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Lotusphere 2005: Domino Designer lead Leland talks about Workplace Designer

Following form: Lotus tool guru Maureen Leland is taking some traits from Domino Designer forward into new Workplace Designer

Lotus's Maureen Leland recently moved over from her job as project leader for the Domino Designer to take a similar role with IBM's new Workplace Designer tool set. In a pre-Lotusphere 2005 conversation, Leland outlined her efforts to bring over the best of Domino Designer's traits to another Designer tool focused solely around the Workplace platform.

News about the new Workplace Designer is one of the most anticipated aspects of this week's Lotusphere in Orlando. Like many in the Notes/Domino community, Leland admits to great affection for the precursor Domino Designer.

In fact, a prime goal of the new development software is, to some extent, to recreate the experience of using the older model.

"Domino Designer is a great tool. Through our experience with it, we learned a lot about our users and how they work," said Leland. The main attribute that Leland and her team hope to bring over to Workplace Designer is ease of use, she said.

With both tools, "form-based development is a key metaphor," said Leland. This is important because Workplace is a Java platform, and some developers may not want to work with raw, command line Java, in order to build applications.

"In software such as WebSphere Studio, you deal with [Java] directly," said Leland, "in Designer, it is more about forms and views. You think visually a little bit more."

"Some developers can write Java, some would rather do simple forms," she said.

Forms will continue to be the operative paradigm going forward with Workplace Designer. That is forms, not wizards, the paradigm that sometimes becomes de rigueur in rapid application development. Wizards are a bane to many developers, including Workplace Designer developer Maureen Leland.

"Wizards are one of my least favorite design constructs," she told

"With forms, if you want a new form, you click and it's there. Sometimes I feel that a wizard – where you have to go through 14 pages to do something – is like giving the third-degree to somebody using it."

"We have some wizards [in Workplace Designer], but we don't want them to get in the way of rapid development. That's my personal UI [user interface] technology view," she said.

"Wizards are one path. If you make the entire UI experience clear, there is less need for wizards. Yes, we do have a UI dialog, but it doesn't go through 14 pages of wizards," she said.

JavaScript is supported in the new tool, but Lotus Script and Java Server Faces support are still to come. At least in part, this is a time to market issue. "We want to be friendly with the tools all around us. We want to make it easy for developers," said Leland, "the script [supported] is JavaScript at this time. We want to ship quickly. It is obviously something we are thinking about."

Regarding Java Server Faces she said the tool team is "working toward that. That is our target."

Is Leland wistful for Domino Designer? Certainly it is a trusted tool for many people in the Lotus community, and at least some of them are concerned about IBM's apparent rush to Workplace.

"I worked on Domino Designer," she said, "It had to be something pretty special for me to work on something new. I think Workplace Designer is something special. Not too many tools make it easy to build an application, and that is our goal. We are going to succeed."

Clearly, Leland is more confident and determined, than wistful.

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