Symphony 3.0 in the Lab

By Jason Brooks  |  Posted 2010-11-04 Print this article Print


Symphony 3.0 in the Lab

I tested Lotus Symphony 3.0 on my production notebook running the 32-bit version of Ubuntu 10.10. I worked with a handful of different documents (including this review), spreadsheets, and presentation files stored in OpenDocument, OfficeOpen XML, as well as in Microsoft's older binary Office formats, and, as I expected, the experience was rather similar to running

The biggest difference between Symphony and is in the former application's tabbed interface. By default, all documents, spreadsheets and presentations open in a single window with a tab bar running across the top. I could right-click on any of the tabs to open a document in a new window. Also by default, Symphony opens Web links in an embedded browser, although I change this setting to open links in my external browser instead.

Also, Symphony makes wider use of sidebars than does the application's word processor component. For instance, typical text formatting options live in a sidebar, as do tools for applying styles. In the spreadsheet component, elements such as Symphony's formula and DataPilot tools sit in sidebar panels, where it's easier to tweak settings and selected data elements.

Symphony's sidebars also house add-ons and widgets for the application. I downloaded simple calculator and notepad add-ons, and I could add Google Gadgets-such as a Twitter or Google Tasks applet-to my sidebar. Symphony's sidebar can also display RSS feeds or arbitrary Web pages and forms. I set about creating a widget for a simple Django-based workflow application I've been working on by submitting the URL for the application, creating an account in Symphony to store my logon credentials for the application, and highlighting the particular form within my application I wished to use for the widget. From then on, I could access my Web application from within a Symphony session.

One Symphony add-on that's likely to come in handy for users looking to make the most of the application's new functionality to the VBA Scan Tool, an extension that examines Excel spreadsheets with embedded macros and reports on the VBA APIs in use and whether Symphony will support them. VBA macro support for Excel spreadsheets is a new feature in Symphony 3.0, but not all APIs are supported. I tried out a handful of Excel spreadsheets with these macros in Symphony and, in most cases, hit problems running the macros. I scaled back my ambitions and wrote a basic "hello world" VBA macro, which did work. I suggest running your own macro-bearing spreadsheets through the scan tool-which only works on Windows-to see how well your organization's VBA macro code is supported.

Also on the file formats front, Lotus Symphony 3.0 now supports version 1.2 of the OpenDocument file format, the same version of the format to which defaults. This should mean better file format fidelity between Symphony and that users may take for granted, given both products' use of the ODF format and their common code base. The current version of the ODF standard is 1.1, and this is the version of ODF that Microsoft and Google support in their applications. But ODF 1.2, which differs from 1.1 primarily in its level of specificity around spreadsheet formula handling, is expected to be ratified in early 2011.

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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