You know what would be great? Some kind of suite that includes email, calendars, contacts, is all web-based, and uses next generation collaboration technology. Oh wait… that’s right, now there is! It is called the Zimbra Collaboration Suite, developed by Zimbra and is in Beta release. Zimbra is an amazing web application that uses AJAX technology to bring you email capabilities with tagging, conversations (like Gmail), contacts, searching, and even calendars that you can add events to. Did I forget to mention that it is all Open Source? Zimbra is amazingly an open source project because they feel that allowing the community to view the technology will also allow them to “maximize innovation, scale and the ability to co-exist with existing messaging systems.” This means that this project is currently available for download.
Above is the main view of the email application built into the suite. You get a great metallic looking interface, your folders and other groupings on the left, email on the right, and conversations on the top for each email. Easy layout to work with and is very similar to your standard email application. Also, all the way on the left are round icons going down the side. These icons are placed there so you can easily select email, contact, calendars, option, and help.
This screenshot shot is at the top of an open email, above the conversations area. You are given your basic email functionality such as reply, forward, delete, junk mail, print, etc.. But, also you can see that I have the tags menu selected. This is the way that Zimbra implements the use of tagging in their system so you can easily sort and find emails. To use it is very simple. Create tags, select the Tags menu in an open email, and select a tag you want to assign it to. That’s all to it!
This is the calendar section (screenshot above). What you see is the calendar in the viewing range, Monthly. You have the choice to choose from day, work week, week, month. This calendar works excellent and includes the ability to add an event or appointment by double clicking on any of the days. This will bring up a new box that asks for basic information, times, notes, and attendees. Once adding a few, they are easily viewable in any of the formats available for the calendar and they also include a mini calendar on the bottom left so you can select days quicker. If you insert a date range instead of one specific day, it will show you this by making bars stretching from the start date to the end date.
The Zimbra Collaboration Suite really shows what AJAX is capable of and I was shocked to see this kind of performance out of an web based application. Great work to Zimbra and I hope that their decision in making it an open source project will help make it stronger and better then it already is.
A hosted demo is available on their website if you would like to see it in action. The Open Source download is also available for their Beta release.