IBM makes office software available free of charge

Posted by Wolfgang Gruener

New York (NY) – IBM is getting more aggressive in the productivity software arena and is challenging Microsoft with Lotus Symphony, a free office software package that includes three applications covering word processing, presentation creation and spreadsheets.

If you don't have to use Microsoft's Office software, there are quite a few interesting alternatives out there, including the free OpenOffice. IBM joins that parade with Lotus Symphony, which comes with what one would expect from a productivity package today. Included are Symphony Documents, Symphony Presentations, Symphony Spreadsheets, which are essentially the same applications that are included in the recently released Lotus Notes 8.

The Symphony package is available in a Beta 1 version and currently supports Windows (XP, Vista) and Linux (Suse Enterprise, Red Hat 5) operating systems. According to IBM, Symphony can handle "multiple file formats including Microsoft Office and Open Document Format (ODF), and also can output content in PDF format."

Users who are planning to transition from Microsoft Office to Symphony will see a few downsides when using IBM's software. Not all documents will convert correctly, as this free version of Symphony does not support Microsoft macros. Vice versa, while macros can be created when creating or editing IBM Lotus Symphony files, these macros cannot be exported to Microsoft Office. IBM also indicated in a FAQ that there "may be other conversion issues."

Also, IBM said that Symphony users cannot open documents that have been encrypted by Microsoft Office – and Office users cannot open documents encrypted by Symphony.

To download the 900 MB Symphony package, users will have to obtain an IBM ID, which is provided free of charge through a registration process that requires users to provide data such as home and business contact information.