Bob Balaban's Blog


    Bob Balaban


    Is anyone working with/playing with Lotus Component Designer?

    Bob Balaban  June 13 2007 06:36:42 AM
    Greetings, Geeks!

    Today I have a different sort of question for you. It's about a product that Lotus has actually put into the market, called Lotus Component Designer (see here for the Lotus product page on LCD).

    LCD allows you to build software "components" using a design model very similar to the one found in Domino Designer. The objects you work with are things like Pages, Databases, Controls and Schemas. You assemble a "Page" (which is analogous to a Domino Form) by placing controls (ui widgets) onto a canvas, and then by associating data elements from your "schema" to these controls. Sound familiar? It's not terribly different (at a high level) from DomDesigner.

    In it's released version, LCD has only 2 deployment options for your constructed components: LCD packages them into .WAR files and deploys them as portlets, either to a WebSphere Portal Server, or to a Websphere Application Server-CE (the open source version of WAS).

    In the future, however, there is a plan to have LCD also deploy application components to NSF files, for use in Domino.

    My questions for you, my GeekPeeps, are for those of you who may have already experienced (tried out, played around with, done a bit of work using) LCD. Others of you who are not interested in this topic may leave now.

    Ok, anybody left? Lettuce proceed.

    Here's what I want to know -- for those of you with direct experience with LCD (even if it was just a nice demo), please reply with your thoughts:

    1) What do you imagine LCD-built components would do for Domino if you could deploy them to an NSF and have the Domino server launch them?

    2) If, hypothetically, DomDesigner could run in Eclipse, would you want to see a merged, Eclipse-based DomDesigner and LCD?

    3) If the answer to question 2 is "Yes", then what kinds of applications would you build in this merged design tool?

    4) Without getting into listing all the deficiencies of DomDesigner, what do you see as the value that LCD could bring to DomDesigner were they to be merged?

    Thanks, Geeks! Please reply! Your input will be very valuable to us as we continue our planning for the next couple of releases after 8.0!

    1Charles Robinson  06/13/2007 8:34:55 AM  Is anyone working with/playing with Lotus Component Designer?

    Thanks so much for broaching this subject. I had a lengthy discussion about this with the LCD folks at Lotusphere, including he produce manager, Peter (whose last name I always mangle so I won't even try).

    The use case for me using LCD is to quickly and easily deploy a web-based application that integrates both Domino and non-Domino sources. It's as simple as that. LCD provides a drag and drop somewhat close to WYSIWYG interface that can do that.

    So to answer your questions specifically:

    1) It would make me more interested in continuing to do Domino development, mostly because of the difficulty I have had in doing web development in Domino Designer. (I fully realize many people do very good web work in Domino Designer. This is about my own failings.) It would also eliminate the need for WAS (or WAS CE), which would do a lot on the PR front to show a strong commitment to Domino.

    2) ABSOLUTELY! I would love to see it end up something like Visual Studio, where I can use a single IDE to create any number of projects, and combine disparate projects into one package. So let me create a Notes client NSF, link it into an LCD project, and create a servlet all from the same environment.

    3) I'm not sure that they would differ substantially from what I build now, other than they would have a quicker way to get a functional web interface.

    4) It would be a one stop development shop and IBM could focus its marketing efforts on a single tool rather than splitting it up like they do today. LCD is already free to anyone licensed for Domino Designer.

    2Carl Tyler  06/13/2007 9:47:30 AM  Is anyone working with/playing with Lotus Component Designer?

    My initial reaction when I first looked at the product was oh so this is where the Lotus Approach developers ended up.

    What I would like to see LCD do is the following. Build the application so that it runs in Notes and in a web browser and looks identical for both users. Sure there would have to be a lot of clever stuff going on in the background, but if you the product to be a killer app for Domino developers that in my opinion is what it needs to do.

    3Nathan T. Freeman  06/13/2007 11:57:13 AM  Is anyone working with/playing with Lotus Component Designer?

    Actually, doesn't LCD have that sort-of @function to JavaScript translator? That alone would be worth bring in. Imagine having my Input Translation and Validation being converted to client-side Javascript at form save time! That alone would make investment worth it to me!

