Thursday, June 25, 2009
Chandler and Lotus Notes
I had a few spare minutes today, so I installed Chandler on my PC at work. No major problems with the install, or with creating an account on Chandler Hub. I played around with it a bit, and so far, I like it. It's reasonably fast to load and use. Since it's a cross-platform app written in Python, I was concerned that it would be slow, and maybe have some user interface quirks. Not that a cross-platform Python app *can't* be fast and have a good UI, but a lot of the time, that's not the case.

The e-mail integration, as I mentioned in my post yesterday, is a little weird. Chandler uses IMAP to create three folders in your mail file, Chandler Events, Chandler Messages, and Chandler Starred. When you drop messages in these folders, they appear in Chandler. That part seemed to work OK with my Lotus Notes mailbox.

Chandler can also send e-mail. That, I thought, would be straightforward. It's just attaching to an SMTP server. I have plenty of apps that use my Domino server to send SMTP mail, so I didn't expect any difficulty there. I didn't have any problems just connecting to the server. However, I've found that the e-mails sent from Chandler don't render correctly in Notes. A bunch of XML, which is probably supposed to be hidden, shows up in the message. I did some testing, and the e-mails from Chandler look fine in GMail, and in Apple's They look like a mess in Notes though. Oh, and I tried Notes 7, 8, and 8.5 clients, and it's the same either way. I did find, though, that the e-mails in Notes look fine when I'm accessing my mailbox from my iPod or BlackBerry.

When things go wrong with e-mail rendering in Notes, it can be hard to figure out where things went wrong. First, the Domino server may screw something up before it gets to your mail file. If it's not that, then it might be something related to your mail file template, or to the Notes client software. Since this problem occurs in Notes 7, 8, and 8.5, I'm guessing it's not a simple client quirk. It could be something in my mail file template. That's still on version 7, and I can't really change that without upgrading my Domino server.

So, bottom line, if I can't get the outgoing e-mail to look OK in Notes, Chandler is going to be mostly useless for me. If I can get that working, then it's promising.

Oh, and one other interesting thing about Chandler. There's a book called "Dreaming in Code" about the initial development process on Chandler. This book is frequently compared to Tracy Kidder's Soul of a New Machine, which is a great book about the development of a minicomputer back in the 70's. Chandler's development process, apparently, was a bit rocky. At the time the book was written, the program had been in development for several years, and hadn't produced a workable 1.0 release yet. I think that the author's original intention was to document the development of a revolutionary open source app that would really be a killer app that would compete with Outlook and maybe Lotus Notes. In the end, he wound up with a book documenting a lot of things that could go wrong with a development project, which is maybe an even more interesting book than he would have gotten if the project had gone well. (I haven't actually read this book yet, so I'm generalizing from the reviews I've read. I do want to pick up the book and read it at some point.)

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