The Citadel Groupware Server

Microsoft Exchange, Meet Your Replacement

or, if you'd prefer to use wget:

wget -q -O - | sh

Citadel downloads, unpacks and starts the installation process. You need to pay attention to the installation process, as Citadel asks all the right questions, but you won't need any of your arcane configuration logs to answer them.

Citadel is humble, and although it brings a lot of power to the party, it doesn't assume that you want any of it. Citadel will ask if you want to use its built-in POP, SMTP or IMAP servers or leave any of your own up and running.

Further, there is a Web interface, called WebCit, which users can make use of to get all of their e-mail, calendar and contact information when on the road or otherwise away from their local e-mail and Personal Information Manager client. If you elect to install WebCit, Citadel won't assume that you want it running on port 80. It therefore is possible to run WebCit on a nonstandard port and leave any existing Web sites you have on port 80 undisturbed.

For the curious, Citadel is installed to /usr/local/citadel, and WebCit, if chosen for installation, is installed in /usr/local/webcit. Supporting libraries can be found in /usr/local/ctdlsupport.


Uninstalling a Citadel instance installed via the Easy Install method is easy:

  1. Delete the three directories mentioned above (/usr/local/webcit, usr/local/citadel and /usr/local/ctdlsupport).

  2. Remove the Citadel and WebCit entries from the inittab file (typically /etc/inittab).

  3. Type the command init q to restart init.


Initial Configuration

We used the WebCit Web interface to configure and use our Citadel server, but underneath the nice GUI beats the heart of a text-mode BBS. Virtually all of the configuration and much of the daily use of the Citadel system can be used via the text mode Citadel client ála the BBS scene of days gone by. Sadly, that method of communication is largely lost to most modern-day users, so we focus only on WebCit to get the job done.

Having said that, we still need to log in to our Linux server for other reasons, so we have to change the way that Citadel logs. By default, Citadel logs to the console, and that needs to be redirected somewhere else in order to get any work done. There are a variety of different ways to do this, but since Linux provides a configurable syslog dæmon, it seems logical to edit the /etc/syslog.conf file (on Debian) and point the local4 facility to a log file or somewhere else out of the way.

The first person to log in to the new Citadel Web interface becomes the administrator-level user. To create the administrator account, point your Web browser to the host and port where you told WebCit to listen during the installation, enter a user name and password, and press the New User button (Figure 1). You'll know you've become the administrator if you see the Administration button on the bottom left of the menu when you're logged in (Figure 2).

Figure 1. The Login Screen

Figure 2. The Lobby, When Logged In as Administrator

To enter the site-wide configuration, click the Administration button, and you'll be brought into a well-organized and complete settings menu. Main categories are along the top of the page, and clicking each one brings up the settings for that particular area. As mentioned, Citadel is also a text-mode BBS underneath the WebCit interface, and some of the configuration options make that quite obvious.

Although a good study of all of the configuration items is outside the scope of this article, the most important settings are under the Network and Directory (if you're using LDAP). Under the Network tab, you can enable and disable services and modify the ports on which they run. Under the Directory tab, you can specify your LDAP settings. If you're not using LDAP, you probably can leave both of these screens alone, because the Network defaults either are quite reasonable or will reflect your installation choices (Figure 3).

Figure 3. Network Services Settings

You may want to take a quick trip to the Access tab and make sure it reflects how you would like new users to sign up. Likely, for a corporate server, administrators will create all of the accounts and user-driven account creation can be shut off.

Sometime before letting users at the WebCit interface, you'll likely want to customize the site a bit. As you navigate through the default WebCit installation, you may notice default text banners on the site that contain the path to their locations. A good example of this is the “Welcome to My System” banner on the main WebCit log in page (Figure 1). A variety of text files exist in /usr/local/citadel/messages that can be tailored to your needs.



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Anonymous's picture

Just tried out Citadel and I am AMAZED! When they say "Easy Install" they MEAN it! Up and running in about ten minutes. These guys have got it together.

I remember Citadel from its BBS days

Sum Yung Gai's picture

Man, we're going way back now, aren't we? I remember using Citadel and Stonehenge BBS's back in the 1980's. I just got through visiting the current Citadel Web site, and for those like me who remember the original Citadel BBS, prepare to be amazed.

But for this article, I wouldn't have known that Citadel was still alive in *any* form, and I certainly had no idea in the world that it had evolved into a full-blown MS Exchange groupware replacement!

This is something worth downloading and trying out. I used to be a MS Exchange admin before I joined the Free Software movement, and I'm definitely looking forward to trying out this new Citadel. It had a well-deserved good reputation back in the BBS days. I can hardly wait to try out its groupware features of today!

More than just a BBS

c.s.'s picture

Citadel's history as a BBS platform, combined with the fact that the Citadel developers have made an effort to try to change the way you think about groupware, leads some people to believe that the modern Citadel system is really nothing more than an overgrown BBS. But to think that way really does not give due credit to the extremely powerful capabilities of this platform.

Citadel is truly innovative -- it doesn't just try to be a feature-for-feature clone of Microsoft Exchange. The whole concept behind its design is that many of the concepts and style of user interaction that we became familiar with in the BBS world are actually quite useful in a conventional groupware scenario as well.

Using it now

riley's picture

Very true. We moved our mail server (approximately 100 users, previously running Microsoft Exchange) to Citadel, and not only does it perform flawlessly, but it really does change the way you think about groupware. Everyone else is trying to clone "Microsoft's way" but you know what, Microsoft's way is stupid. Citadel's approach is some fresh new thinking.

not only that, the community

Anonymous's picture

not only that, the community is EXTREMELY active.

just joing the mailing list to see.