FOSS Web Mail - What do you use?

Ryan Simpkins plug at ryansimpkins.com
Fri Dec 1 21:32:22 MST 2006


On Fri, December 1, 2006 14:17, Lonnie Olson wrote:
> Ryan Simpkins wrote:
>> What do you use for your webmail solution?
>
> I have tried a few, and come to the conclusion that your choice is
> dependent on your usage.

I agree. My frustration is that users have come to expect some similar functionality
between all the free webmail providers out there, and outlook. I've spent hours on
this project, and here is my take.

> Squirrelmail:
>   Simple and easy to install.
>   Painfully ugly.
>   Slightly strange UI

SM's goal is to be nearly all HTML compatible. This has the advanage of working with
any browser, but the disadvantage of looking like it's from 1996. Because SM is
written in PHP there are a very large number of modules available that extend the
basic functionality. Most of them try to follow the idea of wide-spread browser
support. Module quality is highly variable as it has attracted a lot of
new/inexperienced programmers.

> Horde/IMP:
>   Horribly painful to install/configure.
>   Extremely powerful, with more available plugins/features/apps than you
> would ever want.
>   Confusing for "grandma"

I got Horde's Groupware webmail edition up in about 10 minutes. However, I spent the
next 3 hours pouring over the amazing number of options. The tradeoff is flexibility
for complexity. In my opinion IMP does some things that throw users off by providing
functionality that 'looks' like the functionality in other clients (like outlook),
but works nothing like it at all. The spell-checker is horrible, easily the worst
one of the bunch. This project has a lot of potential that could be reached with
more top-tier developers.

> Zimbra:
>   Horribly feature-full by default to the point of insanity.
>   Very confusing for "grandma"

In my opinion this isn't a contender for most people. It requires the Zimbra server
to work, which means ripping out your current MTA/LDA/IMAP and trusting that this
thing will fit. Zimbra seems to be a great solution for Enterprise level customers
who need a fully integrated platform. The AJAX web client is really good, I wish you
could seperate it out. If I had to provide groupware for mobile users in short
order, I would seriously consider Zimbra.

> Roundcube:
>   Very easy to install.
>   Beautiful and easy UI
>   "grandma" could pick it up easily
>   Has performance issues/bugs with large emails.

I personally think there is too much missing functionality in RoundCube. The project
is still very early 'beta' quality (0.1-beta). However, it shows potential. I'd like
to see how it looks when it reaches 1.0. I hate tearing it down because it's not
'done' yet.

So far in my quest I have evaluated about 8 FOSS/Free web mail front-ends. I can
understand why this topic keeps coming up on not only this list but many others. The
most common answer to my most desired feature requests is: "Wait for the next
release."

-Ryan



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