A full response will have to wait additional use. Open Office needs a "lite" version for folks who want to use it for daily work. Or perhaps versions tailored to the various types of use. It is simply too big and too complicated and does not, in my opinion, do all that good a job in rendering documents done by other word processors. I can never seem to figure out its numbering system. Getting the conversion fonts right and all that simply takes too much time. Abiword is much easier to use but it too fails to convert other formats very well. Symphony, to me at least, is less complicated and anything less complicated allows one to concentrate on more on substance, and less on form. Though my use of it is still limited, my initial use of Symphony for other than odt docs has not been very pleasant.
With the possible exception of Open Office, none of the free word processors are as good as Star Office or Text Maker in converting documents from one format to another and even star office and text maker don't port to Word Perfect, requiring the circuitous use of rtf as an intermediary. To deal adequately with word perfect documents, one has to load the linux version of word perfect (the wine version, in my opinion, is useless) and I don't believe Word Perfect is still maintaining the linux version (and may not even own it anymore).
The future of word processing is probably to be found in online programs such as Google Docs and Symphony works well with Google Docs. Google Docs still has some rough edges and occasionally Google Doc documents need additional formatting before printing. I find Symphony an excellent partner with Google Docs for this purpose. Do the work in Google Docs. Let others edit it in Google Docs. Then use Symphony for final formatting and printing. In fact, I think Symphony and Google Docs, both presently free programs, may be all anyone would need for most purposes.
I should probably note that lyx is the best writing tool out there right now, bar none. However, if non-lyx users are going to be editing the document, conversion problems often make it a waste to start it in lyx.
I will close by noting that, to get the Symphony Help files working right, one needs rbistolfi's MOZILLA_FIVE_HOME solution, i.e. after Symphony is installed, as above, a Seamonkey user starts it from the command line (not the icon) as follows:
$ export MOZILLA_FIVE_HOME=/opt/seamonkey/lib/seamonkey-1.1.7/
$ cd /opt/ibm/lotus/Symphony/framework/shared/eclipse/plugins
$ cd com.ibm.productivity.tools.standalone.addin_126.96.36.19980602-1703/apps
$ ./IBM\ Lotus\ Symphony