    4John Head  06/13/2007 1:01:47 PM  Is anyone working with/playing with Lotus Component Designer?

    I really like LCD, more for the experience than the product. While its inital goal of being Workplace Designer is gone, I see a real place for it. Since it is basically RAD DomDesigner for non Notes/Domino apps, it could really be the bridge that allows Domino developers to build eclipse components for the sidebar and composite applications. Yes, I can do this with eclipse. But I should be able to build these components without having to do the big Rational AD or eclipse and learn java. I want to drag and drop and use the LCD formulas and all that.

    I also agree with Charles ... I should have a single development tool where I choose what to build, like VS.NET. MS is going to move all Office development to VS.NET in the next couple years. It makes sense. Just please, do not make it where I can only open one of anything. That is worthless.

    Also, I believe giving Maureen and the other folks on the team a fresh start for LCD allowed them to really revolutionaize in the IDE space. It also let them do things like a checkbox for a required field ... things we need in DomDesigner.

    5Andrew Price  06/13/2007 1:05:19 PM  Is anyone working with/playing with Lotus Component Designer?

    I haven't used LCD :(

    But we certainly would, a lot, if it had the capabilities you mention.

    However, the clock is ticking. Various web rich client solutions are maturing quickly. Having squandered 6 years Lotus needs to move quickly to remain relevant imo. :)

    6Rob McDonagh  06/13/2007 2:56:51 PM  Is anyone working with/playing with Lotus Component Designer?

    I agree with John. Wait, did I really just write that? *grin*

    Seriously, if LCD could generate Sidebar (and Sametime!) components, I'd be thrilled with it. The idea that we have to become eclipse developers to do that sort of thing really isn't appealing.

    LCD in general is a Really Cool Tool. At this point, sans Portal, it's a Really Cool Tool in search of a need, for me. But I like it quite a bit and increasing the deployment targets would be a big win.

    7Nathan T. Freeman  06/13/2007 9:21:05 PM  Is anyone working with/playing with Lotus Component Designer?

    John & Rob's thinking of the idea of LCD as a general portal framework dev tool -- something I can use as a straightforward mechanism to build sidebar apps -- would be staggering.

    If I remember correctly (and I might not) the reason I never got around to playing with LCD was that you had to have a portal to work from to even INSTALL it. So the proposition was: build a Websphere infrastructure so you can audition this dev tool. I almost did it anyway when I needed a good XML schema construction app, and then I realized I had work to do and just installed XMLSpy.

    Now, if I could install LCD and do useful stuff with it against my Domino server, watch me get on board.

    Man... using LCD to build Sidebar apps -- the more I think about that, the more excited I get.

    8Roland Reddekop  06/13/2007 10:37:59 PM  Would LCD be the preferred Lotus choice for Web Development

    Thanks Bob,

    I attended "everything LCD" at the Lotus Developer Conference (The View) last week in Boston (though there was not a whole lot) and was glad to hear you mention that LCD had a future in developing Web Application for Domino. It really seems like that would fill a missing hole. Although I am generally proficient at making Notes Client Apps, making Web Apps in Designer always feels like a bit of a hack (somebody else said this on a previous posting and they took the words right out of my mouth). Its sort of like this is not what Domino Designer is meant for, but if you know what you're doing and you're really really talented, you can pull off a nice application. But the downside is that you have to write your application twice, once for Notes and again for the Web and you will most likely use external tools like TopStyle to do your CSS and Dreamweaver for designing your HTML pages and importing the result into an NSF, so it all feels very disconnected. So what I think you're maybe suggesting is that a merged LCD and Domino Desiger could be a single tool to write for both Web and Rich-Client. The holy grail of course would be to write-once run anywhere, in Notes or Web with full-fidelity...would that even be possible? Probably not without a heavy-weight browser plug-in I suppose. Speaking of plug-ins, I am very attracted by the hype over RIA's (Flash/Flex/Apollo, Silverlight, and now JavaFX). It seems like they could shapeup to be bigtime competition to LCD/Domino especially for Intranets where plugins can be mandated, but time will tell. I just wonder how viable an LCD/Notes development client will be in that world.

