Archive Notes Databases With Ease!

By Nigel Cheshire

One of the nicest things about being in this business, and especially having been in it for so long (22 years and counting!) is the customers we work with. We have literally thousands of customers from all over the world, and we put a lot of effort into reaching out and talking to as many of them as we can, as often as we can.

That’s not to constantly bug people about buying more of our stuff. (OK, partially it’s to bug people about buying more of our stuff.) But mostly we just want to engage with people who are working with IBM Notes and Domino applications day in, day out, and understand what we can do to make their lives easier. And nothing is more satisfying to us than hearing a common thread of need from our customers and then building a tool that addresses that need.

As Hannibal from the A-Team would say, I love it when a plan comes together. That’s how I feel about all of our products, but none more so than Teamstudio Export. From our conversations with customers, we heard over and over, that people just wanted a simple way to be able to export their Notes data out to some format that could be stored away, easily and cheaply, for future reference.

The way that comes out of most people’s mouths is that they wish they could just save their Notes databases in CSV format, but preserving rich text and attachments. When you say it quickly, that sounds easy enough, but the more you dig into it, the harder it becomes. Here’s the typical wishlist we hear:

  • Store data as a flat file, preferably text based.

  • Preserve rich text including formatting.

  • Preserve file attachments.

  • Provide the ability to re-import data into some other database format.

  • No ongoing subscriptions or royalty payments just to store the data.

  • Provide read-only access to data for users with high fidelity to the original app.

That last one is a doozy. The desire is to be able to pretty much reproduce the look and feel of the original Notes database in the read-only archive. That might seem odd, given the way some people feel about the late 90s Lotus Notes UI, but it makes sense, when you think about it. There’s no such thing as a field label in Notes data. Field labels only appear in the form layout itself. So in the absence of the form layout (for example with a simple field name/value list), it’s often hard to determine what data you’re looking at.

And so we built Export, which stores your Notes databases in two formats. First, it creates an XML representation of the data. That allows us to create a flat, text-based file structure containing all of the data and design that’s held within a Notes NSF file. Using the XML file as input, we then create an HTML representation of the application. Views are reproduced, giving users an intuitive way of navigating the data.

Once you open up a Notes document, the data is presented as a highly configurable list of field name/value pairs. But (spoiler alert) the soon-to-be released version 3.0 will add a preview feature that reproduces the form layout, including the field labels. Full text search is included to help users locate the data they’re looking for.

The objective is to give admins an easy way to archive Notes data in a format that stores everything in the database with zero recurring costs, and users a way to navigate their applications using only a browser.

From what we can tell, many of those users who told us that’s what they were looking for are now happy. And happy users makes us happy!

To learn more about Teamstudio Export, or ask us any question about any product, click below. We love to chat!