Tips & Tricks: IBM Lotus Symphony

By Team Digit Published Date
01 - Dec - 2008
| Last Updated
01 - Dec - 2008
Tips & Tricks: IBM Lotus Symphony


IBM Lotus Symphony


IBM Lotus Symphony is a full featured office suite in one application. The application has word processing, spreadsheet, presentation and web browsing capabilities built in with a tabbed interface. This interface has many benefits. You don’t end up cramming up the taskbar if you have many documents open. You can also work on the web (via Internet Explorer), across documents and spreadsheets without even navigating to the taskbar. The menu bar changes to be relevant to each tab that you work upon. The only problem is that Symphony takes up twice as much memory as running MS Excel, MS PowerPoint, MS Word and Internet Explorer all together! However, Lotus Symphony is a free office suite, and has a familiar look and feel, so it is easy to find your way around.





Working With The Style Sheet


Formatting text is made easy using the style sheet. The style sheet is a window that pops up with a bunch of preset text formatting options. To apply a format to the text from the style sheet, select the text and press [F11]. A window will pop up with various styles. Go through the Style Type. Drop down menu for access to different styles. To create a custom style, click on the New button, give the style a name, attributes under the Font tab, text effects under the Effects tab and click on OK. Your custom style will be added to the list of styles.


Turning Off Word Completion


Symphony Documents has the word completion feature common in mobile phones in the message mode. While this may be very useful on a small device, it is confusing and distracting while working on a document. To accept a word, you have to press the Enter key by default, which breaks the rhythm of the typing. To turn this feature off, go to Tools > Instant Corrections. In the Word Completion tab, uncheck Enable word completion. If you like using this feature, choose the Space option in the Accept with drop down menu. This will allow you to type and accept a suggestion using the [spacebar] instead of the [Enter] key. Symphony Documents keeps getting better at this feature with use, as every new word that you use is added to the dictionary.


Tweak The Status Bar


The status bar is at the bottom of the document you are editing. The page number, the cursor position and the zoom level are some of the displayed values in the status bar. It is possible to tweak which values are displayed in the status bar. For example, one useful addition would be the date and time display, which are not selected by default. Go to View > Status Bar > Settings and check Current Time and Current Date. Uncheck other options you don’t want displayed.


Table Of Contents


Symphony Documents can create a table of contents automatically from the document. For this feature to work, the document has to be formatted and structured properly. Use the style sheet to apply the format for the headers and the sub-heads. Once this is done, go to Create > Index and Table > Indexes and Tables. A number of options are available in the window that pops up, including Alphabetical Index and Illustration Index. Table of Contents is selected by default, which will be used here. In the Evaluate upto level: box, reduce the number to 3 or 2 from the default 10. This feature is for selecting the depth of heads, sub-heads and sub-sub-heads to include in the table of contents. For most purposes, a depth of 2 or 3 is sufficient. If you want to include only chapter heads, without any sub-heads at all, select the depth as 1. For tweaking the index further, go to the Columns or Background tab. Click on OK once you are done.




You can use Symphony Documents to do numerical calculations and insert the calculation directly into the document. Press [F2], type out the formula (for example, 2500/12) and press [Enter]. When you press [F2], a calculation bar appears below the menu bar. You can also use the calculation bar to calculate percentage, square root or the arithmetic mean. Click on the formula icon to access these calculations. To calculate the percentage, for example, enter 14/200 in the formula bar. Then click on percentage, the value of 7 gets entered in the document.


Insert Images


To add images to a document, go to Create > Graphic from File, and a Create Graphics window will open. By default, this directs you to the large library of clip art that comes with Lotus Symphony. Most of these graphics are stored in the Windows metafile (.wmf) format, but there is a gallery of gif animations as well. Navigate to any other graphics file on your system, select it, and click on Open to insert it into the document.


