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

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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.

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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