Downloading Lotus Symphony - you could not make this up

by Volker Weber

Downloading Symphony

Downloading Symphony

Downloading Symphony

Downloading Symphony

Downloading Symphony

Downloading Symphony

Downloading Symphony

Downloading Symphony

Downloading Symphony

Downloading Symphony

Downloading Symphony

Downloading Symphony

Downloading Symphony


They said it was free--not easy!

Michael Sobczak, 2009-01-29

yes but isn´t that ok if its Free ? They could ask people to register

Palmi Lord, 2009-01-29

Yes, of course. Does not mean they have to suck at their download site. Check for a good download regime.

Volker Weber, 2009-01-29

Wow... not surprised, but... wow.

Oh, and it's a good thing you've got Java installed. If you didn't, the Download Director would simply bomb.

To quote Nathan circa-2002? 2004? 2005?

"The cost to try IBM software is too high."

Erik Brooks, 2009-01-29

You're right, of course, but it looks as though you too are getting grumpy (like me, but I've probably got at least a couple of decades on you, so it might be excusable in my case)!

Skype, Avant Browser, and many other products that I install and regularly update are slick and painless.

But the problem here is that Lotus Symphony is just one of many, many products you might download from IBM's vast web site, and unfortunately by using a common registration/download approach IBM has merely made it just as slow to obtain Symphony as any other of their (enterprise-level) products. Perhaps understandable, but not a good way to make available a mass-interest product like Symphony.

Tony Austin, 2009-01-29

@Erik, I know I've said it before, but the most recent and definitive statement on the matter was in Feb of 2007. IBM simply doesn't understand the idea of "try & buy."

Volker's absolutely right. This download interrogation crap is an offense. But then, why do you think IBM is going to work with on provisioning new 'unofficial' releases? That's the whole point -- to get content away from the gatekeepers.

The engineers get it. The non-marketers don't.

Nathan T. Freeman, 2009-01-29

... no, the marketers don't get it either. IBM is very successful in inventing cumbersome and complicated workflows for very basic tasks.

Christian Tillmanns, 2009-01-29

I kind of expected the IBM download to work that way ;).
I was flickr who surprised me this time.

Stipe Sumic, 2009-01-29

Every time a new notes version is there, I have to start a mighty battle with that horrible website. The bit I really hate is having to scroll through a huge flat list of loads of different language packs. argagagaaaah!

Andrew Magerman, 2009-01-29 says:

Releases are only availlable for registered OpenNTF users. Login or Register to:
get access to all OpenNTF project releases
participate in the Mainbar
participate in OpenNTF projects or start your own.

How much open is that?

Roland Leißl, 2009-01-29

Yikes. It sucks.

Spare a thought for us poor business partners who go through an even more hideous download process - 3-4 minutes of mindless clicking - just to be told that the site is down for the weekend.

The funny thing was the completely incredulous look of the IBM VP of C***** M****** who didnt believe 20-30 BP's in the room telling him how broken the process is. And claiming not to know.

Arse/Elbow identification discontinuity.

Our only hope is that someone high in the management 'lard' layer 'get it' and persuades his golf-loving dead-above-the necktie buddies that this new fangled internet is cool and as CONSUMER brand, should strive to not look like the iSeries hotfix download site from the seventies.

If only IBM wouldnt spend 80% of its effort fighting itself.

---* Bill

Bill Buchan, 2009-01-29

Andrew, if you would care to make a nice series of screenshots of what you need to do from entering partnerworld to downloading Notes 8.5 client for Windows, I am happy to make another series. Make them all the same size, BMP or PNG, with just the browser window, and then ZIP them up and let me know where I can grab them.

Volker Weber, 2009-01-29

@Roland: it’s the choice of the project chef. You can require users to log in before they download, or you can allow anonymous downloads. I’d say that’s open. Even if you do log-in on OpenNTF, the onward process is in no way comparable to that on

Ben Poole, 2009-01-29

I really don't get the discussion !! Volker's main statement is that you have to supply a user ID to get a free download because the other pages are just meant to get your download going in to be honest.

But surpisingly I have to supply a user ID as well to get my response going to this article !! So honestly what is the main differance ?

Sjaak Ursinus, 2009-01-29

You have been living too long in IBM land, I guess. :-)

Here is your task: Go to and download a client for your computer. How many clicks does it take?

Volker Weber, 2009-01-29

Skype may be downloaded rapidly, sure. But you have to register for an account to make any use of it at all, too.
Jurisdictional issues apply to most commercial software package, and eventually will annoy users with mandatory license agreement and personal information forms.

@Ben P:
A community website, especially when prefixed "open", only serves my an exit page at that moment.

Roland Leißl, 2009-01-29

Roland, just to make sure I don't misunderstand. Are you suggesting the IBM process is not broken?

Volker Weber, 2009-01-29

@Ben P:
A community website, especially when prefixed "open", only serves my an exit page at that moment.Now you’ve lost me.

Ben Poole, 2009-01-29


Well you compare a Hummer with a Suzuki Alto I guess.

