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Complete History of IBM Lotus Notes to HCL Notes

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    Summary: A detailed blog on the complete history of IBM Lotus Notes and its journey from inception to HCL Notes. We have discussed all IBM Lotus Notes versions since its release almost 30 years ago.

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    HCL Notes, formerly known as IBM Notes and Lotus Notes, is a desktop client application used by businesses and organizations for email and calendaring solutions. It requires HCL Domino (formerly IBM Domino and Lotus Domino) server, which provides business collaboration tools to create microblogging websites, share files, instant messaging, voice or video calls/conferencing, discussion groups, business workflow, applications, and document libraries.

    Besides Domino Server, one can also add and configure a non-domino IMAP or POP email account in HCL Notes or IBM Lotus Notes application. To store the mailbox items, such as emails, contacts, appointments, documents, attachments, to-do lists, tasks, etc., HCL Notes or IBM Lotus Notes uses the Notes Storage Facility or NSF database file format.  

    History of IBM Lotus Notes to HCL Notes

    Now HCL Notes, the Lotus Notes was originally developed by Lotus Development Corporation in 1989. IBM acquired Lotus Notes back in 1995 and created a new division of IBM called Lotus Notes Development.

    In early December 2018, IBM announced to sell its Lotus Notes acquisition to an Indian-based firm, HCL, in a $1.8 billion deal. HCL formally acquired the IBM Lotus Notes in July 2019.

    Early Days and Development

    Lotus Notes’ history dates back to the early 1970s. Its development was inspired by PLATO Notes, which DAVID R. Woolley created at the University of Illinois in 1973.

    It was 1984 when Ray Ozzie, who worked on the PLATO system in the 1970s at CERL, made a deal with Mitch Kapor (founder of Lotus Development Corporation), resulting in Iris Associates’ formation to develop the first version of Lotus Notes.

    At that time, Ozzie and Iris Associates controlled the product development while Lotus Notes Corporation headed the sales and marketing. Iris was later acquired in late 1994 by Lotus Notes Corporation after Mitch Kapor saw potential in Ozzie’s work.   

    From then onwards, development on Lotus Notes began.

    IBM Lotus Notes and HCL Notes Release history

    Originally, the Lotus Notes was visioned to include online discussions, emails, contacts, and documents databases. However, there were two challenges faced by the developers.

    Firstly, the networking was slow and rudimentary, making developers position Lotus Notes as Personal Information Manager (PIM). With sharing capabilities.

    Secondly, the operating systems were in their early stages of development. Due to this, developers had to write a lot of system-level code to develop functions, such as databases and nameservers.

    However, as networking evolved and became more capable, Lotus Notes became a groupware offering applications that enhance communication, coordination, and collaboration among employees or users.

    Lotus Notes release completely transformed the way businesses were done earlier and what followed next was history.

    DID YOU KNOW: Even before the first release of Lotus Notes, the head of Price Waterhouse was so impressed with the pre-release demo that he ended up buying 10,000 copies of Lotus Notes? At that time, it was the largest ever sale of a single PC software product.

    Year 1989 – Lotus Notes 1.0 Released

    The first Lotus Notes release was shipped in 1989 and sold over 35,000 copies. The operating system it required was either DOS 3.1 or OS/2.

    lotus notes 1.0
    Image Source – ncug. org

    It provided the following revolutionary features considering it was 1989,

    • Encryption, signing, and authentication via RSA public-key for the secure transmission of documents. It was the first-ever product to use RSA cryptography.
    • Dial-up functionality.
    • Data import/export functionality.
    • Access control.
    • Ability to quickly create users and mailboxes.
    • Ability to send an email, receive return receipts, notifications for new emails, autocorrect misspelled names and words while drafting a message.

    Later in 1990, minor update v1.1 was released with restructured code and portability layers.

    Year 1991 – Lotus Notes 2.0 Released

    Lotus Notes 2.0 was a major release in 1991 focused on scalability. After its initial success, Iris wanted to scale Lotus Notes to support 10,000 users and target large companies besides their initially targeted small and medium businesses. This was an outcome of PCs getting more powerful and handling more users than they could earlier.

    lotus notes 2.0
    Image Source – notesmail .com

    As a result, large organizations started purchasing Lotus Notes throughout the 1990s.

    Year 1993 – Lotus Notes 3.0 Released

    In May 1992, Lotus Notes 3.0 was released with build number 114.3c, indicating the 114th successful Lotus Notes build that took 3 tries to finish the final build.

    More than 500,00 people and 2,000 companies used Lotus Notes by that time. However, the goal of releasing v3.0 was to introduce cross-platform compatibility. It was aimed at a larger market with a reduced price tag. It also featured the first series of rewrites of the database system and was suitable for up to 200 users simultaneously.

    Year 1996 – Lotus Notes 4.0 Released

    Lotus Notes 4.0 was released in January 1996 with a whole new look and a completely redesigned user interface based on user feedback. In addition, the interface was simplified many features, making it easier to use and manage.

    lotus notes 4.0
    Image Source – notesmail .com

    It also integrated many new web technology features after Ray Ozzie saw the importance of the web before it started prevailing. Users could now install an InterNotes Web Publisher add-in to convert a Notes document into an HTML page and display it in a web browser. This element added to the key success of Lotus Notes.

