Ben Langhinrichs

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Foolish inconsistency

Mon 1 Dec 2003, 01:00 PM

by Ben Langhinrichs
Notes/Web Coexistence Tip #4

A foolish consistency is the hobgoblin of little minds.
- Ralph Waldo Emerson

Ahh, but when is a foolish inconsistency the hobgoblin of disgruntled minds?  That is the question.  

A customer was using our Send It! sample (sending MIME mail using Midas), and raised the question about why the doclink symbols don't look the same when sent through the mail.  He is using our new feature (only available in an interim release at the moment) to send doclinks using the original doclink symbols, or so I thought.  He tried all the different types of links, doclinks, view links, db links and even anchor links, and they all looked different.  

I realized that I accidentally used the web versions of these symbols rather than the Notes versions.  That's right, the symbols used on the web do not match those used in Notes.  In fact, the symbols used on the web are not even the same between R5 and ND 6.  I have not had a chance to check out R4.6 or ND6.5, but they may well be different there as well.  (Go ahead, post if you know)

Anyway, here are the different sets of symbols:
Notes symbols 
View link:
DB link:
Anchor link:

ND6 symbols 
View link:
DB link:
Anchor link:

R5 symbols 
View link:
DB link:
Anchor link:

So, why are these different?  Do the symbols look so much better?  Certainly not the doclink, and what the heck is that ND6 db link?  I like the other ND6 choices, but if they were chosen, why not change the Notes symbols?  You can't say that it was important not to change, as that would certainly apply to the web as well.  I highly doubt that it would change the code much to replace these, yet the Notes symbols have stayed the same.

I guess we won't know the answer, but for the moment, I am going to have Midas (and our new COEX! Mail and COEX! Web when they are released) use the Notes standards.  It will make the customer happy, and it will make me feel a bit (foolishly?) consistent.

Coexistence Tip
As for the tip, simply copy the four GIF files in the first table into the /domino/icons directory under your data directory and magically your web documents that use links will look a bit more like your Notes documents.  Seems like a small thing, but real coexistence is partly a matter of lots of little things adding up.

Note: Thanks to Mark Ramos of Granite Software (the spamJam and ZMerge people) who created these GIF files for me.

Copyright © 2003 Genii Software Ltd.

What has been said:

77.1. reader
(12/01/2003 03:14 PM)

1.good idea but your images are not transparet, what if my background is yellow?

2. why don't you do something with this "No document Found"?

77.2. Stan Rogers
(12/01/2003 03:59 PM)

Reply to "reader"

1. Are you really incapable of setting a pallette transparency all by yourself?

2. "No Documents Found" may not meet your personal aesthetic standard, but it speaks the truth without requiring any further coding. The alternative (hiding unclassed H2 elements and writing a twelve-page apology for not having arranged for comments prior to posting) may be worth the trouble for a "What's New" list, but we (Ben's loyal readers) are aware of the technology behind this site and are well aware of what the message means.

Real comment:

Personally, I prefer the ND6 link icons. Well, except for the doclink. The cylinder is a standard representation for a database in process model diagrams, so it probably makes more sense to more people than the book does. Still, there is a lot to be said for consistency. Not, in this case, consistency across versions (we all need to learn and grow from time to time) but across clients in the same version. A person should not need to adjust when going from client to "native" browser.

77.3. Joe Litton
(12/01/2003 09:13 PM)

LOL ...Stan, I was just thinking, "Hmm...I like the ND6 icons, especially the doclink...but I think the db link was better before". Just shows that different folks see things differently :-)

My thought is that geeks immediately recognize the standard database symbol. But the the REAL folks who need to understand the symbols are the end users, and they should not have to know geek symbols. My guess is that IBM is thining about the upcoming option to use DB2 as a Notes data store, and the standard db flowchart icon seems appropriate. But I think the image of a book offers a better analog to a database from the end-user's perspective. I agree completely that the symbols should be the same across clients within a version. As you allude, there are many companies (my employer included) with an increasing mix of Notes client apps and Domino apps accessed from the browser -- and more and more we link back and forth from one to another. As ND6.5 use increases and new versions come on, the distinction between clients will continue to dim, and the different icons is only confusing to the user.

77.4. Ben Langhinrichs
(12/01/2003 11:47 PM)

Reader: You are correct about the transparency. I'll try to get a set with transparency on and replace those that are here.

Stan: I understand where the ND6 dblink symbol came from, but I think it is unclear to users.

Joe: Any idea whether ND6.5 changed the icons again? I don't have a 6.5 client here at the moment. Anyway, they should be consistent.

77.5. Joe Litton
(12/02/2003 12:03 PM)

Ben, I'm afraid I haven't installed 6.5 yet ....but we've got it at work so I should get to that pretty soon (hopefully this week) and I'll let ya know if no one elses posts about the icons sooner.