IBM Lotus Symphony 1.1 in Need of an Update

IBM Lotus Symphony 1.1 offers users a clean and attractive user interface,but it's based on a 4-year-old version of Lotus Symphony 1.1 lacks a lot of the features and support offered in such competitive products as Microsoft Office.

Lotus Symphony 1.1 is a freely available office productivity suite from IBM that brings together a trio of word processor, spreadsheet and presentation applications under a clean and well-implemented user interface.

IBM built Symphony's UI atop the Eclipse IDE and the company's own Lotus Expeditor managed client application framework, and turned to the 4-year-old 1.1.4 for the core of the suite's application lineup.

The result is a fairly good productivity suite with an interface that's much fresher-and a feature set that's more stale-than those that grace the 3.0 release I recently tested.

For instance, upon fir??íing up the Symphony word processor application, I was impressed right away by its tabbed interface, which makes switching between different documents-as well as spreadsheets and presentations-as easy as shifting between tabbed pages in Firefox.

However, it wasn't long before I started noticing the absence of fixes and enhancements that long ago made their way into OpenOf??í For one, I missed the control-shift-v shortcut that pulls up the "paste special" menu I'm accustomed to using to paste text from my clipboard while stripping out formatting.

What's more, Symphony lacks support for opening documents stored in the new OOXML-based format to which Microsoft's Office 2007 now defaults.

IBM would do well to sync up its Symphony efforts with the cur??írent code base to take advantage of all the progress the project has made over the past four years. One of the great strengths of open-source soft??íware is the liberty that separate development groups enjoy to take projects in divergent directions, and IBM's ideas around UI-as well as the extensibility potential that Eclipse offers-can end up strengthening both projects.

There are a handful of plugins available for Symphony that ben??íefit from Eclipse's module update framework, and I'm looking for??íward to seeing where Symphony developers at IBM and elsewhere take the platform.

I suggest that individuals and organizations interested in Microsoft Office alternatives, particularly those with in-house Eclipse development projects in the works, take Symphony for a spin. For now, though, OpenOf??í remains the most viable alternative to Office.