Preconfigured widgets for TripIt online travel service and LinkedIn professional networking are the first offerings in an IBM initiative to give Notes users a plethora of useful desktop widgets.
IBM announced this week a new initiative to develop preconfigured business software widgets for Lotus Notes that interface with a variety of business services. The new widgets allow for single sign-on to Web services such as TripIt, LinkedIn, and eventually many other services and social networking sites.
IBM has been enhancing Notes' ability to integrate widgets since V8.0.1 when it introduced My Widgets as a special user interface that provides access to customized business mashups. The earlier My Widgets leveraged existing resources such as Web sites, Lotus notes databases, Google Gadgets, and various feeds. Power users could also create mashups with the composite application editor (CAE). Another feature users had access to is Live Text, which allows information such as current airline flight data or weather statistics to be displayed when clicking on a single word or phrase.
Notes widgets are small, specialized applications that let users leverage existing services or resources based on recognized Live Text in their Lotus Notes documents. Unlike regular Lotus Notes applications, creating a widget requires no code or script writing of any kind. Notes configuration wizards make it even easier to create widgets to display Notes searches or documents, Google Gadgets, or Web pages.
IBM has now decided that users are more likely to start utilizing widgets sooner, and get more out of their Notes implementation as a whole, if they don't have to learn how to create widgets and composite applications but can just drag and drop the links into their My Widgets desktop interface. The emphasis is toward business users, who IBM believes can save time by clicking on a widget to manage their travel and business networking activities rather than using their browser's favorites button and then having to sign in to the various services with passwords.
"Notes is the first open collaboration software to be able to provide users with desktop direct access by both LinkedIn and TripIt," said Kevin Cavanaugh, vice president, Messaging and Collaboration, IBM Software. "Whatever Lotus customers need, there's a widget for that," he said.
TripIt apparently is becoming a popular online service for travelers of many persuasions. It organizes trip details into a master itinerary, even if your arrangements are booked on different travel sites. It brings up maps, directions, and weather into a master itinerary where you have the option to include trip activities such as dining out in restaurants or attending shows. TripIt makes it easy for travelers to share and collaborate on travel plans so groups can determine how their plans may overlap in order to meet up with their friends and professional contacts.
"I travel all the time and have found TripIt to be a fantastic tool for staying organized with hotel and airline booking," says Adam Brown, director at ISW, an IBM Business Partner based in Australia. Brown notes that with Lotus Notes 8.5's new iCalendar feature, it's easy to add TripIt calendar entries. Lotus Notes 8.5 offers an integrated work space with Web 2.0 customization and an assembly of email, a calendar, instant messaging, office productivity tools, and custom applications combined into one view on a single screen.
LinkedIn is a highly popular online network of 43 million business professionals residing in over 200 countries. By including the new LinkedIn widget on their Notes desktops, users can access one of the world's most popular professional networks from their desktop user interface. Ellen Levy, LinkedIn's Vice President of Corporate Development and Strategy, says, "Now that LinkedIn is an integral part of the professional's daily workflow in Lotus Notes, we anticipate that our users will get even more value from frequent, useful interactions with their professional networks."
Other Notes widgets may be accessed at www.noteswidgets.com, where users will find preconfigured widgets to access such things as currency converters, stock portfolios, a thesaurus, Wikipedia searches, and world clocks. Users who wish to develop their own widgets can access information in IBM's developerWorks technical library and may wish to read "Building Composite Applications and Notes Widgets in IBM's Lotus Notes 8.0.1."
The new travel and social networking widgets from IBM "demonstrate the versatility of Lotus Notes in Web collaboration," says Cavanaugh. Other IBM officials have told us that the Lotus Notes and Domino Wiki is seeing a lot of visitors and contains numerous articles on Lotus Notes widgets.
The bottom line is that if you have Lotus Notes 8.0.1 or later, you should be exploring the benefits of mashups and widgets on your desktop.