IBM has released a beta version of its new Office suite named Symphony and has made it available as a free download. It contains four software namely "Lotus Symphony Documents", "Lotus Symphony Presentations", "Lotus Symphony Spreadsheets" and an integrated web browser. But what should be quite interesting is that IBM has released a Linux version of this office suite too though it works only on Red Hat Enterprise Linux ver 5 and Suse Linux ver 10 for the time being.
I downloaded the Linux version of IBM's Symphony Office suite and I was able to install it without any problem. One of the striking feature of Symphony is that you can Open the document, spreadsheet and presentation files all within the main interface and the files will be opened in tabs which is quite a convenience.
The interface is well designed and built using Eclipse IDE. One of the highlights of Lotus Symphony is that it is based on the Open Document Format (ODF) standard - which means you're not locked into proprietary file formats, software licensing agreements and upgrades. Symphony can open Microsoft Office documents be they MSWord, Excel or Powerpoint files without any problem.
But when it is compared to Microsoft Office or even OpenOffice.org, I feel Symphony has a bit more catching up to do. For example, in OpenOffice.org, when you insert an image, you can drag and place it in any location in the document, which I find is a very nice feature. But I was not able to do this in Symphony document. And you cannot open or save encrypted Doc or ODF files nor can you edit or save encrypted macro libraries. More over since Symphony is a free offering from IBM, you can avail of help only from the support forums and not directly from IBM.
The minimum specifications needed to run Symphony are at least 512 MB RAM and 540-750 MB of free disk space. If you are interested, you can download a beta 3 version of Symphony and take it for a run.