How to make Lotus Notes clients shine!

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Previously we’ve talked about how to set up Parallels 8 to work properly on a Macbook Pro Retina. (You can read all about it over here), this final instalment isn’t targeted at Retina capable devices and thus should benefit everyone.

Now it’s time for some tweaking of the Lotus Notes clients themselves (Designer and Notes both) making them shine! Maybe you need to squint a bit, but the look will at least improve. Mission impossible? I think not! Before this article is over we’ll have a look at how to install an Eclipse plugin to manage themes. This will allow us to manage, share and edit the look of our working environment with ease. We’ll make some additional tweaks to the look and another couple of tips to improve and speed-up Domino Designer. But what are we waiting for? Let’s…

Get Started!

If you’re in a hurry – you can just download this setup file which I’ve handily prepared for your coding pleasure: Lotus Notes – Performance by Infoware

You will manually have to install my favorite font: Inconsolata
(Otherwise stuff will look way weirder then usual.)

You won’t get the theme plugin installed either, but you will get the color theme. Choosing this path I’ll assume you know what you’re doing, so I won’t go into any more details (like how to install the setup file). For the rest of you – Go get a cup of joe, because we’ll be here for a while…

Before we begin, last time around I mentioned a potential issue for Chrome users. It looked like graphical glitches when GPU accelerated CSS3 was involved. It worked fine in Parallels 7 as well as in IE10 and Firefox 15 under Parallels 8. Pretty weird stuff, if anyone were to ask me… But, fortunately, it worked itself out with an upgrade of Parallels. You can read all about the details (and workaround if it ever were to resurface) over here. Ok, on to the fun stuff: You’ve probably heard that Lotus Notes is now partially based on Eclipse? Well, if you haven’t – don’t sweat it. Just take my word for it (or have a look at this snasy Wikipedia article). As of 8.0 Lotus Notes client moved to Eclipse and from 8.5 and onwards we now get to enjoy(?) Eclipse in Domino Designer as well. True to their usual shenanigans, IBM won’t let us play with the all new and shiny: For Domino Designer 8.5.3 we’re stuck with the 3.4.2 version of Eclipse, also known as Eclipse Europe. The latest version, at the time of this writing, is Eclipse 4.2 (Juno). This has implications when using plugins, as we’re about to do.

The things I've seen

When things don’t go as expected

The plugins, that you’re installing in Domino Designer, needs to be compatible with Eclipse3.4.2 or horrible things may happen. You have been warned… If you’re running in a VM then just take a snapshot before trying out any new plugins.

Installing The Plugin

But, first things first! We need to enable the ability in Domino Designer to install plugins. This is the same procedure as you need to perform when you enable Source Control in Domino Designer. If you haven’t used SourceControl yet I highly recommend it, it will literally be a life changer! Your hair will grow back, your wife will look thinner and your kids will actually do what you tell them to! (Don’t know but the wife part, but otherwise it’s all good!) If you didn’t get to go to LotusPhere 2012 then here’s another couple of articles to get you started:

But, back to the matters at hand. To enable installation of plugins in Domino Designer: File / Preferences / Domino Designer – “Enable Eclipse plug-in install”

Enable Eclipse plug-in install

When “Enable Eclipse plug-in install” is enabled you’ll get additional menu options in Domino Designer: File / Application

Now you can manage your plugins here

  1. Click on File / Application / Install.
  2. In the following dialog, select: “Search for new features to install”.
  3. Click “Add Remote Location”
    Name: <Anything You Like> (I really went wild and chose: “Eclipse Color Theme”)
    URL: http://eclipse-color-theme.github.com/update
  4. Click “Finish”
  5. Make sure “Eclipse Color Theme” is checked.
  6. Accept the terms.
  7. Click “Next”.
  8. Click “Finish”.
  9. Select “Install this plug-in”
  10. Sacrifice a goat to the hacker gods and restart the client (The sacrifice is optional, but it can’t hurt)
  11. Done!

If all went as planned you should now be able to find the Eclipse Color Theme plugin in Domino Designer at: File / Preferences / General / Appearance / Color Theme

Eclipse Color Theme plugin in Domino Designer! Woot!

These are just the default themes to choose from. There are, at the time of this writing, 10240 more themes to choose from!
You can find the rest of the themes at http://eclipsecolorthemes.org as well as the plugin we just installed.

Someone might have noticed that this plugin doesn’t support Eclipse 3.4.2, but in my experience everything seem to work fine anyway.

My current favorite is “Zenburn” (bottom of the list). But do have a good look around for yourself, feel free to report back which one(s) you prefer or if you write your own.

Now, one might think that all is good and well. But, unfortunately, there’s still some kinks to work out on our quest to stardom. If you use LotusScript you won’t appreciate this new color scheme below:

Looks rather depressing, doesn’t it?

I don’t want an angry mob of LotusScript coders kicking my door down, screaming for blood! So, let’s fix this – quickly!

