How-To Geek

IBM Lotus Symphony is a Free Alternative to MS Office

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In these tough economic times it can be frustrating or impossible to shell out a lot of money for MS Office productivity suite. Today we take a look IBM Lotus Symphony, which is a full suite of office apps built on Open Office technology and produces quality documents and presentations.

About Lotus Symphony

IBM Lotus Symphony is an office productivity suite that includes apps for creating documents, presentations, and spreadsheets. It is completely free of charge and is built on technology and supports Open Document Format standards.  You can create the same great quality documents as you would with MS Office apps, use MS Office formatted documents, and it’s completely free.


Lotus Symphony Document

This is their word processing app that would replace MS Word. It has all of the tools you would expect from a quality word processing application and make make professional looking documents. Notice there is a single interface with tabbed sections for each program and / or document.


There are plenty of templates for various types of documents to choose from and download.


It includes a decent library full of clip art you can use in your document creation, and they offer more you can download from the site.


Save documents in in Open or MS formats.


Lotus Symphony Spreadsheet

This is a replacement for MS Excel and lets you create new spreadsheets or use built in templates.


Lotus Symphony Presentation

Presentation is their version of MS PowerPoint where you can create shows from scratch or preconfigured presentations.


Web Browser

Also included is a basic but handy web browser that will open up in a new tab. This comes in handy when downloading additional items from their site and for doing quick research while working on documents.



If you need a basic office suite then Symphony is a good choice as it can handle most tasks. It doesn’t include an email client or database app like MS Access, but if you need that you can use Base which is a free database program. Let’s take a look at a few of the other features available, including using MS documents with the open format of Symphony.

The entire suite opens up all documents using tabbed sections to make navigation easier.


You can associate Symphony with open document formats.


It will open up MS formatted documents…(.doc, .docx, .xls, .pptx) but you may lose some quality. I had little problem with documents I tested out and opened between the programs.



If you are working with another person who has Microsoft Office 2007 remember they can save their documents in Open Document format as well.


You can easily save documents, spreadsheets, and presentations to PDF format.


There are a lot of extra plug-ins you can download for additional functionality for all three apps.


If you get stuck there is a help section that will guide you through basic tasks.

15-ibm help

If you are a small business, student, or an individual with not a whole lot of extra money to spare, Lotus Symphony is a great way to get the professional office document results you need.


Download Lotus Symphony

Brian Burgess worked in IT for 10 years before pursuing his passion for writing. He's been a tech blogger and journalist for the past seven years, and can be found on his about me page or Google+

  • Published 09/28/09

Comments (11)

  1. Lori

    I tried Lotus today and didn’t like it. It froze every 2 seconds—too bloated. It was actually slower than Word! Since I work with long files, I also use the Document Map feature a lot, and I couldn’t get that to really work well in Lotus.
    If you really wanted Open Office technology, why not just use Open Office?

  2. jthatcher79

    It would have been more impressive if IBM would have integrated the IBM Lotus Smart Suite of old with the Open Office format… Lotus 123 was once the premier spreadsheet application and they could have built upon that reputation and functionality… alas :(

  3. Kenneth

    Open office has been using open office technology for a long time. Why would we not just use that?

  4. Kevin

    Whatever happened to their database match for access. I forgot the name of it.

  5. Leafy

    I decided to install this onto my Win7 machine when I couldn’t find a copy of MS Office and I had to finish this PPT presentation…
    It’s slow; but I prefer it over openoffice. OpenOffice’s interface is just too artificial and kludgy for me to use.

    @Lori: MS Office is actually the fastest on windows

  6. V-2

    Nothing great, really… slow, seemingly buggy (it got completely unresponsive when searching Help), I also find the word processor quite annoying.
    For example, you can’t select whole lines of text by clicking on the page margin
    Or: manual line break ignores the paragraph formatting (when the paragraph is adjusted to left and right, and I insert a manual break, I don’t want to leave a gap behind – I naturally expect the line to automatically stretch to the right margin; but it doesn’t).

  7. George

    I tend to favour SSuite Office’s free office suites. Their software also don’t need to run on Java or .NET, like so many open source office suites, so it makes their software very small and efficient.

  8. calebstein
  9. Matt


    OpenOffice has a horrible installer. It leaves a folder on the desktop and if you move it, you can’t upgrade to the next version of OpenOffice unless your willing to remove all folders and registry keys OpenOffice leaves behind. If your never going to update your current version, don’t mind OpenOffice leaving your desktop cluttered, or you reformat your PC a lot then OpenOffice is fine.

    For those who don’t like clutter, upgrade to each new version, like more eye candy and a better installation process, then Lotus Symphony is leaps and bounds better than OpenOffice.

    I’ve messaged OpenOffice about cleaning up their installer and fixing it to where it won’t leave a folder on the desktop during installation. They won’t respond and have no intent on fixing that issue. OpenOffice is the only Office Suite that I know of that has such a horrible installer. It’s free and it looks free. Unlike IBM Lotus Symphony which is clean and eye pleasing.

    I really don’t understand the love for OpenOffice. Hell your better off using Google Docs with the GMdesk AIR app over using OpenOffice. GMdesk allows you to use Google Docs from your desktop.

  10. Peter Morffew

    Just down loaded Symphony today. It appears okay. Have not done to much work with it yet but will be trying it out.
    Interesting to read that some people have had a few problems with the software. I had to down load the fix 3 ap which is meant to help it run better.
    The appearance is good and easy to use.
    I down loaded it when I read about it in a computer magazine.
    Time will tell.

  11. Jim Gatos

    Can you use a mailing list on Lotus Symphony? You can with OpenOffice by importing a spreadsheet into a base file.. How can this be done with Symphony, which only has Writer, Calc, and Impress?

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