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At my work we use Lotus Notes 6.5 for our email, meeting scheduling and instant messaging. I can't stand the horrible UI, buggy meeting scheduling and overall '90s feel when using it and would love to replace it with open-source alternatives.

So far I've been able to setup Thunderbird for email, and I should also be able to configure pidgin to do IM, but I can't find any replacement for the meeting scheduling. I need to be able to receive meeting requests and respond to them.

I've looked around trying to get the Thunderbird plugin Lightning to manage the scheduling, but everything I've read so far requires me to export .ics files from Lotus Notes or otherwise keep Lotus Notes around for day-to-day activities.

I've also looked into using Evolution as the client, but I found even less information for it than I did for Thunderbird.

How can I easily send, receive and respond to Lotus Notes meetings using an open-source alternative?

Alternatively, if there exists a full drop-in replacement to Lotus Notes I would also consider it.

Note: My desktop at work is a Windows XP machine, though I wouldn't be opposed to a solution requiring cygwin at this point.

Edit: I have no power over the server. I only want a compatible client.

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I hate Lotus Notes 6.5! We're stuck with it at work, sadly. –  alex Oct 6 '09 at 14:20
Then join me in finding an alternative! As a developer I can't stand poor-quality software. –  Ben S Oct 6 '09 at 14:23
Given the restrictive nature of our IT department, I'm still searching for a way to enable Cleartype in my code editor :( –  alex Oct 6 '09 at 14:44
Notes 8 is quite a shift in the UI. If your IT dep't makes the shift, you might be able to live with that. Maybe not. My experience is that people have major religious fervor when talking about Notes. (or windows, or linux, or mac os, or photoshop) –  DaveParillo Oct 6 '09 at 15:34
@DaveParillo: I would probably be okay with a newer version. My qualms aren't based on religion. I just feel like I'm using Netscape 4 and am tired of getting messages like: "Notes doesn't understand how your boss wants to schedule this meeting. Would you like to: Fix everything manually or have Notes try to make sense of this simple date change but end up ruining half your calendar and creating multiple versions of this meeting?" –  Ben S Oct 6 '09 at 15:48
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5 Answers

up vote 3 down vote accepted

You could try Notes 8.5 on a 90-day basis and make your IT guys jealous, so they'll move ahead with installing it.


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I wonder if I can uninstall and reinstall every 90 days... –  Ben S Oct 6 '09 at 18:54
Unfortunately, trial versions don't work like that. (But you can spend the first 90 days by trying to find where Lotus has hidden the install date.) –  grawity Oct 7 '09 at 12:08
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Why are you still using Lotus Notes 6.5(0)? Version 8.0 was released 2 years ago. Version 7.0.2 introduced iCal support.

I don't know if 6.5 supports it, but there's a web-access mode. Perhaps you can convince your server admins to enable the feature, then you could use a web browser to access calendaring.

Unfortunately, Enterprise groupware packages like Exchange/Outlook and Domino/Notes see Calendaring as this panacea of awesome (rightly so), and they protect access to the server from just about anything but their own clients. Open Source Software historically has been very poor at accessing the servers for Calendaring functions. Obviously email and contacts are widely supported across a number of third party programs.

Not the answer you're looking for I'm sure, but unless you can convince your organization to upgrade to a newer version, or convince the admins to enable web access, you're stuck with the Notes client bloatware if you want calendaring.


I know the policies in IT organizations can be prohibitive to your productivity, but it's a cost issue. You'll need to build an argument for upgrading Notes to management of the IT staff, show what kind of business value you (and others) might gain by upgrading the system. Groupware is a huge ordeal in large organizations (I'm assuming large, small companies don't use Notes usually), so this will require financial impact benefits that far outweigh the cost of migration and downtime.

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Welcome to corporate hell. –  alex Oct 6 '09 at 15:18
We're still using Lotus Notes 6.5 because that's all IT is supporting. Yes it's ridiculous, yes everyone and their mothers want to update, no it's not going to happen any time soon. –  Ben S Oct 6 '09 at 15:19
+ 1 Most of the answers here are not strictly speaking super helpful, but not sure they warranted a downvote either. Especially, this one - much of what @Ben S is looking for would be made easier by some proactive behavior from Ben's IT dept. It didn't really deserve a downvote. If you can't convince your IT dept to upgrade to help the user base, make your argument based on the security improvements. –  DaveParillo Oct 6 '09 at 16:45
Bug your IT for the upgrade and web access. Don't be surprised if they push back - they are (rightly) scared of trying out new features of a Domino server, but you can't let your organization be hamstrung by IT's fears. Try to make them prove it won't work. WARNING: Various versions of Domino have their own bugs. A version my company had some years ago couldn't use IMAP because when you connected with an IMAP client, it chewed up a full CPU on an the AS/400 it was running on. So IT might not be ABLE to do what you want. Just make sure they've proved it, don't let them just blow you off. –  Michael Kohne Oct 6 '09 at 18:13
We have web access enabled, but it looks even worse than the desktop client and refuses to run correctly in anything but IE6. –  Ben S Oct 6 '09 at 18:51
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We use Lotus Notes in our office (over the last few years upgrading from 6.x to 8.x) and I have used Evolution and Kmail at home (linux). Evolution is a bit more reliable than Kmail, but both have nearly the same functionality as far as email is concerned:

  1. I use IMAP to get mail off the server. I used to use pop.
  2. Never had an issue sending or receiving mail, with either protocol.
  3. I can reply to meeting invites, but I can't invite others to meetings using the Notes calendaring features.
  4. Meetings I've accepted go into my calendar without a hitch & do the usual alerting when they are due.
  5. Email search may actually be better in the linux clients.

I have to agree with @jtimberman - if you can convince your company to move to Notes 8, you'll be happier - uses iCal which is compatible with many open email clients, which will definitely solve your meeting notification problems.

I know Evolution is available for windows, but I have never used it.

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I might give this a try this afternoon. I've used Evolution on my Ubuntu laptop for a while, but I've never used it in Windows either. Do you also have access to the full Lotus contacts list? –  Ben S Oct 6 '09 at 15:34
Ah. good question. No. You can't see names.nsf. You could export names.nsf entries as vcards. If your export supports vcard 3.0, I know you can export the entire address book into a single vcard file, which makes import into evolution alot easier. I would also setup a different category for the notes addresses to make it easy to replace them later. –  DaveParillo Oct 6 '09 at 16:27
Just so that I'm not being misleading: don't confuse 'evolutions works with notes' as 'evolution is notes aware'. Evolution is a snappy email client that plays fairly well with a notes server, but there's a long list of features in Notes Evolution will never perform. The Notes 8 release makes much more use of open standards, so the newer your domino server is, the more success you have using open source solutions to access notes features. –  DaveParillo Oct 6 '09 at 16:34
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I've used spicebird for email/calendar/task (outlook replacement), it worked pretty good but I eventually went back to Outlook only because of it's UI. There was nothing wrong with Spicebird's I just like Outlook's better. I did like it's dashboard features where you could put RSS feeds.


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This won't help - Spicebird/Thunderbird are not capable of communicating with Domino. –  Andrew Ferrier Sep 14 '12 at 17:49
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There are some Groupware solutions out there:

Unfortunately I haven't used any Groupware, so I can't suggest one of them.

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These aren't suitable, none of them tie into a Lotus server. I only want a Lotus-compatible client. –  Ben S Oct 6 '09 at 14:48
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