Wednesday, 8 June 2011

Getting Started with XPages

So you're a LotusScript developer and want to extend your knowledge to be able to build applications in XPages for Domino 8.5.x. Where do you start ?
There is no point trying to learn something new without a purpose, so find a small project that you will build in XPages. Important: ensure you only pick something simple ! There are quite a few new things to learn, so you don't want to be overwhelmed by complex business logic when you are trying to create your initial kit-bag of resources. Remember back to when you started with LotusScript - it took a while to collect those script libraries of reusable code before you became really productive. It is the same with XPages.
There are some excellent resources (mostly free) made available by the XPages community. Start here:
Here you can download the 8.5.2 designer client (for free). Note the 'Forum' link at the top, where you can ask questions. There are some excellent 'Demos' where you can download real code to examine, and the 'Resources' links provide a wealth of knowledge. An incredible site, don't you think ? I can also recommend David Leedy's Notes-in-9 videos from
Once I had my initial project selected, I enrolled in the View's XPages Bootcamp. This is a three-day, instructor-led seminar delivered by Paul Calhoun & Russ Maher. Being someone who learns best with face-to-face contact, where I can ask questions and write code, this suited me perfectly. They assumed no prior knowledge beyond what a Notes Developer will know. You take your own laptop to do the workshop exercises, so you have a fantastic collection of working code to take home. With a focus on the project I was planning to do, I was able to ask all the right questions to help get me started. This really maximised the value from attending the course, given I had travelled from Australia to Copenhagen. (What a beautiful city in December !)
Timing my first XPages project to go into production in early February enabled me to take any issues to Lotusphere in January. I had plenty !
If you have never been to Lotusphere in Orlando, you need to go. This five-day conference is so good, that I will pay for it myself if my company doesn't send me. One visit to the 'Meet the Developers' lab where you can actually talk to the people who code and test the IBM software stack, provided solutions to all my outstanding XPages issues. The time spent with Marie Kehoe & Paul Hannan justified the cost of the conference. Everything else was a bonus. Meeting with Tim Clark in the Collaborative Solutions Development Lab for some one-on-one discussions about custom controls in XPages was another highlight. There were  more than 20 sessions to attend about XPages, so my knowledge and kit-bag of resources increased considerably. The joy of finding the famous Jeremy Hodge sitting just behind me on the coach to Harry Potter World, for the Lotusphere party, was a fantastic opportunity to learn about memory management in server-side Javascript. (I'll share that with you in my next blog post.) There is no better value training than attending those five days at Lotusphere each January.
A more complex XPages project was built upon the simple workflow application I had used to 'cut my teeth' over the Christmas/New Year period. This went live in May 2011. I will share some of the things I learned during this journey in later blog posts.
I have just purchased and completed the first seven lessons from XPages 101Matt White is an incredibly good instructor, so I can strongly recommend this course. There are currently 54 lessons, with more being added all the time. Because June is 'Learn XPages Month' we receive a 33% discount on a twelve-month subscription to these brilliant resources. Lesson 22 is free, if you want to see for yourself how good this course really is. It contains so many fantastic tips and more code to add to our kit-bags !
In six short months, I now have the confidence that I am as productive with XPages development as I am with LotusScript. It's a wonderful feeling !

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