While Symphony Documents has fewer features than Word, it is still a very useful word processor that comes with enough power for most everyday needs.
Basic spreadsheets and presentations
Lotus 1-2-3 was the dominant spreadsheet program in the 1980s; with that legacy, you'd think Symphony Spreadsheets would be a strong application. That's only partly true. Using Spreadsheets is like moving back to 1-2-3: The basic functionally is there with only a few extra bells and whistles.
Excel worksheets lose some of their formatting and advanced features when opened in Symphony Spreadsheets. On the plus side, Spreadsheets includes a Data Pilot feature that's similar to Excel's Pivot Tables. Both Data Pilot and Pivot Tables allow you to combine, compare, and analyze data, interactively rearranging and summarizing all or part, according to different points of view. It allows basic chart creation, also, but the operative word here is "basic" with only a fraction of the chops offered by Excel. Then again, that the free Symphony has any charting capabilities makes it a deal. Spreadsheets also includes a convenient Cell and Text Properties sidebar and a Create menu for instantly launching a new worksheet, chart, or graph.
Context-sensitive right-click menus are helpful, as are hovering tooltips with cell formula hints. And the Text and Cell Properties sidebar is a handy aid, though it also takes up a lot of screen space. But you can close this sidebar or choose to have it "float" on the screen, so it won't hog one side of the display.
Creating presentations is Symphony is easy, much as it is in PowerPoint. But the end results are prosaic, because you can't insert video or music, and its templates can't match the more eye-catching layouts possible with PowerPoint. Symphony allows you to add basic transitions, but, overall, the presentations created with the app simply lack sizzle.
IBM says that version 1.0 of Symphony will be available in the first quarter of 2008, and it will still be free of charge. That's a good thing, as the zero price point is Lotus Symphony's best calling card. It's an efficient program with a handsome interface but with feature enhancements still to be made. While powerful, it certainly does not rival Office's robust capabilities -- yet.
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