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
  • TechRepublic Photo Gallery

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.

Standout Features

  • 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

What’s wrong?

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.

Competitive Products:

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).

User rating

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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Symphony “Desktop”

The Lotus Symphony “desktop” allows for quick access to all available tools.

Properties window

If you prefer a floating properties window, you can simply detach the window away from the sidebar by clicking the upper left handle.

Revision tools

If you need to collaborate on a document you can check out the revision tools from within the Edit menu.

Presentation templates

From the New > From Template menu you can select one of the many Presentation templates available.

Create envelopes

Need to create envelopes? Symphony has you covered in that area as well.

Data analysis

The Symphony Data Pilot is the same tool as the Excel Pivot table. Here you can analyze large amounts of data.