IBM-Lotus Symphony: A Real Loser

At the outset, let me say that I, more than anyone, want to be freed from the tyrrany of Microsoft.

I have been frustrated with their operating systems and programs to the point of actually buying a top of the line Apple a few years ago. That experiment ended a couple of months later when, having returned from my yearly assignment in Paris, I determined that I was more productive on a French keyboard. That’s not Apple’s fault. It’s just that the conversion simply was not worth the pain. My sister, who had long wanted an Apple, was quite pleased to take it off my hands.

I have continued to use the latest version of Lotus 123, which despite its 7-year age remains far superior to Microsoft’s juvenile “XL” product.

So it was with great satisfaction that I learned there was an alternative. Within minutes of finding out that IBM-Lotus Symphony was free on the web, I was downloading. I wasn’t even bothered that it took the better part of 30 hours and 8 attempts to get a copy that would work.

It took a fraction of that time to determine that this product is a loser, unless one returns to the information technology crib and pretends that there was no reality before it.

The following tests were more than enough to find better use for the precious space it would have consumed on my hard disk.

1. The word processing program imports only the simplest Word files. Virtually none of my tested files of more than a few pages could be loaded by Symphony. The limit appears to be somewhere below 20K (yes, that is a “K”). It was possible to “paste” longer files into a Symphony file, but it was then impossible to save them. Moreover, Symphony was generally unable to save into Word format and even failed sometimes to save into its own “odp” format.

2. The spreadsheet program suffers from the same deficiencies and more. Only the simplest files from “XL” can be loaded into Symphony. Any more complicated brings an error message. Perhaps the ultimate insult was that this Lotus spreadsheet does not even support Lotus 123 files.

3. The presentation program rounds out a perfect score of zero. Again, only the simplest Powerpoint files can be loaded onto Symphony. It appears to be impossible to copy a slide from Powerpoint to Symphony.

Granted, I am a very heavy user, with files that can easily run to 100 or more megabytes. There was no point in trying out any of those.

So the simple advice is this. If you are more than 12 years old and have had a computer for more than a week, IBM-Lotus Symphony is probably a mistake.

That is really too bad. I’d gladly pay for an office suite that lived up to its claims.

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