Record Changes


It is possible to use Symphony Documents to keep track of changes made on a collaborated effort. Go to Edit > Revisions > Record. Symphony Documents will now start recording all changes made to the document. All changes made to the document will now show up in red. Formatting changes will show up in bold. Inserted text will show up with an underline, and deleted text will show up with a strikethrough. To change the way these changes appear, go to File > Preferences. The Preferences dialogue should open. Go to IBM Lotus Symphony > Lotus Symphony Documents > Changes, and tweak the options as per your preferences. To stop viewing the changes, go to Edit > Revisions > Show. This will show the document in its last state, without the highlighted revisions. You can also protect the document from anyone else disabling the revision tracker. To do this, go to Edit > Revisions > Protect Records. You will be prompted for a password, enter it. Now the document will continue to record changes till someone uses the password to allow Symphony Documents to stop recording changes.


Applying A Language To Selected Text


You can apply a particular language to selected text which will take precedence over the language of the entire document. To do this, select the text, go to Layout > Properties > Text Properties > Font. Under the Font tab, select the Language: drop down menu to a particular language of your choice




You can add comments to revisions in a document. The comments will be visible when the cursor is hovering over the revision that has been commented on. To add a comment to the revision, select the revision, the go to Edit > Revisions > Comment. Enter the comment in the field here, and click on OK. If you want to give comments on all the revisions, or a number of revisions, then navigate through the revisions using the previous and next button in the comments editor.


Editing The Gallery


Symphony refers to its clip art library as the “gallery”. To add media to the gallery, go to Tools > Gallery. A top bar with the gallery and the navigation will appear. Open an explorer window, and drag and drop media from the explorer window into the gallery toolbar.


Save Document As PDF


One of the greatest advantages that Symphony Documents has over MS Word is that it can directly save documents as a PDF file, which makes it easy for sharing on the web and for printing with no conflict error or problems associated with formats like .docx. Go to File > Export type in a file name and click on Save.





Hide Pages


If you have created a presentation, but don’t want to show some slides in the slideshow, then you can hide the pages. The pages will remain in the document, but won’t be shown during the presentation, and the name of the page will be highlighted in grey to show this in all other views. Go to View > Page > Page View. Then right-click on the slide you want to hide. In the menu that appears, select Show/Hide Page.


Add Notes To Slides


Notes can be used to for organising your content and managing a large presentation. To take down notes, go to View > Page > Notes View. A diary like view will appear where you can take down notes below every slide in the presentation.


Time Your Presentation


Symphony Presentations has a nifty little feature that lets you time your presentation by completely rehearsing it first before actually delivering the presentation. This means that while going through the presentation, you can change the timing at which each slide changes, and then save and apply these timings to the slides, so they change at those times during the presentation. To do this, go to View > Page > Page Sorter View. Navigate to Presentation > Timing Rehearsal. The slideshow will start with a timer on the top left corner of the screen. To change a slide, click on the timer when you are done with the particular slide. Go through the entire presentation in this manner, and then save the presentation. Now press [F5] to start the slideshow with these timings applied to the slides.


Convert 2D To 3D


Symphony Presentations has a feature that allows you to convert 2D objects into 3D objects. Once a 2D graphics is inserted into the presentation (line art or a clip art file), select it, right-click, go to Convert > To 3D. This will take some resources and some time, and then something like an embossed effect is implemented to give the illusion of a 3D object. This works well for some objects, but goes horribly wrong for others. Draw a free form line or curve, and right-click on it, go to Convert > To 3D Rotation Object, and an effect akin to the lathe tool in 3D applications is implemented. This is a great way to create pottery and symmetrical 3D objects. Be warned, the resulting images are not really in 3D, just appear to be so.


Creating A Template


You can use drawing objects, custom colours and other settings applied to a slide as a template across many presentations. Once a layout has been created in a slide, go to File > Template Organizer > Save File To. Type in a name for the file and click on Save. The template is stored in the .otp format for presentations, which is a pretty obscure format. Go to File > Save As for options to save the file as a MS PowerPoint template (.pot) or a OpenOffice Presentation template (.sti).


