Posts Tagged 'open standards'

First impressions from Lotus Symphony

It’s been 3 days now since my resolution to drop Microsoft Office, and start working with Lotus Symphony entirely. Thought I’ll share some of my early impressions with you.

  • The work area is slightly different, since one of the toolbars is now a sidebar – takes some getting used to, but at the end, it’s more convenient to work. The relevant functions are right there, and you can control the appearance.
  • I’m using the Hebrew user interface, so all my new documents are set right to left (Bi-Directional, or Bidi hereafter) by default. The Bidi support is excellent so far, both in the user interface and in the document itself. However, when I created a new English document, I couldn’t find that tiny Left to Right paragraph icon. It’s available, but must be enabled from the File, Preferences screen (see screenshot). Maybe the next version will put it in the toolbar by default.
  • The sidebar can be open, float or closed. Very useful, depending what task you’re doing: open for editing/creating, float for minor adjustments or close for previewing.
  • Loading time. Both Lotus Symphony and Lotus Notes (and Lotus Sametime for that matter) are running over Eclipse, which slows things down a bit. Enabling Lotus Symphony on system startup (again, under Preferences) will open the first file faster. Once the client is up and running, things go smoother.
  • PDF export. One of my favorite features so far. I’ve been using the CutePDF writer software until now, which ‘Print’ your document into PDF. Now, with the export command, it’s much more easier, and you can even determine the quality of the PDF, optimizing for screen, print or press.
  • JPG export. This is super cool ! No more ‘Print screen’ and then edit in Photoshop or something. You can export your document to PDF, current page or all pages, and even decide if you want it in color of greyscale. Nice.
  • Install plugins. Part of the Lotus Symphony download package is the multilingual support. It comes as a .zip file, which can be added to Lotus Symphony, thanks to the Eclipse platform (screenshot). Any idea how I can switch between the interface languages? Update – figured out how to switch between languages (UI) – it depends on your Regional and Language Settings, under Start, Setting, Control Panel. Also explained here.

Lotus Symphony is turning out to be more than a suitable replacement for Office, and with almost 500,000 downloads, its getting some attention. Datamation Magazine even crowned Lotus Symphony as Office Productivity Software Product of the Year 2008, beating Microsoft Office.

In a totally different subject, thought I point you to a very interesting initiative, or experiment,
by my good friend Luis Suarez, who’s taken a step I know most of us would love to take – giving up on emails! Follow the link and read the rationale on his blog. This recent interview of Luis with IBM’s Peter Andrews on Effective Blogging, reveals Luis’s intentions. Worth the download.

Extending Lotus Notes 8

Decided to tweak my Lotus Notes 8 Client a bit over the weekend, as I have some client meetings coming up this week, and I wanted to highlight the best feature Notes 8 possess (in my opinion): Open, Eclipse based, platform.

What is Lotus Notes 8 sidebar? It’s actually a list of plug-ins that you can add to your Notes 8 client, located at the right hand side. The defaults includes your Lotus Sametime contacts (an integrated Sametime client within Notes 8), Day-at-a-glance view and RSS feed reader. The sidebar has 3 viewing options: Close, Thin or Open. To the left you can see the thin mode. Just below there’s the open mode of the sidebar, much more clearer…

After tweaking, my sidebar has much more features, without any performance issues, btw. Working smoothly on my Intel Core Duo, 1GB, ThinkPad X60 machine.

Besides the default Sametime Contacts, I’ve added a Primary Contacts plug-in (that I “stole” from my Sametime Connect 7.5.1 client), to which I can drag-and-drop the people I communicate more often, and see their picture, instead of the name. I also added today the cool feature of BluePages Client (developed initially for Lotus Expeditor), which basically adds a BluePages (IBM’s internal employee directory, with over 4M searches per week!) application, that allows me to search and view information from the employee directory without leaving my Notes client. There also an Activities plug-in, one of the 5 services within Lotus Connections, IBM’s social software. If an activity (to-do) is signed to me, I can view it right there. Another cute plug-in is the Sidekick. I discovered it by accident, as I was reading through a Lotus presentation and saw this plug-in in one of the screen shots. It basically provides a relational overview of the document currently highlighted. If there’s a url, the Sidekick will provide a preview of the page; an address – a little map pops out, with directions. I think you get the idea.

You’re probably arguing that you must have some technical knowhow in order to do this. Not at all. I’m a bit of a geek, but programming is not my thing. I had to make a small change to an .ini file – but as long as you keep a copy of the original, there’s no harm. The sidebar is definitely one of my best reasons for loving Lotus Notes 8.

Alan Lepofsky also commented about Notes 8 sidebar, here and here are the latest. Oh, another one, here. There are couple of places you can visit if you want to learn more on Lotus Notes 8 Sidebar and how you can extend your working experience:
Alan Lepofsky
more developerWorks

Mobile & Media Consultant. I help startup companies launch products to the consumer market. Reach out: dvir.reznik [at]



This is my personal blog. The postings here do not represent the thoughts, intentions, plans or strategies of my past employers or of my clients. It is solely my opinion.