PCMech review: Lotus Symphony 3 Beta 2

The Lotus Symphony 3 Beta code has been out for a few months now, and it is beginning to gain some traction (even against the news of the Office 2010 launch and the Google IO conference).

PCMech.com prides itself on no-nonsense tech news to “Help Normal People Get Their Geek On”, and have published a very positive review of the Symphony 3 Beta suite.  Here’s some hightlights:

Lotus Symphony is an office suite by IBM. It’s free.

Free?

Yes, free. From IBM. And yes, I know, “IBM” and “free” never appear in the same sentence, but this time it does. And wouldn’t you know it, it’s available for Windows, Ubuntu, Red Hat Linux, SUSE Linux and Mac OS X.

Why it is free?

Because it’s based on OpenOffice.

I will state up from this is not a Microsoft Office replacement. If you use MSO now, you probably wouldn’t switch to this. However, you probably would use this over OpenOffice.

Let’s get into why that is.

I’d disagree on not replacing Microsoft Office with Symphony – plenty of organisations have already done so.

Symphony

The splash screen on startup. I’ll be honest – I felt like I stole this software when I saw this, even though I know it’s free. IBM goes to great lengths even in their free products to achieve a look that is polished and professional. I see the IBM and Lotus, and think, “Whoa.. IBM product. Big deal here.”

An interesting perspective – I personally wish both IBM and Lotus had a greater hold as brands in the consumer space, but it’s clear from this author that he views the IBM/Lotus brands in a very positive, reassuring way.

I really dig the fact that modifying text properties is just so darned easy in Symphony. Just about everything you would want to do with text is here.

The properties side bar tends to divide opinion with users that are used to using other Office suites, but clearly it has made a positive impact here.

It’s all about the tabs.

Symphony for all intents and purposes acts like a web browser with the way it does tabs. In fact it even has its own web browser!

Home, Document, Spreadsheet – all in tabs side by side. No ridiculous separate windows. It’s all contained and you can switch back and forth at whim.

That’s just so beautiful it gets me misty. Someone give me a tissue (sniff)..

Kidding aside, this is a darned convenient way of switching back and forth between open docs, spreadsheets, presentations and web sites.

Also know that most software titles that tries to do the all-in-one thing usually fail miserably at it. Symphony doesn’t and it gets it right the first time.

And finally, in summary:

What’s the best part about Symphony?

What I liked best is that there’s almost no learning curve to Symphony at all. It feels familiar from the moment you start using it. Things are laid out in a way that just make sense. It can be used by anyone from the novice to the experienced power user.

I think that’s quite an accolade.

Is it time you took a look at the
Lotus Symphony 3 Beta?

Stuart McIntyre is a Senior Strategist at Fostering Community Limited. He curates a number of product-focused news sites, is a lapsed podcaster, founded the Social Connections user group and regularly speaks at conferences and events. This blog represents his own slightly-eccentric and usually-controversial opinions!