I need to buy a snow shovel. No, El Nino is not causing a freak snowstorm. I'm just trying to plough a path to my desk through drifts of press kits, books, CD-ROMs and printouts. I seem to remember something about how computers would create a paperless office . . .
Anyway, I found hidden treasure in the rubble today. I stumbled across the Lotus DevPack for eSuite, the development kit for the Java suite formerly known as "Kona" (see esuite.lotus.com for more information). A quick check in the CD-ROM drive revealed that the files only date back to March.
I dug out my old eSuite desktop beta version first. This early release goes all the way back to November 1997. A quick look at its features and performance will give me a reference point to see if Lotus made any progress.
To say the November version of eSuite is as slow as a turtle would be unfair to the turtle.
The DevPack is a jackrabbit by comparison. The word processor has more than enough speed for real work. It also has all the features I need to write my columns, save one glaring omission. There are no shortcut keys to navigate to the next or previous word (traditionally assigned to Ctrl-Right and Ctrl-Left). Either Lotus is neglecting to do basic usability testing or IBM is going back to crippling its low-end products to prevent them from interfering with the sales of its high-end products.
Fortunately, the rest of the programs and samples are very impressive. There's a simple project scheduler that makes good use of the spreadsheet JavaBean. And the InfoBus technology will be a major boon for Java developers.
InfoBus is the conceptual equivalent of dynamic data exchange. It provides real-time communication between multiple JavaBeans. Update data in one Bean, and the change instantly jumps to the other. Lotus uses the typical spreadsheet/chart combination to demonstrate the concept.
As mundane as this one example sounds, it is fascinating to watch JavaBeans mature.
If Beans keep moving in this direction, they'll fulfil the promises of OpenDoc.
Outside of the occasional usability hole, my only other complaint is the POP3/IMAP4 e-mail client that comes with eSuite isn't part of the development kit.
In the meantime, I recommend you check out Innoval's JStreet Mailer if you're interested in a powerful Java-based e-mail client (www.innoval.com).
JStreet has its share of quirks but it has been evolving rapidly, and Innoval updates the product about every two months. In addition, customers get free upgrades for a year.
ICE Mail is another Java mail client that deserves a look. It takes a geek to understand how to install it and set it up, but once it's going, it's a fine client. Check it out at www. ice.com/java/icemail/index.shtml.
You'll have to download the Java Foundation Classes, mail.jar and activation.jar, from java.sun.com to get it working.
How about you? Let me know if you are using or considering using any commercial Java applications, and if so what experiences you're having with them.
Former consultant and programmer, Nicholas Petreley is editor in chief at NC World (www.ncworldmag.com). Reach him at firstname.lastname@example.org, and visit his forum at www.infoworld.com