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Text Rendering

Look closely at Figures 2, 3, 4, and 5.

Figure 2

Figure 2 OpenOffice font rendering

Figure 3

Figure 3 Four fonts set as bold

Figure 4

Figure 4 Four fonts set as italic

Figure 5

Figure 5 Yes, that's Arial.

I considered using it to write the rest of this article. Its blurry rendering of regular fonts with inadequate contrast is not that great. The main effect is eyestrain—one's eyes just don't want to focus on the characters.

Its rendering of bold and italic fonts is just plain ugly. In my opinion, given that the intended use for this productivity suite involves hours spent in close examination of documents created, read, or edited with it, I think this renders the program unfit for its official purpose.

I opened a copy of this document. The font rendering (Arial 12 point) looks a bit strange, and continued to look that way when I reduced it to 100% zoom (the status bar in Figure 6 shows at 113%).

Figure 6

Figure 6 Symphony opening existing document

When asked about this issue, tech support said that the problem was with an unsupported Linux distro (Fedora in the case of the person who asked).

So I checked it in OpenSUSE, figuring it was close enough to make the claimed support for Symphony in RHEL work.

From the Fedora Forum:

# sed -i s/" \/tmp\/symphony.tmp\$RANDOM"/""/ IBM_Lotus_Symphony_linux.bin.

It failed with the same error (the chown and chmod had already been done). While it's probably possible to install this successfully in OpenSUSE11, to pursue this further is pointless because my purpose is to see whether the fonts are equally ugly in a "supported" Linux distro.

So I downloaded an evaluation version of the supported SLED10 and installed it on VirtualBox. I got it from Novell on the third try (an overnight download). The good news is that it installed without any command-line work.

Figure 7 shows the second try; it crashed right after I created three lines of text in normal, italic, and bold.

Figure 7

Figure 7 What Symphony fonts look like on a supported distro (SLED10SP2)

I think this disposes of the "unsupported distro" excuse. The fonts look little better than they do in the unsupported Debian. Oddly enough, the menu text looks just fine regardless of what one opens it in.

My original plan with this article was to write it using Lotus. With bold and italic fonts looking like crap, and normal fonts just not looking quite right, I decided that staring at them for the several hours required to write this article was A Bad Idea. The eyestrain isn't worth it. (See Figure 8.)

Figure 8

Figure 8 What large Symphony fonts look like on a supported distro (SLED10SP2)

While the problem is a lesser one with larger fonts, one would have to carefully choose a font to make the problem disappear. The above was from Symphony's Presentation Manager running in SLED10 running 28 point.

In other words, its best font rendering is "not too bad," which is not good enough, especially for presentations intended to be projected.

I regard Lotus Symphony as completely unsuitable for professional use, and there is no obvious reason for people who don't write for money to use it given the existence of word processors, presentation managers, and spreadsheets that display readable text (see Figure 9).

Figure 9

Figure 9 Symphony spreadsheet image

At this point, functionality of the spreadsheet or presentation manager isn't especially relevant. However, I opened the presentation manager anyway. Anyone who's used PowerPoint or OO-Presentation will have no trouble with it. I'm not sure why Page Properties, with control over margins and page numbers, comes out opens by default in a new document. I also opened the spreadsheet. This is an area where a drastically simplified menu is not helpful. Bottom line, even if you're willing to put up with the text, there's no value add over OpenOffice or MS Office.

The program may produce readable output in Windows, but that's not what I was testing.

You can get to the application's plug-in installer via File > Application > Install. Note the lack of repositories installed (see Figure 10).

Figure 10

Figure 10 Plug-ins

To install plug-ins:

  • The "Plug-In Installation Guide" page discusses the procedure. While the UI indicates that repositories will be available, they don't exist as yet. Basically, it's find the plug-in, download, get the zipfile, and point the Install UI at it.
  • The "Plug-ins" page is the list of plug-ins. The ones that looked most interesting to me of the handful available were the Flash converter plug-in (Windows only) and the Websphere Translation Server plug-in.

So I installed the Websphere Translation Server plug-in. Accessed from: File > Translate file (see Figure 11).

Figure 11

Figure 11 Translation Buddy language selection

Adequate UI. Unfortunately, nothing happens when you click the "Select language" pull-down or the adjacent buttons. In this demo version, it's supposed to support English >< Spanish/Chinese.

I then opened it from SLED10, and the plug-in worked as intended. It will either translate a file when opened or a highlighted section of screen.

I translated sample text from English to Chinese and back. I would have preferred Spanish because I'm more familiar with it, but the only pair supported in both directions in the demo was English-Chinese:

  • Original: Work smarter by integrating a wide range of applications with Lotus Symphony. Support forums are a great place to share your experience and to help others like you.
  • Translate Buddy plug-in: Work by the fact that range and Lotus symphony blend clever applying big range to application. Support a forum to be that one is great share your experience and help to resemble you other place.
  • Google Translation: Smart work, integrates a wide range of applications, and Lotus Symphony. In support of the Forum is a great place to share your experiences and help others like you.

Note that both the "Translate Buddy" and Google translators are server-powered; i.e., Translate Buddy is a web client, suggesting that the problem is at the server/software translation end.

I'm sure that the problems of making plug-ins work properly in Debian/Ubuntu can be solved. My guess is that I saw files being installed in SLED10 that I didn't see getting installed in Debian. Application permissions have to be fixed so installation files can be written, though even opening Symphony as root didn't help from within Debian.

However, unless one is truly desperate about making a plug-in with a function you really need (unlikely given the limited set) and you really can't get it anywhere else, I see no reason to try.

There is also no further reason to explore the program further. If this applications suite ever comes out in usable form, it is unlikely to have a look/feel as it does now, and the idea of using it to take advantage of interesting plug-ins is frustrated by the lack of interesting plug-ins.

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