Create A Screen Show


In Lotus Symphony, you can make derivative presentations from a single presentation called a “Custom Screen Show”. This means that you can take certain slides from the main presentation, re-organise them, and then present them to a certain audience with specific needs. You can create as many Screen Shows as you want. To use this feature, go to Presentation > Custom Screen Show. Click on New. Edit the name of the screen show, and add slides in the correct order from the list of slides shown. Once you have created a Screen Show, click on OK. To create another Screen Show, click on New and repeat the procedure. To start a Screen Show, click on Start. To change certain other settings of the Screen Show, go to Presentation > Screen Show Settings.


Enable Presentation Navigator


An important feature in Symphony is navigator. This is useful for complicated presentations, where you need to move back and forth based on the reception from the audience. Enabling the navigator brings up a small navigation window during the presentation that allows you to navigate to specific slides or objects within the presentation. To enable the navigator, go to Presentation > Screen Show Settings > Screen Show. Then check the Navigator visible check box.


Applying Actions To Objects


Once you have inserted a graphic into a presentation, you can define certain actions for the objects to perform when you click on it. Options include going to the previous or next page, going to a particular page, going to the first or last page or ending the presentation. To do this, select the object, then right-click and go to Interaction. Under Action at mouse click, select a relevant action and click OK.


Create An Animated GIF


You can create an animated GIF file in Symphony Presentations. Unfortunately, the file will exist only inside the presentation file. There is no way to export the GIF file as an image for use elsewhere. There are two ways to do this. Either select a group of objects to be made into a GIF, where the application will assign a single frame to each object, or select and add objects one-by-one as individual frames. Go to Create > Image Animation, and the animation window should appear. Select the Apply Objects button to add a group of objects into single frames, or the Apply Object Individually button to add a group of objects individually. If a group of objects is selected, and you click on the Apply Object button, then the entire group of objects are added as a single frame in the animation. Click on Create, and the GIF animation will be added to your presentation.


Convert Bitmaps To Vector


Right-click on a Bitmap or a JPEG file (any raster-based file actually), go to Convert > To Metafile. The image is now a MetaFile vector graphic and can be handled in the presentation.





Managing Sheets


The sheets in Symphony Spreadsheets are named as A,B,C… by default. There is also only one sheet by default. To add a sheet, right-click on the sheet tab and select Insert Sheet. A dialogue will pop up asking you to position and name the sheet. To change the name of the sheet, right-click on the sheet tab and select Re-label Sheet. Alternatively, you can press [Alt] and click on the sheet tab.


Freeze Pane


Locking a column or row of cells can be useful while working on large datasheets, where the headers have to be visible while scrolling down or across a spreadsheet. To lock a row or column, select the cells or the entire row, go to View > Freeze Window. Be careful while applying this feature, as any image or chart leaking over to the area of the selected cells also get frozen, and appear to the top or the left while scrolling.


Creating Charts


Once the data is entered in the rows and columns, you can create a chart using the data. Select the data that you want to make the chart out of. Right-click on it. Then click on Chart. Select the options such as the chart type, the header rows, the titles and legends and click on Create. The chart will appear next to the selected area in the spreadsheet. The chart is linked to the data, so changing the data will change the chart in real-time.


Hide Sheets


You can hide certain sheets of the spreadsheet. Note that this feature is not password protected. To do this, select a sheet, go to Layout > Sheet Properties > Hide. To show a hidden sheet, go to Layout > Sheet Properties > Show, and select one or more hidden sheets.


Rotate Text To A Specific Degree


Symphony Spreadsheet allows you to rotate a selected text by a specific degree. For example, you can format a header common to both a row and a column to be viewed at a 45 degree angle. To do this, select the cell or the text, go to Layout > Properties > Text and Cell Properties and under Text direction: change the value to a suitable number. By default the value is 0.


Take Down Notes


You can take down notes for each cell in a spreadsheet. To do this, select a cell, go to Create > Note. Enter the note in the field that appears. To view the note of a cell, hover over the small red square on the top right corner of the cell. You cannot edit a note while viewing it, so you will have to go to Create > Note again to edit a note.

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