A long time ago, in a world of DOS-based computers, a company called Lotus Development Corporation decided to capitalize on the success of its groundbreaking Lotus 1-2-3 spreadsheet application with a new integrated application suite called Symphony. In 1995, IBM purchased Lotus to get control of Notes (which Lotus had recently acquired) in an attempt to recapture its waning client-server business.
In 2006, as IBM continued to build on the success of its Lotus Notes platform, it added a set of productivity tools, based on OpenOffice, for creating documents, spreadsheets, and presentations, to version 8 of Lotus Notes with the goal of making it unnecessary for Lotus Notes users to ever have leave the Notes environment to accomplish other tasks.
In an attempt to build a customer base that could easily transition into its new application-integrated Lotus Notes platform, IBM recently decided to release the productivity tools as a FREE stand-alone application suite called Symphony. Christening the application suite with a lost but memorable name has allowed IBM to quickly gain recognition for its new efforts.
Now, IBM is promoting the Lotus Symphony product as an easy-to-use suite that doesn't contain overly complex functions and features you will never need for most common office tasks. As a result, the Symphony product is quite Spartan when compared to Microsoft Office and its cousin, OpenOffice.
If you're a high-tech office suite kind of person who has mastered Microsoft Office or OpenOffice, chances are good that you'll be disappointed by the lack of bells and whistles in the Lotus Symphony suite apps. On the other hand, if you're the type of person who just wants to produce simple, yet effective documents, using a product that is straightforward and easy to use, you'll more than likely feel right at home with Lotus Symphony.
Keep in mind that Lotus Symphony is listed as being Beta 1. However, since the suite has essentially been extracted from the final version of Lotus Notes 8, it's actually pretty solid. That's not to say that I didn't encounter any snags -- but they were fairly minor.
To help you become more familiar with Lotus Symphony, I'll present a three-part gallery series in which I'll look at each of Lotus Symphony's applications: Documents, Spreadsheets, and Presentations. First up: The Symphony Documents gallery.
You can download the Lotus Symphony suite and try it yourself.