    Anyway, enough rambling and speculation, to answer your questions:

    1) LCD-built components deployed to an NSF would help simplify our infrastructure because presumably we'd not need to have both Domino and WAS/Portal server to serve up applications to both web and Notes clients. This would be especially attractive to SMB's (SB in particular) that is both cost and resource constrained.

    2) Its not really hypothetic that DomDesigner could run in Eclipse...IBM's made it clear that any and every client and IDE will be Eclipsed based eventually, and its good to consolidate for many business reasons. If by a "merged, Eclipse-based DomDesigner and LCD" you mean two plug-ins with two different perspectives that's ok, but if you mean that LCD and DomDesigner were to be part of the same perspective, tightly integrated, and we didn't have to constantly think "is this for Notes or for the Web" that would be awesome.

    3) We are on an iSeries for Domino and so is our ERP system so being able to write applications that would complement our RPG written apps, perhaps leveraging the UDB infrastructure would be great. The type of applications I am thinking of would be scorecards/dashboards.

    4) I'll have to leave this question to the more web programming savvy types as I cannot really imagine what and how a merged LCD/DomDesigner would look like. I can only speak about the results I'd like to see which would be to write application in one paradigm and deploying it to Notes or the Web without much disconnect, prefeably with full fidelity and not having to write the same thing twice. If the built-in AJAX wizardry of LCD can make web-programming more Notes-like that would help me be even more productive.

    9Charles Robinson  06/13/2007 10:54:06 PM  Is anyone working with/playing with Lotus Component Designer?

    @6 - John agreed with me so it looks like a day for the improbable to happen. :-) LCD as it exists today is Eclipse, so there's no getting around that learning curve. Unless you meant to do Sidebar apps you have to become an Eclipse RCP programmer and you hope by using LCD you can somehow overcome that complexity.

    @7 - Portal isn't required, you can deploy LCD components to WAS CE (Community Edition). The IBM Application Designer for Medium Business bundles everything you need into one download and configures it all for you: { Link } . OMG, I just realized... that's proof that IBM *can* blackbox WAS!! ;-)

    10Ingo Erdmann  06/14/2007 3:02:21 AM  Is anyone working with/playing with Lotus Component Designer?

    1) I would expect to be able to develop Expeditor based components using LCD. As a result, I would be able to incorporate these components in Notes-based composite applications, in combination with portlets, websites and of course Notes components. They would be available for offline usage. And there would be no need to maintain an additional Portal infrastructure. I would just run the Notes client against a Domino update site.

    2) Sure, it would make very much sense to have an IDE for all of IBMs AppDev tools and share such things as Java editors, object browsers etc.

    3) See 1. I would build composite applications for Notes, including rapid application development for Expeditor, without the need for running Portal.


    - Much more easily developing web applications based on Domino, including AJAX UIs.

    - Sophisticated Notes UIs, combining the UI options of Eclipse-based components with powerful RAD capabilities and the strengths of the flexibility of the Notes data model.

    - Incorporation of custom made JSF components into Notes composite apps to enhance the UI experience and speed up development.

    11Josep Alemany  06/14/2007 6:10:38 AM  Is anyone working with/playing with Lotus Component Designer?

    I try LCD to take a look what IBM is doing.

    The first impresion was good: a new Designer based on Eclipse I though. The Designer is very simple and need some updates...

    But, when I try to import some Lotus Domino forms, it was frustating! I only make test with "simple" forms, I don't want think what could happen with the most complex.

    All these things you said: AJAX, JSF, etc... are fantastic and I want all of them too, of course! but I thing first it must do all Designer do today perfectly!

    If migrate is not as easy as a Kids Game, a lot of people will not make the change.

    At now, after try it, I will not change my Designer for LCD.

    12Andrew Tjecklowsky  06/14/2007 10:00:41 AM  Is anyone working with/playing with Lotus Component Designer?

