Now that I have had a chance to install Lotus Symphony Beta 3 on my Ubuntu Gutsy Gibbon (aka – version 7.10) installation and have run it for several days, I have decided that it is time for a review. For this review, I have decided to show how to get Symphony working on Ubuntu, as well as the major features found in the Beta 3 release.
As with all past releases, the installation is basically the same. All you have to do is download Symphony from IBM’s website (http://symphony.lotus.com/), right-click on the downloaded file and check the “Allow execution of file as program” box. Then, go to the terminal and type “cd Desktop” (default location for downloaded files) and then type “sudo ./enternameoffilehere” without the quotes. Next, the installation will begin.
After Symphony is installed, you may have noticed that the menu item in Ubuntu does not work. After looking for guides, you may have found that you need to change the owner of a folder called “Lotus”. For the beta 3 release, that folder has been renamed to “.Lotus”. The period on the front of the folder name makes the file only viewable with the “View hidden files” option checked in the “View” menu in the file manager. The folder is kept in your home folder, along with all the other hidden folders for applications.
To change the owner, type “sudo chown -R enter-user-here ~/.lotus/” This will change the owner from root to your user profile. You should now be able to access Symphony from the link in the “Applications > Office” menu. Here’s a screenshot of Symphony loading:
Symphony will open, and will start on a tab, much like in Mozilla Firefox. The tab is called “Home”. The home tab consists of links to create new documents, and shows where to get help using Symphony.
As you can see from the screenshot, I also have several documents open. To get to them, I simply click on the tab, and to close them I click on the “x” on the tab. The documents do not open automatically when the program starts, but I opened them before taking the screenshot to show the purpose of tabs. It makes working with multiple documents much easier.
The next tab that I have opened is the web browser — that’s right, web browser. The web browser is integrated into the program. It is activated either from the “New” menu, or by clicking on a link inside a document. Once again, this makes working with documents easy, because instead of having several windows open, it opens in just one. The next tab is the “New Documents” tab:
The documents tab opens a new document. The document layout is standard letter size and rather large margins. Text options are on the vertical bar on the right of the program window. From there, you can change the font, size, style, as well as other options to change the look-n-feel of the document. The top bar has standard items, like new, save, open, graphics, text alignment, bold-italic-underline, bullets, and line spacing. The next tab I have opened is the “New Presentation” tab:
The presentation tab has many of the basic features necessary to make a nice presentation. Layout can be modified, and there is the option to insert graphics, tables, etc. The side bar allows you to change margins, and the top bar is for all the basic document options found in every component of Symphony. There really are no other large features for the presentation component. All the applications in Symphony blend features. It makes switching between documents, spreadsheets, and presentations easier, since you are not looking for buttons on an entirely different interface.
Speaking of spreadsheets…
The spreadsheet tab has many features and a clean interface — one that is certainly not overcrowded. The side bar has several tabs of it’s own. The bar is titled “text and cell properties”. The first tab is “Font” tab, which allows you to change the font and style of the text. The next tab, called effects, has several features for making certain text stand out, such as: underlining, color, strikethrough, options (sentence or indiv. word), emphasis mark (dots, accents, disk, etc.), and position, for text. There are also style options below the selection boxes such as “normal,” “embossed,” “engraved” and two checkboxes for outline and shadow. The third and final tab is the appearance tab, which has many (MANY!) features for changing the way your spreadsheet looks. The top bar has the insert box, as well as all of the generic features in Symphony. An interesting thing I noticed is that when you enter a function, a vertical bar like the one on the left show up with a list of functions. The same goes for other features in the spreadsheet. The last and final feature is the “Show thumbnails” feature:
Here you can see all the documents that are opened in the tabs, which are shown in preview boxes that can be clicked on to go to that particular document. This feature helps when working with multiple documents open, especially if they all almost have the same name.
When you are using Lotus Symphony, it feels like a modern office suite. Often my only complaint about using OpenOffice is the way that it looks. A nice graphical refresh every couple of years is a good thing, especially when you are trying to attract new users.
The simpification of the interface is another good thing to have, since many times office applications overload you with random buttons which can get in the way of overall productivity. Many of the lesser-used buttons have been moved into the menu at the top of the application. The menus should be familiar for those used to working in OpenOffice, after all, Symphony Beta 3 is based on OpenOffice 1.
I think that Lotus Symphony is definately worth trying out if your computer can handle it. It will need 532MB free on the hard drive (a number I hope will shrink dramatically) and at least 512 MB of ram to run (another number I hope will change). IBM’s Lotus Symphony shows how far Office suites have come. Personally, I can not wait for the final version.