IBM Lotus Symphony

On Friday we mentioned that IBM has come out with a new office suite to compete with Microsoft Office.  Since that post, we’ve had a chance to download and test the new product.  To repeat Friday’s disclaimer, We aren’t endorsing Lotus Symphony.  This post is for you information only.  We’re not professional testers.  We downloaded the software and created some samples.

Having said that, here’s what we found.  Symphony lacks some of the features of Microsoft Office.  It also uses an interface that is somewhat different than we’re used to.  The changes aren’t substantial, but they would require a long-time Office user to relearn some things.  Sometimes change is good.  Sometimes changes are made to avoid violating others’ intellectual property rights.

Documents, spreadsheets, and presentations can be saved in Lotus’ format, or in Microsoft format, making them usable in Word, Excel, or PowerPoint.  When you save a file from Symphony to one of the Microsoft formats there is a warning (which you can turn off) that some formatting might be lost.  We did lose some formatting in our spreadsheet test, but the document that we saved retained all the formatting that we had applied.

On the official MYOB PC, Symphony seems sluggish.  So much so, in fact, that we would have a hard time making the switch from MS Office.  Of course, the IBM suite has one big advantage over Microsoft.  It’s free.  Compared to the $200.00 or so street price for Office, that’s a nice savings.  On the other hand, for regular business use, speed and familiarity are probably more important than cost savings.

While we wouldn’t recommend switching to the new software, it would be worth considering for a home machine, especially one that doesn’t get heavy use.  You could create a document or spreadsheet at home and open it on a machine equipped with Office later.

It doesn’t look like Microsoft has a lot to worry about from the new competition, at least not yet.  But for a first effort, Symphony isn’t bad and has the potential to be a big player in future editions.

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