Quick Look: Zimbra Desktop

The folks at Yahoo recently released a new email client which works on Windows, Mac or Linux. It is called Zimbra Desktop.

Yahoo continues to hold sizable market share when it comes to online email accounts. Yahoo bought Zimbra in 2007. It was a good union because you could see Zimbra entering into the foray with Yahoo Mail and Yahoo Calendar to create a really nice desktop solution based on open source software.

The new public beta of Zimbra desktop is based on Mozilla Prism. Prism is similar to Google Gears, a solution which allows web apps to run in offline environments. So, Zimbra Desktop looks like a web application except that it is running on your system locally. Of course, the fact that all of that software is being moved to your computers adds up to a relatively sizable download. I installed the Mac OS X version and it was just over 40 MB in size. Installed, we’re looking at around 170 MB.

Oddly, when I installed the Mac version, it wanted to install itself to a folder other than the usual Applications folder. I had to specifically tell it to install in a sub-folder off of Applications. I do not know how it works with the Windows client as I did not install that one.

Once installed, I set up an email account. You are not forced into using Yahoo mail. You can use any account you wish. I set it up using my Gmail account. Setting up the account made it fairly obvious that this works like a web app. The screens looked more like a web app than a completely native application.

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Setup of my Gmail account automatically went in using IMAP access. Interestingly, Yahoo has also jumped on board with IMAP access, so Yahoo users can now use their email inside of Zimbra using IMAP.

The client also supports Contacts, Calendar, Tasks, Documents, Briefcase and options. While you can do all that in the client, there does not appear to be a seamless sync experience between the client and the Internet. There was no sync capabilities, for instance, with my Google
Calendar and reports are that there isn’t such a sync with Yahoo’s own cloud as well.

All in all, this is a cool little mail client. But, is it an Outlook or Thunderbird killer? No. If you’re going to use web-based email, it is better to keep it web-based. Zimbra Desktop looks to be a polished, offline version of Yahoo Mail.

The email client is free, so try it and remove it if you don’t like it. And credit goes to Yahoo for beating Google to the punch - they are the first to provide offline support for their online email service.

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