    I'm off for now.... just wanted to say that I totally agree with all of the above comments :-)

    13Nathan T. Freeman  06/14/2007 4:29:57 PM  Is anyone working with/playing with Lotus Component Designer?

    By the way -- one key thing...

    If IBM wants to charge me extra for working with LCD along with Designer, that won't work for me. As it is, I don't think I should need to pay for Designer, but if I need to pay more to build modern apps on it, that would make me upset.

    14Tony Palmer  06/14/2007 10:50:46 PM  Is anyone working with/playing with Lotus Component Designer?

    I had a play with LCD, and installed the samples and deployed them on a Portal Server. I really like the easy of deployment.

    I didn't like the complexity in patching the portal server to get everything to run.

    However, when I tried to implement a small sample of my own it never quite worked. Lack of time meant that I never got to the bottom of it - maybe training would have helped.

    Having spent a few years working entirely with RAD (and WSAD) and the Portal Toolkit - I'm a big fan of eclipse and somewhat frustrated when using the Domino Designer. Simple things like type-ahead for your own classes would make my life way easier, being able to look through all of the code in an application without resorting to a synopsis would also be good.


    #1 & 3 - no idea what type of apps I would build.

    #2 - yes merge dom designer and eclipse.

    #4 - I think that it would bring a better programming environment - which is overdue.

    I think that Domino Designer started of as design tool (i.e. when LS wasn't included) not as a programming tool - over the years as more languages that the average domino developer needs to build apps the designer client only met them halfway. i.e. you still need to go to a form, goto a button and see whats underneath.

    I still think that the form designer - high level designing needs to be catered for (which eclipse can do). Don't take away the ease of creating a form and functions, but also give us the power to get to all the underlying code.

    And one more thing.

    Deployment to Domino need to be as simple as they are now. I understand why Portal & WAS need to be more complicated. If your application requires those environments that's what you expect.

    However, Domino is sometimes chosen when Portal/WAS are overkill for a solution, and so deployments need to be as easy as File, New Database.

    Oh and I agreed with @13

    15Bob Balaban  06/15/2007 8:50:45 AM  Is anyone working with/playing with Lotus Component Designer?

    Greetings Geeks!

    Thanks very much to all of you who responded. The many detailed and thoughtful replies really help!

    I will be inviting the Lotus Component Designer team to review your comments as well.

    @1 - Interesting! Your "vision" is well aligned with that of many people here in this building.

    We'll see how it unfolds.

    @2 - Ha. No, Lotus Approach was developed in Silly Valley, LCD is homegrown here is Massachusetts.

    @5 - We are doing our best.

    @7 - There's a bundle of LCD with WAS-CE that I found, seems to work well, doesn't require Portal.

    @8 - Writing a design once and having it work well both in Notes and on the Web was definitely part

    of the vision back in V4.x days. We had to more or less give up on it since, but this idea is

    most certainly back on the table now. I can't say that it'll be on customers laptops real soon,

    but we think we're working our way towards it.

    16Pete Janzen  06/15/2007 1:41:16 PM  Is anyone working with/playing with Lotus Component Designer?

    Thanks for the feedback. Some comments from the PM side.

    Bob mentioned that LCD deploys to Portal and WAS CE today. Just want to make it clear that we only provide production support for Portal. We do not provide it for WAS or WAS CE but we are exploring those platforms. You can get the alphaKit that Charles linked to in @9.

    @1 - think "z" as in zebra

    @1 - @13 - LCD is not currently free to anyone with entitlement to Domino Designer, but you should hopefully hear something to this effect in the near future

    @2 - Design once and run on multiple platforms is certainly one of the objectives for LCD. We showed a prototype of this in the Lotusphere keynote with the same app running on Portal, Notes, Expeditor and ST. We realize you would like Domino in that list too.

    There are a number of comments regarding the use of LCD to build plug-ins for the side shelf. This and the ability to have the component run as part of a composite application are two scenarios LCD would want to support. If in the first release, the component could only access on-line services (Web services, RDBMS, NSF) would this be adequate for a first implementation? How would prioritize the ability to use LCD's XML document store (on-line only)?

