The company I work for is owned by a large multinational corporation, and we are one of the few places not using Outlook/Exchange, but Lotus Notes. We have a substantial investment in custom applications written for the Notes platform, and with the deep integration between applications and email, we want to stay on the platform.
However, earlier this year, a threat against Lotus Notes reared it’s ugly head. Executives at my company were sent meeting invitations from Outlook by other executives in other companies in the group. Some executives received the invitatiosn fine, and could accept/decline, while other got just a plain text email or even blank email. I was tasked to research this, and it seems to be an issue on the sending side. If the sender have the recipients address in their Outlook contacts, the invitation is sent in one format (rich text), if the recipient is not found, it is sent as MIME. So the mail with the invitation is sent in different format by Exchange, with different MIME types (text/calendar vs. text/plain).
It is actually easy to replicate the issue. Send a meeting invitation from Outlook to a Notes user not/never listed in the Outllok contacts. It comes across perfectly:
Then add that same address to the Outlook contacts and send another invitation. It comes across as a balnk mail, with only the message disclaimer from Exchange visible:
There is an IBM technote about this, but there is no solution listed. IBM simply suggest contacting Microsoft. There is a workaround, but that involves all Outlook users changing the default outgoing mail format from rich text to plain text, or to edit this on each single contact. I even had a couple of users here (who also had Outlook mail accounts) try that. It worked in some cases, but not always. And this is not going to work, thousands of users (or at least several dozen executives) will not make all those changes just to accomodate a small Lotus Notes shop like us…
I am continuing to look for a solution, but it has to be one that we can implement on the Domino mail server(s) here. I found a suggestion to add TNEFEnableConversion=1 to notes.ini, I am having my administrator implement that right now, so we will see if that helps. But if that does not fix it, or I can’t come up with some way to process the incoming meeting invitations and fix the MIME type, I can see a number of executives working really hard on getting rid of Notes (at least for mail) here. And that will happen soon…
So, anyone got any ideas?
Update 08/07/2014: I found out that TNEFEnableConversion=1 was already enabled on our mail server, and had been for several years. It seems to also be related to winmail.dat being attached to incoming Outlook mail. I have opened a support ticket with IBM as well.
Update 2 08/07/2014: Within a couple of hours I got the following response from IBM regarding my support ticket (PMR 91606,004,000):
The TNEFEnableConversion=1 parameter was created to extract attachments from a winmail.dat file using the conversion process. However, this is only used to extract attachments within emails. This parameter is not intended to extract calendaring information. The TNEF converter detaches the winmail.dat file, scans it looking for object types that indicate there is file attachment data present, and extracts the data as needed.
According to the RFC standards for SMTP calendaring (icalendar), messages must be formatted in MIME and not MS Rich Text. As such, this issue is considered a third party bug by our development team because the
MS Rich Text format generates winmail.dat attachments which do not comply with the RFC standards for calendaring.
At this time, there is no way to address this issue on the Domino side. However, the development is considering in creating an enhancement request not a fix because the issue relies on Exchange/Outlook. The functionality is expected to be in the next release of Domino version 9.0.2.
Meeting invites sent in an HTML or Plain text format work just fine with external applications such as Notes/Domino.
This sounds promising, now it is just a question how long we have to wait, and if the executives are going to want to wait.