I learned this the hard way today when I received a shocking email.

I'm sharing a lesson I learned today in the hope that it might make you more productive and that I might learn something from the comments to this post. From a security/legal perspective, my hope is that this will save future embarrassment/liability as well.

It seems that I had unknowingly sent a private communication to an unintended public email address - in this case, an old mailing list for a KM community. Oops. This was not the first time it has happened to me so I decided to investigate.

I love the shortname feature in Notes because for as long as I can remember I simply type the initials of the person in my company address book and Notes routes the mail to the right person. I've worked this way in Notes for at least 15 years. Example: My wife's name is Kathy and her shortname is "KM". I type "KM" into the address field and the email gets to my wife. (We have similar shortnames for everyone on staff.) It sure beats looking up a name in a directory.

Since upgrading to Notes 8.5x I have noticed that more than once I have sent email to someone only to find that it went to someone else. Here's what I found.

If I type "KM" and press ENTER, Notes will properly resolve it to "Kathy Mack" as it should:

20100415 - eMail Type-Ahead Screen Shot 1.jpg

However, if I type "KM" and happen to press the SPACEBAR before I press ENTER, Lotus Notes will resolve the "KM " as another email address: "KM Cohort..."

20100415 - eMail Type-Ahead Screen Shot 2.jpg

On the surface that would seem obvious. "KM" is different from "KM " no big deal, right? Wrong.

"Kathy Mack" (Short name "KM") is in my address book while "KM Cohort 1" is not in my address book.
It appears that Lotus Notes is applying the smart type-ahead addressing feature to more than just addresses in my address book -- people I want to send email to. Apparently, Notes is also scanning all email addresses of any emails I have sent or received -- which could include people I might not want to send to.

Apparently, Notes is doing some kind of "intelligent" examination of my email addresses in order to "help" me. Well in this case, it didn't.

In fact, as a result of this feature, it is now easier than ever to send an email to someone you didn't intend to. Surely there must be a way to change this, I thought. I only want type ahead to look at my contacts - at least then, I only risk sending an email to someone I know.

I checked the mail preferences. Nothing. I checked the mail tab in my location document - this is where I would expect to see a setting to allow me to turn off the type-ahead feature altogether. No luck. It appears that all I can do is choose between "Activate recipient name type-ahead" "On each Character" or "On Delimiter". There is no way that I can find to disable type-ahead.

20100415 - eMail Type-Ahead Screen Shot 3.jpg

This concerns me. While the new type-ahead capability to scan for any email addresses known to me -- not just those in my address book -- can be productive, I can never be sure that I haven't accidentally sent an email off to an unintended recipient.

It would be helpful if Notes would let me know when an email address is derived from one of my emails instead of my address book - what if, for example, Notes would show the address in a different color to indicate whether it came from my personal address book or if it was derived from an email I have sent or received?

In any case, moral of this story (for me, for now) is to be very careful when using the type-ahead addressing feature!

Am I missing something?

If anyone has supporting information that would better help me understand this feature and perhaps allow me to disable it, that would be great.

Discussion/Comments (6):

t slo (): 4/15/2010 7:30:58 PM
Caution! Notes 8.5x makes it easier than ever to send email to someone you didn’t intend to...

This might answer all of your questions about the feature. We disabled it within days of the upgrade.

{ Link }

Eric Mack (www.ica.com): 4/15/2010 8:10:30 PM
Wow! That was a fast response. Thanks!

Thanks for that link. It looks like there a multiple steps to follow to rid yourself of bad or unwanted contacts in the recent contacts part of the address book. This FAQ is a gem. Thanks for sharing!

Keith Collyer (): 4/16/2010 5:14:57 AM
Caution! Notes 8/8.5x makes it easier than ever to send email to someone you didn’t intend to...

I'm sure that functionality has been in since 8.0, but I could be wrong. I occasionally go through Recent Contacts and delete stuff. What I would like is for what Recent Contacts captures to be configurable, for example, only capture people in the To: box, not any address. At the moment, the only configuration item is "number of recent contacts", but I have no idea what this does, it certainly doesn't trim the list, nor does it reduce the number in the pop-up.

I tried the idea of disabling completion and it was too painful. I had to type practically all my wife's name, not just the first three characters. (Lazy, or what! But that's what it should be for. And the list still included people not in my address book, so I have no idea where they came from)

Eric Mack (www.ica.com): 4/16/2010 8:23:37 AM
re: Caution! Notes 8/8.5x makes it easier than ever to send email to someone you didn’t intend to...

I deleted all of my recent contacts according to the technote but the problem now manifests in a different way. I am now watching every email I send out and I'm finding that a lot of my email has gone to the wrong people -- no wonder people haven't responded to my emails. I'm taking screen shots and will post.

Don M (): 4/16/2010 1:04:59 PM
Caution! Notes 8/8.5x makes it easier than ever to send email to someone you didn’t intend to...

Likewise, I've been advising my customers to disable the Recent Contacts... In fact, just got a call today where the company's president was upset because had sent emails to the wrong people. What a pain!

Eric Mack (www.ica.com): 4/16/2010 1:07:32 PM
re: Caution! Notes 8/8.5x makes it easier than ever to send email to someone you didn’t intend to...

At a minimum, I think this feature should be OFF by default, until someone that understands the security and legal risks can determine if it is an appropriate use of technology. Don;t get me wrong - I LIKE this feature and I find it PRODUCTIVE (which is why I bloged about it) but now I have second thoughts about whether I can trust it.

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