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Lotus Symphony - the new kid in free office suites

review from ClifNotes, Sep 2007, permalink Office Suite


Need a free office suite?


First came Open Office ...

Then last month Star Office arrived ...

Now here's Lotus Symphony ...


Is Microsoft starting to get worried yet? They should, because we have a choice. We don't have to use MS Word, Excel, or Power Point.


The question this week: Is the new beta version of Lotus Symphony any good? Just two days after IBM announced their free offering of Lotus Symphony, I went to their website and gave it a try.


How to get it?

I was very aggravated only a few minutes after arriving at the Lotus Symphony site. They make you jump through hoops to try out this software. I had to give up my email addy, name, street address, and phone number. Not only that, but if you aren't careful, they'll make sure to send you plenty of emails about their software. Pay very close attention to any check boxes they have in the forms you fill out there.


Based on that, I'd have to classify it as RegisterWare, instead of FreeWare.


How to install it?

I was disappointed once again. I expected to download a nicely done installer. What I found instead was a 133mb self-extracting zipped executable which dumped several files onto my nice clean desktop. If I had executed it in a crowded folder, I'd have had a tough time figuring out what had happened.


Once the exe file extracts itself, you have to run a setup file and the real installation finally begins. The installation does take several minutes and you end up with about 315 more megabytes of program files when you are done. I've seen some reports already that many people have had problems even getting the install to work.


When the install finishes, it also dumps three shortcuts onto your desktop and one last gift. It loads an auto-starting process called SODCPreload. The preload process is designed to give Lotus Symphony apps a leg up when they are launched. If it's not running, the applications take forever to launch. If you plan on using this suite, I recommend letting the preloader run.


It's beta, but I still expect better than this.


Easy to use?

Yes! I actually like the applications. You get three of them called Lotus Symphony Documents, Lotus Symphony Spreadsheets, and Lotus Symphony Presentations, which are the equivalent of MS Word, MS Excel, and MS Power Point.


I was immediately able to open up existing documents that I had created with Microsoft and Open Office. Don't be surprised if you find that Lotus Symphony doesn't support all of the bells and whistles that MS Office does. You'll get a warning every time you open up a Microsoft file which tells you that it may not work quite right.


I tried all three apps and had no problems at all. The application interfaces remind me how simple MS applications used to be a few years ago.


Once the suite was running, I noticed that a portion of Lotus Symphony opens up two listening ports to the internet. They could be blocked by a good two-way firewall, but I don't like unexplained connections to the net. Why does an office suite need an internet connection?



I like the applications and I would recommend this suite if it wasn't for the few problems I've reported. For now, I'll tell you to wait and see.





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Quote from the website

There are three core applications that make up the Lotus Symphony tools: Lotus Symphony Documents, Lotus Symphony Spreadsheets and Lotus Symphony Presentations. These intuitive software tools, which support Windows and Linux desktops, are designed to handle the majority of office productivity tasks that workers typically perform. Lotus Symphony supports multiple file formats including Microsoft Office and Open Document Format (ODF), and also can output content in PDF format.