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IBM updates free Symphony suite

The second beta version of Lotus Symphony, which is supposed to be faster than its predecessor, is available for download.

IBM is releasing an update today to its free Lotus Symphony productivity suite, which remains in beta testing.

The three desktop applications, Documents, Spreadsheets and Presentations, are counterparts to Microsoft Word, Excel and PowerPoint. The latest iteration of Symphony is supposed to be faster than its predecessor, which debuted less than two months ago.

The package is one of several low-cost or free alternatives to Microsoft Office. Unlike products such as ThinkFree, Zoho and Google Docs & Spreadsheets, there is no online component to Symphony.

Like its close competitor, the $79 Sun StarOffice, Symphony works on Windows and Linux computers and saves documents in Microsoft Office formats as well as ODFs and PDFs. But Symphony does not include a database application or e-mail client.

More than one quarter of a million people have downloaded the software to date, according to IBM.

Our first take review details how Symphony worked in CNET's early tests.