The office suite is the meat and potatoes of most businesses. From correspondence, to spreadsheets, to presentations, nearly all offices rely on the tools that comprise the office suite. And there are a handful of outstanding candidates in this category. But to this day Microsoft Office and OpenOffice are the kings of the office suite hill. However, a new player has entered that is not new to the game, but may be new to you. IBM's Lotus Symphony is a free alternative to Microsoft Office that contains the three most important tools an office suite has to offer: Word processor, spreadsheet, and presentation.
- Supported Windows platforms: Windows XP, Windows Vista
- Supported Linux platforms: SLED 10, RHEL 5, Ubuntu
- Supported Mac platforms: Intel processor-based Macs with Mac OS X 10.5
- Hard drive memory: At least 750MB of free disk space on Linux, at least 540MB on Mac OS, and at least 540MB on Windows
- RAM memory: At least 512MB
- Note: Windows installer does not support AMD64 CPU with XP/Vista 64 bit platforms installed
- Cost: Free
- Additional vendor information
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Who's it for?
Symphony is for any business looking for an office suite, but operating without the IT-budget for Microsoft Office or the need for the extra features of OpenOffice.
What problem does it solve?
Lotus Symphony enables the small business, running on a tight budget, to have a streamlined, reliable office suite. And since Symphony supports both the Open Document Format and Microsoft Office formats, you will not have a problem sharing documents with other businesses.
- Single "desktop" interface where all components are accessed
- Macro support
- Context-sensitive menus
- Adobe PDF conversion
- Track changes
- Extendable via plugins
- Support for 28 different languages
- Works seamlessly with other tools in the Eclipse Framework
Some will find the inclusion of only three tools in the Symphony suite of applications a major drawback. When you can get OpenOffice for the same price (Free) which also includes a database application, a simple drawing application, and more, why turn to a pared down suite of tools?
Another issue is the font rendering in Linux isn't the best. In fact, the font rendering in Symphony on Linux looks more like what OpenOffice did in the '90s. Add some font smoothing into the mix and the interface would look quite a bit better.
Bottom line for business
If you or your business is looking for a simple, cost-effective solution for an office suite, then Lotus Symphony might be just the ticket. If, however, you are looking for a Swiss Army Knife-like suite of tools, look the other way. Lotus Symphony would be an outstanding solution for any business looking to cover only the basics: Word processing, spreadsheet, and presentations. Beyond that, you best look towards OpenOffice or Microsoft Office (depending upon where your budget wants to take you).
Have you encountered or used the Lotus Symphony office suite? If so, what do you think? Rate your experience and compare the results to what other TechRepublic members think. Give your own personal review in the TechRepublic Community Forums or let us know if you think we left anything out in our review.
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Jack Wallen is an award-winning writer for TechRepublic and Linux.com. He’s an avid promoter of open source and the voice of The Android Expert. For more news about Jack Wallen, visit his website getjackd.net.