Friday, March 04, 2011

Lotus Symphony

Even spectroscopists needs an Office suite. Just because I need it infrequently, and there are many free options available, I have chosen one of them. Initially I adopted OpenOffice, then switched to NeoOffice because of its more appealing and sensible graphic interface. The main problem with both of them was that the documents looked different when seen with MS Office. Now I have switched to IBM Lotus Symphony and that problem is solved. Maybe the latest versions of the other programs have improved, but I am so happy with my Symphony that I don't see any reason for trying something different again.
This is a product nobody writes or talk about, so most people confuse it with the original Lotus Symphony suite. The two products have nothing in common but the name. Probably this arguable choice by IBM to recycle the brand was unfortunate: people refuse to even try the new Symphony because they think they already know it.
The new Lotus Symphony is a blend of OpenOffice and Eclipse, topped with a stylish interface. The result is a rare combination of elegance, simplicity and, mainly, intuitiveness: the best virtue of Symphony. Other sure pros are the perfect compatibility with MS Office and the absence of a price.
The main con is the time it takes to start. It really takes an incredible amount of time, about 20 seconds. Afterwards, however, the program seems fast enough for all the things I do. Another limitation is that the suite is not complete. There are four components (word-processor, spreadsheet, presentation program, web browser) and they are very well done, but I need other two programs at least (one for drawing and one for keeping a database). The first three components, however, are really rich in features and this is what really matters. It is far better to have three great programs than to have five not-so-great programs.
There is a problem that I hope will be solved with future releases. If a file contains accented chars in its name (or in the name of any surrounding folder), that file can't be opened. It is necessary to change the name of the file and of its surrounding folders.
Need I tell you that I will never consider the option of using a web-based service instead of a classic desktop application like this? Lotus Symphony does not ignore the web, to tell the truth; it can (optionally) connect to its home servers to let you choose more templates/clip arts or to give you more information. I really like the idea, though I never used those resources, because I find the program extremely intuitive and very easy to use. I have recommended Symphony to my relatives and they all agree with me.