Zimbra Desktop

An alternative e-mail client.

Zimbra Desktop is an alternative e-mail client. I don't mean that it is yet another choice in e-mail client-land. It is more than merely another choice. Zimbra Desktop is an attempt to blur the lines between a browser-based Web application and a traditional desktop application. In many ways, it is similar to applications like Evolution, Outlook or KMail—what Zimbra refers to as “fat” clients—but in other ways, it has more in common with browser-based e-mail platforms, such as Gmail, Hotmail and Yahoo mail. In a nutshell, Zimbra Desktop is the Web-based Zimbra Ajax Web client running inside a custom Prism install (for more about Prism, see the What Is Prism? sidebar).

At first blush, I thought to myself, “Why would someone want to do this? What's the point?” Well, the point, I came to discover, is that desktop e-mail suites have certain advantages over browser-based e-mail suites, and vice versa.

The main advantage desktop e-mail clients have over their browser-based brethren, in my opinion, is the ability to read saved e-mail when you are not connected to the Internet. There is also, in corporate settings especially, the advantage of integration with LDAP directory servers and scheduling functions through shared calendars and the like. On the other hand, the main advantage that browser-based e-mail clients have over desktop e-mail clients is that they run exactly the same, or very nearly the same, on multiple browsers and operating systems. There also is no lengthy install process; you simply go to the site and there it is. The aim of Zimbra Desktop is to give you the best of both worlds.

Installation and Configuration

Unfortunately, because Zimbra Desktop acts like a traditional application, there is an installer. The installer itself is an approximately 40MB shell script. Actually, it is a 340-line shell script cat'ed to an approximately 40MB tar.gz file. The script extracts the tar.gz file from itself, gunzips and untars it, and then runs the Java-based installer that lives inside. This sort of installation bootstrapping, by extracting a file stored inside a shell script, is something commercial Linux software seems to prefer doing, and I have to say, it does work.

The GUI installer is nothing special. It uses install4j, and it gets the job done.

Figure 1. Zimbra Desktop Installer

At the end of the installation process, you'll have a zimbra folder wherever you instructed the installer to put it. The home folder of the user that performed the install is the default location. Optionally, you also will have a desktop icon, if you did not uncheck the Create Desktop Shortcut box.

Double-click the desktop icon, and Zimbra Desktop launches and prompts you to enter in the settings for an e-mail account of your choosing. Zimbra Desktop supports Zimbra Collaboration Suite (ZCS), Gmail, Yahoo Mail Plus and standard POP and IMAP accounts. I tested with Gmail and ZCS, as those are what I have.



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Where do you get all these

Johanna's picture

Where do you get all these applications from? I have been looking for an alternative to Outlook. II got a new HP laptop and I need to make everything accessible on it.

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