Fixing LotusScript

In Domino Designer – File / Preferences / Domino Designer / LotusScript Editor / Fonts and Colors

In the right pane, change:

  • “Normal Text” – Color: rgb(246, 243, 232)
  • “Identifiers”- Color: rgb(246, 243, 232)
  • “Keywords” – Color: rgb(223, 190, 149)
  • “Comments” – Color: rgb(128, 128, 128)
  • “Multi-line Comments” – Color: rgb(128, 128, 128)
  • “Constants” – Color: rgb(165, 194, 77)
  • “Directive” – Bold, Italic, Color: rgb(165, 194, 77)

Changing the font

While we’re at it, take the opportunity to change the hideous Arial font to something nicer. It’s easy! Close your eyes and take a pick! Or use the one I prefer: Inconsolato.

Now isn’t that better?!

But why stop there, we’re on a roll here! Let’s change to the same font for everything in the Lotus Notes clients:

In Domino Designer: File / Preferences / General / Appearance / Colors and Fonts.

– In the filter box, search for “fonts” (without the quotes) and replace everything with your new shiny font. I also took the opportunity to remove anything that’s set to bold, just because…

In Notes Client: File / Preferences / Basic Notes Client Configuration / Default Fonts

– Just set everything to the new font of your choosing.

Again, in Notes Client: File / Preferences / Fonts and Colors / Mail view font

While you’re in the preferences box, you might want to take a peek under: Windows and Themes / Theme and set to “Operating System Theme”.

I counted to no less then 9(!) different fonts for the different parts of the interface, now it’s much more consistent and hopefully a bit easier on the eyes.

If I haven’t bored you to tears just yet, I’ll finish you off with a couple of more tweaks:

Have a look at this excellent article by Nathan T. Freeman
Making Domino Designer work like you want

Also I recommend changing the memory config of Domino Designer with this little utility:
Designer Mem Config

Let’s do a summary, shall we?

We’ve enabled the ability to install Eclipse plugin in Domino Designer and touched briefly on the dangers of using plugins for newer versions of Eclipse than 3.4.2. We installed the Eclipse Color Theme plugin, configured that and made some much-needed adjustments to the LotusScript editor theme. I gave you a couple of links with tips of more tweaks to top it all of.

But that does seem like an awful lot of steps doesn’t it?! You feel like you’ve read all of the above and deserve some kind of reward, right? Sure you do! As I stated in the beginning I’ve saved a file that does all of the above (including Nathans tips and adjusting the memory configuration of Domino Designer) + some small tweaks of my own – thrown in their for good measure. (AutoSave every 15 minutes, “Right double-click closes window”, disable “Check Subscriptions” and disable “Enable Java Applets”

All you need to do is to install the Inconsolata font (or follow the instructions to change the font to something else) and import my settings!

If you followed Nathans advice then, in Domino Designer, you should have a tab that says “Package Explorer”. If you haven’t, then here’s where to find it:

Window / Show Eclipse Views / Package Explorer

  1. Under Package Explorer, where its white space – right-click.
  2. Select “Export”, from the popup menu. (We’ll get to the import, just make a backup copy of your preferences first).
  3. General / Preferences
  4. Export All
  5. Name it and save some place… Safe.

Then, Import / General / Preferences, Import All and select the file you downloaded from: Lotus Notes – Performance by Infoware.

Restart the client and…. Stick a fork in me, I’m Done!

If you believe I’ve missed something essential, please share in the comments below.

As always: follow @jBoive for the latest of the greatest!

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The nitty-gritty of running Domino Designer in Retina mode

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Enough of the ramblings! Jump to the juicy stuff!

I gave a teaser earlier, but now it’s time to get our hands dirty!

I’m running Parallels Desktop 8, earlier version works on a Macbook Pro Retina but you won’t get the full benefit. The reason is that you’re not able to run different resolutions in your VM (Virtual Machine) then what you’re using in OS X. That may, or may not, be an issue, but to me it’s a big drawback. There’s plenty of other reasons to upgrade (30% better performance is just one of them), so if you haven’t already upgraded – now is the time! Or is it..?

I eagerly jumped at the opportunity to snag the latest release of Parallels, but my upgrade path was to be… Well…  Less than stellar… When I initiated the upgrade of Parallels I had a suspended VM. That particular VM was running my entire work environment in Windows 7 64-bit Ultimate. Let’s just say it’s pretty crucial to my day-to-day work.

Now, I know what you’re saying. Of course I SHOULD have done a backup, but no one remembers a coward. Right? (Besides, sleeping is highly overrated..) Anywho! Maybe salivating over the spec from the latest release of Parallels drained my brain from vital fluids, I don’t know! But, to make a long story short: I didn’t make a backup of my precious VM!

Everything went fine with the upgrade, no warnings or anything. The problems began once I fired up my suspended VM once again. It started upgrading Parallel Tools, nothing strange there. Went fine. Rebooted. Windows opened three command prompts:

Parallel Tools - failed upgrade

It just sits there – looking stupid…

And then…. Nothing. No CPU activity, no network traffic, nothing. So, the only thing left to do was to kill Windows and reboot.