And yes I see the differnce between skype and Symphony download really I do !!!

But for instance go to the dell website and try to buy a laptop. Or try to find the support page for a rarely old model of a dell laptop and see if you manage that to get there in 3 mouseclicks.

Go to the M$ website and try to find the API information for MSOffice 2007. And do that in 3 mouseclicks.

I don't think your comparison is truly fair.

Everybody knows that Symphony is there just to generate extra business for IBM and not to giving away as free what everyody thinks about free.

Sjaak Ursinus, 2009-01-29

Volker, they need to obey the process, and I just take pity on them.

(But I feel Download Director is a very handy tool. You could also take the route via http with it's various tradeoffs)

Ben, sorry for that.

Roland Leißl, 2009-01-29

Roland, I don't pity IBM. I pity the people who have to fight with their hands tied behind their back.

Sjaak, you are suggesting that Symphony is a Hummer? Maybe you got that right. :-) It does not help pointing out other broken things. This tactic is often used by young children who try to look better by telling their parents their friends got even worse grades. Regarding your "everybody knows", I have no problem with that. It does not mean however you have to be stupid about it.

Volker Weber, 2009-01-29

Ok - lets look at this from a marketing perspective. The objective of Symphony is to reduce the MS stranglehold on the market. It it (and open office) has a good chance of succeeding to some degree.

Where do you want to aim.... at the people that do not want to pay for software. Students, kids, people in their early 20's. The people that use skype, and msn, and facebook and everything else.

Let it be a one click download. Then AFTER they have installed it, let it ask for registration information.

If I went back 10 years to my early 20's I would just of skipped this and went somewhere else.

Paul Mooney, 2009-01-29

That is what Open Office does. Which is the real Symphony competitor. And there is an option that says "no thank you".

Volker Weber, 2009-01-29

I think for clarity what we're all discussing here is NOT that IBM is harvesting names - everyone does that - but that it takes SO many screens to click through to where you want to get to.

Granted there are multiple platforms to support but Skype does that in one or two screens, whereas the IBM system seems to go through five or six just confirming stuff, then forcing you to go to the huge IBM download site and getting the right thing from there.

Every single unnecessary screen and clickthrough at this stage for 'free' software just kills any enthusiasm the end-user has for this stuff, and introduces a huge amount of doubt in their mind as to why they are doing this, and what the ultimate package will look like.

Now in Corporate IBM land, this practice is entirely correct. Corporate users are used to this, and to a certain extent have been conditioned to jump through IBM legal hoops till the cows come home. Fine.

But end-users, consumers, prosumers - their whole first impression is hinged on this process, and they're thinking 'my life will end before I get this downloaded'. Or at the very least thinking 'My creepy uncle with the brown shoes designed this crappy web site'.

And thats not a good first impression, is it ?

Lotus sometimes (IMHO) forgets that its the only CONSUMER division within IBM. Consumer as in 'deals with companies with less than 50,000 employees'. And in the case of symphony, 'deals with end-users'.

It would help greatly if after the first great symphony web site screen, the download process didnt change character into something from the 80's. From the crypt.

Hope this helps,

--* Bill

Bill Buchan, 2009-01-29


The Hummer reference was not meant to be to the product but more against the company.

And yes ofcourse everybody wants one click downloads !!! Me too but sometimes you need 2 click download or 3 or 4 or 10 click downloads.

Well not everything is perfect in this world we just have to life with that i guess.

Sjaak Ursinus, 2009-01-29

I could see the argument that if you start at then getting the download for symphony should take more clicks than getting a download of OOo from the homepage. But starting at Please, they have a great honking download button right there on the page. Clicking on it should start the download.

Different platforms and languages? Not as many as OOo. The default for the button could be determined from browser settings easily enough. Have a little text by the button saying what version has been guessed at and have another link to a grid / selector for platform / language options.

This isn't rocket science. I had to dig through partnerworld to get the ND8.5 downloads the other day. I found the whole experience fascinating ;)

Kerr Rainey, 2009-01-29

Sometimes I think people use the world corporate instead of stupid. If I take Passport Advantage for example. For sure I can change to HTTP download but you have to do it for every single download and of course it forgets your settings when you log-off (well afaik there is no real log-off anyway). The same goes for the download server (Server1/2/Ireland) and many other settings you can do.
Or if I login with my IBM ID I am often asked the same questions again and again. How large my company is, where I live aso (with a registered account!) I do it at least 10 times a year. It does not make sense, neither corporate nor for private users.And Download Director always runs in a timeout when I start it the first time. It happens on all my machines, I have seen others having to restart Download Director again (and you have to explicitly agree to the license terms too because this field immediately resets to the default value.
It is not corporate but broken. It has always been like that. You get used to it.

Henning Heinz, 2009-01-29

Well not everything is perfect in this world we just have to life with that i guess.

Well, that is the perfect recipe for defeat.

Volker Weber, 2009-01-29

I found the whole experience fascinating ;)

How fascinating. :-)

Volker Weber, 2009-01-29

I want to agree with those who think the IBM download process is very poor.