    17Jeff Gilfelt  06/17/2007 5:53:17 AM  Is anyone working with/playing with Lotus Component Designer?

    What I would like to see is the various developer tools (LCD, Domino Designer etc) be delivered as plugins to the vanilla Eclipse SDK instead of having all these separate installs. That way if you wanted both Portal and Domino features, you would install both plugins. Is that feasible? I thought the whole plugin architecture was one of the big advantages of the Eclipse platform?

    Unfortunately it seems like other vendors are also doing the separate install thing. I am currently doing some Domino based development for BlackBerry MDS, and RIM's BlackBerry MDS Studio is similarly Eclipse based yet a separate install (not to mention Windows only). This means I need to run Domino Designer, Eclipse SDK (for the Domino Java dev) plus MDS Studio. Throw Notes 8 into the mix and I am running THREE separate instances of Eclipse. Its a rather large footprint considering that I am only developing very lightweight mobile applications.

    A really good example of the plugin approach is Genuitec's MyEclipse Enterprise Workbench - { Link } , a superb J2EE development environment that puts many of the features of a certain IBM/Rational product to shame, and a steal at just 50 bucks.

    18Stephan H. Wissel  06/17/2007 8:16:19 AM  Is anyone working with/playing with Lotus Component Designer?

    I played with LCD for a while and I liked it a lot. However I think it should go away. Go away as in: Merge with Domino Designer into an Eclipse based product that allow you to specify the deployment: Domino, WAS, Portal, Client Component. Eventually pricing could be based on the activated deployment options.

    So: keep the functionality, drop the product. Until that merger happens, the product would grow and mature. The ability to deploy as a CLIENT component (side bar or composite application) seems key to the success. There support for offline operation is paramount (but shouldn't Expeditor take care of that?).

    How I would merge Domino Designer & LCD:

    - All JavaScript stuff from LCD

    - LotusScript & @Formula from DD

    - Support for XML Schemata from LCD (but optional) Perserving Domino's ability to add data on the fly is one of the extreme powerful features not to miss

    - Support for other backends from LCD

    - Drop standalone views from DD, make them live in pages like LCD (provide an import/conversion and a well hidden "classic" menu)

    - Allow custom GUI components (prebuild stuff from the standard components) to be used in LCDD

    - Drop RichText as standard format of forms and move to ODF with LCDD extensions (or would our xForms be better?) Of course you could opt for RichText since we are backward compatible

    - 1000 more ideas...

    :-) stw

    19Pete Janzen  06/18/2007 10:26:39 AM  Is anyone working with/playing with Lotus Component Designer?

    @17 - We certainly will be shooting to have LCD and Domino Designer on Eclipse share the same instance of Eclipse.

    @18 - Expeditor provides a synchronization framework but it is up to the developer to write the synch routine.

    20Dan Sickles  06/18/2007 3:39:28 PM  Is anyone working with/playing with Lotus Component Designer?

    @18 - "Perserving Domino's ability to add data on the fly is one of the extreme powerful features not to miss"

    Agreed, but adding data could optionally require changing the schema first. This would at minimum document when/who added the new data. The big question for me is when/where would this be enforced? At design time? By the client at run time? By the database? I think "Support for other backends from LCD" is the hard part but having optional schema support on the NSF would be valuable. It could even help me like auditors! (modulus OPLAs (other peoples legacy apps ;))

    21Arnd Layer  06/20/2007 1:39:41 AM  Is anyone working with/playing with Lotus Component Designer?

    @16, I am not a savvy programmer by any means and only use Domino Designer / LCD as RAD tools. So from this perspective here are my priorities:

    Expeditor (i.e. Expeditor, Notes 8 sidebar, Notes 8 CA companent and Sametime plugin) should definitely be the top priority deployment target. Maybe offer some kind of community edition which only supports Expeditor and WAS-CE as deployment targets.

    There should be another data source in LCD: REST style / feed sources like Lotus Components and Lotus Quickr should be easily (for those like me who work in Domino Designer on the @function level) accessible.

    For the Expeditor deployment target I would very much like to see local storage of XML structures with the option that synching will be added later on.