Wednesday, March 28th, 2007

Zimbra Desktop: Thoughts from the team

Category: Offline

Zimbra has had a local proxy solution for a long time, so it only made sense that they would innovate quickly to come up with Zimbra Desktop:

Zimbra Desktop is the next generation leap forward for Web 2.0 applications- now you can have Zimbra’s Ajax-based collaboration experience online and offline. That means when you are out of the office without a connection (say, in a plane, train, or automobile), you can keep working without missing a beat. Write email, add new appointments, edit documents and when you re-connect changes will be automatically synced to the Zimbra Server.

We talked to Kevin Henrikson of Zimbra and he kindly answered some questions:

Q. Not all offline is equal. What is Zimbra’s solution, and how does it compare to Apollo, Slingshot, Firefox…

Zimbra has used a variety of off the shelf open source technologies to provide our offline solution. Jetty(http support), Derby (SQL support), Lucene (full-text indexing), etc. The choice of these components was for several reasons. They can be embedded, Java based(our tech of choice), made reuse of our current code easy, ability to support extremely large data sets, and ability to be optimized for heavy email/collaboration work loads. The key difference is large datasets and the ways in which we need to to access that data with a mix of structural (SQL), full-text (search) and object (blob) patterns. Most other offline solutions take a file or object based storage API but for Zimbra we need to be more flexible.

Summary of ways in which Zimbra Desktop’s solution differ’s from apollo/slingshot/firefox/dojo:

  • Released and publicly available today(although in alpha)
  • 100% Open Source and based on open protocols/technology
  • Cross platform including Mac/Linux/Win32
  • Designed for very large datasets (sub-second search responses on multi-GB mailboxes)
  • Reuses Zimbra AJAX web UI and SOAP/JSON based API
  • Requires a local client install(some of the above may not)
  • Cross browser (Safari/IE/Firefox)
  • Java Based vs Rails (Slingshot) vs Flex/Flash (Apollo) vs Browser specific (Firefox)

What are the challenges for a developer to create offline capable applications?

Some questions/challenges when taking a webapp offline:

  • Do you take all your features and data offline?
  • What browsers/platforms will you support?
  • Data integrity now that an offline copy can become the master.
  • Conflict resolution and change mgmt in multi-user environments/applications.
  • End user desktop support. Something many web app developers take for granted.

How important is offline to your customers?

Very important. In fact this was a major driver. People have asked for a Zimbra offline solution and in particular wanted the same interface they’d fell in love with when working online. Countless number of times we’ve heard customers and our community and ask to keep the Zimbra AJAX interface when away from home and a network connection. The pain they felt when forced to use Outlook, Apple Mail, Thunderbird, or some other fat client when traveling made them want a Zimbra like interface and feature set.

Should the average Joe start trying to implement offline, or should we be waiting for the new standards to be implemented and such?

It depends. Do you users need it? Are they asking for it? Is the data your app needs offline access to small and simple? Applications like Instant Messaging don’t make sense to take offline. On the flip side applications where offline editing, composing and creating are common may have reasons or need for an offline solution today. For Zimbra we heard the need frequently. Other applications may not have that same pressure and can wait until standards are written and toolkits like Dojo stabilize and become popular making the hard things easy for the average web developer. Dojo in particular is something we are watching with great interest. Brad Neuberg has been looking at this issue for quite sometime. First with AMASS (flash backed web storage), then Dojo Storage (pluggable storage toolkit) and more recently the Dojo Offline Toolkit(complete offline framework). It’s 100% open source, cross platform and cross browser. Doesn’t quite meet the needs of an application like Zimbra but will help a large number of applications on the web today. Those apps should be able to create an offline solution rather quickly when starting with the Dojo Toolkit. In particular we like the way he’s handled online/offline detection and the automatic switch between.

Posted by Dion Almaer at 9:14 am

4.8 rating from 166 votes


Comments feed TrackBack URI

Can anyone provide feedback on Zimbra – is it ready for the enterprise yet?

Comment by Karl — March 28, 2007

Zimbra’s great, and their offline solution is very cool. Thanks for the nice comments on the Dojo Offline Toolkit!


Comment by Brad Neuberg — March 28, 2007

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Comment by Interlingua Ãœbersetzungen — September 5, 2007

great stuff. saved this article. greetz from germany

Comment by Muskelaufbau — September 9, 2007

Very useful article
Thank you

Comment by Vlad — September 18, 2007

helpfull content. thanks a lot

Comment by marc meyer — September 29, 2007

Thanks for the great article. I will recommend it to my friends.
Best regards,

Comment by John — September 29, 2007

realy nice article, great site, thanks for informations

Comment by dobre programy — September 30, 2007

Thanks for stuff.I was looking at the material over a large amount of time

Comment by Wild — October 23, 2007

In almost all cases it makes more sense to prepare messages offline because of better keyboard accessibility of a laptop. Yet reading messages is a very different matter and works reasonably well on the small screen of a phone. It seems to me that if they could come up with a unified version of their software that would work in all environments, this would be an even bigger step forward.

Comment by JLGraham — October 24, 2007

I’m curious as to what sort of mobile solutions they have or are working on, so that the same travelers might be able to utilize a cell to keep up with incoming mail, even if they had to delay actually posting responses until they were in range of a Wi-Fi signal.

Comment by Wellnessberater — November 9, 2007

Nice article, great site, thanks for informations, its very helpful

Comment by Briefkasten — November 19, 2007

Great article. Realy usefull and easy to read!
Have a nice day!

Comment by Fensterfolien — March 29, 2008

I like RC3 of the Zimbra Desktop, and it works well with Yahoo Mail (free version) and with Gmail.

The question I have is why does Yahoo leave paying Small Business customers with pop and not IMAP mail? I can not use Zimbra Desktop to access my Small Business Mail because Zimbra Desktop tells me that all Yahoo mail addresses must be IMAP…

I know Yahoo is big and that Zimbra can fix this small “issue,” but I want IMAP on my business accout! :)

Comment by Counsel — July 24, 2008

Nice Article! Thanks for posting. I like your site and articles!

Comment by Apotheke — August 5, 2008

I also use Zimbra Desktop and i´m happy with it. It´s a free alternative to Outlook! – Tanks for this article.

Comment by Versandapotheke — October 27, 2009

Zimbra Desktop is nice though but i like outlook more.

Comment by Schweisstechnik — November 25, 2009

from now on i will always use zimbra desktop

Comment by Akku — November 26, 2009

good article, thanks for sharing

Comment by Onlineapotheke — December 4, 2009

interesting, but i don’t like zimbra desktop

Comment by Ledin — January 8, 2010

Compliments for Zimbra Desktop! That’s very good and helpful.

Comment by Dessous — February 1, 2010

Of course, I will recomment your site, too ;-)

Comment by Dessous — February 1, 2010

I’m sorry but my site was wrong in the above comment. Can you correct it, please? Thx

Comment by Dessous — February 1, 2010

Nice Article, i enjoyed reading.

Comment by Krankenversicherung — May 13, 2011

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