IBM Lotus released version 8.0.1 of their Lotus Notes and Domino packages last week, and in addition to a myriad of bug fixes, Lotus Notes got a new feature that will be particularly useful: My Widgets.
My Widgets is a sidebar panel in the Lotus Notes Standard client. It’s basically a spot where you will be able to surface information from the following sources: the Google Gadget catalog; Notes views; web pages; and RSS feeds.
In addition, you can wire these widgets to convert common information into what Lotus is calling Live Text.
Live Text is the ability for your Notes client to recognize certain bits of information (addresses, phone numbers, names, web sites) and create a hyperlink out of them that will utilize one of your widgets.
For example, you could set up Yellowpages.com as a widget, and have Live Text recognize phone numbers and convert them to clickable links that will automatically open the business info in Yellowpages.com.
You can have the results show up in a new tab, a sidebar panel, a floating window, or completely new window.
Another thing you can do is set up Notes to allow you to pass items to external websites. For example, you could highlight text, right-click on it and check out what the definition of that text is in Wikipedia.
The first thing you’ll notice after the upgrade to 8.0.1 is that there is no actual My Widgets sidebar by default, you have to turn it on. You can do so in the Preferences:
Click File, Preferences;Choose the Widgets preference panePlace a checkmark next to Show Widget Toolbar and the My Widgets Sidebar panelClick the Apply buttonChoose Live Text preference panePlace a checkmark next to Enable Live Text by default for all opened documentsClick OK
You’ve now turned on the My Widgets sidebar and enabled Notes to look for Live Text from the widgets that support it.
Adding A Google Gadget
The easiest thing for you to add to your sidebar is a Google Gadget. Google has a large library of what they call Gadgets (available at http://www.google.com/ig/directory?synd=open).
A Gadget is simply another word for Widget, or a small application that can do pretty much anything you can think of.
There are gadgets that show you the weather, connect to web cams, report traffic, play games, show sports scores and more.
There are currently over 41 thousand different widgets available, some really useful, and some not-so-much. Here’s how to quickly add a weather gadget:
Open the Notes web browserGo to the Google Gadgets web page at http://www.google.com/ig/directory?synd=openSearch for the gadget you want to use, I chose the Weather Channel gadgetOnce you are on the page for the Weather Channel gadget, click the Configure a Widget from Current Context button on your toolbar. It looks like a little briefcase.
On the Configure a Component from this web site dialog, choose Google GadgetClick Next to read the Terms of ServiceClick Next againChoose Display as a sidebar panelClick Finish
The gadget then shows up as a sidebar panel in Notes and you can edit it and access it in the comfort of your Notes client.
Adding A Feed Widget
One of your options is taking any RSS Feed and making it into its own sidebar widget. RSS is a standard for tracking updates to websites and applications.
Most news sources and blogs have an RSS feed that you can subscribe to, and whenever updates are made to their site, stories can show up in a feed reader.
Notes 8 has a feed reader built-in, but it’s designed to handle subscriptions to multiple feeds in one location.
Using My Widgets, you could subscribe to a single feed and show the results in a sidebar panel. This might be useful if you want users to get a feed of all of the latest news on your intranet.
To add a feed widget, you can do the following:
Open the Notes 8 web browserGo to the page of the feed you want to widget-ize (in this example, we’ll go to the feed for my blog at http://feeds.feedburner.com/Greyhawk68)Once on the page, click the Configure a Widget from Current Context button on your toolbar.
It looks like a little briefcaseOn the Configure a Component from this web site dialog, choose the Feed option
Click NextOn the next page, you can give it a nameClick the Display as a sidebar panel optionClick NextClick Finish
Notes will now add a new sidebar panel with stories from the feed you selected . Single-clicking the story will pop out a reader window, and double-clicking on the story will open up the website in the web browser.
Setting Up Actions For Highlighted Text
In a scenario I outlined above when explaining Live Text, I said we could highlight text and then right-click and choose an action to take.
For my example, I chose looking up a definition of a word on Wikipedia. Let’s show you how that’s done.
First you have to set up a widget that references Wikipedia, and then set up an action that corresponds to the widget.
Open the Notes web browserGo to WikipediaOnce on the page, click the Configure a Widget from Current Context button on your toolbar.
It looks like a little briefcaseOn the Configure a Component from this web site dialog, choose From a form on this web pageClick NextYou will get the Select a form on this page dialog
Click the 1 in the upper window. The lower window will highlight the field in greenClick NextCheckmark both Component settings (search and language)Check the Required box next to language and choose your language from the drop downClick Wire as an action
Click NextUnder Action Name enter Search WikipediaUnder What content do you want to use?
choose Other contentChoose Text Selection as the other contentUnder Content Property make sure it says ContentsUnder Component Property, choose searchUnder Where do users see the results of this action, choose where you want the results to show up, I chose Tab
In short, what I did was tell Notes to fill in the search field on Wikipedia and choose English as my language and submit the form.
So any time I highlight text while within Notes, I can right-click and choose Search Wikipedia and it will give me results based on the words I highlighted.
Accessing Notes Database Views
You can add Notes views to your sidebar as well, but at present there seems to be a serious limitation. Lets say you have an application with Sales Totals by Region.
You might want to always have that information handy in the sidebar. The way you would add it to My Widgets is pretty much the same way you added anything above.
You would go to the view in the Notes database in question, then click the button to make it a widget. The problem is, it adds the whole frameset and the view.
Basically, it takes the lefthand menu AND the view and adds it to the sidebar. Unless you have a really large sidebar, you would have to scroll quite a bit to find the data.
I haven’t been able to find a way not to bring along the list of views or the frameset in question.
This is a nice first attempt, but it will be great if they can allow you to drill-down more in the future.
For example I would love to see you be able to choose a view and then selectively be able to only show entries in the view that match search criteria, or remove column that I find unnecessary.
If someone has a lot of screen real estate and wants to see a lot of data quickly, they could expand the width of the sidebar, but I don’t see that happening often.
Where Is This All Going?
My Widgets is a very nice addition to the Notes client, but it needs a little polish. The Notes view limitation is a big one, and several websites that I tried to set up wouldn’t submit information when attempting Live Text.
The wizard seems like it has problems with DHTML forms as well. The last, and most important part, is that other than simple Google Gadgets or standard web pages, My Widgets isn’t user friendly enough to really allow average users to do the most powerful things. The wizard seems slightly rushed.
It may well be that My Widgets was rushed a tad bit. The very first time we heard about My Widgets was at Lotusphere, and here it is less than a month later.
IBM usually announces things long before they ship, so this turnaround time was a little surprising.
That said, I find the current abilities very useful and it gives me one more reason to stay in the Notes client for everything I do. Check it out and see if you feel the same.
About This Series
This series of articles on intranet solutions with IBM Lotus Notes/Domino and it’s companion products is intended to help readers understand the fundamental methodology and capabilities of the product and how to utilize it to deliver a feature-rich, secure, and functional corporate intranet solution.
It will include implementation strategies, case studies, industry-tested tips and tricks, and, with your input, true value to the administrator or developer who wants to utilize IBM Lotus technologies to deliver winning intranet solutions.
If you have any questions on the series, Lotus Notes/Domino, or if there’s something you’d like to see addressed, visit the Intranet Journal Discussion Forum.