At the beginning of the year I wrote about IBM Lotus Symphony Beta 3, IBM’s closed source OpenOffice-based free office suite. Now the final release, Lotus Symphony 1 is out. I wasn’t impressed last time, but I installed the final release on Ubuntu 8.04 to test it out.

IBM Lotus Symphony 1

Click the download button on the Lotus Symphony website and be prepared to jump through some registration hoops to get to the 288 MB download.

Before starting the installation, you need to install an extra dependency or the installer will fail with the error: Installation requires libstdc++.so.5 to continue. Install the package libstdc++5 before continuing:
sudo apt-get install libstdc++5

IBM still hasn’t fixed the problem from Beta 3 where the installer fails with Compiz enabled. Disable your desktop effects before using the installer.

Open a terminal and change to the directory where you downloaded the file:
cd ~/Desktop

Allow the installer to be executed:
chmod +x IBM_Lotus_Symphony_linux.bin

Run the installer as root:
sudo ./IBM_Lotus_Symphony_linux.bin

The installer is similar to typical application installers on Windows. Just follow the instructions, I let the installer use the default destination directory.

Another issue from Beta 3 that was never fixed is the permissions issue that causes running Lotus Symphony to fail silently even from the terminal. Run this command to fix the problem, replacing username with your current user:
sudo chown -R username ~/.lotus/

You’ll find a launcher for Lotus Symphony under Applications->Office->IBM Lotus Symphony.

The first thing you will notice is Lotus Symphony’s blue and orange interface. IBM put an easy to use custom interface on top of OpenOffice. It does look nice, but it’s very far from looking like a native GTK application. Some native GTK widgets are used, but the side bar and dialogs use unstyled widgets, and the toolbar and tab bar use a custom look. Another annoying interface quirk I noticed was that the menu bar’s contents change when the window is focused and unfocused, for no reason I can see.

Lotus Symphony uses a tabbed interface. Multiple documents, presentations, and spreadsheets can be switched between from one window. A neat feature is the Show Thumbnails button on the tab bar which shows a preview of all open tabs.

Show Thumbnails

Lotus Symphony uses the ODF standard file formats. In my testing I noticed that Lotus Symphony does much better rendering complex diagrams embedded in MS Office documents than OpenOffice 2.4. The font size problems I had with ODT files in the previous Beta seem to have been fixed. File compatibility with MS Office and ODF documents in Lotus Symphony is good.

In the last beta I found that the web browser component crashed when visiting almost any website. It has been downplayed now and is not shown on the home tab anymore. I opened it with the New button, and got this error: Unable to create view: Device is disposed. I don’t know why anyone would want to use this browser so I didn’t bother to fix it.

I’m still not impressed by Lotus Symphony. I found Lotus Symphony to be much slower than OpenOffice on my system. I really like the tabbed and simplified interface, but I’d much rather have a native GTK application. IBM really needs to fix the bugs in their Linux installer, and start providing DEB packages for easier installation.

IBM will have to keep working if they want to keep up with OpenOffice 3.


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