Rich Freeman on 17 Mar 2011 07:59:25 -0700

[Date Prev] [Date Next] [Thread Prev] [Thread Next] [Date Index] [Thread Index]

Re: [PLUG] open source webmail reviews?

On Thu, Mar 17, 2011 at 8:02 AM, Julien Vehent <> wrote:
> I tried many different webmails, some java based, many PHP based and even
> one that was written in C :) My point is: Roundcube looks nice and is
> comfortable to use (that's for the user), but is also a very clean piece of
> PHP (as much as PHP can do) that is easy to deploy and maintain (that's for
> the admin).

I haven't chimed in but this was a near-and-dear topic to me a few
months ago.  I was lucky enough to get a CR-48, but was generally
using Thunderbird for email with Squirrelmail used for occasional
remote access (when I couldn't just use IMAP).  I quickly found that
Squirrelmail was not adequate as a daily driver.

I switched to Roundcube.  That was clearly superior to Squirrelmail,
but it was still painful to use without a mouse.  The problem with
Roundcube is that email sorting/etc ends up using drag-and-drop (or
multiple clicks to menus), and that is pretty painful on a laptop
without a mouse.

I ended up redirecting a copy of all my mail to a gmail account, which
I now use as my main MUA.  A few things about gmail that have changed
my life:

1.  The obvious level of integration with Android is nice.
2.  The "archive" and inbox-is-a-tag concept.  I used procmail before,
but I still had to delete emails or move them to another folder to
declutter my view.  Hiding read messages wasn't good enough, because
often I like to look at read messages.
3.  The concept of manipulating conversations and not emails.  On the
other hand, conversations are flat, which is a step down from many
MUAs.  Also, emails don't always end up in the right conversation, but
that is probably more a result of trying to come up with something
that works in the world of Outlook - I had the same problems with
Thunderbird when I told it not to ONLY use references (which of course
means half your email isn't threaded at all).
4.  Key bindings.  I saved probably the best for last.  I can read
email, and with one click of the keyboard handle 90% of my mail.  With
Roundcube every email required the mouse.  With Gmail most emails
don't need it at all.

The obvious downside to Gmail is that you can't use it without giving
Google a copy of all your mail.  You also need to make sure you use
fetchmail or something to backup your sent mail, and if you start
using the gmail address directly your received mail as well.

I find that cloud solutions are pretty lacking in the Open Source
world.  We have 10 office suites, but no decent Google Docs
replacements.  We have Roundcube/Zimbra, but no really mature Gmail
replacement.  There is no decent IRC client that is web-based (decent
defined as being generally equivalent to irssi+screen running 24x7
that you can attach to via the web occasionally).  The only exceptions
are things that really first grew up on the web, like Wordpress.

This should all be stuff that linux can do well - it is fundamentally
server-based.  Imagine buying a cloud appliance for your house that
gives you email, DVR, web, calendaring, document creation and
management, backups, storage, and so on.  You can access all of it
from any browser, phone, or TV you have.  It uses open standards so it
can talk to the appliances your friends use (shared calendars,
documents, etc).  It provides some kind of backup solution as well
using open standard so that you have options like buying a commercial
service, backing up to an offisite appliance (or peering with a
friend), or plugging in a USB drive to backup.

I just don't think it is an itch most linux types have had to scratch
yet.  Perhaps if ChromeOS takes off we might see more of that.  I find
it amusing that with all the things Chrome Apps can do Google doesn't
actually have many (if any) that support offline access to their most
popular services - they're mostly just bookmarks.
Philadelphia Linux Users Group         --
Announcements -
General Discussion  --