Saturday, July 26, 2008

Testdriving Zimbra Desktop Mail for Linux


Ever since Yahoo acquired Zimbra, a lot of us were waiting for the next big thing in desktop emailing. Recently, Yahoo launched Zimbra desktop, an open source email client which aims to increase your productivity by integrating an email client, calendar, task list, contact manager and a briefcase, all in one slick and easy package.
It's time to see how well it fares with my current favorite - Thunderbird.

Let's get started, shall we. To start off, download the linux edition from the Zimbra website. Installation is really easy. Download it to some folder and run these from the terminal.
Note: Don't run the installer as root.

1. Set the permissions for the executable
$ sudo chmod u+x zdesktop_0_90_build_1251_linux_i686.sh


2. Run the installer as a normal user
$ ./zdesktop_0_90_build_1251_linux_i686.sh








Great, now you are all set to start using it.
One thing that you'll notice during installation is that Zimbra is based on Prism which we covered few months back. It's basically Mozilla's way of creating rich desktop like internet applications.

First thing I liked about this mail app was the seamless integration with Gmail, yahoo and Aol mail. The welcome screens asks you to setup your accounts. Gmail users need to turn on their IMAP service from their GMAIL settings before configuring it here.



Once you are done with it, you are greeted with this familiar interface that Yahoomail users have known to love ever since the Web 2.0 makeover. Drag and drops and heavy ajax stuff, with integrated contacts, calendars, to-do lists etc.



Now, the verdict. Zimbra Desktop is a really good start by Yahoo. Easy to use and the familiar interface will win loyal fans. Moreover, support for other POP and IMAP servers along with offline modes, makes it a really good email client.
But before it replaces my thunderbird, it has a long way to go. Firstly, I love the remote calendar sync with Google calendar (via lightening). Zimbra only supports local ics files.



Secondly, it is a memory hog. Installation file itself is around 48MB, and it takes up around 124MB on install. My CPU utilisation also saw occasional spikes while using the calendar or just setting up a new account. Considering the fact that it's just the first release, I'll give this a pass.

Thirdly, If you are not an active yahoomail user, like me, you might not appreciate the slick UI. Gmail labels are imported as folders! And, I really miss adding labels to filter rules.

Finally, it's a tad bit slower compared to a native email client. I had rather use orgoo for all my email aggregation needs.

Having said all that, my dream request that both thunderbird and Zimbra lack now are automatic contact sync with gmail and yahoo. Zimbra is planning to include yahoo calendar and contacts sync in the future versions. Till that happens, I am sticking to my good ol' thunderbird, waiting eagerly for Thunderbird 3.


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