    Later in December 1996, Lotus Notes 4.5 was released with a server renamed Domino, which added improvements, such as native HTTP server, support for POP (POP3) server, SMTP/MIME, calendaring and scheduling, Java support, and mobile corporate directory.

    lotus notes 4.5
    Image Source – notesmail .com

    Year 1999 – Lotus Notes 5.0 Released

    Lotus Notes and Domino 5.0 were released in early 1999, referred to as the 160th build since 1984. It included parts of its architecture dating back to v1.0 and supported clients released for v1.0.

    lotus notes 5.0
    Image Source – notesmail .com

    Lotus Notes 5.0 continued web integration and introduced a freshly designed user interface to adapt browser-type characteristics. It also supported a greater number of Internet protocols.

    The Lotus Notes 5.0 was available for Unix, Netware, Windows NT, Windows 95, Windows 98, and OS/2 platforms.

    Year 2002 – Lotus Notes 6.0 Released

    Lotus Notes 6.0 was released in October 2002 with Lotus Domino 6. At the time, the world was dominated by discussions of faster deployments, increased productivity, and low cost of ownership. The Domino 6 server offered improved scalability and performance to lower the administrative overhead and streamline the maintenances. 

    lotus notes 6.0
    Image Source – notesmail .com

    This was achieved by reusing the code and reducing the development and deployment time. Version 6.0 also improved calendaring and scheduling with new functionalities to help users manage time effectivity and improve collaboration.

    Later in September 2003, version Lotus Notes 6.5 was released, offering integration with other IBM and Lotus Notes technologies, such as IBM Lotus Domino Web Access or iNotes Web Access, IBM Lotus Sametime Instant Messaging, etc.

    Calendaring and scheduling functionalities were further expanded and improved, enabling users to create To-Do items from a mail message by simply dragging and dropping the message from any view.   

    Year 2005 – Lotus Notes 7.0 Released

    Lotus Notes 7.0 and Domino 7.0 were released in August 2005 to continue making the Lotus Notes and Domino easier to deploy, manage, and administer with fewer resources. In addition, IBM WebSphere Portal and IBM DB2 technologies were also integrated with Lotus Notes 7.0.

    lotus notes 7.0
    Image Source – notesmail .com

    The version was made available for Windows, macOS, Linux/x86 (Red Hat & SuSE).

    Year 2007 – Lotus Notes 8.0 Released

    Lotus Notes 8.0 and Domino 8.0 were announced in June 2005 at IBM Lotus Notes Technical forum. Later, it was released in August 2007 with significant improvements and changes over earlier versions. With this release, Lotus Notes became an open-source, java-based platform.

    The build included collaboration and messaging products with a redesigned user interface, new productivity tools, extended support, and new functionalities.

    lotus notes 8.0
    Image Source – notesmail .com

    Version 8.0 was built on IBM Lotus Expeditor, IBM’s universal managed client software (built on Eclipse).

    Later with subsequent minor releases, IBM added support for widgets and Google gadgets, integrated viewers for Microsoft 2007 documents, and several UI performances and stability enhancements.  

    Year 2013 – Lotus Notes 9.0 Released

    Lotus Notes 9.0 was released in March 2013 with updated GUI, improved iNotes integration, IBM Notes Browser plug-in, and embedded application support. Later, minor updates were released containing bug fixes and feature improvements, including support for Windows Server 2016 and ADFS 3.0 in March 2017 with a 9.0.1 FP8 release.

    Year 2018 – Lotus Notes 10.0 Released

    Lotus Notes 10.0 was a major release in October 2018 containing multiple feature improvements, enhancements to the Domino database cluster replication, Domino Query Language (DQL), performance monitoring interface, extension for databases, etc.

    It also included retrieving data through REST API via the HTTP interface. The version also supported CentOS.

    Domino 10.0.1 FP2 (Fix Pack 2), released in May 2019, provided the ability to configure Cross-Origin Resource Sharing (CORS) that allows a web application from another origin to access resources on any Domino web server.

    Year 2019 – Lotus Notes Rebranded to HCL Notes v11.0

    IBM Lotus Notes was rebranded to HCL Notes after HCL acquired IBM Notes and released v11.0 in December 2019 with SwiftFile assistant integration.  It also came with a 128-bit AES option to encrypt the local database.

    Year 2021 – HCL Notes v12.0 Released

    Released in June 2021, HCL Notes 12.0 and HCL Domino 12.0 introduced cloud-native deployment with flexible backup and security options.

    Final Thoughts

    So that’s a brief history of IBM Lotus Notes and HCL Notes. If your organization uses HCL Notes or IBM Lotus Notes and HCL Domino or IBM Domino server for email, calendaring, and collaboration and needs to move to Microsoft Exchange or Office 365, we recommend using an NSF to PST converter tool, such as Stellar Converter for NSF.  The tool can help convert the NSF files to Outlook importable PST format, which you can import to Exchange or Office 365 user profiles via Outlook import/export wizard. You may also export the mail items from NSF files directly to Office 365.

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    About The Author

    Ravi Singh linkdin

    Ravi Singh is a Senior Writer at Stellar®. He is an expert Tech Explainer, IoT enthusiast, and a passionate nerd with over 7 years of experience in technical writing. He writes about Microsoft Exchange, Microsoft 365, Email Migration, Linux, Windows, Mac, DIY Tech, and Smart Home. Ravi spends most of his weekends working with IoT (DIY Smart Home) devices and playing Overwatch. He is also a solo traveler who loves hiking and exploring new trails.

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