foobar on computers, software and the rest of the world


IBM's Lotus Symphony - based on old OpenOffice, but still good news

, posted: 28-Sep-2007 14:07

It was reported extensively a week ago, and even today on our very own Geekzone we have yet another article. IBM has released the Lotus Symphony package of productivity tools, which include Lotus Documents, Lotus Presentations and Lotus Spreadsheets, and so far more than 100,000 registered users have downloaded it.

The code is free and open source, which is great. Looking under the hood reveals that it is based on a slightly older version of OpenOffice, a well-known open source productivity suite, which is commonly included in most modern Linux distributions and is already used by quite a few governments and other public institutions around the world. But OpenOffice itself has just released the latest version (2.3), which consequently probably can do a few more things than Lotus Symphony.

Still, I am glad that IBM took these steps and that they seem to be successful with it. Why? Several reasons:
  • On one hand, by working with the OpenOffice source code base, the IBM engineers are also contributing back to the wider open source community. Any bug fixes and feature additions they have made for their Lotus Symphony release will likely help OpenOffice in general.
  • Lotus is a well-known brand name. There are still plenty of organisations out there, which are Lotus users. For them, using a productivity suite from IBM, with all the necessary interoperability and integration issues taken care of, will be a nice alternative to proprietary solutions.
  • Symphony, like OpenOffice in general, uses the ODF document standard. ODF is an open, well established and widely tested and implemented standard for storing documents of all kinds. Applications from many different vendors can read and write ODF documents. This is in contrast with proprietary document formats, for which only the vendor of the application has the complete spec. Microsoft comes to mind with its traditional Office formats, and also the new OOXML 'standard', which has been widely and correctly criticised for not really being a standard at all.
So, if this helps traditional Lotus users to work in a productivity suite that retains a bit of the look and feel of and interoperability with Lotus, then so much the better. It also furthers the adoption of ODF and shows open source software as a viable alternative to many more businesses and organisations out there.


Other related posts:
UK government supports open source
25 open source projects for software development
Dabbling in OpenSolaris








Comment by Matthew Cruickshank, on 23-Oct-2007 18:31

I thought it was closed source but free, and mostly based on another codebase unrelated to OpenOffice.org. They did come to some agreement with Sun though to use OpenOffice.org's OpenDocument filters.


Author's note by foobar, on 23-Oct-2007 18:51

Matthew: I also found out more about it in the meantime, but never got around to update that entry. From what I know, Symphony is indeed based on the OpenOffice code base, from around 3 years ago. The OpenOffice license allows the creation of closed source derivatives, which means that the source to Symphony will not be available. That is very unfortunate, and is something I didn't know yet when I wrote that original post.

The core functionality of it is indeed based on OpenOffice code, while it uses IBM's own Eclipse as a shell for the overall thing.

Very odd combination, indeed.


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New Zealand


  • Who I am: Software developer and consultant.
  • What I do: System level programming, Linux/Unix. C, C++, Java, Python, and a long time ago even Assembler.
  • What I like: I'm a big fan of free and open source software. I'm Windows-free, running Ubuntu on my laptop. To a somewhat lesser degree, I also follow the SaaS industry.
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