on 28 June 2012
You can also see my review and any further comments at [...]
I was recently given a copy of the latest XPage book to review and I have found it a very worthwhile read in many ways but also a bit frustrating.
The book was written by some of the best experts in the XPages community, talented developers that use XPages day in and day out and people who regularly present at the User Groups and Lotusphere. They are also people that are also particularly generous with sharing their knowledge within the community via blogs and wikis. One of the key benefits of the book is that it brings much of this information together into a single concise volume.
The book also marks a turning point in the functionality that my team and I can use in developing XPage Applications. Although I was an early adopter of XPages ( or perhaps because I was ) one of the policies within FoCul has been that we should not get too close to the bleeding edge. The book clearly shows that the Extension Library has come of age and will add real value to XPage projects. The functionality is a game changer for Notes developers - from little things like the value pickers to much bigger things like the mobile controls.
The book is an excellent reference for understanding the various properties associated with each design element and I am sure that we will be reaching for it on a regular basis ( we have already bought extra copies ).
The bit that frustrated me was that from my perspective this is a technical reference book rather than a "Step-by-Step Guide". Over the last 6 months I have become more of a Project Manager and an Architect rather than a full time XPage developer so I may not be representative of the target audience. My learning style is also to reverse engineer examples rather than to work through text books line by line - but I suspect a lot of Notes developers are like that too.
While the book lists many examples they are not available for download - the text typically says to go look in the TeamRoom template for examples of their use. The problem with this is that while the TeamRoom template is a tremendous example of best practice it is also very complicated - you find yourself looking at complex pages and trying to understand Managed Beans as well as things like the Data View that you wanted ( Managed Beans are great by the way and you should take the time to understand them ). I really struggled to find concise examples that I could run and understand before moving onto more complex examples. By way of example try creating a Data View as set out on page 206 - how do you set up the facets or data sources ? An another example was page 171 for the Dynamic View Panel where it suggests creating an XPage and then adding lines 1 through 67 from the listed code in my paper book.
I do think that this is a very valuable book and every XPage developer needs to have easy access to a copy. I would highly recommend it as a reference but concise downloadable examples and an overview of the actual mechanics of how configure the facets would have given it 5/5 rather than 4/5.
While I was posting this review I also noted the previous 2/5 review. If I could just make the following points :
This is a book about a superset of additional functionality within Notes - it is not a beginners book. For XPages you should start with Mastering XPages and for classic Notes ( which is still very much alive and better for simple applications ) you should start with something else - I guess that's a bit tricky as there don't seem to be many recent books - having said that the older books ( Brian Benz ) are still fine for formula language. You could try the free Redbooks from IBM - these are written by practicing developers and are usually very good.
With regard to OneUI many people share your view that it is not their first choice. However, it is a good "corporate" look and feel and it reduces the work you need to do by 50% because it is quicker and automatically compatible with most browsers - focus on the other stuff and change the look and feel when you have mastered the basics of the programming ( you can use themes to do this easily ) - note that there are several out of the box OneUI colour themes - the black one does actually look quite good - I never understood why so many IBM demos use the blue one.
I traditionally have not been a fan of the team room but now that it is mobile enabled I am reassessing that. As pointed out in my review it's not the best thing to use as an example.
As a last point there is a wealth of open source Notes projects at OpenNTF that will really help you. There is also a good IBM run wiki at IBM developer works
Failing all of that pop a question on my blog. Sorry I couldn't add links - Amazon deleted them all
on 9 June 2012
I am not professional programmer, but I love Lotus Notes, have programmed some complex business model applications, and I have started with XPages. IBM invests a lot on their products, has designed some pretty good user interface, make it ultra-powerful, the extension pack is not as intuitive as the XPage basic application, so I thought that this book would provide the logical documentation to all the functions. But of course, it doesn't. Like the supposedly "step by step guide to xpages" published by IBM pressbooks, it follows this structure:
1) During 50 pages, it will tell you "how your life is going to be easy".
2) There is much emphasis on the OneUI layout theme, which is an horrible layout for your application and will make it inflexible to customize, instead of using simple CSS.
3) It immediately forgets about the user-friendly UI.
5) Their main example is the infamous Teamroom, a weird forum only used by programmers, which you would never dare to suggest to your customers.
6) If you are not an expert programmer, just forget about trying to understanding it.
To be sure, you need this book, because there is nothing else available, and as you decide to experiment on some of the controls, you will need some documentation. But IBM Pressbooks once again confirm their elitist view that their products are only to be programmed by ultra-professionals and not the great public... a shame considering what XPages can do even if some limited knowledge.