Lotus Symphony is IBM’s new productivity suite based on OpenOffice 1.1.4. It’s not open source (OpenOffice used to be dual licensed), but is free and available on Windows and Linux. I give the Beta 3 release a shot on Ubuntu to see if it had an advantage over my usual combination of Google Docs and OpenOffice 2.3.

Lotus Symphony requires 750 MB of disk space and 512 MB of memory. During my test I never saw it go above Firefox’s memory usage, but it does use significantly more that OpenOffice 2.3. 256 MB of RAM would probably run it just fine.

Before downloading the 275 MB binary installer, IBM wants you to give them a name and email address. The installer will not work if Compiz is running. I downloaded the installer to my desktop and used these commands to switch to the directory, mark the installer as executable, and run it:
cd ~/Desktop
chmod +x IBM_Lotus_Symphony_linux.bin
sudo ./IBM_Lotus_Symphony_linux.bin

Currently, the default install will cause Lotus Symphony to die silently when it is run. Use this command to fix some permissions and solve the problem (replace username with your username):
sudo chown -R username ~/.lotus/

Instead of the using the traditional way of separate windows for each application and document, Lotus Symphony is completely tab-based. There are 4 components: Home (buttons to create new documents and support links), Web Browser, Documents, Presentations, and Spreadsheets.

The interface would be much better than OpenOffice’s except for that the UI widget use a Windows 95 theme. The interface has also been nicely simplified, but many menus and dialogs will still look familiar to OpenOffice users.

Lotus Symphony tabs

The web browser could be useful for opening for opening links from documents, or doing quick research. But loading most websites causes it to crash and display a huge error dialog. Am I the only one with this problem?

The word processing component does everything I need. It opens my OpenDocument files created with OpenOffice correctly, except for the some issues with page margins and fonts sizes being slightly larger.

Lotus Symphony Documents

I don’t create many presentations, but the presentation component seems to be adequate. I do use spreadsheets in OpenOffice for often for creating charts, and Lotus Symphony’s chart wizard is identical.

Lotus Symphony is showing a lot of promise. I like the tabbed interface a lot, as well as the updated look and simplified interface. On the other hand, Lotus Symphony is also slow, buggy, closed source, and uses non-native widgets. The current version is only a beta, so I will give it another go well the next update is released.


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