition on the Internet.

Perhaps it wasn't until R5 that you realized how old-fashioned the user interface on R4 was, with pre-Web, pre-Outlook icons and colors that are, like, so mid-nineties. Or maybe the practical, professional nature of Notes appealed to you, but you were always a little embarrassed by the lack of visual polish. Whatever the case, now the problem isn't so much the way Notes looks, as the way your databases look in comparison to the polished standard templates.

"We'll tackle the framesets first, using a five-minute makeover that would make Oprah proud."

Appearance is everything

The good news is that by performing a couple of quick makeovers, you can give your pre-R5 databases the basic R5 look, making them easier on the eye and easier for customers used to the standard templates to operate. The new R5 templates, such as MAIL50.NTF and DISCSW50.NTF, all have a similar basic structure. There are two simple reasons why they look different--framesets and designer actions.

We'll tackle the framesets first, using a five-minute makeover that would make Oprah proud. Updating the actions, on the other hand, involves changing all forms and views, so that will take a little longer. Fortunately, I've got a thirty-minute makeover that will do that trick.

Now keep in mind, these are only cosmetic changes. You can wait until later to worry about how to implement JavaScript, XML, embedded views, framesets, etc.

The five minute makeover

In our five-minute makeover, we'll focus on the look of the frameset. The key change is to implement a new default frameset and to make it the launch option for the database. If you're feeling particularly lazy, just copy one from the existing Notes templates. The names will vary, from MailFS in the Mail template to MasterDiscFrameset in the Discussion template, but the layout and frame content is the same in all of them.

Note, in Figure A, the use of the hidden NotesPreview frame, the border of which can be slid up and down to preserve the document preview functionality of the old fixed R4 frames.