Every time I try to download something I end up trying several ways to select the product before I eventually get a large list with the download(s) I want in the middle of it. I then select, and download, and if I have more than one download I have to figure out which randomly named 8.3 filename refers to which download (and then rename them to something meaningful).

I don't mind having to give an IBM id for something like Notes downloads. However there is probably a good case to be able to download Symphony without the need for registration (as is the case with its OpenOffice cousin), and certainly without the convoluted download process described above.

Richard Hogan, 2009-01-29

I fired up IE on and followed Your steps.
I'm a LBP.
9 Clicks from the start page til I hade chosen place to save and click "OK"

My process was much less cumbersome than Yours. Don't blame IBM for You not having JRE installed. Alternatives other places are "ActiveX" based which probably wouldn't work on Your mac at All.

I'll send You my pic's in a Zip.

Dag Kvello, 2009-01-29

I'm a LBP.

As such you know the "download the latest Notes and Domino in 72 easy steps" from Partnerworld, and will find this much easier. Your steps don't include the information gathering phase that Joe User has to go through. And while you may think 9 steps is pretty good, for Joe User that is probably not the case.

And I have not even started talking about the change of theme, as you go from the Symphony site to the IBM download dungeon.

Volker Weber, 2009-01-29

Yes, I went through all of that and installed it and tried it and uninstalled just as fast.

Sorry, but if compared to Open Office in my opinion it sucks.

On my old p4 it runs way slower and I am missing loads of features which are present in Open Office.

So why get it?

Steffen Gutermann, 2009-01-29

Steffen, that is a different discussion altogether.

Volker Weber, 2009-01-29

Don't blame IBM for You not having JRE installed.

Why do you think Volker didn't have a JRE installed? It's pretty clear he did.

Kerr Rainey, 2009-01-29

Don't blame IBM for You not having JRE installedNobody does. OS X does have a JRE installed.

Now, where do all these IBM apologists come from? Why are they taking issue with this post? The process is needlessly irksome, no question.

Ben Poole, 2009-01-29

@ben, Bwaa ha ha. Beat you to it :þ

Kerr Rainey, 2009-01-29

Funny, I remember having a similar discussion on Ed's site some time ago. I brought up this point that several friends/customers had issues getting the download and then I was told by some that to them it was pretty easy. My final statement was that it didnt matter if it was easy to me and other technical people, if the average user cant get the product and get it easily then you(IBM in this case) are doing a bad job with the process.

Gerry Shappell, 2009-01-29

Not surprised, getting drivers from IBM was even worse. Not the only reason why we switched from IBM to HP.

Kai Schmalenbach, 2009-01-29

It is horrible. Actually it is worse then that "viral" linked a while ago.

IBM is trying to push for a Linux+Lotus open source desktop alternative that can replace Windows setups.
So it makes sense to give away the Office suite to as many people as possible in order to "prepare the market" for such a swap.

The first hit in Google leads you directly to Lotus Symphony; it gets very ugly after that though.
What their Byzantine maze of page after page, forms and installing Java -which the consumer market rejected quite a few years ago- does is throw about as much hurdles as you can in front of someone who just wants to "take a peek" at this Symphony thing that you'd have to be a diehard fanboy of Lotus in order to pass (and/or excuse) these hurdles.

Oh for Pete's sake guys; getting to a download of Eclipse (which is free software too - but designed for professional nerds) is faster and easier.
How is a typical office worker or home user going to take these hurdles to get a wannabe clone of software they already have?

All the information you need to find Operating Platform/System and Language can be distilled from the user agent header in the http transactions. Use it.

It is like IBM is doing their utmust to ruin adoption of Symphony.

Herman Holstege, 2009-01-29

I hope everyone feels better, 'cause I'm basically 99% sure this discussion is going to do nothing to change things.

IBM is like the weather. You can try and predict it, but attempts to change it are futile and prone to drive you insane with frustration.

At some point you'll end up with the comment that " the lawyers made us do this or that" and then the discussion ends.

Craig Wiseman, 2009-01-29

IBM might be like the weather (or be similar to a mammoth oil tanker when it comes to agility) but you just might be able to sway -oh I don't know- someone responsible for the product and market strategy of Lotus Symphony that this tiny aspect of the campaign could use some "polish".

Herman Holstege, 2009-01-29

@Craig I wouldn't be so sure - a lot of issues that have been raised in the community in the past few months have been actioned (IBM templates on OpenNTF, marketplace for Notes apps, iPhone email etc). You never know...

Stuart McIntyre, 2009-01-29

I can set up my own distribution site for OpenOffice if I want as it's open, can I do the same for Lotus Symphony? Or is it just based on "Open" stuff?

Carl Tyler, 2009-01-30

The person you need to get to is the chairman of the Standing Committee for Crap Design in IBM. The membership of the committee is a closely-guarded secret, but they do meet every morning, afternoon and evening to make sure that all IBM public web offerings meet their, er, standards.

Julian Woodward, 2009-01-30

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