Symphony Up Close

By Jason Brooks  |  Posted 2008-10-03 Print this article Print


Symphony Up Close

In each of its three compo??ínents, Symphony sports a side??íbar for displaying options such as text or paragraph properties. The sidebar helps thin out the sometimes crowded toolbars you find in and places common features closer at hand. What's more, the Symphony side??íbar boasts a measure of context-sensitivity: When I clicked into a text box on a presentation docu??íment, the sidebar offered text property options; when I clicked outside the text box, the sidebar switched to page properties.

IBM's spreadsheet application gets the sidebar treatment as well. For instance, I was able to browse through spreadsheet functions using the sidebar.

In many other parts of the inter??íface, Symphony's graphical elements are identical to those in OpenOffice, such as the Line Numbering dialog box in the Lotus Symphony word processor. However, IBM has situ??íated this and other feature dialogs in a different menu structure. In OpenOffice, this feature lives in Tools-->Line Numbering. In IBM's new suite, the menu structure is an arguably more intuitive Layout-->Numbering-->Line Numbering.

Beyond cosmetic differences, one of the few unique features of Lotus Symphony that I recog??ínized was the word processor's Freehand Table option, which enabled me to rough out a table with my mouse. Another feature of Lotus Symphony that OpenOf??ífice 2.3 appears not to offer is a Thumbnail View of your open documents. Also, there's the tabbed view.

Symphony also sports a built-in Web browser, based on the Mozilla XULRunner project. The embedded browser has fewer features than IE or Firefox, but could prove use??íful for switching back and forth between an active document and a handful of source Web pages, since the pages appear in tabs alongside open documents in Symphony.

Part of the Eclipse-roots of Sym??íphony shows in its help system, which I found easier to use than the one in OOo. For instance, I fired up the symphony help tool and found, at the top left of the window, a search box into which I could type my query. I searched for the word "concatenate," and my search turned up three pages from different parts of the doc??íumentation, including the one regarding spreadsheet formulas that I was looking for.

In, I had to first choose which application I wished to learn about and then click on the find tab before I could type in my query.

Lotus Symphony 1.1 is avail??íable-for free download-in ver??ísions for Windows, Red Hat Enter??íprise Linux 5 and SUSE Linux Enterprise Desktop. There's also a beta version of Symphony 1.1 available for Ubuntu Linux 8.04. I tested Symphony with Windows XP and with Ubuntu 8.04.

There's no OS X version of Symphony at this time-Eclipse is available for the Mac, there's currently no OS X version of Lotus Expeditor framework on which Symphony is based.

eWEEK Labs Executive Editor Jason Brooks can be reached at



As Editor in Chief of eWEEK Labs, Jason Brooks manages the Labs team and is responsible for eWEEK's print edition. Brooks joined eWEEK in 1999, and has covered wireless networking, office productivity suites, mobile devices, Windows, virtualization, and desktops and notebooks. JasonÔÇÖs coverage is currently focused on Linux and Unix operating systems, open-source software and licensing, cloud computing and Software as a Service. Follow Jason on Twitter at jasonbrooks, or reach him by email at

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