Nov 17

IBM Lotus Symphony

If you find the traditional look and feel of LibreOffice (aka OpenOffice) to be a bit old-fashioned, or perhaps you only use its core word processor, presentation and spreadsheet components and want a more integrated “feel” to the suite? Or even perhaps you’re considering making the move to free/open office suites, but management still want the backing of a major organisation behind the software? Then perhaps it’s worth considering IBM Lotus Symphony.

Symphony is essentially a cut down version of Libre Office, with the usual plugin handling abilities present, as well as the three core modules. However Symphony’s user interface has been greatly customised using Eclipse, and is designed to present all your documents in tabs in a single interface. While this declutters the Windows taskbar, and for those used to suites such as Microsoft Works, simplifies everything a great deal, for the power user this might present a problem.

However for the road warrior who needs to work with Microsoft Office formatted documents, and to work on their own documents, spreadsheets and presentations, Symphony’s integrated approach bears thought. The large gallery of free clip art and document, spreadsheet and presentation templates available on the Symphone website makes the mouth water as well.

The choice between the two offerings is simple – if you need the database, the math module or the drawing module, you’ll need Libre Office. If, however, you simply work on corporate documents (and even export them as PDF, or digitally sign them), and you really feel that you need your main office suite to be underwritten by a major corporation, then you might consider that Symphony is for you. Libre Office, after all, is still in beta, while Symphony is always based on the latest stable release of Open Office. This does mean some of the newer features may not be available – but if you care enough to be running the stable rather than development version of Libre Office, you wouldn’t be getting those functions anyway.

Personally, I keep both installed. Libre Office is incredibly stable, but I like Symphony’s user interface. And with Libre installed, I still get the modules Symphony doesn’t provide. It’s all good. Please note that to download you’ll need to have either an IBM ID (which is free to register), or provide your name, email address and country to download.

Note: we are listing this as freeware because, although based on open source and free software components, the end licence is a proprietary IBM non-warrantable one.

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