IBM has upgraded its free Lotus Symphony productivity suite, adding several features that make its word processing, spreadsheet and presentation applications work with Microsoft documents. Launched in 2007 to chip away at Microsoft Office, Symphony failed to budge Office's share of 500 million seats. Instead, Symphony has acquired a more potent rival in free, Web-based platforms such as Google Docs. IBM is working to build the Web-based version of Symphony under the Project Concord banner. Concord will initially allow Web-based editing for documents and proceed to Web-based spreadsheets and presentations.
IBM Feb. 4 said it has upgraded its free Lotus Symphony productivity
suite, adding several features that make its word processing, spreadsheet
and presentation applications work with Microsoft documents.
The entire code for Lotus Symphony 3 has been rebased on
the current OpenOffice.org 3 code stream, which has enabled IBM's programmers
to add several capabilities, Jeanette Barlow, product manager for IBM Lotus
Symphony, told eWEEK.
For example, Lotus Symphony 3 spreadsheet includes
support for Microsoft Visual Basic Macros, allowing users to take business
applications they create in Excel, Word or PowerPoint and access them in
Symphony. Specifically, a user can take a spreadsheet they created in Excel and
open it in the Lotus Symphony 3 spreadsheet without losing data modeling
attributes from the original app.
The Lotus Symphony 3 documents app supports Open Document
Format 1.2, so that users can access Microsoft Word 2007 documents in the
Symphony word processing environment.
"Before, you could open a [Microsoft] .docx file, but in Symphony 3 there is now redline support, so we can
collaboratively author or mark up a contract that might be in that format,"
Barlow said. There is also nested tables, multipage view layout and better PDF
Users will also be able to now embed audio and video inside
Symphony's presentation slides; previously, users had to embed a link to launch
a media player. Now they can put the media right into their slides without
redirecting elsewhere. Presentations also now include expanded slide
transition options and new custom animations.
More than 12 million users worldwide have adopted Lotus
Symphony, which supports more than 28 languages, since IBM first launched it to public
beta in September 2007 as a free alternative to Microsoft's successful Office productivity suite.
However, it failed to budge Office's share of 500 million seats. Instead, Symphony has acquired a more potent
rival in hosted platforms delivered via the Web, such as Google Docs. This is part of Google
Apps, which is used by more than 2 million businesses.
Barlow told eWEEK she and her team are working to build
the Web-based version of Symphony under the Project Concord banner. Announced
at Lotusphere 2010 and available in IBM's LotusLive Labs later this year,
Concord will initially allow Web-based editing for documents and proceed to
Web-based spreadsheets and presentations.
"Browser-based solutions are not necessarily the
right choice for some use cases," Barlow said. "If you're doing a
10,000 row spreadsheet, you probably don't want those calculations executing in
a browser, or a 250-page complex document with indices and footnotes. There are
use cases where a rich client is going to be more appropriate."
However, Concord acknowledges there are use cases where a
Web model is the right way to go, such as live documents where content may
change, or collaboration sessions that are time-sensitive. "All use cases
are potentially going to need to coexist."
Barlow said IBM expects to let users create a document in
Symphony, upload it to the LotusLive cloud collaboration environment with a
single click and enable users to edit and comment on that document through
Eventually, this capability will be part of
IBM's future Project Vulcan collaboration platform, which adds business intelligence and
social networking to the LotusLive collaboration environment. See the demo with IBM Lotus CTO Charlie Hill here.