Everything appeared fine, at first. But, when I tried starting Domino Designer it seemed to hang. But give it a good five minutes, or so, and it jumped back to life as if nothing ever happened. This wasn’t acceptable, so (after trying just about everything) I filed a support question here with Parallels. To date, nothing good has come of it…

But you’re not here because you like to stay within your comfort zone are you? You love to live on the bleeding edge! Be in the forefront of the action! A pioneer! “One small step for man… ” and all that! Ok, ok! I got a “bit” carried away there for a while. But it’s OK to get excited – we’ve arrived at the…

Details

Eager to get everything working again I thought that this was as good a time as any to install Windows 8, instead of my ageing Windows 7 installation, a teeny-weeny bit to my surprise it went without issues(!). Started feeling cooky (again), but it was too be short-lived. Once my trusty Designer-client was fired up it looked like… Crap!

[Click the image below to view the Retina version. Be aware: it’s big @ 658KB]
Domino Designer 199% DPI

Not the screen real estate you were hoping for

Notes client

The Notes client is’nt much better

Notes admin client

The admin client is unusable

Now this was not was I was expecting after my upgrade. But, fortunately, it’s a rather easy fix:

The Gist

What we need to do first is disable “Optimize Windows for full resolution” under Parallels / Virtual Machine / Configure / Hardware / Video:

Notes admin client

Make sure: “Optimize Windows for full resolution” is disabled

This allows us to manage the DPI settings under our host operating system (Windows 8, in my case) ourselves. Otherwise Parallels forces 199% DPI which doesn’t suit our needs very well… You need to reboot your VM, before the next step. It’s ok, I’ll wait…

… Done? Good! If the text now looks even weirder in your VM, don’t worry! We’re about to fix that.

Windows 8 and Windows 7 are more or less the same. Just open the Control Panel and copy/paste: “Control Panel/Appearance and Personalization/Display” (without the quotes) into the top part of the Control Panel and it will take you where you need to go:

Text Size 145 DPI

145 DPI is a good compromise

Click “Custom sizing options” and I suggest that you set it to 145%. I find it to be a good compromise, but feel free to test different values.

Here’s the instructions for:

As a reward for all your hard work, you should now be greeted by a much happier Lotus Notes client:

[Click the image below to view the Retina version. Be aware: it’s big @ 570KB]
Lotus Notes Designer with proper DPI settings

A happy Lotus Notes Designer client! Who would’ve thought?!

Lotus Notes Admin client with proper DPI

Lotus Notes Admin client can’t handle much higher DPI then 145, rows will overlap

There you have it ladies and gentlemen!

Summary

So, we’ve managed to get manual control over the DPI settings by disabling “Optimize Windows for full resolution” in Parallels and we’ve adjusted the DPI setting to 145% (or there abouts) in our VMs.

Our work environment now starts to look pretty decent! But there’s more! In the next instalment we’ll have a look at some final tweaks to really make Lotus Notes shine (Yeah! I said it!) and how to manage themes to give your coding environment a big productivity boost! (At the very least it will look different)
Also, we’ll iron out some quirks that Parallels may reveal if you’re into Google Chrome.

So stay tuned &| follow me on Twitter for all the latest of the greatest: jBoive

Feel free to hit me back with any comments or questions below!

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How to setup Domino Designer on a Retina screen

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If you are one of the lucky few who has a Macbook Pro Retina in their possession AND you happen to be a Lotus Domino developer, then this article is for you! This will perhaps not appeal to the broadest of audiences, but to the selected few – I hope it will be of value.

There are a surprising number of Domino Developers who choose to run on Mac, myself included. If this is just because we have good taste, or because of something else I leave to you, my beloved readers, to judge. For a Domino Developer there really isn’t much of a benefit, as we still need to run Wintendos since Domino Designer isn’t available on OS X just yet. (From what I hear it won’t be anytime soon either). There are a number of options that are available to you when your forced in to the Windows environment using a Mac: Boot Camp, Parallels Desktop or Vmware Fusion being the most popular.

Personally, I prefer Parallels Desktop 8. I did run with Vmware Fusion 4 for a while, but decided to give Parallels a shot and haven’t looked back! In all fairness: I haven’t tried Vmvare Fusion 5, but to be honest I haven’t found a reason to switch from Parallels. It performs better in general and just feels more complete (comparing previous releases), especially with the new 8 release.

(You can find a comparison here: Comparison of VMware Fusion and Parallels Desktop)

[EDIT: Here’s a current benchmark comparison between Parallels Desktop 8 and VMware Fusion 5: Benchmarking Parallels vs VMware]

Parallels claimed Retina support even with R7 and that was just a bunch of crock, in plain english. But with R8 they have delivered!

Now, finally, we’re getting to the really juicy bits!

Here’s what we’re aiming for: (Click images for the full Retina experience!)

Illustrating Domino Designer in 2880x1800

Yes, it’s HUMONGOUS!

XPages Source

Plenty of space for code!

JavaScript - Source

Yup! JavaScript works as well!

If you haven’t fallen asleep yet, or rushed to the nearest Apple Store – This was just something to wet your appetite. Next time we’ll have a look at how to actually accomplish this, what settings to use and so on. If there’s enough interest I’d might even share my custom dark theme for editing JavaScript and XML!

Follow @jBoive for updates and/or stay tuned!

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