31 years of Notes

Lotus Notes V1.0

Last Friday, November 27th, HCL Notes had it’s birthday. 31 years ago, a revolutionary piece of software was unleashed upon the world. And what a ride it has been.

The idea for Notes was born in the early 80s, but it wasn’t until 1989 that Lotus Software released the first edition of a program that at the time was known as groupware. Lotus had been very successful with their revolutionary spreadsheet program Lotus 1-2-3 (which Notes supported all the way up to V10), but that success paled in comparison to the success of Notes. For a long time it was the software for most Fortune 100 companies to have. Not to mention for the thousands of corporations all around the world depending on Notes for:

  • Business critical applications for workflow, repositories, customer relations, contacts and anything you can think of, really
  • Document storage
  • Two factor authorisation via an ID file
  • An unsurpassed security model where you can have access control from everything from an entire app down to a single field inside a form in the app
  • NoSQL over a decade before NoSQL was a thing
  • Replication which made it possible to work offline, very important in the days before broadband. Only updates and changes to documents would be replicated
  • Low Code/No Code-applications that made it easy for normal users to set up forms and small apps
  • Mail, Calendar, Scheduling, Contacts, Assignments and To-dos
  • Web sites and web based systems and applications
  • Mobile solutions

And in its 31st year, Notes and Domino (the server Notes applications run on) are more vital than they have been in years. HCL is now making it possible to run a Notes client inside your web browser. And you can easily set up web based solutions and integrate with other systems.

And just think about this: Notes were first when it comes to using twisties (arrows or plus signs) to close and open sections of information:

Twisties in Lotus Notes


Tabs that made it possible to jump between documents, applications and processess without having to close any of them:

Tabs in Lotus Notes


And just look at a typical mobile phone desktop these days:

Android Samsung Galaxy desktop icons


Every icon opens an app. Notes did this already in 1989, and continues to do so today in my V11 client:

HCL Notes V11 workspace


Here is how Notes have looked through the years:


Lotus Notes V1.0

  • Mail and messaging
  • Discussions
  • Built in possibility to create your own applications
  • Formula language
  • Views
  • Forms
  • Name and Adress book
  • Replication


Lotus Notes V2

  • C Applications Programming Interface
  • Column totals in views
  • Tables and paragraph styles
  • Rich text support
  • Additional @functions in formula
  • Address look-up in mail
  • Multiple Name and Address books
  • Return receipt for mails
  • Forwarding documents via mail
  • Larger databases and desktop files


Lotus Notes V3

  • Full-text search
  • Hierarchical names, views, forms and filters
  • Background replication (not just during startup and shutdown!)
  • Selective replication (choose what to replicate and when)
  • Alternate mail capability
  • Common API strategies for cross-platform Notes applications
  • Administration and deployment improvements
  • Support for Machintosh (Apple)
  • A Notes server for Windows


Lotus Notes V4

  • Notes server renamed Domino (from 4.5)
  • LotusScript introduced
  • Framesets with document preview ability
  • Pass-thru servers
  • A new user interface for server administrators
  • Built in Internet integration, including a web browser for web based Notes applications
  • Better replication page
  • Redesigned templates and an integrated environment for easier and rapid development
  • Navigators and action bars
  • Improved search capabilities, including search conditions
  • Restrictions on who could access specific documents
  • HTTP-, proxy and Notes RPC support
  • Swift file introduced (4.5)


Lotus Notes V5

  • IBM purchases Lotus, which continues to operate independently of IBM
  • Internet messaging and directories
  • New Directory Catalog
  • MIME and SMTP support
  • LDAP features
  • Transaction logging
  • ODS introduced
  • Available for Windows NT, Windows 95, Windows 98, OS/2, NetWare and Unix


Lotus Notes V6

  • Users can customize views, and Notes will remember that + sorting, until next time
  • Displaying bookmarks as a grid like the workspace
  • History – making it easier to find a document, view or database you accessed within the last week
  • Reorder tabs by drag and drop
  • Identify and mark languages inside a document
  • Drag and drop files inside Notes and between Notes and your operating system
  • Copy av view as a table
  • Lock a document to prevent replication and save conflicts
  • Dragging and dropping folders
  • Follow up flags
  • Ability to edit an attachment and save the changes back to a document or email
  • Sametime is introduced (from V6.5.1)


Lotus Notes V7

  • Action bar commands available via right click
  • Web Services
  • Long missed improvements of Mail, Calendar, Address book and To-Do
  • Tighter Sametime integration


IBM Lotus Notes V8

  • Official name now is IBM Lotus Notes
  • Eclipse framework is introduced
  • Live Text
  • Widgets
  • RSS
  • Actions
  • Plugins
  • Xpages programming language (from 8.5)
  • Notes Traveler for working with Notes mail on your mobile devices


IBM Notes V9

  • Official product name is now IBM Notes
  • One user graphical interface in client, web and in Connections
  • Tighter integrations with Domino, Connections and Sametime
  • Embedded Experiences
  • Updated user interface
  • Verse, the new webmail, is introduced a few years later
  • Notes browser plugin introduced a few years later


IBM Notes V10

  • Developed by HCL on behalf of IBM
  • New workspace with new tabs and the ability to set workspace background
  • RSS-reader removed
  • Marvel Client Essentials included
  • Application development pack that makes it possible to create Domino web based solutions with Node.js
  • Client thinner and lighter
  • Hugely improved REST API for easier development and integration
  • IBM Domino Mobile Apps introduced


HCL Notes V11

  • HCL buys the entire collaboration platform from IBM
  • Official name of product is now HCL Notes
  • New and improved user design
  • Much lighter and faster client
  • New email, calendar, contacts and To do-templates, with new and improved functionality
  • NOMAD, a mobile application for running Notes applications on mobile devices, without any need for development
  • Notes Browser plugin now called HCL Client Application Access

Phew! And V12 is announced to be out in May 2021. What a ride. Are you with us into the next year?

A huge thank you (and apologies) to Mat Newman, Alan Leopfsky, Carl Tyler, Ray Ozzie and a few others for us shamelessly stealing stuff from them to be able to make this blog posting. 


4 thoughts on “31 years of Notes”

  1. What a great read – thanks for sharing. It always amazes me that the core features i.e. security and replication have hardly changed since day 1 and are still the best in the business!


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