VMware’s Zimbra Suite Gives Online Email A Place to Call Home

When I first spotted this email suite it inspired a resounding yawn. Even though it doesn’t have a world-changing new design, it is a well put together package of email, calendar and task management features.

After playing with it for a while and then exploring their website, it was obvious this package and its big brothers have a lot more to offer than the run-of-the-mill email client.

The open source Zimbra Desktop program includes email, calendar, task manager, and a briefcase for documents. The email client can hook up to Yahoo, Gmail and Zimbra as well as POP3 and IMAP accounts. You can have your accounts set up in a New York minute and then emails, contacts, calendar items and tasks will all get synced up.

If, like most people, you have several email accounts, consolidate all into one place. The offline option lets you go commando if you don’t have a connection to the outside world. Outgoing mail gets carted away once you’re back online.

The briefcase keeps all of your documents organized. Zimbra’s interface is customizable and you can set up different signatures and personas for use with different email accounts.


True, these are all standard features of an email client. However, a peek behind the curtain shows a whole ‘nother OZ. The Social tab lets you set up your connection to Twitter, Facebook and SocialCast accounts, plus stay up to date with Digg and Tweetmeme posts. You can also connect to WebEx meetings and your LinkedIn account. These last two options are by way of plug-ins called Zimlets, of which there are quite a few available on their website.

Zimbra Desktop is a well rounded, free email suite. But it doesn’t stop there, oh no! Get the Zimbra Collaborative Server and you can support LDAP/Active Directory, iPhone/Smartphone/Blackberry, Apple Desktop, Zimbra Web Client, Zimbra Desktop and Outlook. It’s basically a central hub for multiple platforms and a whole slew of email providers. Zimbra Collaborative Server (ZCS) is open source and completely free. You also have the option of going with the network edition or having it hosted by one of their partners. They call this the next generation collaborative server. From my standpoint, it doesn’t look like they are boasting too much. Get the free desktop client, and go from there.

Zimbra is available for Windows, Mac and Linux. www.zimbra.com

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  • MikeFromMarkham

    I’ve tried two previous versions of Zimbra Desktop but ultimately abandoned both due to the excruciatingly long time it took to load my email. I have several email accounts from several providers, all of which are aggregated into one primary Gmail account that I backup with my desktop clients. Zimbra simply crawled every time I tried to update my email. By comparison, Postbox Express was rocket-fast, Windows Live Mail was slightly quicker, and even Thunderbird was at least as quick. Furthermore, I have no use at all for Facebook, Twitter and their ilk, and was very disappointed that I could not find an option to either delete or hide the Social tab in Zimbra. So I’ll stick with what I have for now. and if Zimbra keeps developing I would try it again.

  • http://n/a mike

    I wanted to like this program, and have tried it 2x in the past. Odd technical issues forced me to go to thunderbird — too bad.

  • Will Lewis

    Thanks to you both for the real-world feedback. I didn’t experience any delay in loading after initially loading my emails down, of which I had over 300. I didn’t test with multiple email accounts from different providers. So, I’m not sure how the response time would change. Hopefully the technical issues reported have been resolved or will be soon, because the rest of it looks promising.

  • http://www.portablefreeware.com webfork

    Back when I tested this in the summer of 2010, my experience was that it was quite a memory hog (1.8 gigs on the disk), slow, and didn’t plug into Exchange the way I hoped it would. The whole service seemed to behave as a local server, which meant a lot of tools and capabilities under the hood but a lot of memory overhead.

    I loved the look and feel, some of the calendar features were genius, and I liked that it collected email according to conversations, unlike Thunderbird, which you have to modify to do that. The search feature versus the very dumb search in Outlook ’03 was a HUGE bonus.

    Since then Thunderbird’s look and feel along with their great search tools have won me over, but I’m a very big fan of VMware so I might have to take another look and see if they’ve fixed some of my issues. I really need an open source groupware tool and I haven’t been thrilled with Thunderbird’s Lightning program.

  • Greg K

    I jumped from Zimbra to Thunderbird, and now back to Zimbra Desktop for my multiple email accounts. The reason I chose to ditch Zimbra in the first round is obvious to those comments above. Now that Thunderbird has jumped versions up to 7.0, I’m getting longer load times switching email accounts and searching my inbox. My ideal inbox would be able to follow contacts by name, so that I would know how many messages have been sent to each contact. Opera’s last mail client does wonders in that area, but I haven’t found that functionality in any other email setups.