Escaping the relational database paradigm:
Case management in the High Court of Australia

Lotus Notes

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The decision to develop the system using Notes involved a departure from a traditional relational database architecture. Unlike traditional relational database solutions, emerging groupware2 products such as Notes allow unstructured information (text, sound, pictures, video, etc.) to be embedded in a database, and indexed and manipulated in new ways. Workflow functionality can also be provided, and selected information from the database can be dynamically published directly to the Internet.

Lotus Notes databases consist of any number of documents. These documents, in turn, contain fields which can contain, essentially, any kind of electronic information. A scripting language, LotusScript, allows Notes developers to construct sophisticated mechanisms for processing the information contained in these databases. Document templates, or forms, determine how the information in a document is displayed, allowing information to be hidden for clarity or for security purposes, if required. Views display hierarchical lists of documents to assist the user in traversing a database.

All of the data in the documents that make up a database (including any embedded objects, or attachments, which are part of a field of a document) can be indexed for full text searching purposes.

Notes has the largest installed base of any groupware product, and provides considerable functionality. As well as having the flexibility to process any kind of electronic information, Notes has the ability to access relational and transaction based data stores. It also provides a client/server message system and discussion databases. Tools exist which allow large amounts of data to be replicated between Notes and other database systems. These features allow Notes to act as the central point of access to distributed organizational data, regardless of its source.

Domino is an addition to Notes that brings the functionality of Notes that allows content to be dynamically published to the Internet or to an Intranet. Using Domino, a Notes client on a LAN, or a web browser on the Internet, can securely access the same Notes database.

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